Not running due to injury has been a pain, but today a ride out across the back roads was just what I needed to keep my head in the right place.
I slept well last night, really well. I'd arranged to do something today and after my first deep sleep for a long time it was nice to wake up refreshed and full of anticipation. The house was quiet so quickly shovelled down some breakfast and fluids and headed out on the road bike.
Out of our road and up the hill towards the Nannau estate, quiet road, nice warm up climb. Enjoying lots of energy in my legs, keeping my heart rate down. The sun just starting to rise, enough ambient light to ride without lights, but not fully light. Over the top by the precipice walk and then down into Coed y Brenin. A couple of big patches of ice reminded me that it was still cold, although the sky was clear and bright and the air temperature was up a bit. Dropping altitude, letting the bike run, searching for the good lines giving vision, only braking where the speed would put me in the bonnet of an unseen car. I clipped a stone, momentarily shaking my balance. But on down, over the Babi Las. The sound of my front tyre changed. Gutted, a puncture.
Whip off the front wheel, grab my saddlebag. Pull the zipper and the tag came away in my hand. A little bit of road salt had eaten through it. A bit of MacGyver style work with the valve stem and I got the little bag open. 10 minutes I reckon!
Tyre levers in, strip one side of the tyre off. Pull the tube, I don't even check it. I know it's a snake bite and I'm going to swap in a new one. Push the new valve through, a couple of turns on the rim nut. Work the tube in flat, work the tyre over the tube near the valve, run a lever round the edge reseating the tyre. Put the rim on my feet to put a bit of force on it to slip the tight part of the tyre over. Work round the tyre quickly to check no pinches, then use my favourite ever bit of puncture kit. The microflate nano from Genuine Innovations, takes about 5 seconds to dump its 20g of CO2 into the tube. Hey presto, a 100 psi front tyre again. Slot the wheel back in, do up the quick release and re pack the rubbish into my saddlebag. Getting the zip done back up takes about another 10 minutes and the use of a bit of brake cable. The tube change took about 5 minutes, the bag took nearly 20!
Back on the bike and following the Afon Wen up, and over to Abergeirw. A steady climb with a little kick as it steepens up. Ice still all over the place. A lovely quick descent across the moors to Pont Grible, only interupted by the biggest Buck Hare I think I've ever seen. Turn right to follow the Afon Gain and up across the “ranges” road. So called after shelling took place until 1959 from Bronaber, leaving loads of unexploded ordnance. Some terrific old pictures can be seen here.
Over the top, into the Llew valley, the Arenig looking great to my left, mottled with snow. A long sweeping descent, encouraging speed, great vision ahead. Loading the outside pedal with weight, standing the bike up on icy patches to ensure balance before throwing the bike back over again for the next corner. Tucking in, head down. The rythym only being broken by four gates.
In the soft grass around the gates are tracks from two road bikes, one shallow, one deep. I know from Strava that this was Andy Braund and Dave Liddy from the day before. I chuckle to myself knowing who made the deeper track.
Just glancing in time to spot Dduallt, an unusual mountain that has the Dee rising on it's slopes. I'm reminded I want to work out the route from the Arening to Ddualt. Looks obvious today!
Down into the outskirts of Llanwchllyn, as it flattens out I shove a banana and an energy gel into my mouth- not at the same time. Spinning, chewing, enjoying this amazing day.
I cross the main road and out through the main part of the village, before crossing the Twrch. A right turn back on myself and I settle in for the long climb up to Bwlch y Groes. Mainly seated, but a couple of the steep bits get me out the saddle. The clouds closing in, and some large lumps of snow make me think about the descent on the other side.
At the top, I pause to take a picture into the amazing valley at the top of the Dyfi. Launching down the other side is steep and fast though I'm cautious of the ice.
Now tracking alongside the Dyfi I eat my energy bar, and drink the last of my water as I pass Cwm Cywarch. The leper colony springs into my head, must have been tough back in the day.
Through Dinas Mawddawy and spin along the A470 to the base of the Bwlch Oerddrws. The first two way road of the day, and the first cars after 60 odd kilometres. On the lowest slopes I can feel my legs tighten with lactic acid. This is going to be a painful climb! The steep sections are out the saddle for as long as I can bear, before sitting and trying to get some relief before grinding some more metres. Over the top of the Bwlch and Cader Idris comes into view. A quick zip up, click into top gear and blast down the other side. Into the new traffic works, an irate Nissan Qashqai doesn't like me filtering passed at the traffic lights, revving his engine. I stay at the speed limit as I sprint to the next traffic lights, filtering passed 5 cars and getting the jump as the lights change. The new surface is lovely, lots of speed putting 2-300m between me and the first car. Finally as I cross the Wnion bridge the Qashqai comes passed. A middle age “lady” effing and jeffing at me about how cyclists shouldn't be on the road. I smile pleasantly. They rev off into the distance, clearly feeling they had won.
A kilometre or two home from here. Clear sky, tired legs but a great ride. My head had been buzzing about all sorts of things, work, friends and random stuff, but now relaxed.
Wash the bike down, drink a protein shake, have a shower.
Lunch and a swim with family sounds like a plan.