Cycling 100 miles is the equivalent of a runner wanting to run a marathon, yet 80 miles on a road bicycle was the closest I’d ever got. I was hoping to have completed some sort of training for it, but when they announced Wales was re-opening, it was a now or never scenario. Ride the day before Wales opens when the roads are quiet, or after when I’d be followed by a train of caravans.
I obviously chose the first option.
With Ryan’s bike ride route knowledge, he provided me with a route I later found out to not only cover 100 miles, but over 8,000ft of climbing. Heading towards Oswestry and Llangynog, I was following country lanes passing old haunts like Moelfre Downhill Tracks and Revolution Bike Park. Both putting a smile on my face as the memories were brought to the front of my mind. Most would probably say I was mad to my first century ride on my own, but it meant I could slow it down and take everything in. I’ve deeply missed the Welsh landscape on Lockdown, so stopping to take it all in made the ride all that little more special.
With the head wind I was riding into, I was starting to battle doubt about if I could complete this mammoth task I’d set myself. Being as stubborn as I was I just kept turning those pedals. I knew I wouldn’t get to ride Welsh roads as quiet as these again, so I was getting to Bala and back.
Getting to the quaint little village of Llangynog, I was waiting for the Milltir Cerrig climb to reveal itself. The climb between me and a long descent into Bala. 3.7 miles and 1,000ft of climbing. A sharp kick to get the legs burning, and then it just continues to go up, up and up after that. In the pain you can easily become fixated on the road just in front of your wheel, but it’s definitely worth pausing to look at the landscape open up to the left and behind you. The winding road you’ve just ascended. The rolling Welsh hills and fields dotted with trees at the foot of the valley. Even a waterfall in the corner if you look hard enough.
Leaving one valley and descending into another, I’m suddenly following a pin-straight road cutting a line in dense moorland dotted with the infamous Welsh sheep. I’m even pulling my brakes at one point as I follow them running down the road. In the grand scheme of thing I didn’t find the Milltir Cerrig as bad as I thought it would be, but it was the descent into Bala I should have been more worried about. Head wind became cross wind, which froze my hands into position gripping that little bit tighter onto the handlebars. I can imagine on a less blustery day the descent would be a little more enjoyable being hair pin after hair pin, but I was certainly glad to see Bala lake appear in front of me.
I’m use to seeing Bala lake full of kayaks and paddle boards, but it was certainly to choppy for that. The water was murky and the waves were aggressive. Cycling down the Bala high street the pavements were empty apart from a few locals. I think I was probably the first English speaking person they’d heard for a few months. (I am very ashamed at the fact I don’t speak Welsh by the way).
In my head I was going to have an idyllic day out on my bike. Grab some lunch and sit by the lake soaking up the sun to eat it. Shivering from the cross-wind I think I was in Bala for 20 minutes tops. I was quickly back on my bike making my way to Cerrig-Y-Drudion for my ride home. Thankfully now with a tail wind so I could relax my arms a little rather than holding on for dear life.
Wales being Wales, I wasn’t out of the woods yet in regards to long climbs. Rolling past Clywedog Forest, I was faced with a climb known locally known as ‘The Shelf’. A ride that holds a lot of memories of riding with Ryan, but I was in so much pain those emotions couldn’t resurface. I’d probably say ‘The Shelf’ trumps the ‘Milltir Cerrig’ in terms of difficulty. They’re of similar gradient, but ‘The Shelf’ just feels steep for a lot longer even though it’s 0.7 of a mile shorter in length. Getting to the top was certainly followed by a sigh of relief.
The closer I got to home, the head wind started to return as I watched the distance tick up slowly on my Garmin. As soon as it turned to 100 a smile crossed my face. I’d finally hit 100 miles on my road bike. Some might change their bike on a yearly basis, but the places my little Liv Envie has taken me means it holds so many memories now.