Audax A Tour of the Berwyns

This promises to be another epic ride, 206 Km and 1750m of climbing. Ray has emailed me the route to load into the Garmin which has saved me a lot of time. It looks like the wind is going to be a problem on this ride and it is already picking up 12 hours before the start.

Now the start was something else, Willington Hall. I’m definately going back there.
I bumped into a few people from previous rides including the chap I took a picture of on Janet’s 50 Mile Tourist Trial. He asked about the Garmin Edge 305 and I gave him the link to the site. The team today was Ray, Craig, Tom and Moi.

Moi at the start.JPGRar and Craig.JPG


Seamons CC were having a picture taken as we left the Hotel and headed out to the first turn at Willington Corner. It was agreed that we would be doing a steady pace in view of what was to come. It was a bit too steady for some of the other groups and they past us by Oscroft. There are a few themes that typified this ride apart from hills in all shapes and forms one of the early ones was punctures. Within a couple of miles we had seen a couple including a chap with a trike. He was to end up with three.

So we are chugging along and the Tom calls a halt, he’d picked up a puncture. As it turned out it took a bit longer than it normally would but we were offered a cup of tea in the process. Ray went off for a call of nature and ended up having an amusing conversation with a woman walking a dog.  Anyway no decent ride write up is complete without a puncture picture  so here it is.

Toms Puncture.JPG 
We’d turned down a cup of tea from the house owner, if scones were on offer it may have been a different matter.(there’s a in joke in there somewhere)

Before all this was a checkpoint at Waverton, this was taking the service number of the only bus that served the village. This was where a few groups decided they wern’t hanging around and left us. Nothing much to report until after Farndon and Hope  which is where Tom probably picked up his puncture. More likely the crossing of the  A534 which was an overgrown cyclepath.

We are going around the outside of Wreham, past Farm World and then into new territory for me. Our first stop is the Prospect Tea Rooms but there is a particulary steep hill or two to climb before we get there. Now I was planning on lowering the gearing even further before this ride to 30×27 but it didn’t happen. It was still hard going in 30×25. 30×25 means I’m on a triple with 30 teeth on the front chainring 25 on the back, I’m under no illusions about having a twin because it looks nice, parts of the climbs today were over 20% or 1in5.(steep IMHO)I did see blips up to 25%.


Now I’d made it top the top of this climb first, hence the pictures of the group. At the foot of the hill there was a smell of garlic that was growing in the fields. The pictures are taken on the flat bit so it’s steeper than it looks.


The woman above was riding with her grandfather who is 72 so there is no age limit on on these ride, at 47 I feel like a young’un on these rides.
There is a drop into Penycae and then a 5 kilometre stretch up to the Prospect Tea Rooms. Tom warned us about the climb up the tea room drive being steep and indeed it was. The last place you want to be seen in too high a gear and dismounting is here, you’ve an audience of your peers watching from the cafe conservatory.

After we had entered the cafe to sign in the heavens opened. Rooms a bit restricted inside but our arrival was the signal for others to leave so there was plenty of room. There was a chap (not with us) sitting outside under an umbrella with it pouring down, “There’s nowt so queer as folk” as they say up north.

I mentioned earlier about the themes on the,well the second one was scones. I’d ordered one with a cup of tea, these were in the words of Michael Winner (Sunday Times restaurant critic) “Historic”. Now I haven’t had butter on anything for over a year but I made an exception today. It was what what you’d call 1/2 a fat portion on my eating plan. They were that good I had a second one and it was just as good as the first. Later on Ray was calling me “Two Scone Frank” and they were to feature again later in the ride. You could get used to spending time in the controls when you should be out riding. We left in light rain and it was time for me to don the windshell jacket that was in the back pocket. It’s not waterproof but light rain beads and rolls off it.

Prospect Cafe.JPGView from Prospect Cafe.JPG

The next section to Corwen was a great section of the ride, after the Prospect Tea Rooms we head up to The Panorama with spectacular views over Llangollen, the ruined castle, the River Dee and much more. This is a narrow single track road that is still climbing, there is a rockface on one side with a danger of falling rocks everywhere. A few of them have made it onto the road, maybe nothing to a 4×4 but lethal to a 23c bicycle tyre. 

Next thing you know we are heading downhill to Llangollen and end up at a road junction by the motor museum. You need a good set of  brakes on descents like this as you don’t know what is going to be thrown at you. Dura-Ace  shoes works well and I’m glad I’ve replaced them, the shoes work well and don’t seem to pick up as much aluminium as the harder compounds and subsequently destroy the rim. But before the descent we had a local sheep farmer stuck behind us on the climb, we get an acknowledgement as we pull in to a passing point to let him through.

The next section takes us past the Chain Bridge Hotel where I spent my honeymoon and the Horseshoe Falls which you can’t see from the road. This is also where Harrison Ford went for his canal holiday that was widely reported after the event. He needn’t have bothered with a canal boat, the right roads in this neck of the woods are as equally as quiet.

As you pass the Horseshoe Falls the climbs steepen, the views across the Dee are unique. This is a steep climb and you can do without a car driver tooting his horn at you to let him through. It’s not even a proper 4×4 at the end of the day, he must have been lost!!!!!!. We are following the course of the River Dee untill the next stop at Corwen.  Craig was setting the pace on the front at this stage and in view of what was to come I made a comment to Ray that he was going to blow up at some stage.
Corwen Control.JPG

The next control was the Central Hotel in Corwen and it’s beans on toast here as there are no scones. It has to be some thing quick to prepare as anything more adds to delays and your finishing time. The area above was littered with bikes so we were towards the back of the field by the time we left. We head down the road towards Betws-y-Coed but turn off towards Bala and pass through Llandrillo. This bring back memories of The Tour of Wales from the late seventies.(maybe an article for another post). Further down the road I was heading for Bala when Ray shouts me back, I wasn’t on compass mode on the Garmin just the general display waiting for a bleep to signal a turn. The B5402 is a short stretch of road that climbs to a Tee junction where you hit the main climb of the day. I ask Tom if this was it and he says yes.

The bottom part of the climb is steep with nearly 15% coming up around the two bottom hairpin bends. It has started to rain just to add to the enjoyment, nothing too hard but coupled with the wind you see sheets of it blowing across the mountainside. Character building stuff as they say, the good thing is that it soon blows over and then becomes clear again.I’ve now become quite good at climbing and soon put some distance into our group. I think it’s a gradient thing, I’m OK up to about 20% providing I can see the top of the climb. Thanks to the spinning classes I known I’m good for a good 30 minutes plus of intense effort, my pulse maxed out at 175 BPM  on this climb, which is good for the open road.

Anyway back to the climb, the treeline starts to dissapear and I’ve another rider in my sights now. The gradient is not as steep now but if your stuck in that one gear you climb hills in you end up slow. I change up a couple of gears as I try to keep up my perceived  effort. I ended up passing another three  or four riders on this one climb.This is where the gradient function of the Garmin Edge 305 comes into it’s own, as soon as you see the gradient start to drop off and your feeling OK with your effort you should be changing up a gear.

I’m an inexperienced newcomer to these events but was surprised how I reeled in riders on this mountain. I was lying on the carpet trying to recover my breath after a mile and a half when I started a few years back and my colour matched the red carpet.
The climb of the B4391 was something else, I haven’t tackled anything as long as this before and had a false dawn where I stopped to take some photos and regroup.  There was time for a bite to eat a bit of a chat and a photo. Then it was around a sweeping bend and over a slight rise to the final part of the climb. Nothing too steep just a steady climb, seeing as this is it I have one last go and stop at the top. The summit peaked at 1602ft and here we entered the county of Powys, I’d class this as mid Wales and it seems a long long way from the Cheshire plain.



Now the descent to Llangynog was something else too. I see the road stretch out before me and decide to have a go here too. There is no way on gods earth I’m going to waste a descent like this. With a sweep of the left hand and a couple of clicks with the right I’m in the big ring and going for it. Things start to happen really quickly as the speed builds up. It peaked at 43 mph but slowed when I saw a cattle grid ahead, I think the sign said sheep grid as you don’t tend to get cattle up this high.

Ray had warned me about Guy getting a snakebite on a descent of the Horseshoe Pass and I don’t want to suffer the same. The bend shortly after gives me the opportunity to wave on two cars that had shadowed me like team cars on a tour. They wave back, probably thinking look at this nut doing 40 odd mph down hill. I was on the drops and was taken aback at how comfortable the anatomical shape was and how much better leverage you get on the brakes. The road surface is a bit coarser down it to the village and the next control but it’s still 30 mph stuff. A great climb and a great descent.


Llangynog control.

The guy on the trike is back with us on and off for the next section which ends up in Chirk. This section has it’s its own set of challenges. The weather has turned out really nice and rather than stick to a river valley route we ride over some small hills. This is untill we get to Llanraeahdr-ym-Mochnant (which I can’t pronounce) and while following a valley route you know there is a climb at the end of it.

 Mobile Free Zone.JPG

This was at the end of the climb, my phone has been going off but the thing is there are no signals for mobile phones in this neck of the woods. You are above the mobile phone masts and the thing is useless. Not too good a position to be in if you have an emergency in this neck of the woods. It’s steep in this neck of the woods and before the summit there is a motocross track that takes me back many years. If I was as fit as I am now this would have been a walk in the park.  The guy on the trike is caught and passed but he is past us again as we regroup. The downhill section is great 30mph stuff and the Dura-Ace blocks are are quite progressive and I’m really pleased with them and due to their soft compound you don’t hear your rims being cut to ribbons.
Once on the flat it is an 8 mile slog to Chirk and I seem to remember being on the front for most of it. It’s not a problem, each one of us has a weakspot mines probably after 100 miles when I want to slow up.

Chirk Control.JPG

Ray and Moi.JPG

It’s good to arrive at the control point in Chirk it means we are 3/4 of the way there. This is where the guy on the trike gets the last scone amd I have to settle for Barra Brith. The weather has bucked up  but the final section is not a stroll in the park.

The route out of Chirk is the same as we took on the Poynton to Chirk return so we know what is involved. I’d recharged the Garmin in the Cafe but it wasn’t going to be enough and it was going to cause a problem on the next stretch of the ride. Once at Overton the route to Bangor on Dee followed Janets 50 mile Tourist Trial route. Now the races are on and by the look of things the last race has just finished and they are leaving in droves.

We are held up by steward letting out half the carpark, he’s talking into his mobile which inflames things a bit. Anyway at Bangor on Dee we pass a lot of them as they are stuck at a Tee junction. There is one final control at Brunty Bank road and Ray has been churning that big ring again. We get our picture taken at the control. Here the Edge dies, shuts itself down and I am in danger of not getting the ride logged.

Ray offers to swap Garmins as his is being recharged by his charger. Now I’ve built a homebrew charger but it hasn’t seen action on the bike. It works  in the cafes but proves lacking on the bike. The others have left and I am desparately trying to get a charge into the 305 for the thing to power up. Further down the road they are waiting for me. I’m riding one handed, the other holding the battery pack in the one position that has the Edge charging. It goes pear shaped again as the Edge 305 nearly goes bouncing down the road and I have to stop to recover a AAA cell that jumped out the holder. I’m regulating my speed by changing from the big ring to the middle ring with my left hand. Eventually there is enough power in the thing to disconnect the charger. Its a work in progress.

Anyway as we are heading for the finish I notice we have lost Craig off the back. I shout up for Ray to slow down and we regroup. There is a section through Tarporley which is a blast from the past, no supermarkets and lots of traditional shops.  Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick makers. 

The final section to Summertrees is steep after 120 odd miles. The ride up Tirley Lane is tough after all this way. Once at Summertrees it is time to sign in and have what’s on offer. Guess what it was a scone, some sandwiches  and a cup of tea.  It’s been a great day, if you read these write ups for their entertainment value this could be you.


Total Time (h:m:s) 11:53:05 5:40 pace
Moving Time (h:m:s) 9:33:06 4:33 pace
Distance (mi ) 125.56
Moving Speed (mph) 13.1 avg. 43.3 max.
Elevation Gain (ft) +10,759 / -10,511
Avg. Heart Rate 122 bpm Zone 2.6
Temperature (°F) 57.4°F avg. 60.8°F high
Wind Speed ( mph) WSW   17.3 avg. WSW   20.7 max.

It’s now a week after the event and the statistics are truly mindblowing there are a couple of personal bests in there. The Training Centre says I burnt 8500 calories on this ride which even if it overreads is still one hell of a lot of calories. Would I tackle it again, sure, every one of these rides has been unique, the routes show Britain at its best. The whole day was largely traffic free, the hills were something else and to think I used to avoid these like the plague. Thanks to Ray, Craig and Tom for making it another grand day out. Fin.

Link to Google Map of ride.

3 thoughts on “Audax A Tour of the Berwyns”

  1. Great report Frank,really enjoy your writing style and pictures !looking forward to the rest? how about riding some Audaxers over my side of the Pennines Halifax West Yorks? you have missed a couple of good hilly ones!The Red Rose ride starting at Halifax and Spring in to the Dales starting at Hebden Bridge! You might be interested in Seasons of Mist from Hebden Bridge in early October,only 100km but very very hilly!!! sorry for any offence/upset i caused with my previous post,it was an impression i had at the time,i now realise i was wrong,coming from your previous lifestyle i fully appreciate your motivations!!! Regards Andy.

  2. Did i read in an earlier blog you’d bought your wife a trek 1000wsd for christmas. Does she ride with you?

  3. Hey Frank, I know you wanted to lose some weight but it doesn’t count if you put pictures up with distored aspect ratio LOL The first two pictures in this right up are squeezed, you look like Peter Crouch and your wheels are eliptical 😉
    Great write-up, keep ’em coming!


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