‘Summer’ solstice tour

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It was the summer solstice over the weekend and what better way of celebrating the longest day then by heading into North Wales on a two day tour.  I was dropped off at Conwy and after a light snack at the RSPB reserve, I set off for Conwy.  Taking the country lanes, I cycles through the castle in Conwy and headed to Rowen.

Rowen is a small town of the Conwy Estuary.  Not having studied the map properly, I didn’t realise that I would be heading up the steepest road I’ve ever seen (think first gear in a car..), and it was the first time in 8 years, I’ve pushed a bike up a road climb.  Oh the shame (to be fair, I did chat to a couple of horse riders and they said it was too steep for their horses!).

The climb continued and I finally topped on to a green lane, taking me to an old Roman road to the base of Drum.  It was here, after an hours worth of riding that I witnessed my first walkers, both giving a cheery hello.  The weather was rubbish, strong headwinds and threatening clouds above.  On the first descent of the day, I let go of the brakes and nothing happened, the wind was so strong that I head to peddle down hill.  Little did I realise, this was the theme for the remainder of the day.

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 I continued down, slowly gathering momentum whilst fighting back the tears from my eyes, I always suffer from my eyes streaming on descents no-matter what glasses I wear but when the wind was this strong, glasses or no glassed made very little difference.  I entered into the Rhaedr Valley taking me to the infamous Rhaedr Falls (also known as Aber Falls).  At the time, I didn’t realise that push-bikes weren’t allowed in this area, so I pushed on towards the Falls and onto the far side of the valley.

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The valley was now quiet and I didn’t witness a sole until Bethesda.  The riding was enjoyable but the headwind had slowed me to walking speed (I must point out that I was on a singlespeed) and progress was taking its time.  I followed some farm-land tracks into the valley, carefully riding past a field of cows and making a swift exit through the gates.  From now until Ogwen valley, it was all road miles and for the first time that day, a managed to get some speed up (or at least, until I could spin out my 32×18).

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It was bleak, but the wind was behind me and I motored along the road.  I eventually reached Capel Curig in 5 hours completing 1200M of climbing in 50KM.  Café Siabod was my port of call and a large Lasagne, garlic bread and extra chips was ordered, followed by a few pints in Plas-y-Brenin.

I thought the first day was bleak, but two day was incredible.  Strong headwinds and terrible rain.  My Arc’teryx Beta (reviewed earlier on) kept me dry, so I had no excuse but to plough on.  I returned on the Roman road into the Ogwen Valley, but progress was painfully slow.  More than once I had to stop due to the winds for fear of falling off my bike.  Even the descents would see me pedalling down.

Upon reaching Bethesda, I made the decision to follow the coast back to Conwy and avoid going on the tops as I thought it would be too dangerous (and truthfully, miserable too).  It was here that I hooked up to sustrans route 5.  I thought I would follow this for as long as it goes and then start thinking about heading back into the hills.  The route followed along the coast.

Upon turning onto the coast, I had a tailwind.  This allowed me to pedal with ease and head to Conwy with a big grin on my face.  I finally worked out that the route would take me all the way to Prestatyn, 35km down the road.  The waves were crashing against the sea-front but I was making good progress, so I thought I would press on.

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Taking a detour through Llandudno, I followed the cycle path along the coast through Colwyn Bay and onto Rhyl.  From Rhyl, I could see the Nova Centre in Presatyn, where my Dad was waiting to pick me up.  Some 3 miles later, I was back in the warmth of the car having completed some 80KM of riding (mainly on road using a singlespeed mountain bike) and climbed 650M.

In total, I cycled some 130KM in some absolutely foul weather and I was thankfully that  didn’t have to camp at the night.  So, thanks to Jack for letting my stay in the cottage and thanks to my parents for playing ‘taxi’!

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