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For the last few years, the WRT has shared a date with the Dyfi Enduro. On occasion, when the WRT circus rolls west, it also shares a few trails. This year, the Welsh Ride Thing went in search of the seaside and ice cream. If you chose the most obvious route towards sea-level, then chances are, you rode your loaded bike through Machynlleth before heading for the golden sands of Aberdovey, Barmouth or Harlech … or perhaps, just the infamous Golden Sands chippy in Tywyn.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a new black and it’s obviously red.

Upon returning, many riders had stories that involved the Enduro … some found themselves ‘on course’ from time to time while others took advantage of what the town had laid on for the influx of visiting riders. These were good stories, it was nice to hear that the bikepackers were mixing it up with the enduro riders and that the enduro riders seemed genuinely interested in finding out more about the ins and outs of life as a two wheeled vagrant … but a few days later and the internet ‘fall-out’ from both camps seems very different.

A rather unusual section of downhill for the WRT Lonely Hearts Club.

The internet makes moaning easy, so easy that some people seem to have lost the ability to express any view other than a grieving, handwringing moan. It appears that some glasses are less than half full … someone was faster than me, someone was slower than me, somebody overtook me, I overtook somebody. It was too hilly, it was too flat, it was too hard, it wasn’t hard enough. Perhaps it’s self imposed competitiveness or the nagging tick of a virtual clock that pushes some people this way or maybe it’s simply a way of dealing with the realisation that … they’re not as fit or fast as they thought?

I’m so glad the WRT doesn’t induce these feelings within people. Luckily, in most instances, it actually has the opposite effect … that track was great, what a fantastic view, someone let me sleep in their garden, a stranger bought me a drink, I can’t wait to get out again, people are so friendly. It’s a stark contrast considering both groups are simply riding bikes in the same place, on the same day but there’s obviously a difference and I believe that difference is YOU, the riders. So, thank you for making the Welsh Ride Thing what it is … decidedly Unduro.

Cake, it’s the WRT, there’s always cake.

Something the WRT does produce, is great stories. Each year tales emerge featuring a wide and varied cast, there’s stories of chance meetings, unusual accommodation, unimaginable luck and of friendships formed. A couple that stood out in my mind this year were firstly, that of 8 year old Dillon and his dad, Steve and secondly that of Jo  … First, I’ll let Steve tell you about his WRT shared with his son.

Hi, Steve here, Dad to Dillon aged 8. I’ve done a few Bear Bones events, I’ve given the BB200 a good go and have had some interest from Dillon since he was 5 or so. We’ve done local bivvy rides, a couple of Peaks bivvy trips but nothing you’d describe as remote. At the Bach to Bach, I asked Stu if it was ok if Dillon tried a ride? The WRT seemed like the perfect opportunity with the option to do a ‘lite’ version. It was the spark that would set alight the forest fire of Dillon’s first WRT.

In the best tradition we faffed the night before and again on Saturday morning! I blame my work load running over but truth be known faff would happen anyway … right? We arrived and said our good mornings (although it was now afternoon) before setting off through the forest. A nice climb out from the start to warm the legs and see how Dillon felt on the Welsh hills, I thought … as he streaked off ahead of me! He was buzzing already! My thoughts were, ‘we’ll ride as much as he can manage and then stop when we can’. No set target. We had an idea of where we’d go ideally but nothing was set in stone.  

Our planned figure of 8 route we pretty much ruined when I got carried away exploring (going the wrong way on the pink line on the gps) and we nearly ended up back at the start! I confessed my error to Dillon, not knowing how he would take the bad news. We’d just trudged across a field after climbing through a forest after a gorse infested path and stream crossing. In true #bearcub spirit he said “well at least it’s down hill back and I can do the climb again!” The adventure was still on!

We retraced our steps and found the correct path. We’d set off mid afternoon, so I was keeping a watchful eye on the time … and the sky. Before our intended pit-stop at Cemmaes, I saw a pub on the map which was nearer and would avoid a steep off-road section included in our route. With a decision made, we headed for the pub. It was closed for refurb!! Locked and shut. We needed a new plan and headed for Mach’ on a lovely quiet back lane, looking for suitable overnight accommodation as we rode. Once in Mach’ chips and sausage were demolished in record time and we returned back to a nice spot we’d seen earlier by the river. We set up in dusk light and settled in darkness. It was a fairly chilly night for Dillon, who quickly found the limits of his sleeping bag but then we remembered our heat pads! We split them open, tucked them in our pockets and sleeping bags and I finished off by dragging him close and using my open Alpkit down bag to bolster his … He was soon asleep after that.
We returned to Mach’ for breakfast. The cafe by the clock tower looked promising and turned out to be great! Dillon’s not a huge breakfast fan but I managed to persuade him to eat some but not all … the rest of his bacon sarny was saved in foil for later. We were chatting to the ladies in the cafe and asked them about Aberdovey. Next thing you know, we’re planning to go there! Route abandoned in favour of adventure! I had a large bottle full of lovely coffee and chocolate (yep a Mocha, as I was reminded by the staff!) and Dillon had his bacon sarny, what more do you need? 

We headed in the direction of Aberdovey and came across the Happy Valley road. Yep, that road had to be ridden! A lovely quiet road with a few stiff climbs and long down hills. We were enjoying ourselves and attacked the hills with shouts of ‘go on Tommy!’ a reference to Dillon’s favourite climber/rider T. Voukler. The downhills were taken with a little more caution as Dillon was on rim brakes and it was still raining. We exited Happy Valley smiling and looking across the golf course towards the sea. It really felt like we’d crossed the world! We had reached the coast! We found a path, crossed the fairway, over the dunes and rode straight to the sea … quite emotional I must say. Dillon clearly felt a sense of achievement and was enjoying the almost absurdity of it. We took pictures and found a spot for brunch. It was only 10.00am, too early to stay for a dune bivvy although the idea was very tempting. We had a think and decided to head back to Mach’, get back on our intended route and spend the night in the hills above the town. As we dropped into Mach’ we realised we would make it before the cafes closed if we were lucky, so we upped the tempo to safeguard our lunch.
After checking the cafe were still serving, we got some kit off and settled at a welcoming table with Karl and Cat! We chatted, shared tea and I charged my phone back up from the brink of death with a kind offer from Karl. We could now take a few more pics and have the reassurance of contact again. 

Dillon with me trailing a little behind, left Mach’ and followed a route back to where we were going to spend the previous night. Oh, we found a huge long steep hill!! Obviously, it would have been a lovely descent into Mach’ if we’d ridden it the intended way …  remember your route profile kids! 😉 Dillon tackled this with enthusiasm and determination I was frankly proud of. On top, the weather wasn’t great to put it mildly. We searched for an overnight spot but the best seemed to have already been taken by sheep. I was carrying our bikes over a wire fence to continue our quest when a Landrover and trailer pulled up the steep track beside us … The diplomatic corp enquired if it was ok to settle as my lad was tired and weather poor etc. This was greeted by a friendly reply of, “well, it’s not my land but the owner lives just down the hill and owns the campsite!” 

I looked at Dillon, he’d ridden a long way, the weather hadn’t been great and I decided it was best for morale and an 8 year old’s welfare to at least have a flat pitch for the night. We rolled down the hill to a friendly welcome and a “pick anywhere”. We were given a couple of towels to dry off with and we set off to pitch up our tube of sanctuary on the perhaps not so flat grass … Dillon slept very well. 

The morning was dreadful! Heavy rain and wind had us waiting nearly 2 hours in our tent until Dillon said, “let’s just go for it and get ready to set off”. So we did and as sods law dictates, 5 minutes after I packed the outer of the tent away it stopped raining. We headed back on our route. We had a local ask us if we were lost. Not exactly we said. He checked where we were going and couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t “just roll along the road rather than go that way!” ah the wisdom of locals eh.

We climbed more steep track and rolled along a lovely lane until we reached the point where I’d taken us the wrong way on day one. Much to Dillons delight, we’d collected a dead bird of prey’s talon along here too, a quite gruesome souvenir that seemed fitting to the weekend. The final climb, valley, climb was a stiff one. Dillon was starting to steady off a little more often but I was amazed he was still going with a smile. Just being out on an epic ride in proper hills, was all the pain relief he needed. The final forest run down to the farm house – Dillon just loved it! He knew he’d done it but he had little idea of how far he’d ridden. I didn’t mention it above telling him he’d done amazingly well. We let the brakes off a bit on the descent to the finish enjoying the pudding part of the ride, having earned it! I was bursting with joy for him. He’d done 118k, slept out 2 nights and become a fully fledged bearcub! and all with a smile and level enthusiasm that was as Karl said “infectious.”. Dillon rides quite often, he loves his cyclocross but 118k in Wales would genuinely be considered epic for anyone. He proudly stuck his bearbones sticker to his treasured Isla bike and proceeded to ride around some more! Everyone who rode the WRT has helped make a young lad very happy by creating what is the best cycle scene, full stop. I thank you all for that.

The second story belongs to Jo. While she’s certainly no newcomer to cycling, you can’t help but get the feeling that her first WRT has changed her perspective a little. You’ll find Jo’s story on here blog – Little Girl Bunny.

One last thing … I’m very pleased to say that this years WRT raised £2207.87 for the Wales Air Ambulance – well done.


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