Day 16: Dulas (Angelsey) to Rhyl, distance: 91km, climbing: 969m

I made it. I cycled around the whole of Wales. This Slow Cycle Ride is over.

I am writing this (final) blog post from the rather splendid Hilton Garden Inn in Dolgarrog, where we’re staying for a couple of days before heading home. On the edge of the Snowdonia mountain range, this is an adventure sports hotel complete with a surf school (where the water also powers a hydro electric power station).

In case you think I’ve totally lost the plot, it also has a spa and massuese (which is why I am here).

The Hilton at Dolgarrog with surf school

It’s currently day 16 +1. I didn’t even try to write this blog last night. Too much champagne and emotion, plus I was reunited with the fam and we had a lot to catch up on. Sorry to have kept you waiting.

So for the last time, let’s unpack day 16.

Ride report

I had a thoroughly lovely last night “on the road” staying with Pete and Suzi at their house in Cheshire-on-Sea (which is what the locals call this part of Anglesey apparently). Pete and I went kayaking in the bay where we were joined by seals, we had a delicious supper, and I slept in a proper bed.

Got on the road by 10 am in fresh bibs and socks (let’s add washing machines to the list of things I’ve missed).

Me setting off on day 16

It was hot from the beginning and didn’t let up all day. I was also really feeling the aches and pains today. Presumably some combination of too much wine over dinner, the cumulative effects of so much cycling, and a drop in adrenaline as I approached the end. Brother was feeling it too, the clicking has got really bad now.

On the plus side, the pressure gauge I bought in Bangor has proved its value. I’ve finally got my tyres at the right pressure and my speed on tarmac has increased significantly as a result. I’ve probably cycled 2/3 of this trip under pressure (literally and metaphorically).

Fun and games with the route. I suspect that the bike computer didn’t appreciate the “Holly from Red Dwarf” comparison in yesterday’s blog and decided to have a laugh at my expense. (If I’m going to anthropomorphise my kit, I might as well go all in).

Within an hour I followed Holly’s directions onto what promised to be a beach-side cycle path only to be confronted with anything but.

Not a cycle path

What started as a muddy, submerged trench, quickly developed into a rocky nightmare, narrow bridge, sand dunes, and an impassable river. That’s an hour of my life that I am not getting back. U-turn and back up the hill to the main road.

Definitely not a cycle path

Back on the busy, but quick road, I decided that the aforementioned detour had used up the time I would have spent at Beaumaris, so skipped it and headed for the Menai crossing.

Once across, I followed the cycle routes east. Not as flat and fast as the ones I enjoyed on route to Anglesey, but good downhills compensated for the short, sharp climbs.

Joined the sea front path at Penmaenmawr and it really started to feel like the home stretch. This was the Wales of my youth. Passed through Conwy (good Castle action) and Deganwy (still posh) and into Llandudno (good to see it packed with tourists).

Conwy castle

After a brief consultation with the welcoming committee, decided not to cycle around the Great Orme and pushed on to Rhos.

This is where it started to go wrong again. The sea front was closed while they made improvements to the sea defences. I decided to follow the diversion for cyclists which meant a 100m climb up super steep roads. Holly helpfully got involved, sending me down a couple of steep dead ends. Very drole.

Improving sea defences

Which reminds me of a life lesson I’ve learned this week, if you’re not sure of your route, double check before you go down a steep hill. There’s nothing worse than having to climb up something you just came down. I suspect that this lesson is generalisable beyond cycling.

Dropped back on to the beach front at Colwyn Bay (which is much better than I remembered) and from there on it was a flat cruise to Rhyl in the sunshine. As a final piece of nostalgia I passed Knightley’s in Towyn where I worked collecting glasses in the bar for a couple of summers as a young lad.

Art at Colwyn Bay beach

Coming in to the west side of Rhyl, I could see how much it has changed over the years, but it still feels somehow sadder compared to some of the other seaside towns I’ve seen on this journey.

Arrived at Splash Point to find the whole family waiting for me, with champagne, flags and a homemade banner. Much hugging and tears and love. Followed by fish and chips. I’ve missed these guys.

The finish line

The important stats

I set off from Splash Point in Rhyl at 6.40 a.m. on Monday 25 July 2022. I arrived back 16 days later, at 6.04 p.m. on Tuesday 9 August 2022.

I cycled for 15 of those 16 days, covering a total of 1,359km (844 miles), with an average distance of 90.6km per day (56 miles). The longest distance travelled in a single day was 110km (68 miles) on day 6.

I’ve said before that the challenge with this adventure wasn’t the distance, it was the climbing. I trained in East Anglia. The topography of Wales couldn’t be more different.

I climbed a total of 14,819m (48,619ft), with an average of 988m per day (3,241ft). The largest amount of climbing on any single day was 1,649m (5,410ft) on day 10 (which is a day that I will remember for some time to come). The highest point I reached was about 450m, on the Brecons.

For reference, Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon is 1,086m (3,563ft); the world’s tallest peak, Everest is 8,849m (29,302ft).

So another way of looking at this is that I climbed 13.6 Snowdons and 1.7 Everests over 15 days. All while pedalling a fully laden bike weighing in at almost 40kgs.

I had one Tumble, leading to one or possibly two cracked ribs and 3,725 mosquito or midge bites. Thanks to the sacrifices I made to the gods of mechanicals, there was no serious mechanical failures, although I had five punctures and I suspect that my forks, handlebars, and bottom bracket all need replacing. I lost one titanium spork.

The even more important stats

At the time of writing, we have raised £5,932 from 130 donations to support the work of Llamau to end homelessness in Wales.

That is just incredible and I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed.

I know that there is more to come from friends, family, neighbours, and strangers who have messaged to say that they plan on donating. I’m going to keep the Just Giving page open for a few weeks and here is the link.

Just because I’ve stopped pedalling, it doesn’t mean that the scourge of homeslessnees has ended. If you don’t have a safe place to call home then everything else suffers. Studying, working, planning your future; all are pretty much impossible without a safe home.

Young people who experience homelessness are massively more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Getting them into safe accommodation is the first crucial step to helping them build a positive future for themselves. That’s what Llamau does. That’s what you can support.

Bob Gedolf
“Just give us your fooking money” Sir Bob Geldof

Some final thoughts

I’m finding it really hard to put into words how I feel about all this. Mostly, I’m completely knackered, but it’s also been a LOT. Setting off feels like it happened months ago, not just over two weeks. I’m going to need another long bike ride just to process this one (joking Jane, just joking).

Over the next few days I might write an epilogue to capture some of my reflections before they are lost in time, like tears in the rain.

What I do know is that this was a good idea. I had my doubts and there were times I wanted to give up, but I am glad I started it and proud that I finished it. I also know that it was a very good idea to use the Slow Cycle to raise money for Llamau, for all the reasons discussed above.

I also know that Chris M was right (as bloody usual) and that writing a blog / journal / newsletter was a good idea. It gave me something to think about on the bike. It allowed me to capture and share the journey. I never imagined that it would get 10,000 views and I have been completely humbled by all the messages from people who said they’ve enjoyed following along.

There was so much that we didn’t cover though. I never told you about Marion the B&B owner in Tenby who got really upset about me using the bath with jets as a washing machine. I never talked about my theory on the impact the increase in cycling is having on bee populations. I totally forgot to tell you what I learned about the vikings in Wales and why they settled in Pembrokeshire and Anglesey. And, so many stories about cows being dicks.

All of that will have to wait for the Netflix / Prime docu-drama and accompanying book (subject to negotiations and contract).

Visit Wales

My very final thought is that you should visit Wales more often. This is a remarkable, beautiful country, with stunning landscapes, massive mountains, golden beaches, blue / green seas, a wonderful culture, and the most generous welcome for visitors you could ever imagine.

One of my friends and former colleagues (who is a committed England Rugby fan and therefore not kindly disposed to Wales), captured it best in her DM to me today:

Have to say, Wales looks beautiful. Don’t tell anyone I said that.

Stephanie. England.

Day 15: Traeth Llanddwyn (Anglesey) to Dulas (Anglesey), distance: 77km, climbing: 786m

Hard to believe that we are almost at the end. Tomorrow I will make a final push on to Rhyl where my Slow Cycle Around Wales will be finished. Complete. Over.

I am writing this blog post from my friend’s house in Dulas on Anglesey (more details below). I’m not gonna lie, it’s all a bit emotional. Let’s get into it.

Me arriving in Dulas, Anglesey today

Ending homelessness in Wales

Long time readers will know that this bike adventure started as a thing that I wanted to do for me (and it still is that). Using it as an opportunity to raise money for Llamau to end homelessness in Wales wasn’t an afterthought, but it was something that was made possible because I had decided to go on this adventure.

Seeing how many people have got behind the fundraising for Llamau has been genuinely moving. Over 100 people have donated already and together we have raised £4,857 plus another £948 in gift aid. That makes this one of the top fundraising campaigns of the past month in the UK (apparently).

I think we can do even more. Please help over the next 24 hours by telling everyone you know about the Slow Cycle Ride and asking them to make a donation to support Llamau’s work.

Here is the link to Just Giving which you can share. Or just share a link to this blog.

Big last push. Let’s do this.


I have a confession to make.

I’ve not really been alone on this journey. I know it’s going to come as a shock, it did to me too. But I have been traveling as part of a team and I thought I should come clean and introduce you in this penultimate blog to at least some of the gang.

First (you’ve met him already) is my Brother from another mother, the bio-bike. My steadfast companion. His voice is kind of like Mr T from the A-Team. His role is to push the team to new acts of daring and risk taking. “Ease off the brakes”, “let’s go down that dirt path instead”, “call this a climb?”.

Held together with zip ties and gaffa tape following the Tumble, we’ve been on this journey together.

Brother from another mother

Next is my Garmin 530, gps bike computer. He/she has the preprogrammed route and provides directions and stats like speed, heart rate (connected to my watch), elevation, distance travelled etc. He/she is like a slightly hysterical version of Holly from Red Dwarf (both male and female versions), patronising, mostly right, but sometimes hilariously wrong. If a tiny computer could roll it’s eyes … “look I’m just showing you the route that you planned, if you want to listen to that oaf (Brother) and go hooning down that trail instead, fine, but I will find the biggest hill ever to get us back on route.

You need to turn the bike around

He / she also has the tendency to break out into Samuel L Jackson or Christopher Walken impersonations when we are off route. “Oh I’m sorry did I break your concentration”, “you need to turn the bike around”.

Finally, my trusty 5mm Allen key, which for some reason has a French accent like the candelabra from Disney’s beauty and the beast. Whenever I get it out it’s like “oh ho oh, you need some more adjustments sir? Your seat is too high? I told you yesterday that it was too high, didn’t I?”, “allow me, voila!”

Addendum: I totally forgot to mention my glasses, which you will recall from a previous installment fell apart after a couple of days in the rains of Pembrokeshire. They are Private Hudson from Aliens. “Seventeen days? Hey man, I don’t wanna rain on your parade, but we’re not gonna last seventeen hours!

Anthropomorphising my kit may be a sign that I am ready to go home.

Ride report

Strava link

Lovely start to the day as I chatted to lots of people at the fab Awelfryn campsite next to Traeth Llanddwyn. This was my last night of camping on this adventure and I couldn’t have asked for a better billet.

A new “Rob from Shropshire” (this time not called Rob and from Manchester) offered me a coffee unprompted (Legend) and I had a lovely chat with a couple from Cheshire who were keen cyclists and deeply committed to bio bikes (“e-bikes are just cheating” – their words not mine).

Most importantly, Charlie (7YO) gave me extensive advice on how to see Red Squirrels. I could either go to play golf everyday like his dad (who sees loads of them) or else look up at the top of trees, which is how Charlie finds them. Sadly, despite following Charlie’s advice (looking up, not golf) I did not see a red squirrel today.

Cycling around Anglesey is a lot of fun. Rolling hills. Light traffic. And, today at least, glorious sunshine. Also, tiny horses.

Tiny horses or far away?

I followed cycle route 8 up to Holy Head, had a quick look at the Roman Fort, waved to my friends Andy, Egle, and Innis in Ireland, and found Reubens coffee shop (strong recommend) just in time for lunch.

The Roman Fort on Holy Head

The rest of the day’s cycling was pleasant and uneventful. I saw some cute baby goats, took a break at Cemlyn Bay, and visited the Pearl Engine House on the Industrial Heritage Trail (mostly for the gravel trail to be honest).

All of which eventually brought me to Dulas to stay with my friends Pete and Suzi. They have an amazing house a few minutes from a secluded beach and I can’t think of anywhere better to spend the last night of this trip.

Pete and Tintin

Pete is one of the co-founders of Raspberry Pi and served as a trustee of the Foundation for something like 9 years. He’s an engineer from Salford, whose passion in life is inspiring the next generation of young makers and he has given a huge amount of time to running hands on workshops for young people. In fact, he is one of the people who has done most to inspire young engineers in the UK in the past 15 plus years.

Suzi is Pete’s better half, an ex-copper and tri-athelete who still likes to hop over to Ibiza for a quick visit to Pacha. They are – in short – both mega-legends.

Pete and I took the kayak out on the bay
The post kayak supper

Stopping in Dulas makes tomorrow a bit longer than originally planned, so I’ve got about 100km to get back to Splash Point where this all started.

Ask me anything (for money)

Trying to catch up with all the questions, so I am going to try a quick fire round.

Phil McB (Cambridge): did you buy a titanium pooh shovel and if so was it worth it?

I think it’s aluminium not titanium, but it’s very light and has absolutely been a great investment. It hasn’t had much use because Wales has excellent public conveniences, but it has provided piece of mind. One day I’ll tell you the story about the pooh trowel and the cow who was being a dick.

Cat hole trowel

Jane (Cambridge): has life on the road distracted you from thinking about work?

Having to focus on the road, the route, not falling off, food, shelter, finding public toilets, birds of prey attacks, the views, finding my spork, the NPCs etc has indeed been very distracting. I’ve still thought about work, but differently. I think you’d call it perspective.

Tim (Cambridge): what is that you are cooking with?

I use an Alpkit Koro with a 900ml titanium pot. Very simple, but all I am really doing is heating water and warming up precooked food. No Michelyn stars being won here.

Day 14: Aberdaron to Traeth Llanddwyn (on Anglesey), distance: 96km, climbing: 1,058m

I am starting to write this blog on the beautiful beach at Llanddwyn on the South West side of Anglesey. The sun is going down, but it’s still warm. There are a few stragglers, but the beach is quietening. The skies are clear and – to the south – I can see the mountains of the Llyn peninsular and Snowdonia. It’s pretty close to a perfect way to end the day.

Me on the beach

I say “starting to write” because several times over the past week, I’ve fallen asleep mid-writing and had to finish the blog in the morning. This isn’t a result of boredom, but rather the product of exhaustion and the intense concentration required to write a blog on a mobile phone (should have brought a blue tooth keyboard).

Let’s start unpacking day 14 and see how we get on.

Update: I fell asleep and am now finishing writing this on the morning of day 15.

The big push for Llamau

Over the next two days – which are meant to be the last of the Slow Cycle Around Wales – I really want your help to spread the word and help me raise as much as possible to support Llamau’s work to end homelessness in Wales.

With your help, Llamau will be able to provide a safe place for young people when they most need it and the support they need to get back to a long term secure home and life.

You can read more about Llamau’s work here or you can take my word for it. This is a great organisation doing vital work.

Here is the all important link (it opens Just Giving in a separate tab so you won’t lose the blog post). Please share it and / or this blog with your friends, neighbours, colleagues. If you haven’t donated yet, don’t put it off any longer.

Research shows that you will feel 86% happier if you donate (% happiness increase may vary, don’t @me).

A lack of convenience

I want to add an addendum to the answer I gave yesterday to the question posed by Ed from Cambridge (which was asked again by Jesse, also from Cambridge). The question was what (other than family etc) was I most looking forward to when I get home.

I gave a considered answer (see yesterday’s blog), but I’ve thought more about it today. A few things prompted the rethink.

  • I have run out of coffee and I only have one filter left for my aero press. So while I could probably buy coffee easily, I could only make one cup.
  • I have managed to lose my beloved titanium spork. This is my only piece of cutlery.
  • Despite my best efforts at washing, my cycling gloves and hat and some other garments have developed an odour that has moved beyond “gym locker” and into “mortuary” (note that my merino wool clothing still smells fresh!)
The now lost spork

Each of these is an entirely trivial problem in the grand game of life, but on the road they are deeply inconvenient. At home, they would be solved almost immediately with little to no thought or effort.

That is what I miss: convenience. For me – and I suspect for most of the readers of this blog – we are able to live very convenient lives (for the most part). The things we need are available to us. That’s something I am going to try to not take for granted in future. (Rachel – not sure if this counts as an epiphany, but it feels important.)

Update on the inconveniences listed above:

  • I’ve decided to source coffee on the move, which yesterday took until 11.30 by which time my mood was dark.
  • I took a 10km detour at Bangor to get to Go Outdoors to replace my spork. Inconvenient.
  • I now have a bag of clothes that have been designated for offshore destruction when it is safe to do so. Unfortunately I have to keep using my cycling hat for now.

Ride report

Lack of coffee made me a big sluggish and grumpy in the morning (first time I’ve felt grumpy in over two weeks actually). Where’s Rob from Shropshire when you need him most? Hit the road at about 10 am knowing that there was at least one tough climb facing me.

All the views

Resolved to find coffee before the climb and found just what I needed in Ty Coffi in Nefyn. Second breakfast / first lunch and hot coffee. The staff were absolutely lovely too. Legends.

Second breakfast / first lunch

Just in time. Almost immediately after Nefyn was the big climb of the day, up to 250m on a pretty busy road (which makes it impossible to do that zig zaggy thing that makes steep climbs easier).

As I reached one mini-summit an Osprey swooped right past me (maybe 3m away) and landed on a fence post in the next field. I stopped and we sat silently regarding each other for a few minutes before a car zoomed past and we were both on our way.

Once past the hills, the rest of the ride along the north side of the Llyn peninsula was a joy. Top quality cycling infrastructure, significantly helped by the fact that my direction (east) was ever so slightly down hill for km after km.

Lon Eifion

Lon Eifion (on cycle route 8) wins the award for best cycle path so far. It has all the attributes of a canal tow path (canalists take note) without the jeopardy of falling in a canal. Generously wide, which was good because it was delightfully busy with parents teaching their kids how to ride.

On one stretch where I was chugging along at about 20 kmph, a bird of prey (I think probably a sparrow hawk, but could have been a falcon) swept out of a tree to my right and crossed into the trees on the left. It tracked alongside me in the trees to my left for maybe 100m and then came out onto the path and flew immediately in front of me (I mean like 5m away) for another 200m before landing on a branch.

I pulled up as gently as I could and we stayed there looking at each other for maybe 3 minutes. I eventually decided to try and take a photo, but the bird was having none of it and flew away. Amazing experience. I guess this is why I should have got a Go Pro.

It was only a few minutes later, after setting off again, reflecting on having had two such experiences today (see Osprey above), that it occurred to me that my cycling cap might smell like carrion to a bird of prey. That’s thought is going to haunt me for a couple of days.

Made it to Caernarfon mid-afternoon and had an ice cream stop by the castle.

Cherry flavour ice cream

Headed over to Bangor to find the Go Outdoors to replace the lost spork and then over the Menai Bridge onto Anglesey.

Crossing the bridge

Anglesey is of course home to the place with the longest name in the world. I almost deliberately stayed there to make the blog title hilariously long, but my desire for the sea was too strong.

Lucy and her family from Cambridge have been following my progress and sent me a lovely message saying that the blogs have become a “gather round family, it’s blog time” moment.

They’ve also been playing a game where they try to pronounce the place names. This one is for you Lucy, Simon and Kyla. I am looking forward to hearing your perfect pronunciation when I am back in Cambridge.

The longest place name in the world

And just in case you don’t believe me, here’s the local co-op.

Pressed on to Llanddwyn where I found a stunning beach and a National park that apparently has red squirrels. Supper on the beach (no red squirrels were harmed in the making of supper).

Cooking supper on the beach

Only two days to go.

Ask me anything (for money)

Jesse (aged 1 week) from Cambridge asks: after the success of this one, do you have a future bikepacking trip goal?

Great question Jesse. Given you are literally one week old I imagine that your parents (Beth and Pete) helped with the typing. Congrats again guys.

On future bikepacking goals, while I’ve loved this tour around Wales (so much), I am looking forward to some off road / over mountain adventures with friends. I’m also thinking about how to travel from Canada to Mexico, but that will probably have to wait until I have fewer responsibilities.

If I can be so bold as to offer you some advice Jesse? One of the things I have learned on this trip is how different – and valuable – it is to travel on your own. I am only just finding this out and I’m nearly 50.

When you’re old enough, make sure you go and find an adventure to do on your own. Trust me, you’ll meet more people and learn more about them (and yourself) than you will traveling with your best friend. That’s great too, it’s just different.

Day 13: Trawsfynydd to Aberdaron, distance: 78km, climbing: 915m

It dawned on me today that this adventure is coming to an end soon. Assuming that we stay on plan, I’ll arrive back in Rhyl on Tuesday, 16 days after leaving. That makes today (day 13) officially the start of the final quarter.

Welsh rugby fans know only too well that this is when you can lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. It’s also when legends are made. So what happened on the first day of the final quarter?

About last night

I was completely knackered last night. After making camp and eating a Duke of Edinburgh ready meal, I settled down in my tent (hiding from swarms of midges) to write my blog post. Woke up at 2 am fully dressed with only the first two paragraphs completed.

Nature called and I stepped out of the tent to see the most incredible night sky. There was practically no unnatural light and the sky was completely clear. The stars were shining brightly and I could see the hazy outline of the galaxy. As a city dweller, this is all too rare a pleasure.

Spoiler: I finished the blog post in the morning.

There’s no room for complacency

Today I committed the cardinal sin of complacency. Having conquered yesterday’s climb (which had been looming large for me all trip), I was feeling the end was in sight and getting over-confident.

I had a leisurely breakfast and took my own sweet time packing up. Hitting the road at the – shockingly late – time of 10 am.

The rapid descent down from Trawsfynydd was interrupted by my frequent stops to take photographs of the endless views. I chatted to everyone I came across. I visited Portmerion (see below). In short, I was behaving like a tourist with not a care in the world.

That was until I realised that it was 3 pm, I still had over 40km to go, including three properly challenging climbs, and I was out of snacks.

The golden rule of scout expeditions is you must not eat your emergency rations unless there is an actual emergency (being hungry isn’t classified as an emergency). If you return from an expedition without your emergency rations, you and your troop are disqualified. Today, I broke that rule to avoid a bonk. Emergency supplies have now been replenished, so someone please tell Akela to chill out.

The lesson, which is one learnt by countless Wales international teams and scout troops alike, is that it isn’t over until the final whistle blows. In my case I need to stay frosty until I step off the bio-bike in Rhyl on Tuesday.

I am not a number

Decided to burn an hour visiting Portmerion, which – despite my frequent visits to this part of the world – I’ve never seen before.

Portmerion in the sunshine

It’s obviously bonkers and brilliant in equal measure. There was an actual real life wedding taking place (I resisted the urge to gate crash).

A Portmerion wedding

My favourite moment was ordering some food. The woman serving me said “I am going to give you a number for your food” … pause … I say “ but I’m not a number, I’m a free man” … pause … she replies, with a weary eye roll: “you are this number now”. An exchange she must have a thousand times a day. Legend.

Ride report

Left camp late for reasons of complacency (see above). Followed the cycle path around Trawsfynydd. The former nuclear power plant is like Lego designed brutalist architecture in the middle of a National Park. I liked it. The cycle path is great too.

Trawsfynydd power plant

Made me think a lot about energy, where we get it, and how much it costs. Particularly relevant given the news on energy prices, inflation, and interest rates. I’m intrigued by the new generation of modular nuclear reactors and I know that Anglesey (where I am headed in a couple of days) has been considering hosting a nuclear reactor for some years.

Trawsfynydd up close

I also got to thinking about kinetic energy. Wales has a fledgling industry in micro hydro electricity, which uses the force of gravity and water to generate power. It occurred to me that I was currently a store of kinetic energy – having cycled so high into the mountains.

That was when I met John who was on a monster of an e- mountain bike. He has just retired and lives on the Llyn peninsula, which is hilly. He said the e-bike had opened up his world and got him exercising regularly. He proudly showed off his dropper post and gave me lots of route tips for the journey ahead. Legend.

I’ve seen loads of people cycling e-bikes this trip. The future is already here. I am clinging to my bio bike like nostalgia.

The descent from Snowdonia was amazing, even if quite a lot of it was on busy roads. I’ll happily admit to being a bit emotional and having to pull over to gather myself before pressing on. I think it was partly relief at having got through a really tough couple of days and partly starting to process the past two weeks.


Picked up Cycle route 42 which took me all the way to Aberdaron, including a couple of really horrible climbs. Sun was beating down throughout and I came dangerously close to bonking, which is a technical term for depleting your energy reserves when cycling long distances.

The clicking (see yesterday’s blog) was a constant – and irritating – companion. Suspect that Phil McB is right and this is the beginning of the end of my bottom bracket. Hope it’s got another 300km in it.

Made a poor choice of campsite due to shop anxiety (I am short of provisions and wanted to make sure I could easily get some). This is very family friendly campsite and very noisy as a result. I don’t begrudge them their fun, but I dearly wish I was in a field on my own.

Chatted to lots of folks today. Really enjoyed meeting Sabrina and Philip from Germany, who were hiking across Wales. They were also camped at Trawsfynydd.

They told me how they got caught in a storm on Cadir Idris a couple of days ago and had to shelter in a bothy that promptly flooded. Proper adventurers.

Ask me anything

Rolf (not Rolph) from Shropshire wanted to know what I sleep on. Thank you for your question Rolph.

My sleep system

My sleep system was covered in a previous blog post, but I don’t mind covering it again for you. I sleep on a Thermarest Neo Air xlite mattress which is super light and designed for side sleepers (which I am). Only downside is that it is a little creaky / noisy when you move around on it. Otherwise it’s great and I could sleep on this indefinitely.

Ed from Cambridge asks what – other than family – am I looking forward to / missing the most. This has been on my mind all day, like any good question should be.

I am going to expand your family qualification to include friends, colleagues, and neighbours (and my doggo). So apart from the people who I love and would normally spend time with, what am I missing?

Honestly… not a lot. I feel very comfortable with life on the road, much more so than I expected. I have my phone and my kindle, so I am connected and can read. I eat well. I have toiletries and my cat hole trowel. I am washing and swimming, so I feel clean. I haven’t trimmed my beard, but that’s no hardship. I guess the only persistent annoyance is washing and drying clothes, which is a bit of a chore on the road.

I think I’ll also enjoy sitting on a sofa again. There aren’t many soft furnishings when traveling like this.

The big final push for Llamau

I think that we should have a big final push to raise as much money as we can for Llamau. I’m open to ideas, but my current thinking is to get everyone who has donated to ask their friends to donate too. I think we can use Monday and Tuesday to really try to smash the fundraising goal.

What do you think? Are you with me?

Here’s that all important link and remember, every penny you give will help end homelessness for young people in Wales.

Day 12: Machynlleth to Trawsfynydd, distance: 81km, climbing: 1,252m

I made it through what is hopefully the toughest climb and I am camped on the banks of Trawsfynydd lake, high in the Snowdonia National Park.

The sun is setting behind the mountains, the midges are everywhere, and I have rehydrated a meal that should only really be eaten by teenagers doing their Duke of Edinburgh hike. For pudding I have a sachet of Maltesers hot chocolate drink. I am living the dream. Let’s unpack day 12.

Trawsfynydd Lake

Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

I’ve pretty been lucky (so far) in terms of mechanical issues with the bike and other kit. However…

The trouble started yesterday when I noticed that my tyres were losing pressure, there was an odd clicking noise when I was pedalling hard, and my glasses had started to fall apart (all unrelated). Added to that my gears started playing up today, just when I needed them most.

Like Pirsig’s narrator, I have tried to get to know how my bike works (mostly by asking Adam and watching you tube videos, which were recommended by Adam). But I am not an expert and it’s been one of my worries about the trip.

So I spent a fair amount of today diagnosing and fixing problems, usually stood at the side of busy roads. I’ve adjusted the gears, fixed three punctures in my tubeless tyres (one of which looked quite serious for a while there), and tightened all kinds of loose bolts and fittings. All seemingly successful. I still can’t find the damn clicking noise.

My glasses incidentally are made of wood (tres fashionable darling) and, as far as I can tell, the constant soaking they experienced while we were traversing Pembrokeshire seems to have caused the wood glue to fail. They literally fell to pieces. I know how they feel, but one of us had to hold it together.

The one thing I didn’t bring was glasses-grade superglue. So I stuck them together with the glue from a puncture repair kit. I am sure the warrantee will be fine, right?

Before I sleep tonight, I shall be saying a little prayer to the gods of mechanical things that they look kindly on my endeavours.

Ride report

Strava link

After faffing about with mechanicals, I set off from Machynlleth to follow the coast to Dolgellau, when I would be heading north, away from the coast and deeper into the Snowdonia National Park.

The first challenge of the day was Happy Valley, a beast of a climb that started 10 minutes from where I camped. The descent was worth the effort. Happier on the downhill.

Part of the descent from Happy Valley

Just as I was really enjoying myself, the heavens opened. But, this wasn’t the kind of drizzle that I’d experienced in South Wales.

No, this was biblical bullets of ice cold wrath. If this had been an expensive spa hotel, it would have been called the ice-forest shower and patrons would only ever use it once, then know better. Even Wim Hoff would have run for cover.

The words of my friend Craig rang in my ears (if it starts raining heavily, find shelter). So I huddled under a tree and broke out the waterproofs. Ten mins later I decided to push on. I was cold and needed to find somewhere to warm up.

I cycled 200m and the rain stopped and the ground was dry from there on. They take their micro climates seriously in these parts.

I’ll confess to having Truman Show fantasies at this point.

It wasn’t long before I arrived at Tywyn and encountered the full force of the northerly wind in my face. What’s that you say? A northerly wind, but surely the whole point of riding clockwise around Wales was so that I would have the southerly wind at my back on the west coast? And there concludes our lesson for the day on averages and probabilities.

Tywyn is a small seaside town with lots of caravans and what looked like a nice enough beach. The most remarkable thing was the mountains that surrounded it. Pictures don’t do it justice. You have to see it.

Tywyn beach

After second breakfast, I followed what I expected to be a flat coastal cycle path, which in fact turned out to include a gruelling climb (albeit with beautiful views). This is where the gears started falling and I couldn’t access any of my lower gears at all. Truman show vibes again.

Brutal climb, nice views

I rode the Mawddach Trail into Dolgellau. I’ve ridden this one before with Jane and the kids and it’s a joy. A perfectly flat, wide cycle path that follows the Mawddach estuary along an old railway line in the shadow of Cadir Idris. It was like being back on the canals of the borderlands only better. I reaffirmed my Canalism vows.

Mawddach trail

I girded my loins for the climb out of Dolgellau and made a wrong turn out of the town which led up a totally unnecessary 40 mins and 120m climbing, plus a couple of punctures.

The climb to Trawsfynydd took me through Coed y Brenin forest Park, which was a ride I really wanted to do. It was as breathtakingly beautiful and utterly brutal as I hoped.

Afon Eden
Lots of off road fun
More stunning views from Coed y Brenin

After three hours of climbing / pushing I made camp on the shore of Trawsfynydd reservoir, which was created to provide water to the – now decommissioned – nuclear power station.

Day 12 camp

Not much in the way of NPC interactions today. I had brief chats with a few nice folks in Dolgellau but otherwise it was just me, myself and I. No bad thing, but possibly less interesting for you dear reader.

All the gear, no idea

Next in our occasional series featuring the gear that is getting me round this trip alive is the humble “multimat”. This modestly proportioned foldable foam square is available in all good camping and outdoors stores.

The humble multimat

I use this all the time. It is what I kneel on when I get in and out of my tent. It’s my seat when the ground is damp or uncomfortable. It protects my stove from the wind. And today, I have spent a LOT of time kneeling or sitting on it while repairing the bio-bike. Don’t leave home without one.

The last big push for Llamau

All being well, there are just a few days left on this adventure and I want to give one last big push to raise as much money as we can to support the work of Llamau. Can you help?

Please make a donation and ask your friends to do the same. Here is the link.

If you’re not comfortable asking someone to make a donation, just share a link to this blog and let me do the asking.

Tomorrow we ride to Aberdaron – that’s the pointy finger bit of the old lady of Wales.

Day 11: Lampeter to Machynlleth, distance: 88km, climbing: 853m

A deliberately shorter day, with a heavy dose of culture. I’ve made camp in the Snowdonia National Park close to Machynlleth.

The exhaustion persists despite the less strenuous day. It feels like it is part of me now.

Let’s unpack day 11.

Thank you, but it’s not over yet

I want to start with a massive thank you to everyone for your support. I’ve received loads of lovely messages with encouragement, cajoling, banter, advice, and love. I always thought this Slow Cycle would be a rather lonely affair, but it’s been quite the opposite. Thank you.

Extra special thanks to everyone who has donated to support Llamau to end the scourge of homelessness for young people in Wales. Today we passed £4,000, with 79 donations. It’s amazing.

It’s not over yet though. If all goes to plan we still have five days of this adventure left and they include some of the toughest climbs so far. 😬😬

One kind (anonymous) donor said that they hoped there weren’t too many hills remaining from here to Rhyl. Sadly – or not, depending on your perspective – I just entered the Snowdonia National Park where it’s pretty much all hills.

More hills, there are always more hills

So please keep the messages of support coming. If you haven’t donated, please do (link). And if you have donated, spread the word and ask your friends to get involved. Remember how good it made you feel, wouldn’t you like your friends to feel that too?

If everyone got just one other person to make a donation, we’d raise loads more money.

Maes, Maes, Baby

I said yesterday that when I entered Ceredigion, there were Welsh flags and croeso (welcome) signs everywhere. After a brief moment of hubris, I realised that this was not because I had arrived but rather because Tregaron (in Ceredigion) was hosting the National Eisteddfod this week.

Even this 17th Century Mill had a flag

Luckily, Tregaron was on route. So I ditched the schedule (again) and went to check it out. Huge thanks to the fab staff on the ticket booths who offered to stash my bike in their staff area, so that I could enjoy the festival without worrying about security. Legends.

Me at the Eisteddfod

For readers who didn’t grow up in Wales, the Eisteddfod is a BIG deal. It’s a cultural festival centred around a set of competitions for music, singing, dancing, poetry, and (my personal favourite) expressive poetry reading.

I remember what seemed like endless local and regional heats where kids would compete to get to attend the National Eisteddfod. It was never my vibe, but I appreciated the work.

The Eisteddfod has played a big role in preserving the Welsh language and – through it – significant parts of Welsh culture that otherwise might not have survived eight centuries of colonialism.

It’s also a great big festival, with hundreds of stands showcasing Welsh businesses, causes, and crafts; food, drinks, live music, and general shenanigans. There’s an after party called Maes B (the main festival arena is called the Maes). Young people everywhere were sporting “Maes, Maes, Baby” and other Maes B swag.

Sadly I was there early in day and couldn’t really justify hanging around all day to experience Maes B. Mountains to climb etc.

I watched some choirs and a bit of the traditional dancing, perused the stands and chatted to lots of folk.

Spot the imperial star destroyer

The Eisteddfod is primarily conducted in Welsh, which – despite being educated in a Welsh language school – I can no longer speak. The best part of 30 years living in England will do that to you. Everyone was very kind though and helped me out with my stuttering attempts and happily switched to English when it all got too awkward.

My mate Adam Price

A real treat to bump into my friend and former colleague, Adam Price, who is now the leader of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party. Adam’s one of the smartest people and most sincere politicians I know and we had a good chat about the cross party work he’s leading to improve government in Wales. Legend.

Ride report

My first genuinely poor nights sleep. The ribs are still hurting from the Tumble.

Short ride from Lampeter to Tregaron for the Eisteddfod. On route I chatted to an old chap who caught me taking a photo of his 17th century mill. He was interested in the Slow Cycle and particularly the tyres on my bike (“look like new, those, are you sure you’ve come from Rhyl”).

He said “you should write a book you know. You could call it Phil from Rhyl.” Spent a lot of the next hour regretting not having thought of that as the url for the blog (much easier to remember). Marketing genius that old boy.

Stopped at Llanfair Clydogau to find a loo and a lovely lady offered to open up the village hall for me. It struck me as such a nice thing to do for a sweaty cyclist, but then I realised that she just wanted to show off the smartest village hall in the area. Proper lush. Community infrastructure really matters in these parts.

The very smart village hall

After the Eisteddfod, I picked up the Yswyth Trail which is simply fabulous and took me pretty much the whole way to Aberystwyth. Large parts are so flat and straight that it felt almost like a canal. Oh how I miss the canals of East Wales!

Ystwyth trail

Long time readers will remember that the Yswyth is the third of three sister / water nymphs who had a wager on who could reach the sea first. We met her sisters Sabrina (the Severn) and Varga (the Wye) on days 3 and 4. Nice to complete the set!

Quick stop in Aberystwyth for late lunch and then the brutal climb out and onto the road to Machynlleth. I opted to stick to the busy, but direct road route, rather than to the less busy, longer, hillier, route that criss crossed the main road and would’ve added several hours. Don’t @me.


By now I was on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and the mountain ranges and valleys were appropriately breathtaking and daunting.

Final NPCs of the day were Steven and Katharine from Austria who are touring Wales in a big van with the coolest looking e-mountain bikes. They let me use some of their tools for a few repairs and told me how the e-bikes were a game changer, allowing them to spend much more time flying down big downhills.

Steven was genuinely surprised that I was doing my trip on a “bio-bike” almost like it was a nostalgic thing. So now I know that I am an old man desperately clinging to his bio bike.

Ask me anything

Need to find time to work through the backlog of questions. Apologies if you are waiting, I will get to you soon. Kate from Cambridge asked: are you half way round yet?

When Kate asked the question, a few days ago, I honestly wasn’t sure. But now I am confident that yes, I am at least half way round. Still lots of work to do, but I am now starting to entertain the possibility that this will come to an end. This idea is being reinforced by the depletion of rations. Tooth paste, coffee, porridge are all running dangerously low.

Day 10: Fishguard to Lampeter, distance: 105km, climbing: 1,649m

I am exhausted. Finally made it to Lampeter and found somewhere to camp by 7.30 pm. Pitched the tent and cycled into town to raid a local Sainsbury’s. I am currently eating a very weird supper as dusk turns to night.

This will be a short blog post. More details may follow in a supplementary update, or perhaps I’ll save it for the podcast, Netflix mini series, and accompanying book.

The stats say it all really. Second longest day by distance and biggest day of climbing by a significant margin. Brutal.

And yet. Easily my most enjoyable day on the bike so far. Yes, the relentless climbing took it’s toll on my body and mind, but the sun was shining, the wind was at my back more than in my face, my ribs hurt less than yesterday, and I got to spend an hour in the sea on the best beach I’ve seen in a long time.

Ride report

Very slow start. Partly waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in (ribs still sore from The Tumble) and partly because it was a busy campsite with lots of lovely, chatty people who were terribly interested in the bike and bike packing gear.

This included the wonderful Rob from Shropshire who insisted on making me a hot drink when I arrived the previous evening – thoroughly soaked from a day of cycling in the rain. He then greeted me this morning with another. Legend.

Didn’t get on the road until 9.30 am, which was much too late. But the weather was transformed. Glorious blue skies. No rain. Wind at my back.

There were lots of views like this all day

I followed Afon Gwaen through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park initially on a splinter from cycle route 4 and then joining route 82, which I followed most of the day. The valley was breathtaking.

On one of the more evil climbs I caught up with a mountain biker. We were both struggling a little and got to chatting, on my part breathlessly. He said he was from Shropshire (this was becoming a theme) and that his family had a house near Poppit Beach. So he knew the area well.

That was the beach I had targeted for a swim and he kindly offered to show me the fastest route. Local knowledge. Obviously the short cut took us over a big hill.

At one point in the conversation we realised that we had met before, maybe a decade ago, when we were both volunteering at the Shropshire Apple Day. This is an event founded by my father in law, which inspired Jane and I to create the Cambridge Apple Day, and which this chap (John Pygot) had taken over running.

Reunited: John P and me

Now I know it’s a small world and we’ve already established that the whole of Shropshire is on holiday in Wales, but even so, this is an astonishing coincidence.

John deposited me at Poppit Beach, which is just stunning. I was feeling sad that I’d been to the Gower and Pembrokeshire with only a mild paddle at Tenby to my name, so I ditched the schedule and spent a happy hour on the beach and in the sea.

Me on Poppit Beach

Back on the bike, I headed to Cardigan which is known locally as Aberteifi, where I picked up the Teifi river and followed it away from the coast though more stunning valleys and into farmlands.

More stunning views

Chased on three separate occasions today by dogs. None of them looked particularly threatening, but a bit hairy nonetheless. One owner said apologetically, “sorry, he doesn’t like bikes”. I said I was going off them myself.

As I entered Ceredigion I started seeing Welsh flags and big welcome signs everywhere. Flashback to Tenby with the massive harbour party to welcome me (see day 7 blog). Gradually it dawned on me that this wasn’t for me, but to welcome visitors to the national Eisteddfod, which is being held in Tregaron this week.

I’ll say more about Eisteddfods tomorrow. Too tired now.

Raising money for Llamau

The donations keep coming in and I want you all to know that it means a huge amount to me personally and it’s an even bigger deal for Llamau and the young people they support. Thank you.

You can make a donation on just giving here or if you prefer just send me the money in whatever medium works for you and I’ll get it to Llamau.

So many questions coming in. I promise to get to them all eventually.

Darren from Cambridge wants to know how my backside and other sensitive areas of body are holding up.

Thanks for your concern Darren. Honestly, my butt is quite sore. I have a good saddle, comfortable cycling bibs with chamois (that make me feel like Big Daddy), and excellent chamois cream (thanks again Tracy). But there is no escaping the effect on a delicate derrière which is not used to such persistent pressure.

I am reliably informed that this will get better eventually.

My other sensitive parts are fairing better. My main problem is the midges and mosquitoes. I am taking tablets, using soap, and spraying myself daily to deter them but nothing is working. I have literally been bitten a dozen times writing this blog post.

See how I suffer for your entertainment. To bed. Another monster day tomorrow. Aberystwyth beckons.

Day 8 (rest day) and Day 9: Tenby to Fishguard, distance 90km, climbing 676m

I spent far too much time today deciding whether this was Day 8 or Day 9. I’ve decided that my rest day in Tenby was Day 8 and today’s cycle to Fishguard is Day 9. This will confuse some people, but let’s not judge them. Be kind.

Rest days for the win (day 8)

I had always planned a rest day in Tenby. As it turned out, it was more necessary than I anticipated thanks to The Tumble (see day 7 blog for details).

The weather was beautiful and I spent a delightful day wandering around the town, chilling on the beach, reading books, and sampling the local culinary and libationary delights. The discomfort caused by The Tumble was a minor inconvenience, with the main downside being that I couldn’t actually swim in the sea and had to settle for sort of standing about while being submerged in the water.

Ice cream at Tenby

I noticed a strange quirk when purchasing take out food. Servers would say, “be careful of the seagulls”. Okay I thought. Makes sense. They are quite big in these parts.

And then, just as I was savouring the first bite of a gourmet crab sandwich purchased from Tenby’s excellent indoor market, a bloody massive seagull (easily the size of a pterodactyl) swooped down and snatched the whole thing out of my hand. Bastards.

It caused much hilarity in the street and I was glad to have been able to bring a little entertainment into their otherwise dull and hollow existence. Bastards.

Seagull attack aside, it was a lovely rest day and I felt much better for it.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

I had been thinking a lot about the weight of the bike before The Tumble, but it brought it sharply into focus.

One of the things that isn’t much talked about in bikepacking circles is just how bloody heavy a fully loaded rig is. I haven’t actually weighed The Brother (the rig’s new name), but my estimate is 30-40kg.

This obviously has implications for handling when cycling, but it also makes it pretty damn challenging to handle when you’re not on the bike. Everything is more difficult and, well, heavy.

That’s why, over the past 9 days I have come to detest gates and the traffic calming measures that seem so ubiquitous on Welsh cycling infrastructure. All of which require me to swing my leg over the saddle bag and manoeuvre The Brother through some kind of Crystal Maze style puzzle. And don’t even get me started on stiles. Bastards.

Traffic calming on cycle routes

What was a minor inconvenience on days 1-7 has become a major impediment since The Tumble. My left arm/side is now unable/unwilling to get involved in moving The Brother around. I tried pushing up a particularly dastardly hill this morning and the left arm just noped it. I am hoping this is a temporary state of affairs.

Ride report

Most of today’s ride was defined by rain, a brutal headwind (by far the greatest to date), and very slow progress.

Manorbier beach

This section of the Slow Cycle Around Wales was designed around a set of beaches that I wanted to visit to swim in the crystal clear waters. Clearly that wasn’t on the cards today, but I followed the route anyway, faithfully dropping down to coves and then climbing out of them again, sans swim.

I got chatting to some surfers at Manorbier beach who told me that there was a super-swell due over the next three days. Bodhi and 50 year storm vibes.

Mostly today was a grind. I was moving especially slowly due to a combination of the head wind, rain, and the after effects of The Tumble (comfort and confidence knocked).

Mostly I followed cycle route 4. While, overall, the day was pretty modest in terms of metres climbed, it did involve quite a few short, sharp shocks that taxed legs and lungs.

Quite a lot of traffic too, particularly campervans with surf boards attached. 50 year storm and all that. Road etiquette was good though as it has generally been throughout.

I had in mind that I might do short day and stop in St David’s, and I was sorely tempted by the Am Dram production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It that was opening tonight. I am a sucker for Am Dram. But it was just too hectic and busy so I cracked on to Fishguard.

The bonus was that turning north from St David’s meant that I had the wind at my back. Any cyclist will tell that there is an unearthly pleasure that comes with any kind of tail wind. If it goes to plan, I’ll have a tail wind (on average) for the next week all the way back to Rhyl.

Landed at the Tregroes campsite, which is exceptional. The word generous is what keeps coming to mind. Had a great chat to Sam, the owner, for whom delighting guests is clearly her passion. They have just had draft Guinness installed and I got the first ever pint!

Draft Guinness at Tregroes

Into town for supper, I landed at the Royal Oak which has Folk at the Oak every Tuesday. A massive folk music jam. Pure gold. I could have stayed all night, but bed beckons.

Folk at the Oak

Keep donating

Brilliant to see more donations coming in today. Thank you. I am sure there is no correlation between my injuring myself and people deciding to donate money to support Llamau’s work to end homelessness in Wales.

If you haven’t yet (or even if you have), please make a donation today. Here’s the link.

Your questions answered

When you make a donation, you can ask a question, which I will endeavour to answer as honestly as possible.

Rolf (not Rolph) and Ben asked about security. This occupied a lot of my time when planning the Slow Cycle Around Wales. Doing something like this solo means that security is much more challenging than it would be if I was in a team.

Important to say upfront that – obviously – I comply fully with the requirements of my bike insurance. Whatever they require is what I do.

Aside from that, the key thing is visibility. I try to make sure that I can see my bike at all times. When I inevitably need to leave the bike unattended, I try to elicit the help of NPCs.

My favourite trick is to ask children (who are with their parents) who is the toughest. Whoever claims to be the toughest, I charge with guarding the bike “With their lives”. The drama elicits excitement. Parents think this is cute, but really they are just tacitly agreeing to look after my bike for me!

I’ve also discovered that it is completely acceptable to take your bike into places that I never imagined. I’ve taken The Brother into supermarkets, cafes, pubs, and corner shops. No one has said anything. Bizarre really.

Night time is the most difficult and (other than complying with any requirement of your bike insurance) my main advice is to choose your camping place wisely and to make it as complicated and frustrating as possible for someone to mess with your bike. All valuables are in the tent with me at night.

I’ve haven’t solved all the security problems – no tempting fate here – but so far so good.

Day 7: Penmaen (Gower) to Tenby, distance 101km, climbing 1,308m

A planned rest day in Tenby today, which – for reasons that will become clear – is very good timing.

The Tumble

Let’s get the bad news out of the way: I took a tumble off my bike yesterday. Note that from now on I shall be calling it The Tumble to express my determination that this is the first and only time I will be falling off my bike this trip.

Nothing too serious, but the next few days are going to be a bit harder and less fun while I heal.

I was on the very final stretch of a tough day on the bike, riding a cycle path from Saundersfoot to Tenby. The ground was a little wet, my front tyre was perhaps a bit low in pressure, my concentration lapsed momentarily; whatever the cause, I lost control and took a face dive at about 20 kmph.

It was off-road, so the landing was at least soft, but enough to scrape my knees and bust my lip. I knew that I’d knocked my left side, but it didn’t feel too bad. The bike looked okay apart from some cosmetic damage (full service has confirmed this today).

Mostly I was just glad that I had my helmet on and that it wasn’t worse. I limped on to Tenby, a little shook and bloody, but basically fine.

This morning I woke up with a lot of pain in my ribs on the left side. It took more than an hour and a couple of ibuprofen to get moving at all and, even then, gingerly. I realise that sounds like a hangover (see below), but this wasn’t that.

Incidentally, gingerly used to mean elegant and graceful. Two words that couldn’t be used to describe me today.

I tried to get it checked out at the local doctors and walk in centre, unfortunately the NHS is under the same pressure here as everywhere else. No chance of seeing anyone.

A friendly neighbourhood pharmacist opined that it probably wasn’t a broken rib (because I was walking) and gave me some ibuprofen gel and a weird body stocking (which I have tried and rejected). He said it’s gonna hurt for a few days and that I should try to stay on the bike in future. Quite.

I’ll take stock in the morning, but current plan is to stick with the plan – heading to St David’s – and do a shorter day if needed.

Sunday night scenes in Tenby

After washing the blood off in my jacuzzi bath (real thing), I ventured into town looking for a bite to eat. Little did I expect what can only be described as a festival on the harbour. Drinks, food, live music, fireworks, and hundreds of people having a blast.

Festival on the harbour

My first thought was that this was a bit over the top. I mean I appreciate the support, but it’s only a bike ride (right, Becky?)

It turns out that this hadn’t all been laid on just for me and that every Sunday in August the local Rotary Club and Round Table Club (yes, they are different) take it in turns to throw parties on the harbour to raise funds for charity. This was the first Harbour Spectacular in three years due to covid.

As an aside, I love the gentle rivalry between community groups. This was the Round Tablers event. When I said to one of the volunteers how lucky I felt to have arrived in Tenby on this of all days; he said: “yeah… you could’ve come next week when the Rotarians are organising, that would have be awful for you”. People’s Front of Judea vibes.

Cultural research

Obviously, I chatted to loads of people and danced with a few more. The award for NPCs of the day goes to Rhiannon (Rhi) and Rachel, who were on a short campervan break from “Swansea way”. They were as surprised by the Tenby scenes as I was and – in between shots – casually mentioned that lockdown never happened to them because they work in the NHS. Legends. They also had good stories from their recent trip to Glastonbury.

Rhi and Rachel, NHS Legends from Swansea way

The whole thing ended with a great fireworks display and I made a mental note to come back to Tenby on a Sunday in August in future, if only to see whether the Rotarians can do a better job.

Fireworks at Tenby

Ride report

Packed up the tent in the rain on Gower and set off early. Rain, headwind, and hills were my whole world for the first few hours.

I went off route to Llanelli and found a great place for second breakfast in Bury Port. Only downside of this plan was a long slog up the A484 with no cycle paths to get to Carmarthen. Felt like I was wading through treacle at this point.

Off route

Post-Carmarthen I was back on quieter roads, but with some proper gruelling climbs and I don’t mind admitting there was a bit of pushing. The skies cleared by mid afternoon and when I hit the coast it was all sunshine and blue skies.

Those skies though

Other than The Tumble, the ride into Tenby was straightforward, if quite hilly. Beginning to think that this will be a feature. It was the biggest day of climbing so far, good training for what is coming next.

A world without homelessness

I am so grateful to everyone for the generous donations to support the work of Llamau to end homelessness in Wales.

We’re currently at £3,800 plus another £700 in gift aid. Amazing.

Lots of people have promised donations, but not quite followed through yet. I know that some of you are waiting to see whether I actually finish (a position that I respect), but for others they just haven’t got round to it (I’m looking at you, Tim).

Don’t delay, make your donation today (click here). As an added bonus, you get to ask me a question (yes Rolph, it’s money first, answers second).

Jonathan asks how will I feel if I double the fundraising target.

Bloody amazing is the rather obvious answer. Since meeting with Iona from Llamau in Cardiff I am more convinced than ever that their work is critical and every penny that we can raise for them will help young people who need it most in Wales. I’ll keep cycling if you keep giving.

Duncan from Shropshire asks what do I wish that I’d brought with me or what preparation do I wish that I had done in advance.

This is a tough one. So far, I feel like I’ve got everything I need with me, although I am running out of snacks and guava bars. In terms of preparation, I could have done with losing 10kg in body fat and I promised myself that I’d take up yoga, both of which I failed on and both of which I feel would have helped a little.

Keep the donations and questions coming. back on the bike tomorrow.

Day 7: Penmaen (Gower) to Tenby, distance 101km, climbing 1,308m (deferred)

Public service announcement: this post will be published tomorrow.

I landed up in Tenby to find a full-on festival in progress, with a ska band, beach party, and fireworks. I am going to focus on engaging in this cultural experience and will write a blog post unpacking Day 7 and the after party tomorrow.