Multi day mountain bike events usually involve marked race course and tents or even better hotels :)
The Welsh Ride Thing contained neither ... the event is best described by organiser Stuart Wright of Forest Freeride ...
“The WRT is a 3 day and perhaps more importantly 2 night ride through and around mid Wales. You’ll be expected to be self sufficient, carrying everything you need and sleeping out in or under whatever you think best. It’s not elitist, entry is open to anyone who wants to try it. All the money raised by the WRT goes to the Wales Air Ambulance charity”
The route .. well there isn’t one… at least not one for all the follow. Part of the challenge of this event is in the route, Stuart provides a set of co ordinates, from which you have to get to a minimum number… the way in which you achieve this is upto you .. factor in you may need to resupply on food if you are riding light and you also may need to plan good areas to spend the night then devising a route takes some doing.
First stop on this adventure for me was Alpkit head office in Nottingham to pick up Nick and Ken but also to do a little last minute packing of my own… something the guys clearly weren’t that bothered about as the big pile of gear to go in the van grew larger and larger .. Ken and Nick were taking kit options on their options :)
The Friday night was spent quite luxuriously in an Alpkit 6 man tent on a plush Welsh campsite after dinner and drinks in the local pub joined by John ‘Shaggy’ Ross and partner Mel ... always good to see these guys.. Shaggy had already put 90 miles in on his bike that day with a planned 100 plus miles on the Cambrian Way the day after.
Saturday Morning, heavy rain which had started in the night hadn’t relented.. a bus shelter was found so the guys could pack their bikes… and Nick could bleed his brake :) The plus side to their last minute packing was that by the time they had done the cafe was open so a full english breakfast could be consumed.
Arriving at Stuart’s place the gathering of bike packers was growing.. familiar faces like Aidan Harding were about to chat too while the bike weighing comp took place… much to the amazement of the minimalist crown Nick from Alpkit took first prize.. a Ginsters Pasty !! result !!
The rain stopped signalling it was time to get underway ... our route saw us head in a direction less riders had chosen opting to tackle the check points anti clockwise ... this guaranteed us quiet trails as we would our way up the hillside ticking off the first checkpoint before starting the fast fireroad forest descent.. at this point I would just like to say that although I will call them checkpoints at each supplied co ordinate all you could hope to find was a standout natural or man made feature to photograph as evidence of you being there.
Into the next valley all that you could do was climb back out to the valley top .. we did this along an initially steep track with levelled out into a grassy undulating trail with great scenery toward another check point followed by another descent.
The further we rode that day the bigger the hills got ... the weather had luckily held all day ... the last climb of the day would see checkpoint 3 ticked off ... we eventually reached the checkpoint near a small lake but not after a long fire road climb followed by a rocky push followed by a push through the forest where we discovered a secret downhill track with a very intimidating 8 foot ladder drop .. we were well rewarded by the presence of a log cabin.. although it was locked there was a sufficiently sized porch area to shelter all 3 of us.. well almost.
After a broken nights sleep as an unruly tarp tried to escape all night we woke to rain ... our luck had ran out so nothing left but to face it .. we negotiating the maze of forest fire road trails and popped out onto the road at the bottom of the valley and true to form we had another climb .. steep tarmac this time which saw my first lot of pushing the bike on the trip ... we would have to descend and climb again before we would tick off our 4th checkpoint.
The 4th checkpoint was an out and back ride coming back to the road we had started on but another checkpoint only lay a few kilometres down the road.. followed by a bridleway descent then some quiet lanes to the first and only pub dinner of the trip ..
The rain had stopped so Ken made good use of the pub beer garden to get out his soggy down sleeping bag and try and dry it.
After the pub the biggest climb of the trip lay in wait… Tarren Hendre at a around 640m was gonna be a ride and a push on the loaded up singlespeeds .. it started steep .. then was rideable… then was a push ... as we reached the summit of the climb the weather was awful. winds were high and visibility was low.
The upside to all the effort was the fantastic ridge line ride that we had to complete before reaching a suitable point to think about the nights bivi..
The ridge line was mostly rideable both up and down .. with the exception of a slight course correction which required a straight line through a copse.
The Sunday night was spent in a country park car park .. with about a billion midges… although we did have some good shelter.
Monday morning still didn’t bring any better weather so it was on with the spare dry socks, make some breakfast on the ti stove and off up the first climb
The riding was just fantastic ... trails were great and the scenery was always inspiring… occasionally we had to do a little improvisation on the route when the trail wasn’t obvious..
With a 12 midday finish and still 2 checkpoints to get Nick decided to let me and Ken go off alone and tackle a few remaining climbs ..
The last 2 checkpoints involved winding our way up to the top of the valley through a forest to pick them off then a fantastic descent back to Stuart’s place where his wife Dee had made some amazing cakes ... coupled with tea a just reward for the effort of the previous days riding