Wild Wales 2008 (The ride)

What an event packed ride. Another great event organised by Merseyside CTC.
The weather forecast was a bit mixed, damp at first with sunshine to follow. It proved to be spot on. Rain overnight meant the roads were damp at the start. I’d opted to fit the raceblades to “The Toy” and although the rear was fine the front was on for the first time and it was a niggle throughout the day. Bending it in the car to the event didn’t help.

What made the ride was the other riders. Two years on I’ve met so many good people I wouldn’t know where to start. CTCers, Northenders, The Sunlight, people I’ve met at the Eureka, Ice Cream Farm, Audaxes and all those that know me from this site and the Garmin articles.

I’m about an hour early at the start but at least you get a place on the start carpark, it soon fills up and then you are in the carpark in Bala.


Time flies and soon it time to sign on and start the ride. Riding with Allan, the two Chris’s and Charles. Slightly delayed at the start we head out around Bala Lake, I took a few pictures of the group but the one with the lake in it comes out top. The weather is brightening up and the odd rainbow appears.


It’s been relatively easy until now and once past the caravan site we hit what must be the toughest climb of the day. Time to change down a gear or twenty. I didn’t get off to a good start, the chain jumped off the new granny ring and I was only about 30 ft up the climb. Time to ride back down and start again.


Had to stop to get the pictures is my excuse. A great climb, heartrate through the roof and we are only a couple of miles in. 


Now there is a saying that Campag wears in and Shimano wears out and to a certain extent it is true. Shimano shifts faultlessly thanks to profiled teeth and the likes of chainlifters on the chainrings. Once you mess with it like I did it all goes out the window.
I wore the middle ring out after about 6,000 miles and replaced it with a BBB 7005 machined chainring. Looks great but doesn’t shift like the original.
It was a problem throughout the ride. Poor shifting or derailment just when you most needed it. Maybe great on a double but on a triple it just leads to trouble.
Back to square one. 


With the steep bit over it’s a series of moorland climbs this was the final one with riders dotted across the hill.  Came across a Northender walking and thinking it was Dave Large yelled at him to get on his bike as I had my camera ready only to find it wasn’t him. Oops.  I’ve compressed the pictures on the site as they capture most of the ride but when you see the 6mp version there is an amazing level of detail. 




Steep downhill section after these few onbike shots had me on the drops to get that extra brake modulation. Not enough leverage on the hoods to stop if something went amiss.




The first control at Llanelltyd. Lots of familiar faces here, can’t put a name to them all but you get to know people by their club or their CTC group or even just doing a ride with them.




The next section involved two river crossings and another stretch of climbing. The first river crossing was priced in the ride. Nice ride across the river and I missed the first turn left by 10 yards. Time to engage that low gear again. The initial climb was steep with a hairpin bend thrown in for good measure. Slackened off a bit after that but you knew it was always up.  A couple of gates on this section  held open until we all got through.

Met up with Roz of the Sunlight on this section who was riding at her own pace, a bit like myself. Once at the top it was all downhill to Barmouth. Talking to Chris a bit later on two riders crashed and landed on top of each other on this section and when I came through there was a walker pushing a boulder off the road.


Roz taking a picture of Barmouth.


I slithered down the hill to the same point as Roz, Look Keo’s aren’t made for walking.

One of  the big things with this ride is cattle grids. There are loads of them and along with them are punctures.  I stopped counting but it was a question of not hitting them too fast or not enough air in the tyres or both.

A ride isn’t complete without a puncture picture and that is to come.

The footbridge to Barmouth was a special part of the ride, the views across the river where great, riding  across it reinforced that and there was time to take it all in for the queue  for the toll booth, which was quaint as it gets.(you had to wait for your return ticket even though we weren’t coming back) Little Britain sprang to mind.

DSCF3503.jpg DSCF3502.jpg



This is the view of the estuary while waiting at the toll booth. Chance to chat with others that had walked across and explain the ride. For a lot the walk across the bridge was the only exercise they were going to do that day. Bala seemed a long way in a car never mind going over what we had for fun.

I miss a load out on these rides but I stopped for a Northend photo at Barmouth.


Spoke to Dave Large to see if they were stopping but continued on with Matthew who had stopped for me to go back. Once through the one way system there must have been about 2 miles of traffic going into Barmouth. Amazing what a Pelican crossing can do on a Bank Holiday weekend.

On this section a black Merecedes goes past and out of the window I hear ” Keep going, Frank”. I didn’t have a clue who it was at the time.

We caught Roz up again and she had a wheel until it started rising.  Then it was a right turn that we missed by 20 yards and things got lumpy.

Most car drivers gave us enough room today, only had two close shaves of note. One skimmed Matthew riding to the wooden bridge on an A road and the other was on the hills above Harlech when a 4×4 didn’t want to slow down on a narrow lane which was uncalled for. Car comes by with two girls what I thought were leaning out of the sunroof. It was worse than that they were standing on a tow bar bracket clinging to the car.

We are now in bright sunshine, the wind is in our favour and it’s as good as it gets. Sweat is pouring out of me on the steep climbs, dripping off the peak of the helmet all over the Edge. Due to the high salt content it’s white in colour which is a cue to take on more of the electrolyte I’m carrying.

Found out who was cheering me on after Barmouth, it was Carolyn offering support for her brother who I met last year on a CTC ride. This was on a tree shaded steep climb. I did ask why she wasn’t doing it at the stop, too hard was the reply. She does have a point, there are enough warnings in the entry form.

One of the clubs has marked the route with blue arrows, these aren’t the CTC markings I was told at the start. I did make a few mistakes in the route planning, the most notable one being the second stop where I was in a pub carpark. Letting the software autoroute me instead of turning left the junction before. Whatever we are only talking a couple of minutes.

Now my route has me doing another few miles than the official route distance.  I did end up in Tansarnau when I should have turned off earlier.  Saw a Sunlight backup vehicle on the A494 and then it was on to one of the harder climbs of the day. As we approach the turning I hear a familiar Garmin bleep. It’s not mine though but the chap behind using a 305.

Full  sunlight and I’ve still got my armwarmers on!. It’s signed as Magnox Power Station.
It is steep but I’m struggling with the shifting  as it is stuck in 39×27 and just won’t  have it. Any other day and it would be fine. I have to stop as the hill rears up and I’m not going to make it in the middle ring. I was doing fine until then but another couple of degrees of incline would have seen me off.

There is a big guy leaning on a farm gate half way up telling me I’ve done the worst but it is still steep to the summit. That sweat I mentioned, it’s just pouring out of me.

A bit of a mistake on the descent due to my  autorouting but at least I make the village hall.

Met up with Matthew again, had some decent cake, filled the bottle and it was back on the road. Northend were coming in so it must have been down to the stops that I had got ahead of them. Now I’m not that strong a rider but if you  know where you’re going that usually adds an edge to your ride. Heading back Tempo, Brad and Chicago pass us but turn off on the main A road to Bala (Gods road if you’ve ridden it on a motorbike), our turn is a mile further on.

By the log cabins they catch us up and pass us but as we are climbing Tempo is dropping off the back. We are further back but cresting one climb he is by the side of the road with a broken chain. Turns out it his second, I fish a section of chain out of the bag along with a Shimano pin. Can’t leave the club captain in the middle of nowhere. Looking at the chain I’m not surprised  it broke, it was mass of grease picking up a load of grit and crud to boot.

Stopped at the summit  for the next two pictures so lost touch with the other two then it was a fast descent until that first climb where it was back on the brakes.




At the bottom of the hill is the final cattle grid and it claims another victim, Barry. Only six miles from the finish too.


What I can’t work out is how they got in front of us. No ride is complete without a puncture picture so here it is.

Set off towards the finish and I had Martin on my wheel. Dropped back a bit to get a lakeside cycling shot in brilliant sunshine. 


Martins jersey  looks like he robbed it off The Riddler.

Missed out on a couple of good ones. Signed in at the finish and got the slate. Nice picture of Barmouth Bridge on it.


Garmin Connect has me at 3,300 metres.

Great ride, thinking about it we could do one of these a week if we put our minds to it. Nice to have a sag wagon, but what do the locals do.

8600 feet of climbing. Finish time 17:10

Finished the post a week later, again if you’ve done an event like this there is a load that doesn’t make it into anything you may write up. The memory stays though.

6 thoughts on “Wild Wales 2008 (The ride)”

  1. The walker knocked that boulder down just in front of me – it bounced across the road – just glad I wasn’t passing at the time

  2. Hardest ride I have done all year hats off to all who completed it in whatever time. I managed 6hr 37mins my head fell off on the moorland hills the final ones before the finish, I had eaten all my food and was cramping like mad every pedal turn sending shards of glass through my thighs and calfs. My trophy has pride of place in my office, its the hardest one I have ever earned.

  3. Good write up Frank. I’m Carolyn’s bro. I was over-geared for the ride and suffered like a maniac. The hardest day on a bike I can recall. Sweet to finish though – it was brilliant to have family support. Good to see a lot of old mates too, even if chances to talk were few.

  4. There was a lot saying it was the hardest they have done. The super low gearing 26×27 helped me and I was still struggling on climbs.
    I’ve done two hilly audaxes recently and they give you an idea of what steep is.

  5. Great ride report. I think I must have been on the route near you for most of the day as I saw the girls hanging off the car, the black Merc, etc.

    My slate is on my desk too and is my fourth WWC trophy. They are very special to me. See you next year.

  6. Thanks Matt, It was a great day, we must have been close near the car as it went about half a mile with the girls on the back. This was only my second Wild Wales and they are great events. See you there too.

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