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