Bikepacking to Brecon Beacons

I’ve just returned from a two day saddlebag tour of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A friend and I took a couple of days off work for a self-guided cycling mini-break. It was fairly impromptu and with minimal planning. Unfortunately, the Audax Gods were clearly unimpressed by our slapdash approach to long-distance cycling and punished us with biblical downpours on Day 1. Any final hope of receiving retribution must have been dashed by the comment as we set off that “it never actually rains all day”. It did.

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Sheep and rain kept us company

We set off very early on Monday morning in a futile attempt to beat the rains. We took the most direct route to the Severn River crossing via Bristol. This meant fighting our way through rush hour, but despite the heavy rain and traffic it still felt quite liberating to be heading away from it all.

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Severn Bridge crossing – bit of a crosswind 

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I’d opted for my steel frame with pannier rack and bar bag. Mike went new school with his carbon bike and roll-bags attached with velcro and straps. There seems to be a movement towards the latter and I can understand the reasoning – you only need one bike and you can ride a lighter bike. However, if you’ve got a steely then this type of ride is the perfect excuse to rig it up in full tourer mode.

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Old school mapping 

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Drying room at the hostel 

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Pro Audax evening footwear 

Arriving at the hostel after 80+ miles in the rain was a great feeling. We immediately hung up our sodden kit, had hot showers and put on our sandals. Socks and flip-flops or bare-foot and birkenstocks? It’s always difficult to completely nail the audax haute couture style so I like to think we covered all bases between us. The 1970’s carpet definitely added to the effect.

We had a beer, ate a hearty dinner and were both in bed by about 8pm. Not exactly rock n roll.

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We set off early the next morning and headed right up into the Brecon Beacons. The scenery was spectacular and made us wish we’d gone for 3 days to allow a full day of Brecon touring in the middle. We followed the River Usk down to Abergavenny with the sun in our faces and a strong wind on our backs. Combined with the long descent it felt like just rewards after the tough previous day.

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Classic gag

The conversation was free-flowing all day. It’s one of the pleasures of long distance cycling in remote parts – you can ride side-by-side at a relaxed pace and talk. And when the conversation dried up, the more immature member of the group resorted to childish pranks.

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Fortunately the locals saw the funny side and joined in

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map

In the end we covered 170 miles and around 10,000ft of climbing over the two days. It was one of those epic adventures that you wish you could do more often and will remember forever. Great times.

One way traffic

Family BikeVCar went on holiday to Wales this week. Pembrokeshire to be exact. Coming from the outskirts of Wells in Somerset, most of our journey was accompanied by the sounds of our toddler daughter’s mantra: “Not goin’ Welz … goin’ Way-Uls”

"Where's my bike?"

“Where’s my bike?”

Whilst there’s been a significant drop in my cycling mileage over the last 2 years (and let’s not even mention the significant increase in car miles …. nor my very recent acquisition of a new “family car”), there has however been an enjoyable last few weeks watching a new cyclist arrive on the scene.

Look out cat!

Look out cat!

This has resulted in needing to make space in the shed for a new bike – obviously it was some superfluous gardening equipment that met the chop. I’ll gladly have a jungle for a back garden if it means I can still get out and cycle at the weekends.

New addition to the bike shed

New little addition to the shed, threaded through the Merckx 

I set up the little bike and stabilisers on my flat workshop floor. It was a textbook novice-Dad manoeuvre: as soon as she encountered some uneven ground the rear wheel spun in the air like she was riding a turbo trainer. Before I’d had a real chance to contemplate the possibility of setting up the bike as an indoor trainer during the coming winter months, she started shouting to come and rescue her. Initiative test number 1 – go fix it yourself:

Making a few minor adjustments

Making a few minor adjustments to some incompetent Dadsmanship 

Anyway, holidays are a time to try new things. So Mum had time to relax. Little Miss showed off on a trike . . .

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“I go this way” 

. . . and I found some time to squeeze in a few decent length rides. With beautiful weather, the coast of Pembrokeshire to explore and a toddler who requires an afternoon nap, I had a brainwave: one-way cycling. If we went out as a family for the morning I rode home. And if we were going out for the afternoon I set off after lunch and met them there.

Exploring the Welsh countryside

Exploring the Welsh countryside: castles, hills, sheep and more hills 

Even compared to Somerset and Southwest England, the roads were quiet. And the idea of one-way riding allowed me to squeeze in 100 miles of cycling over a weeklong family holiday without being too selfish.

Seaside towns - the beautiful views are just about worth the effort

Seaside towns – beautiful descents, tough escapes 

The coastal roads were stunning. Although the hills and the winds made for some challenging cycling too. I took the steel frame bike so that I could attach the baby seat for local rides. This added an extra element to the challenge. But, after all – it was a holiday so I mostly ignored my average speeds and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and the change of scenery.

We lucked out with the weather

We certainly lucked-out with the weather