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  • Writer's pictureLBD

Wales May 2024

Dearest SHABI’s,

 

So the greatly anticipated day arrives and everyone has read the 83 pages of instruction from the Master of Ceremonies, Smashie, regarding the itinerary, places to eat, where to park and what colour underwear to put on.


Friday


First stop was Talybont on Usk and to get there in time for a Mrs Miggins full Welsh breakfast required getting up at stupid O’clock, but nevertheless the lure of a Cholesterol top up was impossible to resists so, Smashie MC and DRM, Chuff RM, Tonka, Nursie, Big Ring. Maj Meccano, JC, The Faffinator and Mrs Doyle all gathered for essential vitamins prior to setting off.


Particularly welcome is JC on her E-bike and she is once again joining us for an adventure into the unknown but worryingly she opts for the “child portion” of the full Welsh and we are concerned about Cholesterol depletion later in the ride.




…and when we had eaten and drunken as much as we desired we set off with Chuff as designated RM as he said he could remember it from the scoping ride in October 2023. Well short-term memory loss means he goes wrong within 10m of the start and the ever-observant DRM Smashie had to take over temporary lead.


Nevermind these temporary setbacks – we are idiots after all, and we re-establish order and head up the old tramway that was used to transport limestone from the opencast mines on the top of the mountains. The old tramroad rail was laid on stone block sleepers with the track chairs screwed directly on. When the tramroad was scrapped they removed the steel but left the stone sleepers behind. Result – a very shallow but rough ride from Canal side to the top of the hill. There was much whinging and puffing and panting.


Luckily The Faffinator had bought a new E-bike and we were all lucky enough to be distracted from the pain of the climb with his detailed description of the performance of his new machine (he’s very proud of it indeed). Basically it’s the 15Gw version with 18 different power modes from “wouldn’t take the skin off a rice pudding” right up to “rip your face off” acceleration. It also has go faster orange and blue paint and he has added Chris King tyre valves for extra … well its extra anyway.  We were given a running commentary as we ascended the hill on power consumption, torque, battery status, remaining lifespan, heart rate, blood pressure, distance travelled and all sorts of other vital information.




Coming to a book shop near you soon

Anyway we get to the top much better informed on the pro’s and con’s of E-bikes but then unexpectedly … drama. Tonka noticed a helpless pair of lambs who had got the other side of a fence from their Mums. We witnessed the distressed cries between lamb and mother and it was heart breaking. So Tonka swings into action and captures the first lamb with a flying rugby tackle – then onto the second lamb but it avoids his grasp.  So rather than stand by and enjoy ourselves, the rest of us join in trying to catch the other lamb – it takes all 9 of us at least 15 minutes to capture the wriggly thing but it is eventually reunited with its mum …..ahhhhhh. This place will be known for evermore as Lamb capture point.  This would become very important later on. PS Tonka is a hero.



Sheep Hero (The one on the right)


Then we head on towards the main limestone quarries on the top of the hill. Stunning views and lovely riding. Quite technical in places but everyone copes. Then we reach a short rocky section and Smashie and Big Ring set the tone for this weekend by getting off and walking.


The Faffinator switches to jet pack mode on the E-bike and tries to ride between the aforementioned idiots. He hits a large rock and the front wheel flies up in the air and he fails to control the resulting wheelspin / powerslide resulting in a fall and a nasty pump on the knee for our hero. Smashie and Big Ring were very concerned for our hero and offer encouragement pointing that this could happen to any e-biker.





So we bimble on and you know it was too good to be true as suddenly we note that Tonka had gone missing. We wondered if there was another lamb that needed rescuing but no – steering failure. On arrival at the stationary peloton he exclaimed that the steering was “not quite right”. So resident mechanics Smashie and Big Ring set to work tightening this and loosening that. Luckily Nurse spotted that after Smashie and BR had finished, the front forks were now facing backwards. So the lesson learnt is NEVER EVER let Smashie or Big Ring ANYWHERE near your bike if you have a mechanical.





Then we head up to look at the mine workings. We discover from the markings that this was either; an extra-terrestrial landing pad or an Inca temple – amazing stuff you find in Wales. We then have to carry the bikes down to a lower level as the path ran out. Much whinging.





Then the RM (Smashie) said we should go back the way we came . NOOO everyone wanted to do a “circuit” so with incompetence aforethought, the RM looked at the map and off we went. The RM had spotted an “extension” to the tramway running just below the lip of the ridge so without losing too much height we could return to Lamb capture point. What could possible go wrong?


To get to this Bridleway required the decent of steep and gravelly track – we are taking 45 degree angle over 50m long. Smashie picks his line and gets Tonka to mark the spot where he has to go over the lip of the descent as he takes a good run up. Over he goes and by some miracle gets to the bottom in good order.  A bit of locked rear wheel but no drama.

Everyone is encouraged and Mrs Doyle goes next. You will all note that Mrs D is 159 years young and is known for his superb rack. He really showed his experience and skill with what followed:


Pictures paint a thousand words so here goes:



So anyway after a death defying display of: in the groove, out of the groove, back in the groove, heading for a big rock , avoid the big rock, get back in the groove and finally get to the bottom ….. our hero comes to a rest, his legs covered in blood and with perfect timing suggests “that was interesting”. What a first-class idiot he is and we salute you Mrs D.


Next up was Big Ring and he wasn’t going to take any nonsense, so he keeps out of the groove and takes a route that puts him on grass with about a third of the way to go. Brakes on and the rear wheel locks setting up a vicious fish tale movement which has the assembled crowd of riders gasp in disbelief. Somehow, he managed to keep it under control and makes it to the bottom and in typical BR fashion exclaims “that was easy”.





The rest of the Peleton now had a decision to make; ride or walk ..... and all decided to walk.

So we all make it to the little bridge and we realise the bridleway was on a very narrow ledge with a precipitous cliff above and below with a sheer drop of between 30 – 50ft. Intrepid idiots that we are, we set off and come across a “Bridleway closed sign”. Noting that the diversion involved losing lot of height we decided to press on. The going got tough and there was much man-handling of bikes over obstacles. The Faffinator was particularly not happy as his E-bike weights in at about 1.5 tonnes.


But we make it and have to push a bit as the path is narrow and no-one wants to catch a bar end on the sheer cliffs above only to be catapulted down the ravine on the other side of the narrow defile. Notwithstanding the fear factor and the possibility of instant death – this was really amazing riding (walking).


Then catastrophe:

The trail widened a bit and the sheer cliffs became less sheer. The trail was level and went into a stream gully and so where the trail crossed the stream bed, there was a sharpish but level turn, with grassy cliffs above and a 12ft drop down the hill in the rock strewn stream bed. JC was quietly and competently making her away along the path and for some reason stalled right on the corner and put her foot down to stabilise herself, but unfortunately missed her footing and tumbled down the stream bed about 12ft followed by her E-bike.


The rocks had not been kind and she was dazed, badly hurt and not able to move.


JC has passed on to this blogger a very heartfelt message of thanks to everyone who united in getting the Mountain Rescue to site and her safe transfer to hospital. We understand that she suffered a broken Tibia which will require an operation. We all say get well soon and we miss you.


In no particular order the following are but a few examples of the excellent teamwork:

  1. Big Ring, Nurse Brown and Smashie conferred with mobile phones to agree our location before we phoned the Mountain rescue.

  2. The Faffinator for deploying at least 5no thermal blankets and scouring everyone’s back pack for drugs.

  3. Mrs D for offering a huge range of very powerful and illegal drugs he had left over from his teeth operation in Romania including Diclofenac Potassium and Cataflam. He also had some Ibuprofen gel from 1987 – this was rejected by JC for some reason.

  4. Tonka, Nursie, Mrs D and BR for ferrying the bikes to Lamb Capture point to RV with Mrs D’s catering van.

  5. Chuff and Tonka for giving us all background on what to expect from Mountain Rescue.

  6. And FINALLY JC for putting up with a lot of really useless advice.





Anyway the Mountain Rescue people turned up in force being a total of 14 persons by the end and the deployment of an All-Terrain Vehicle, Quick response Land Rover and a command centre. What a fantastic bunch of people who are all volunteers.



Please follow this link and donate some money to fund their work which we have directly benefited from.





So JC was left on the mountain side as with 14 Mountain Rescuers we felt we were just getting in the way so it was best let them do their thing. We head back to lamb capture point and then back down the rocky tramway. That was hard work and a total bone shaker but it was the direct route home and was best.


We clean the bikes at the excellent Talybont facilities and have a great meal in the local pub (it was past 17:00 by now). We head north, tired and sad.


A total of 24k 👍 



 


Saturday


The next day dawns brighter and we meet MTB guide to the Idiots - Steve Beech in the car park at Machynlleth and he encourages us with talk of “proper hills”.




We set off in good time and it is clear from the start that its going to be a hot day and there is much perspiration even on the flat. We start on the Mach loop and we revisit the Mach to Aberystwyth route with the same tortuous foot hills. Uphill through lush green grass is awful. Nevertheless the lovely weather makes for a lovely scenery and even if Smashie and Big Ring are doing a lot of walking up the hills ..it is SO worth it.



We then approach the proper hill and it’s a monster. All the muscle bikers have to walk and Nursie has a mental breakdown being unable to complete the climb without stopping. We manage the top and have a welcome break at the feed station for the Canterbury to Belfast Audax. It’s a 1539 mile odyssey in 24hrs with no sleep permitted. Mrs D recalls the days when she would do an Audax like this before breakfast.







Then along the top over spectacular scenery, one minute open moorland and the next woodland. Lots of lung busting ascents but equally awesome descents.





We are however, running short of water…this is not good. Luckily we come across the local base of Forest Freeride who back in the day ran MTB training courses attended by Chuff, Smashie and Genghis. The lovely chap was engaged by Steve (who knows him well by E-mail) and we all managed to fill up. There are two enormous wolf hounds who make friends with Nursie and are his new best friends.


We set off again and stop for lunch although the blazing sun made sitting down and eating a tad uncomfortable.


After lunch we had to climb another proper hill. It was awful, with a lot of walking from the usual suspects. Then on and over the moors and we meet a pair of very friendly sheep dogs who succeed in rounding up Tonka as he still smelt of sheep from the day before.


Then through a field of wind turbines and we discovered the three things that Mrs Doyle really hates:


1.       Hand driers that don’t work

2.       Wind turbines that don’t go round in the wind

3.       Overfilled electric kettles.


Then another break down for Nursie with cramp in his toes. Mrs Doyle comes to the rescue with some ready salted crisps – he is amazing.



Then we have Caersws in sight and we zip along the quiet back roads to emerge right by the station in very good time to catch the train.


Smash and the Faffinator catch the 16:19 to Machynlleth and whilst they wait we acquire some Magnum ice creams and post the picture on Whatsapp. This drive the team in the van mad with jealously and they buy an entire box of icecream at the first opportunity.

We RV in Machynlleth and enjoy the banter after an epic day in the saddle – 49km of incredible riding. It was simply excellent in every respect.


Then we head to Hafod to clean the bikes. Chuff and Smash buy beer and cider and share along with hot buttered crumpets. Then we head for the Red Lion for an excellent meal prior to collapse into sleep.


Sunday


Up early again and we are off to the Penhros for breakfast and then an hours drive to the Elan Valley. Steve is waiting for us and it is embarrassing that everyone is late. Poor show SHABI’s – more will be said about this another time.


We start off along the reservoir which is nice and flat before another proper hill and onto the moors.



Writing this blog  feels a bit repetitive as all I can do is write about the fantastic scenery and great riding …but that is how it really was and the beautiful warm weather made the whole experience wonderous. 


We are joined on one ridge by a red kite which follows us along at what seems like touching distance. They are big birds up close. We wonder if Nursie should now be called Dr Doolittle.








The final encore was an incredible descent down a rocky/stony track with natural berms and rocky outcrops towards Rhyader. Back along the old railway and we get back to the Visitor centre in excellent time.


Steve had to go and collect some other riders from somewhere so he heads off not before we all thank him for another brilliant two days of guiding. Steve is thinking of branching out into other fields but we can only hope he still has time to guide the SHABI’s again.


The queues to the café are very long so we call it quits and head for home with a total of 23k under our tyres.

 

I love you all

 

Smashie ♥




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