Llanfairpwllgwyngyll 400

Audax / Re: Llanfair PG 400 – 25/05/13

« on: May 09, 2013, 08:35:42 PM » Quote from: MiddleAgeCyclist on May 09, 2013, 07:31:11 PM  Go on then. I'm route via the Sychnant Pass unless i'm really struggling. I plan to have some time in hand at that point. I just hope I don't pay for it later. Still, I suppose i better find out now if I can manage 400k rather than on LEL! !.intro

Cracking plan!smile  It took me about 30 mins to climb over Sychnant from Conwy to Penmaen (I am quite a slow climber) and a little under 15 mins on the low-road back again, so you shouldn't need too much time in hand.  The views are stunning from the top and the bottom (that's the cycle way at the far left — it's pretty good most of the way along), and I suspect a good view from on top of the sign too: 

Note: this ride report is a mild rewrite of my submission to yacf, here.  Codified names are the nicknames of people on the forum, sorry about that.  The post date has been changed to the date of the ride. 

Audax / Re: Llanfair PG 400 – 25/05/13

« on: May 27, 2013, 07:58:06 PM » The thing I find about North Wales is that it's got a multi-faceted charm that you don't find elsewhere in Wales: it's got hills, BIG hills, and mountains; there's a coastline that varies between salt marshes, sheer cliffs and Victorian promenades; caravans of the static and towed variety abound; the accent switches from Scouse to Welsh somewhere around St Asaph; and it's got castles, lots of castles, some of them are even real!

For the TL:DR crowd: it was hillier than the description of the ride suggests; it didn't rain, in fact it was gloriously sunny the whole time, except when it was dark and we had a full moon (but it was very cold); no mechanicals; the plan mostly went to plan until Tubby Cyclist decided to punish my legs for some reason, at which point a couple of elongated rest stops and a slow final leg put paid to the plan; I didn't eat a massive amount, but I didn't go hungry or thirsty; I met several yacfers not met before: MemSec (the organiser), Bikey Mikey (in passing), MiddleAgeCyclist, srsteve, mds101, JayP, and others I am sure: good to meet you all; as usual I found that my ride was interleaved with others at regular intervals, not so much that we rode at the same speed, but at the same overall pace, which I still find interesting. This was my second 400, but it completes my SR of BRM rides.

For me, all the rides between now and July are preparation for LEL, so I was riding all-up 24kg laden weight, prepared for most things: the only compromises was that I wasn't carrying full-winter gear (although most of it, certainly enough for this ride), and I had small bidons not large.  Oh, and I was breaking in my first Brooks saddle: a Professional, which is the narrow one; post-ride I think my arse is telling me I should've gone for the full-width B17 facepalm

This is quite a long post: with all the URLs of the photos, it has gone a little over the character-limit for a single post, so I've had to split it in two  rolls eyes

Part One: where are we going again?

I have ridden the Welsh end of this ride a couple of times this year and knew what to expect, but this ride starts in England, just south of Manchester, and it was the first time I'd experienced it.  As well, I was looking forward to riding the Chester Greenway, which is a converted disused railway track that goes right through the centre of Chester and out to the railway bridge over the River Dee at the old John Summers/British Steel/Corus site at Shotton.

I was still fettling in the sun, chatting to Big Saxon when Mike/MemSec set the riders off and so it was a quick dash to try to catch someone's wheel: it took a few miles, but I caught onto a VC167 group going quite well and it was nice to get a quick group going, taking turns on the front.  The route took in lots of back-country lanes and B roads through what looked to me like typical Cheshire-set villages and towns, with high walls and automatic gates, the domain of footballers from myriad north-western football teams.  And the number of high-end Chelsea tractors, beamers and the like that cut us up or overtook us on blind bends seemed to me to be well above normal.

This part of the route was surprisingly uppy-downy considering it's supposed to be the Cheshire Plains, i.e. flat, and I was worried that honking up hills, however small, so early on would mean undue sufferage later, but having ridden the Bryan Chapman Memorial (600) the previous weekend, I was feeling like I could conquer anything.

After at least one visit from the puncture fairy (not me, fortunately [for me]) and a couple of comfort breaks (not me, either), the group dwindled and I ended up riding with Tubby Cyclist, who I last rode with on Yr Elenydd, where we agreed NOT to ride up a bastard-steep hill there (and as it happened got steeper further up), but the change from winter to summer gear meant a moment before I recognised him.  As it turned out, we would ride together later as well.  Also srsteve was in this group and mds101 IIRC.

According to the route sheet there was an info control just before we turned onto the Chester Greenway, but I hadn't checked the brevet before setting off to confirm the question.  Nobody else seemed to think there was one (was I using a different route sheet?), so I stopped under the railway bridges to check, which meant getting dropped by the fast group.  No question in the brevet, so a concerted five minutes' effort on the bike and I closed back up to the back of a group, which I stayed with until the control at Connah's Quay, at the other end of the Greenway.

The Greenway itself is a surprisingly well surfaced Sustrans-type bridleway that goes right through the middle of Chester, avoiding any tricky navigation and traffic: literally stay on it until you get to the bridge at the far end and try not to run into any dog-walkers.  We set a decent pace into a slight headwind as a group of six or so, and it was a very pleasant run across the Dee flats in the sun.

The old railway that the Greenway is based on used to go flat across the A494 expressway, and the 494 had an amazing hump-back bridge over the top, which at 70MPH was rather exciting (especially as there was always the risk of stationary traffic the other side).  Since the railway was removed, the expressway is now a four-lane motorway in all but name at this point and there's a new cycle bridge over the top instead: this was about the only traffic we saw while on the Greenway, it really does go through the middle of nowhere and you wouldn't believe you'd passed within about a quarter of a mile of the centre of Chester!  That said, the traffic heading west into Wales was stationary as it always used to be, bringing a smile to my facesmile

At the end of the Greenway is a sudden view of the River Dee and the old swing bridge that the railway uses to cross at this point.  The bridge hasn't actually swung for well over 20 years, possibly 30, but it's still of the characteristic steel-girder style.  At this point we are passing through the old British Steel Shotton Works, Colourcoat division, where steel for Hoptpoint washing machines and Toyota cars used to be finished.  On the left was the original neo-gothic architecture of the John Summers office, where John Summers set up shop in the 1800s making steel hob nails for boot makers (although the trees hid it from view).  On the right the plant stretches for three miles towards the Irish Sea with some mahoosive production sheds, waste recovery ponds and even its own jetty.  John Summers was subsumed into British Steel in the mid-20th century, becoming Corus in the early 21st century and is now a defunct works.  I worked there as a student and it was an eye-opener on what "heavy industry" looks like!  On the return leg we passed around the far end of the site.

The drop off the walkway along the side of the railway bridge invited bruises with the two width-restricted barriers: I am of slight build and rubbed shoulders quite hard here, some of the broader-shouldered riders would had to have gotten off and walked/crouched through I think.  No wonder the velomobile wasn't going to make it through, and I wonder whether the trike didn't have to be lifted over?  A quick dash along the south bank of the River Dee with a view across to the now-boarded-up John Summers HQ (flanked by its 1950s extension) opposite and then around the corner and to the first control, where Mike had set up a bananas-and-cake-and-squash control.

Since this is technically an X-rated event, i.e. no TLC just grab receipts, it was good of Mike to provide pop-up love along the way: he ran a control at Connah's Quay (70km), Holyhead (200km) and arrivée (413km), although we also passed him just after Penrhyn (250km) on the return leg, where he was just checking everyone was feeling okay as they passed.  I asked him at the end why he'd done it and whether he'd enjoyed it and he said with some enthusiasm that he did enjoy being more involved in the ride itself, since ordinarily he'd set everyone off and then wait for brevets to arrive in the post a few days later.  He also mentioned that since the ride was full, the budget was there to enable him to extend the hospitality he was able to offer.  It struck me that there's a definite tipping-point in the number of riders beyond which organisers are able to offer more support and as this was only the third or fourth time this ride has been run then I think that bodes well.

At this point a local rider stopped to chat and seemed genuinely interested in what we were up to.  Although I set off without him, he did say that he was going to join us for a bit up to Halkyn for the company and I believe he rode with a later group.  Bikey Mikey also rolled in after me, which I found surprising, because he'd been ahead of me out of Poynton, but it transpired a wrong turn before the Greenway had cost them some miles.

The ride through Connah's Quay was depressing, as a strong headwind was heading up the Dee estuary and it felt like proper hard work.  It's also not a very glamorous town, so not much to see here, move along!

Joining the old coast road just after leaving Connah's Quay was a time to get on with the job: it's a fast link road between the A494 expressway and the old coast road through to Prestatyn and just after we joined it squeezes from dual to single-carriageway, and this is the traditional place for white-van-man to take the outside lane for one more overtake before Flint, leaving us cyclists rather exposed.  Fortunately nothing bad came of it, but the traffic was stacked up right through Flint, meaning we were bouncing along the chevrons in the middle of the road to make progress. 

Flint's not a nice place at the best of times*, and luckily today seemed alright, but it was still nice to begin the big climb of the day, which starts in the middle of Flint and heads about 260m up in the space of 4km onto Halkyn Mountain.  [Edit: I forgot to mention that Flint has a castle, a real one, but you can't see it from the road.]  The initial part of the climb is steep (an attempt at preventing Flinters from leaving?), levels off for a bit of respite, and then gets really steep and shitty: it was wet and dirty, but even on the dry tarmac, the roadstone had been worn smooth causing back-wheel slippage. A real soft-pedalling technique required here.  I rode the bottom half with mds101, who rode off the front, and I was passed by srsteve, who was trying to catch up with mds101.

About halfway up, the road becomes much better and then it's just a long drag to the top.  My legs felt still intact at this point, although I could feel last weekend's ride in them still.  At the top a quick call to my parents to meet me at the Black Lion with some lunch – ah, the benefits of passing one's door** on the ride thumbs up  But they got the timing wrong, so what should have been a quick pitstop and chat that would have saved time stopping at a café later turned into a 15-minute wait for them to arrive; and they live only one mile from there facepalm  Still, it's only a ride and I still had plenty of time in hand and plenty of riders behind me who I could join up with later.

After this it was quite a lonely ride as far Rhôs-on-sea. I decided to take the non-footbridge diversion down the old main road through Rhuallt: it's possible to run most of the hill in one go without stopping for the steps.  This used to be the main A55, which replaced the original coast road through Connah's Quay/Flint/Prestatyn and it's hard to believe that we used to build such traffic bottlenecks – it's very steep and winding and barely wide enough for two buses and was the new main road along the coast.  I swooped down the road, hand-signalling the van behind to stay exactly where he was, which he did – I was touching the speed limit through Rhuallt anyway.

A quick pit-stop in Co-op in St Asaph to grab more sweeties and then out to Bodelwyddan.  I have done the cyclepath along the A55 twice and seen Bodelwyddan's fake castle (it's technically a manor house, although its history extends further back than its recently rebuilt exterior visage suggests) and the far-too-new Marble Church (although this is older than it looks and than I thought) from that side and wondered whether it would be quicker/easier to ride around the other side of the castle. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, because it has nearly an extra 100m of climbing – I really was questioning how long my legs would last now!  And the climb impacted my average speed somewhat.  Perhaps I should just ride up Sychnant Pass a second time on the way back like Bikey Mikey did facepalm  (Note: these pics taken in March.)

After Bodelwyddan, the route drops back down onto the coastal plain, which is dull but over very quickly, before heading into Abergele.  This is once again the old coast road and when the A55 expressway is busy then many drivers take to this road, and it was indeed busy, with Abergele being backed up through the lights in the centre.  Riding past the queue caused some ire in drivers and one truck driver honked and later cut me up on the other side of town, bastard.  I gave him a solid blast of my horn (that comes out wrong, I know) and a friendly wave, and the cars following took note and passed at a distance stop!

Abergele's Gwrych Castle also isn't quite what it seems: it's really a country house. Romantic, but useless as a defensive structure.

The coastal path from Abergele to Rhôs-on-Sea is a gem: it's a bit rough-surfaced in places, but it's mostly flat right along the edge of the coast below the A55 expressway and the coastal railway line, except that in several places it suddenly bounces 10-20m into the air over a drainage channel – it's proper Nobby's Nuts territory if you're in the wrong gear (although not quite the steepest road we encounteredgrin)

Rather than stop for hours in a caff in Rhôs, it was time for a Spar stop and a quick fettle and then away.  It was getting bitterly cold in the on-shore breeze at this point, so I put my windproof jacket on, only to stop a few miles later to take it off facepalm  There's a nice short-shocker of a climb across the Orme promontory followed by a fast descent down to the Conwy estuary before riding over the new bridge into Conwy itself. On the left is Thomas Telford's original suspension bridge over the River Conwy: a suspension bridge that makes the old road appear as if it enters the bowels of the castle, but actually it turns sharp right at the foot of the castle and joined up with the current main road.  The railway bridge next to it, designed by Robert Stephenson does enter the bowels of the castle and, although they believed they had done enough, is now causing the east tower to fall away from the main structure.  It's all still an amazing sight, though – a classic defensive castle and very original (apart from the bits that were rebuilt over the years, some of which were cosmetic for tourists in the mid-20th century IIRC).  What's almost more amazing is that before they built the tunnel under the Conwy Estuary, this road was the main coast road: all traffic had to negotiate the narrow streets and pass through the small gates through the town walls on the eastern side!!!  The queues were legendary!

A hard left-turn after the town square (which is tiny: blink and you've missed it) and it's the official start of the second and last notable climb of the day: Sychnant Pass.  It's a short climb out of Conwy itself and past a housing estate at the top of town and then straight out into farmland topped with moorland, signifying Wales proper.  It's a lovely climb this: there's a couple of moments of respite, but it's basically keeping the pedals rotating and waiting for the top to appear.  Oddly, the summit is in a tunnel of trees with high walls either side, but this just frames the view down the other side, which is the Sychnant Valley itself (meaning "dry river", I think).  Here's one I took earlier this year:

I dropped a couple of riders on the way up from Conwy and due to familiarity with the descent on the other side widened the gap: again I signalled to the car behind to stay where they were as I used the full width of the lane, but through the blind left-hander I was way quicker than them anyway and they were a long way behind by the time I had to brake to be legal into the 30 at the bottom rolls eyes; "masochist" was his only comment facepalm  JayP is another one of those riders who is very consistent and if you're on the same bit of road as him at some point along the ride, the chances are you'll keep seeing him, as he passes you again, and again, and again.  Disconcerting!

A quick snap of Penrhyn Castle, which is a Victorian country home built in the style of an Norman castle, i.e. a fake.  Although I'd climbed through the lanes quicker than JayP, he passed me in the moments it took, and I didn't repass him until we got to Penrhyn gatehouse.

A swift drop down into Bangor and steady climb back along the Menai-view road, then drop to the original Menai Bridge crossing, another of Telford's suspension bridges, before a steep climb up to the run down to the main A55 Menai crossing at Pont Britannia/Britannia Bridge, which is a rebuild of Robert Stephenson's originally innovative box-section rail bridge.  The old bridge supports tower above the road here like some sort of misplaced Space Invaders attempting to dominate the Earth:

Back in March when I rode this as a perm, I managed to get into the outside lane overtaking slow-moving cars right onto the bridge, which makes for interesting photos, but this time the traffic was moving freely, so it was lefthand-side only.

Once on Anglesey, it's a quick spin down the road to the ride's namesake. Written down it's easy to cut'n'paste, but can you say it?  Properly?  For my sins I learnt it from a guidebook on a train back from Betws-y-Coed when I was about 10 and it's one of those things you don't forget *

Bizarrely, I turned into the garage in Llanfair PG with none other than JayP, who I thought I'd left behind before Bangor!!shocked  It turns out he's an old hand at the Larrington Manoeuvre and had crossed the suspension bridge, because it's shorter (I also suspect he rode through Bangor rather than the scenic route around the headland, but I didn't think to ask at the time).  A quick sandwich and head down to the visitor centre for the obligatory photograph: this is one name that won't fit on Pppete's LEL nameplates:

The previous two times I've ridden the perm from Prestatyn, I've lost the will to live just beyond Llanfairpwllgwyngyll: not bonked per se, just got bored with it all.  The A5 westwards across Anglesey is one of the dullest roads I know of (I am yet to experience the B1040 to Whittlesey – I am saving that for LEL), as it doesn't really do anything interesting and the villages it passes through are all nondescript.  However, turn and look over your shoulder and on any clear day there's a truly inspiring view of the whole of Snowdonia, absolutely beautiful and impossible to capture fully on a pocket camera:

This time, though, instead of  having just 80km in my legs, I tackled the A5 with 180km in the legs and although it didn't fly by, I made much better progress than previous times without the lethargy, so maybe it was down to winter fitness, or overheating in cold-weather gear, or something.

A quick wave to some riders at the chippie in Valley and cross the causeway to the coastal park where Mike had said he'd be providing validation services with rice pudding.  JayP leaving as I'm arriving.

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Audax / Re: Llanfair PG 400 – 25/05/13

« on: May 27, 2013, 07:58:35 PM » Part Two: are we there yet?

I tried not to spend too long at the turn at Holyhead: I was ahead of schedule, but there was no point in squandering that time.  So a quick piece of cake and some rice pudding for desert and then back to Valley for fish&chips with ladles of curry sauce over the top, mmmmm!  grin  It was funny in the chippie, because the ladies behind the counter thought we were all bonkers having to now ride all the way back to Manchester.

Dinner with Tubby Cyclist and two others and then the four of us set off on the return: the other two guys' names I never asked, so I was unable to forget, but I probably would've done.  TC did tell me after we left Abergele later, but I've forgotten: Stuart was one I think, plus one other.

Having ridden the official route along the B5420 twice this year, and so knowing that it's a lot kinkier and lumpier than the main A5, and having seen quite a few riders returning along the A5, I suggested we could save a bit of time riding that way.  None of the others thought to disagree facepalm  So we ended up riding all the way back to Menai Bridge in about 75 minutes, which is about half an hour quicker than I've managed the official route on my own, but to be honest in a group there would probably be only 10 minutes difference.  And it was interesting to see the A5 in reverse.  The return is via the original Menai crossing at the eponymously named Menai Suspension Bridge, which is the sibling of the Telford suspension bridge at Conwy and is said to be the first modern suspension bridge in the world.

Since I know this route pretty well, I ended up on or near the front for much of the navigation back from Bangor to Abergele. I climbed away from the group out of Bangor and up through the lanes to give myself a couple of minutes' buffer to put some knee-warmers on – it really was getting quite chilly.  When the others caught me, they'd picked up another rider, Wayne, who had been on a training ride from his home in Prestatyn to Bangor and had ridden with some of our riders and had decided to ride all the way to Holyhead with them thumbs up  He'd stopped to buy some lights in Bangor, but wanted to save batteries, so he rode in our lamplight all the way back to Prestatyn.  We rode back along another section of Telford's original coast road, which clings to the cliff around the Penmaenbach tunnel.

In Llanfairfechan there's an alternative route to the NCN5, which turns left immediately after the start of the climb, and then the first right: this is the steepest gradient of the ride, if you choose to ride it: it's 25% territory for about 50m.  It's actually signed as NCN5, although most people take the slightly less steep scenic route up Pendalar.  Only two of us rode it – myself and Wayne – popping out at the top just ahead of Tubby Cyclist.

As the temperature fell, my legs started to spin more freely: it's odd, but I've noticed this before.  On the hills on the return, I was able to find a gear/cadence that worked for me and was simply riding off the front of the group.  It's probably not that great, but riding a 24kg fully loaded bike with limited gears and finding yourself leaving everyone else behind on long climbs like the one up through Old Colwyn is kinda grin-worthy smug  That said, Tubby Cyclist had his revenge on the flat facepalm

The temperature was less than 5ºC by the time we got to the bicycle park outside McD's in Abergele, and nobody was in any hurry to move on.  Even JayP joined us for a bit.  srsteve regaled us with stories of having ten sugars in his coffee on such-and-such a ride; and promptly put ten sugars in his coffee sick  When we did proceed back outside, it was a case of get a move on or become hypothermic: my GPS recorded 4ºC on arrival and 1ºC on departure and it fell to zero before long.

The leg from Abergele to the M56 services at Elton is the low-light of this ride for me, unless you like time-trialling for three hours.  The distance is just 65km, and should take about 2.5 hours, and it's almost flat.  I was riding with Tubby Cyclist and Wayne at this point, as the other two had left just before, and so TC decided we needed to catch them: this was his cue for "let's see what we've got left in the legs and then burn it all in one big burnout"!!!  I took the front a couple of times on the run to Rhuddlan, which has an amazing defensive castle (but they'd turned the lights off, so you couldn't see it) but the further we got, I was less inclined to sit on the front.  Wayne took just one turn: he had his light on at this point, as we were just a few miles from his home.  But TC did the bulk of the work on the front and I was hard-pressed to keep on his wheel, let alone take the front. We caught a few guys, but in the end it was all too much and we stopped just after the New Dee Crossing (the fancy new bridge) and some of the passed became passers.  Back on the road and I was lagging: TC started to stretch back onto previously passed wheels and as we joined the A494 expressway for that mile from Sealand to the turn off towards Stanlow oil refinery, my legs said "enough!" and just stopped dead!!  I have felt on the brink before now, but never quite such a sudden and total loss of power.  The others rode on, I knew I'd eventually make it to the services, but for now it was time for an energy gel and some slow, steady cycling.

The services at Elton was a picture: there's a large, spread-out Costa there and the entrance was filled with bikes, while the seats and sofas were filled with dozing cyclists (apart from Tubby Cyclist, who was wide-awake and stayed long enough to make sure I was going to be okay, then headed out, the damage already done [to me]). (Aside: MiddleAgeCyclist, if that's you on the left-hand end of the sofa, you didn't snore. That I heard.)

I grabbed a hot toastie and some coffee and sat down to eat.  When I woke up I continued chewing the mouthful I had bitten off before going to sleep.  And then woke up to swallow.  And then woke up to take another bite.  Each time surprised that I hadn't finished it yet – I truly was thattired!  Eventually I got some beauty sleep and woke up thinking it must be time to leave, only to get the not-enough-sleep shakes and so put my warm socks on and went back to sleep.  I lost an extra hour over the plan here just because I was absolutely drained (thank you TCtongue).

The final leg to arrivée was 58km of hell on Earth. Everything in my legs was spent and I couldn't raise a cadence above about 65 except on the downs.  The ups I had nothing in my legs to deliver as torque, and not enough cadence, and so honked up the slightest incline in 34" gear.  Occasionally (and rather embarrassingly) availing myself of the 24" gear (when nobody was looking) facepalm  For me, this is what people mean when they say "character building": you've got nothing left, everything hurts, and you just want to go home; but somehow you keep digging a little deeper and finding something, anything, to distract you from the pain and bring the goal a little closer.  If I had been less engrossed in my own discomfort, I might've taken more notice of all the bridges, canals, railways, etc., that litter this section of the route along the M56: this is a real industrial heartland of yore.  And passing underneath both runways of Manchester Airport is unexpected, although you don't get to see very much.  Then back into footballers'-wives territory.

Eventually, exactly 24 hours to the minute after starting out, I made it to arrivée to find Mike had already packed away the promised bacon-buttie-making equipment.  There were quite a few riders standing around chatting, including JayP thumbs up  I should've just stayed on his wheel facepalm

Poynton didn't look like it had many big-breakfast-style cafés open on a Sunday morning, so it was another Costa, which is where Big Saxon found me, sunning myself, not distressed exactly, but definitely feeling the worse for wear.  But I wasn't Lanterne Rouge by any means as there were nearly a dozen riders rode in while I was sitting there.  And despite the performance set-back on the last two legs, and the overly long final two stops, it was still my quickest standalone 400km to date, only beaten by the first 400km of the BCM600 last weekend, which was around an hour quicker.

As for leaving Poynton, I was definitely Lanterne Rouge: I sat in the car with my feet up on the dash and the door wide open and went to sleep. I didn't leave until midday. I then had to stop a further three times on the way to rest and/or sleep, which on a three-hour drive is unheard of for me.  But I made it home safely by 5pm in time to take Mrs WB out for dinner, since the boys are with their grandparents for half term wink

As I have said previously, North Wales is my favourite place in the UK and this ride has a very North-Wales feel to it, particularly the feel of the coastal corridor. There are few points in the ride where you are thinking "blimey, a mechanical here could be difficult", it's not at all remote, but it has a really lovely feel, amazing scenery, and so many castles, follies, bridges, historic towns, oddities, caravans, sheep, and cyclists. 

This ride really is great fun and compared to some rides it's not at all hard when the weather's not particularly Welsh, although there's over 3,500m of climbing, so it's not exactly flat either.  The contrast between England and Wales is extraordinary (although I count the whole of the run from Prestatyn to Connah's Quay as not-particularly-Welsh, i.e. English, so some interpretation required).  Mike's route is interesting and scenic with a great mix of fast and straight roads and wiggly lanes.  The use of Sustrans paths works well on this ride, because they aren't as over-safe as many have become, so they are still usefully quick.  There are plenty of 24-hour services that are fully open and so you never feel like you're out in the wilds courting disaster.  Unlike many of the shorter rides, with this ride you definitely feel like you've Gone Somewhere, because you do cross a good chunk of England and then Wales entirely before returning again, like King Edward I, under whose reign a string of castles right across this area was built (several mentioned above).

Next time I think I would prefer to take it a bit more steadily and enjoy the ride more, rather than clock-watching, which I was did this time.  It really is a ride to savour thumbs up

And thank you Mike for your pop-up TLC: it was not expected but very very welcome thumbs up

I'm now having at least a couple of weeks off the bike to recover.

  • This is just my opinion, corroborated by many. * Although I haven't actually lived there for well over a decade. ** If you do then you begin to worry how long you've got left …

Nick Wilkinson

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