Text: Peter Elsegood
Pictures: Maciej Malyszka & Paul Hunt
The first of many Velouse Flyers adventures. When we started to plan this trip and decided to ride in Wales in early May, some of us had visions of torrential rain, hail maybe even snow, but how wrong could we have been. We know the landscape would be amazing because last year we rode here in August (in rain). It was about this time we started thinking about starting a new club which was inclusive but still did more than the average club ride and cake stop. We decided to come back because we had unfinished business. Last year we had to cut the routes short due to being new to bikepacking and not having enough food, water to keep us going.
Armed with the knowledge of what we did wrong last year, 5 of us decided to have another go. 3 of us planned to ride all of the route a 2 decided to ride as much as they could and the go back to the car and drive to our next overnight stop.
We shared a tent and carried everything else we needed for the whole trip on our bikes. This basically doubles the weight of our bikes and make handling interesting. Last time not having food was a big mistake, we were burning at least an extra 5000 kilocalories a day, so this time we took small stoves, couscous, noodles, and some lovely but heavy “Wayfayrer Meals” these have the benefit that they can be eaten hot or cold. Even more important than food we had coffee! Having been running and riding off-road all winter we hoped our legs would be ok but riding between 5 and 7 hours a day we were not so sure about out behinds. Thankfully we didn’t need to worry our new club kit from Miltag is amazing, so comfortable day after day.
We had travelled to Bala after work on Friday arriving at a fantastic B&B just before midnight, so we could set off bright and early Saturday morning. It was a cool start but with the promise of 15C we left Bala in shorts and jerseys. First, we headed to the coast to a place called Barmouth were we stopped for fish and chips and a can of pop, before heading along the coast where the route flattened out, but turned into a strong headwind. We then turned back inland for some more climbing as we headed to our first overnight camp near to Ffestiniog.
Day 2 we woke up to frost! were we learnt a new lesson “gas stoves do not like freezing conditions” two out of four of our stoves didn’t want to burn properly. After coffee and porridge, we got on our way. Some of us know what was coming within 1/4 mile there is a brute of a climb. Thankfully this time around we had 1:1 gear ratios after having to walk the year before. After that there is a lovely flat section “can you tell we are from Norfolk” before again another wall to climb. The hills just keep coming after that until we reach Anglesey. By now the weather is amazing, we stop for an ice cream and realise we are all starting to look a bit pink! but no time to stop we have our biggest hurdle to get over. Were we are going there are no roads. This is a mountain and Bikepacking turns into Bikehiking, some of it we can ride but other parts there is no option but to get off and push. The reward is the feeling of being on top of the world and a view for miles. Once down the other side it’s just around 6-7 mile to the next camp. Where we know the local Indian takeaway serves the best curry for hungry cyclists.
Day 3 is shorter and flatter but still starts with long climb well before we can warm-up. The weather is even warmer than the day before, this is when we realise the choice we made to bring wet weather shoe covers and not suncream was the wrong one 🙂 I don’t know why but it is surprisingly difficult to find a shop in north wales which stocks suncream. Not deterred we cycle on loving every moment, stopping to have coffee with a Bull and his herd. Soon we arrive at a small cafe where we stop for lunch, what a gem it is serving the most amazing sausage, bacon and egg rolls, all the meat butchered and cooked on the premises. We push on after some very long climbs and find one of the very best descents we have found, 40+ mph for miles with twisting bends you can see around. wow! We arrive back in Bala with 3 miles to our last camp, we should stop and sample the local beer or two and grab a bite to eat. With our bellies full we make are way to the camp, were we have been told the showers are 1/4 of a mile from where we wanted to stay (by the river). Resourceful as we are we decide to jump in and wash, well I say “jump in” it was more like lower ourselves in making girlie noises.