After racing the BB200 I was interested to see what the sections were like that I rode in the dark. Looking at the map it seemed that the areas to the west of Rhayader around the reservoirs should be very picturesque so I put together a route that took in these areas. Thanks has to go to the BearBones community for giving it the once over and helping me out with it. Last Saturday I drove to mid Wales to give it a go. I think about half the route was taken from the BB200 but the majority of this I intended to ride in the opposite direction. Unfortunately I started the day late not getting away from Birmingham until later than intended and it took longer to get there than I had thought it would. This meant I couldn’t quite get done the whole route done, as I had plans to see my parents in the evening.
I parked up at Rhayader and headed up the mountain road towards Esgair Perfedd. A 10% climb straight after 2 and half hours in the car is certainly a way to warm up… The navigation over the Roman camp was still difficult even in day light, in fact possibly even more difficult as at least at night you don’t expect to see much. There is pretty much nothing on the ground here and you are simply following the GPS line. It was pretty wet up there with plenty of standing water but not really any boggy bits at all so I was ab;e to still make good progress. The descent down the other side towards Penygarreg Reservoir was good fun and made the climb worth while. The heavens opened at this point though making the stony descent a little more interesting and pretty much soaking me through. I headed south skirting the reservoirs on a mixture of cycle way and the road. The views here are superb out across the water and I wished that I had taken more photos and that the ones I did take had come out better. The rain had cleared and there was some brief moments of sun which reflected off the water and burnt out every photo I took. Dam iPhone, if only I had taken the real camera.
At Elan Valley I followed the direction of the BB200 route. Unfortunately I had forgotten that the aptly named Strava segment “Puke Hill” was at this point. Oh well I love a good climb and managed to clear it this time. Funny to think though that even though I rode it all, it was actually slower than when I walked half of it. A lesson learnt that when racing on these steep slow grinds it can be quicker to walk if you are going slower than walking speed…
After this I headed along the bridle way that runs along the edge of Caban-coch. This is quite an interesting ride that has a bit everything thrown in. Some small river crossings, ups, downs and some grassy slippery off camber bits that need more concentration than might appear at first. The final descent of this part is a fast stoney double track that makes for a good ending to the slower sections you have just completed.
I then forked right in the opposite direction to Carnau… shame. This lead onto the rough access road that runs around Claerwen and one of the main sections that I had been looking forward to riding. During the BB200 we rode this in the opposite direction and seemed to make very good time on here averaging what felt like a good pace and covering lots of ground. Unfortunately this time round the wind was against me and although not hugely strong, the attritional aspect did start to get a little tiresome after a while. The weather had closed in again somewhat and everything had a bit of a grey feel. I started to realise at this point that I was running a bit late and started looking at the map to see where I could make up some time. I pushed on and decided that to see where I was by the time I got to the road leading to Ffair -Rhos. Before this though I had the river crossing at Nant Rhydol to negotiate. Evidence of the rain in the last month had been present on the whole route but none more acutely than here. The “ford” was wider than I remember and considerably deeper. I peered into the middle and struggling to see the bottom I threw in a stone to gauge the depth. A disconcerting deep baritone plop emanated from the splash and I decided to have a quick scout up the river a little to see if there was another point to cross. After much messing about and frankly time wasting I realised that slippery rocks, being on your own and middle of nowhere didn’t mix and that this really was the best place to cross. I got the bike on my shoulders and started walking in. It got a bit cold in the middle as it came up to my knees but within a few seconds I was out the other side and wondering what the fuss had been about. Lesson learnt, just get it done and get on with things.
The tarmac road started soon after this and I reached the point where I had to make a decision. I could either keep on my planned route to head across the valleys towards Coed Bwlchgwallter or to take the slightly longer distance route on the B4343. I decided that with the clock ticking and having no idea of the terrain on the off road route, that taking the road route would probably be the quickest. I’m glad I took this decision in the end as although there were a lot of ups and downs I was able to get a shove on and cover the ground quite quickly. There are some great views from this road as well so it made for a nice ride and wasn’t just all about getting back as soon as possible. I cut out the northern most loop through the wind farm, which sadly I had been looking forward to, and continued towards the mountain road that would lead me back to Rhayader. After not to long I was seeing signs for Elan Valley again and the Roman camp that I had passed by earlier in the day came up on my right. With the light failing I kept on the road instead of doing the off road descent which I regretted immediately but I was flying down the hill and the promise of a warm car and thawing out my toes meant I wasn’t turning around.
On the whole I enjoyed this ride and felt that in the main it was mission accomplished in terms of seeing the bits of Wales that I had only “seen” in the dark a month earlier. I think I might put together a new route that takes in the most northern loop I missed out and maybe starts a bit further east to make the initial journey a bit shorter.
You can see the route I planned over at BikeHike. Below is the route I actually rode.