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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Trans Cambrian Way - At Last!!!!!

Its been a while since the last post - two months in fact - but a lot has been going on in the world of DMO Frameworks - more on that over the next couple of weeks.

But for now I just had to write a bit on the blog about my recent attempt at a sub 30 hour, solo, Trans Cambrian Way ITT.

Epic rides like the Trans Cambrian Way were right at the essence of my first build - I wanted a bike that would be comfortable for long hours in the saddle but at the same time responsive enough to really attack the often too rare bits of singletrack on these types of rides.

Well, with the first frame having ticked over the 500 mile mark a couple of weeks ago and an opportunity in the build schedule arising for me to take some time out and have a go at the TCW.....and here's my brief story.....

I got to Knighton at 9.45am and eventually got under way at 10.30, having taken the obligatory photo at the station...


Having mowed down a corned beef slice it was time to head off, the plan was to get to Rhayader and then assess how realistic or otherwise it was going to be to make it to Claerddu bothy.

I had in the back of my mind that the track around Claerwen Reservoir was a bit harsh and that was from riding it on my full susser last year - riding it on a fully rigid 29er was going to be a completely different experience - hopefully no worse, but none the less I definitely wanted to save something in the tank for that section.

With this in mind I just tried to keep a steady 10kph pace and not get too carried away - the target was to get to Rhayader by 4pm - but as it happened I got there shortly before 3 - which was nice!

At Rhayader I treated myself to a can of coke, a hot chocolate, a coleslaw and ham sandwich and some welsh cakes. I have found that ham and coleslaw sandwiches appear to be my "endurance comfort food" - there is only so much raw jelly, gels and malt loaf I can handle!!

Having arrived at Rhayader early I knew Claerddu bothy was well doable - so I set off at 3.15 with the aim of getting to the dam at Claerwen by 5pm. 

What I hadn't accounted for was the roughness of the final track that leads you to the dam - this was easily the toughest bit on a rigid bike of the route for me.

It took me 45 minutes to get around Claerwen and then another 30 mins to get to the bothy - I think by this point I was certainly starting to flag - I seem to remember singing out loud "we're on our way to Claerddu" over and over again.......anyway all of this joviality was treated with the following view:


What a sight for sore eyes!!

Once here I settled in, and the weather joined me - at one point I couldn't see the retaining wall around the bothy from the front door!!

As it turned out I stayed at Claerddu for 14 hours!! 9 of which was spent sleeping the rest just cooking, eating, reading and checking over the bike. My original plan was to get up early doors and head out while it was still dark - but I had somehow miss-place my light.

One thing which did freak me out was, when going to the toilet in the night, I was stood there outside the bothy and you literally couldn't see 5ft in front of you - the mist was that bad - I kept imagining something flying out of the mist towards me - needless to say I didn't waste much time in getting back to bed!!!

I eventually left the bothy at 8.15 Sunday morning reside to the fact that I probably wasn't going to make the sub 30 hour initial target, as such I just set off at a steady 10kph pace and surprisingly quickly got back into the swing of things.

It was at this point that I had the most harrowing moment of the ride - while riding on the road towards Ysbyty Ystwyth I came across a cattle grid with 5 sheep next to it, so, as standard, I slowed right down and all the sheep seemed fine until I got onto the cattle grid. It was at this point that one of them legged it - so they all legged it. Two made it over the cattle grid, one ran in the other direction and two got caught in the cattle grid - one of which managed to make its way under my bike!!

It turns out there is no capacity for a sheep working out how to get off a cattle grid - they just panic and scramble around - I was pretty worried they would injure themselves in doing so but having checked on the two which eventually freed themselves all was well.

The next section of note was the Hafren Forest - on approaching the forest all I could hear were motorbikes - it turns out that as luck would have it I had chosen the weekend of the Hafren Forest Rally to do the TCW. Fortunately a friendly Marshall kindly offered to chaperone me against the flow of the race - he even pointed me in the right direction and warned me of the slippery ford - which I duly ignored only to find out exactly how slippery it really was for myself!!!

One common theme that ran consistently throughout the ride was that the 4th weekend in September must be the weekend for farmers to trim all their field hedges - the amount of bits of hedge which punctured my tires was silly - its just as well I was running tubeless!

Without wanting to give too much away about the final 20km of the route (for fear of spoiling it for those yet to give it a go) - it was a bit of a roller coaster.

In the early stages of the ride I got a bit annoyed every time I came to a road section - from my perspective the more off road the better. However as the ride went on I found myself looking forward to a road section for a break! I found myself asking "is this the last road section to Dovey" a lot. However after each bit of road came another bit of off road - it was at this point that I really realised just how many ace bits of the remote welshland I had ridden - see below:



All that remained now was to roll into Dovey - as it turned out I had 8 minutes to spare before the train  - happy days!

Job Done!!


So all in all I can thoroughly recommend the TCW, in the end it took me just under 29.5 hours to make it from Knighton to the Dovey Junction - not too shabby. The Element performed really well and ticked over its 650th mile with relative ease - the aim now is to hit the 1000 mile mark before the year is out.

The next major ride will be the Barebones 200 followed fairly shortly by the Real Ale Wobble.


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