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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.