My First 100 Mile Bike Ride

My First 100 Mile Bike Ride

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.

View of a Welsh Valley

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.

Welsh Valley

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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.

Bala Lake

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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.

Landscape of Ruthin

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.

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Cycling 100 Miles from Bangor, North Wales

Ryan takes over to write about his 100 mile cycle from Bangor, North Wales through Snowdonia National Park.

When Lucy said she was doing a Breeze course in Bangor, I thought that sounded like a great idea to go with her and enjoy a nice ride in Snowdonia as I waited for her.After it was planned I then found out that the course was running 9.00-17.00.

I now had a lot of time to fill, so I foolishly decided to go and ride 100 miles.
Lucy had started her course and I was left to faff about and get ready to ride. Heavy rain didn’t make me hugely enthusiastic about the idea though. Eventually the rain stopped and I thought this was my window. I headed out to Llanberis, which was the first major climb of the day, the Pen-y-Pass. Spray off the road made it impossible to stay dry.

Bicycle
The Pen-y-Pass is a fairly enjoyable climb. It reels you in with a nice gentle gradient at first before properly kicking up towards the summit. At the foot of the climb the weather looked to be improving, so I had removed my waterproof and gloves, only to layer back up for the cold and foggy descent. I shot down the other side through the fog and intermittent rain showers into Betws-y-Coed and then onto the next, and hardest, climb of the day.

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The small village of Trefriw isn’t known for much, but it’s where the climb of the Old Cowlyd starts. This bit of road is insane, its been described as the hardest climb in the UK. While the Pen-y-Pass starts gently, the Cowlyd delivers a sucker punch from the outset.

Have you ever climbed something so steep your feet hurt? 

Well that’s what the Cowlyd has in store. The almost relentless gradient eases off slightly about halfway (but not enough to leave your easiest gear) and then you hit the hairpins. All 8 of them back to back and incredibly steep. Never have I wanted a climb to end so badly.

20 minutes of pain and suffering later I finally made it to the top.

Now it was the short ride back to Betws and onto the Crimea Pass, which would take me to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Crimea is one of the few wide roads in the area and again starts out fairly steady with a few kicks, until you get to the last mile which really hurts. About half way up the heavy rain returned. Rain heavy enough to cause a car to loose traction and almost spin a full 360 degrees right in front of me. This ride was turning out to be quite eventful to say the least.

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If climbing the Crimea was bad the decent was even worse. It was cold and wet with the rain drops like tiny bullets hitting my face.

Yet I was stubborn enough to have the Stwlan Dam as the next thing to tackle.

This dead end service road is closed to traffic and takes you up to the Dam at the top. The road snaked up the mountain with hairpins thrown in for good measure.

Stiwlam Dam
It was such a relief to find there was a cafe near the bottom. The kind ladies in there took pity on the drenched cyclist and made me an extra strong coffee and served up my order of egg and beans on toast in no time at all. I threw the food down my throat and then tried to warm up and dry out some of my kit.

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After warming up a bit and plucking up the courage to continue, I set off but only to find myself cold again!

Now on the lumpy road to Beddgelert, the further I went the nicer the weather got. However, from Beddgelert I was riding on the long drag up to Rhyd-Ddu, which isn’t the steepest of roads really.

Beddgelert, North Wales
With fresh legs it’s hardly anything. But with legs battered by 2000m of climbing over the 77 miles I’d ridden? It hurt and went on forever.

After that it was over to Caernarfon and along the coastal cycle path back to Bangor. I was glad for a bit of flat riding as every little hill struck pain into my legs.

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I got to Bangor with 96 miles on my Garmin, and although I was very tired, I couldn’t stop that close to the full 100. So after a couple of laps around some random streets I finished up at the university to find Lucy sat in the car having just finished her course. Not bad timing really.

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