The Circuit of Wales (the long un!) 2015
A four day 650 mile tour of the length of Wales taking in the best wild 'B' roads there is to offer.
The Wilds and highlands of Mid and North Wales has been somewhat of a playground for me since my youth when I first discovered its joys on a pushbike. As a group, this was going to be our second year touring the 'B' roads of Wales and I was determined to make it an even greater challenge than the previous year and make the route just a little more arduous.
Day 1 - Weston Super Mare to Bishops Castle, Shropshire. - 150 miles
The guys from Weston and the surrounds gathered at the regular Costa Coffee location on the Outskirts of town. We never actually buy a coffee there as it is normally always shut or rammed full of shoppers. Still it has a ring to it... A quick review of the travelling baggage was needed as Malcolm normally has a little extra adorning his SX/JET/LI thing....A huge mattress this time then but at least I would be able to see him in the stadium rear view mirror.
The route to Aust Services just has to be on the Motorway as Avonmouth is a shite place to start your hols. Risky I know on the first morning but for those of us who communte to Bristol on a daily basis the 'A' roads are an arse. Anyway, we had to get a shifty on as Mr Moody and Richard Harris would be meeting us at the Motorway Services at Aust to start the obligitory 'Gadget Off'.
An easy and steady 35 miles later we arrive to see Moods and Rich ready and smiling (not for long). After a quick admiring review of Stevie's memory foam riding pad (pussy!) we were off for real.
The first leg of the adventure would be along our familiar route through Chepstow and upto Usk to the Iron Horse cafe for breakfast. A great little biker cafe that is always surprisingly quiet if you get there early enough. This Cafe has become a bit of a favourite for the group due to the very high calibre of waitress that frequest the said premise. Bleeding gorgeous! and the breakfasts arn't bad either.
The route needed to take in the Black Mountains (it seemed a pity to pass them by.) so a quick detour via Abergavenny saw us buzzing north towards the start of the Llanthony Abbey road. This section just has to be travelled on a Scoot. The small and very challenging unclassified section up over Haybluff is a long un and demands some careful riding due to mud slides and mahoosive pot holes etc. I think it was on the final ascent sections to the actual bluff where Malcolm decided to hug a fence and Rich Harris decided his full custom paint job was getting a beating and this enduro styley stuff might not be the thing for his pride and joy. I don't blame him. A stop for a giggle and a fag was needed before the 4 mile descent into Hay on Wye.
A lengthy stop in Hay was required as we stocked up on camping seats for the evening meant that we really needed to get a steady push on North East. This section again crossed a really pretty area around Clun forests. Bishops Castle would be our first day Camp spot and rests just the north of the main forested areas. Truly stunning and an often missed area. We arrived in warm sunshine at the Campsite 'the Manor' where a site perched on top of the hill overlooking the village below was provided.
All tents were setup quickly, Russticle was dipatched to go collect and then struggle back with a Fire Pit for us to huddle around a little later.
Bishops Castle is quaint little place with a fook off big hill throughout its length. Baz just doesn't do hills so a pub near the top would suffice but maybe a little down a bit to be honest. All Worth it though as we had ourselves a great evening meal and a few jars at the resident brewery bar just rounded the day off nicely. The bloody walk back was biblical!!
Fire pits are ace and a first dig into Malcs Mobile mini bar meant that most of us tucked in with defintily a headache to come.
Day 2 Bishops Castle to Llanberis (Snowdonia) 146 miles
Now, As riding days go and adventurous plans made, this one was to be a good un!
A bright and sunny start awaited us, tents were packed sharpish and our goodbyes made to Rich who had to return home rather quickly to attend to some domestic crisis. The roads and route today would be the best of the four. It did mean we needed to keep a good push on for most of the day if we were to navigate the three mountain passes we had planned. Like nearly all tours, day 2 can be a slow burner as the hangovers are dispersed and the rhythm of camp then ride yet to bed in. This one was a slowish start and a breakfast was planned along the route upto Lake vrynwy. We didnt get there....
Russell had been complaining of a dragginng clutch for some time and his newly built RT based GP was clearly causing him problems on the first day. Well, the drop into Newtown proved a little too much as no sooner had wee stopped at the large Tesco for a breakfast had it popped its retaining clip and spilt its guts innside his chain casing. SHIT!!
Feeling guilty for the poor sod there was only one thing to do and split the engine and attempt a repair - if possible. Well, not a clutch compressioon tool amongst us Russel had not returned the tool he had borrowed from malcolm the week previous and therefore Malcolm did not have his with him.....Double Shit!!
Now, the beauty of a Lambretta clutch is that they are pretty simple if you can compress the damn thing, so, a quick purchase of a binding strap , a long socket and various other parts scrambled together meant we were able to compress and get the retaining clip back in. A marathon effort by all but how long it would last would be anyones guess as the 5 plate clutch just did not like sitting loosely in the basket (hence the dragging clutch in the first instance). 2.5 hours later the scoot was back together and we were off. Still with approximately 130 mile to go. The usual "can we shorten the day?" routine from Moody and Elmer was re-buffed as normal, so onwards we went.
The lake Vrynwy passs into Bala is one of those roads you just to do once in your lifetime. A logging trail to some, Damn dangerous to others but what views and a real sense of achievement once completed and your sat in the cafe in Bala in Snowdonia. The time was now 17:30 hours and we still had some 65 miles to go according to my reckoning. Best not let the guys know else another barrage of abuse would be coming my way. Instead, just keep up the pressure - "We will get there by 7 peeps!". Another section of phenomenal roads through to Betws Yr Cwyd in glorious early weather brightened up moods but noticed at a stop just North of the Village that Marc G's Gp was pushing out alot of smoke, a lot! a quick sniff and check on oil levels confirmed my thoughts - Chain side seal had gone and nowt to do but regulalry re-fill teh casing with gearbox oil. Mr Moods and myself set off on a 30 mile round trip to get him some oil which took another hour. The lads just sat alongside the lake over looking the Snowden masssive but the temperature was dropping by the time we got back to them - poor souls. What else could go wrong????
So Marc's bike re-filled we sprinted through to Beddgelert for our campsite. Found the pub, found the campsite, pitched up and then BOOM!!! the owner of said site then informs us that we in fact are on the wrong site and the one that Malcolm has booked is the other side of the Snowdon Massive some 30 miles away. Its now 8:45pm and getting dark. We were offered to stay put for £30 each for the night???, "Fuck off" was the loud reply. I do confess to kicking the owners gate rathe abusively on the way out, but what a tosser?
It was now very dark, most of our lights are shite (by design) and we still hadnt had a beer. Like all miracles, out of the gloom as we approached the Llanberis turning a SPAR shop appeared and bingo! they sold beer, lots of it. We stocked a lot.. I have never seen Mr Moody so happy, his depression cloud is definitely alchoholically measured.....
The campsite (the correct one this time) was a further 6 mile up the road and boy did we need it. It was 10:30pm by the time we pitched up and cracked a can and stuffed down a cold pasty. The Campsite was a real gem. Long grass and an old Railway carriage for a bog. You beauty.
Day 3 - Llanberis to Rhayader - 120 miles
The Third day was planned as short(ish) day with a bit of sight seeing and a Wild camp on the moors to look at. Things sometimes have to change and today they would. The good thing about being a self contained unit is that you can stop anywhere if you choose.
An early breakfast at LLanberis filled empty bellies and cleared the beer webs. The LLanberis Pass awaited so a chance for Mr G to try out his expensive Go Pro. Now, If your gonna take a video of a group of scoots going through some fantastic country ----- You need to be in touching distance of the group so they are actually in it... Sterling try though lol.
The pass down the other side was travelled with ease for a second time (remember that we had done this section the nght before). Double fun in my books though.
Our destination was PortMerrion, A bit pricey to get in but a fair few of the lads had not actually been there and it makes a real change to have a walk about.
Time was getting on by the time we finished listening to the band and ate our ice creams so the last leg was to be up over the moors to find a spot for the evening. The general consensus was to push on further today and make the final day less onerous. Fine by me, so Rhayador would be our new target. The roads in mid Wales around the Elan Valley are some of the best but do include a number of very sharp inclines. It was these inclines that really started to put an end to Malcolms clutch. As we beat a path, it was evident that Malc was falling further and further behind. A final twiddle would see us into Rhayader. A quick scouting party was arranged to go find a site available whilst the rest of the group sat and waited. Malc's clutch really couldnt take much more without some serious fettling. I knew of site by the river and close to the centre of town so we could pitch up and go head in for some beers. Some things are just designed to work out and in this case we hit gold. Not what we were expecting to do in terms of Wild camping but who cared we could get pissed in comfort and give a cold pasty a miss.
Funny thing is Rhayader has numerous excellent pubs but we managed to find a back street offering and stayed their for the duration without sampling anything else. This always seems to happen! Good night and cool food to boot.
Watered and fed no late night was needed so the campsite fell silent very early.
Day 4 Rhayader to Weston Super Mare - 120 miles
Final day and the final slug home. The guys were starting to feel it now and again the requirement was 'straight home' - AS if
The weatehr was perfect this final day and although the roads are now very familiar to us it still is wonderful days riding tthrough the Brecon Beacons. For Malcolm, he was to be granted his wish to @stay put' as his clutch finally decided to give up the ghost. Lucky bugger broke down to a pub so sat the afternoon out in the sun with a beer whilst he waited for the recovery man, who happened to be a mad Welshman intent on crashing, but thats another story.
We arrived back at the Aust Services around 3 pm which is pretty good going but to be fair it was a bit of a 'heads down' session on the final stint. Handshakes all round and each rider made their separate ways to home.
A mighty trip that will take some beating. It will be a while until we return to this part of the world again but what else could we have asked for. Four days of glorious sunshine, miles of unspoilt roads, mighty scenery and a wicked craique.
Next time....we go around the outside of Wales.