Second day done. I am sat in a beer garden in Llanidloes with a pint and a lamb shank (I realise this isn’t yet sounding very adventurous). The sun is shining. My legs are hurting. All is good with the world. Let’s unpack day 2.
Establishing a routine
Last night was uneventful. I slept like a log despite it being pretty windy outside. My slumber only disturbed by a mad dream where Simon Pegg and Chris Martin persuaded me to manage Coldplay after I negotiated a £4m joining bonus.
Just to be clear, Simon and Chris (if you’re reading), it’s a sabbatical and I am not available. Sorry bois.
My mate Jonathan (who does proper ultra stuff) made me think I need to establish a routine. Some structure to my days on this adventure. I was up at 6.30 and had the coffee and porridge ready 15 mins later. Ablutions. Dressed. Tent down and drying, while I sort out the mechanicals. Bike packed and on the road by 8.30. No need to rush.
The aim is to get some km under my belt before I stop for second breakfast (always listen to Samwise). More km before lunch. Try to make camp before 5 pm. Ablutions. Eat. Admin. Sleep. Repeat.
How the industrial revolution changed cycling
First stop today was the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which was built by Thomas Telford at the turn of the 18th century. It’s an astonishing achievement towering over the valley below and allowing boats to travel across the River Dee valley, essentially through the sky.
Aqueducts – and canals in general – are a remarkable innovation. The British didn’t invent them though (the Chinese got there in the 10th Century and the Mesopotamians had them 3000 BC).
Seeing them in Wales this week it dawned on me that they effectively remove mountains as a problem for transporting heavy goods. Invaders have been stealing copper, wood and other stuff from Wales for centuries, but the industrial revolution created an insatiable demand for steel, coal, wood and more.
Enter stage left, Thomas Telford and Co, who engineered a way to get plunder (sorry exports) out of Wales and into the foundries of Shropshire at a scale never before imagined.
The cycling benefit of this innovation from the industrial revolution is that canals are flat. That’s kind of their point. Which is why my second day of cycling around Wales was mostly trundling along at a fair old clip and enjoying the rolling hills from the flat tow paths. Some of which were a little overgrown from disuse.
The ride report
Covered a lot of ground fairly quickly on towpaths today. Didn’t do much for my irrational fear of cycling next to water, but flat and fast.
Made a couple of excursions across the border into England (don’t @me).
One major routing snafu involved me trying to cycle through an active quarry. The foreman and I agreed on a diversion.
The kicker was the last 10km after Newtown, which involved three brutal hills in close succession. These were the kind of hills that lead to the founding of religions. The sort of religions that sacrifice thousands of people in the hope that they won’t have to cycle up hills like that again.
The weather was perfect. Slightly overcast, but lovely and warm. Wind at my back all day. Sun broke through just in time for me to make camp.
No mechanicals worth noting. Granny gear repair went well (thank you Duncan).
Legend of the day
NPC and Legend awards are combined today and both granted to Mark. I met Mark at the Knockin Shop, a cafe (yes, an actual cafe), where I stopped for second breakfast.
We got to chatting and Mark asked if I was doing the Slow Cycle for charity. I told him about Llamau and he went and got his wallet and gave me £10 as a donation. What a legend.
If you’re in Oswestry, please pop in and say hi to Mark. And buy some stuff. Places like that are the heart of communities. Use them or lose them.
Also. Be more like Mark. Make a donation to support Llamau. If you’re thinking: “I’ll just read the rest of the blog and have a cup of tea and do it later”. STOP. Do it now.
All the gear and no idea
Instead of a whole blog dedicated to gear (which I fear could be alienating to new readers), I’ve decided to highlight some gear in the daily update. Today it’s the Timber Bell.
This is a passive tiny cow bell that sort of ding-a-lings as you cycle along. Recommended by Al. It is absolute genius on towpaths and other places where you might encounter pedestrians or doggos. Doesn’t sound aggressive. Alerts them to your presence.
Apparently they are also good at warding off bears, which may be why I haven’t seen any yet.
Camping at a site (rather than wild) again this evening. Shorter day planned tomorrow. No firm plans on where to camp, but I’m heading for Builth Wells.