They say the difference a day makes. I think Wales thought I’d topped up my tan enough today and through it all at me.
The writing was on the wall when I looked out of the window. Blue skies had given away to moody, grey clouds. It was an omen for later. Before I set off I had to fettle with my bike for 30 mins. My bike was clicking and had been since I left. Partly the heat, partly the load on the bike probably. I took the saddle clamp off and cleaned it up and undid my headset and tightened it back up. My panniers were rattling too so I spent some time adjusting them properly rather than just placing them on the bike like I had. I left and the bike was quiet! Result. I opted for lightweight gillet and armwarmers today. It was 12 degs. Seemed like the right choice.
I hadn’t been able to charge my Garmin so I decided to use Strava on my phone today and memorise the route. It was pretty straightforward. I just needed to find my way onto the Mawddach trail when I needed to.
I left town and took the coast road round to Aberdovey. Its a bit up and down and the traffic initially was a pain with cars queuing behind but within a couple of miles it all went quiet and remained that way and was actually quite pleasant for an A road. Through and out of town. Blink and you’ll miss it, the drizzle started. Very light to start with so I carried on. It got heavier so I decided to stop and pop my rain cape on as I didn’t want to get cold. Onto Tywyn and my route should have took me through and out of town but I decided to ride down to the beach front. Lots of memories here on holiday as youngster. Probably 35 years ago at least. The amusements are still there and when I left town the Honey Ice Cream shop is still there too! If it had been a bit later in the day I’d have stopped and had one. The rain had stopped but I kept the cape on for warmth. I was looking forward to the coast road now. Just some benign road to get there and it just opens up in front of you. Great views of Barmouth in the distance. I starts quite high up before descending to sea level. I made a wrong turn looking for the Mawddach Trail. I switched my Garmin on for help and I found it down some non-descript lane.
The trail follows an old railway line that used to connect Dollgellau and Barmouth. The surface is hard packed stone and rides really well. I wouldn’t take a road bike on it but Gravel junkies would love it. It tracks the edge of the estuary. Its got a few annoying gates to go through but overall its a great, traffic-free ride.
I’d made good time to Dolgellau. I scooted round town and decided to have lunch from a bakery. I sat outside. It was dry and not too cold. I didn’t want to stay long as I didn’t want to get cold. Lunch done, I was ready for the climbs and boy they were climbs of note. I donned my knee warmers for warmth and headed off
NCR 8. Half a mile out of the town centre. Right turn. Boom. 12% straight up. Relentless for over a mile. On and on and on it gained height so quick. I could see further up the valley up here and it didn’t look pleasant. Dark, black clouds. It was raining over there and that was where I was going. After my route mistake yesterday I’d double-checked this one and found that part of the route wasn’t a normal road. All I could find online was that the link between the mapped roads was an NCR ‘provision’. From experience this could be anything from tarmac to a bridleway. I weighed up the alternatives and decided to chance it. The route turns off the lane out of Tabor and snakes up and over the top. This section ends at a farm. Gates and ridiculous unrideable cattle grids aside it was tarmac despite been littered with tree debris and sheep shit. I had to walk the grids. The bars were round, wet and the gaps about 4 inches. Mental. The rain had set in hard now and was pouring and the wind had picked up to a gale. More gates later I’d finished this section of the NCR and now crossed the A470 to begin the next. It was gated again so I thought it would be traffic-free. This climb was a beast. Constant 15-20% with a galeforce headwind and horizontal rain battering me. I was still warm though from the effort. I just stared at the top and told myself to just get up and over. Cars met me on the way up. Weird. Usual stares of disbelief and there were cars parked at the top too. Must be walkers. I have to say I could have done without a gate at the top. I was cold now and needed to get down. The descent however was mega steep. Too steep to get any speed up and braking wasn’t quite that more tempering my speed. Quickly though the temp went up and I reached my turn. I stopped and double checked and just cracked on. As quick as it started the rain eased and I was able to tackle the next 3 climbs of 17%, 17% and 20% warmed up. I was on my own now. Just solitude in the forest. It felt great. I didn’t see a car or a person for something like 20 mins. The descent was a 20% epic.
Turns out cantilever brakes do work. The secret is decent pads, rims and good brake setup.
All I could think about now was the big one to come. Legs were ok. Rain had stopped. Lets dance.
I eventually hit the A470. I saw some cars! and then right off to Dinas Mawddwy and the roller coaster road to the foot of Bwlch y Groes. You can’t help craning your neck over the hedges trying to see it. Eventually it just pops out of nowhere and you just think ‘Shit’. You can see the road go straight up the escarpment. Today it disappeared into cloud. Heaven was calling. Obligatory photo done. I offloaded some ballast (wee) and begun in 1st gear. The road grinds up to a tree-covered right hand hairpin. A nasty gradient but eases slightly as you round to the left. Then it comes into view. A head fuck aswell as a leg fuck. Its unrelentingly brutal. Throw in 20lbs of kit to carry and you just have to accept it. Further up it turns the screw. Steeper. The top was shrouded in mist and I noticed I had a bit of a tailwind. The cloud was coming up to my right and overtaking me! Into the mist and I remebered my last attempt told me the arnco is the worst section. You could just make out the arnco in the mist ahead ramp up again and it was here I was out of the saddle. Rather than bike from side to side now it was me, bike steady. My legs, neck, shoulders back were all screaming. I could only see 30 metre ahead. Where was the f**king top! The cross at the junction came into view and I knew I didn’t have far now then done. I stopped. Beasted level 10.
The other side to Bala was completely clear. I cracked on and let it rip on the descent. I needed warmth. I hit the Bala lakeside and although I had a fantastric tailwind my legs were just mush. I just wanted a hot shower and food now.
Into town and found my B&B. Another day done.
Tonight I’ve had a beer, and Indian and taken back some bottles of ale.
Only 30 miles tomorrow to Prince Towers (parents) up north north. Familiar food and bed. Dads birthday. More beer then!
I give up on Strava. Used my phone today but it missed big sections. Thinking of ditching it and going old skool like I used to