Browsed by
Author: timpvanveen

Bikepacking Mid Wales: 93 miles of gravel, forestry tracks and quiet roads

Bikepacking Mid Wales: 93 miles of gravel, forestry tracks and quiet roads

A long Easter weekend combined with perfect weather: the perfect opportunity to go outdoors. When I go out cycling I always look for the perfect mix between doing the miles and enjoying nature. This normally means I find myself either cursing at cars or pushing my bike through the bog at least once per trip. But not this time, this was 150 km of pure fun!

I was honestly very happy with how the route turned out. Nearly every bit was ridable even with rigid bike and quite some gear. There are bothies along the way to stay for the night, wild camping opportunities were plenty.  If you ever have three days to spare in Mid Wales; have a go at this one, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Day 1

To get the blood pumping, the first hill needs to be conquered even before you left Aberystwyth. You dip down into Penrhyn Coch where you could do the last shoppings of the day and soon start the big climb up to Nant Y Moch reservoir. Consider yourself lucky though, once you see the first lake you have reached the high plateau and won’t be doing any long climbs for a while.

Track from Nant y Moch to Glaslyn
Track from the north-east of Nant y Moch going north.

 

Barren moorland near Tarren Bwlch-gwyn
Barren moorland near Tarren Bwlch-gwyn

It won’t be until a place called Staylittle you hit the tarmac again. A nice quiet road will lead to Hafren forest, the source of both the Wye and Severn rivers. The track through this forest is of really good quality and before you know hit you hit the busy A 44 between Aberystwyth and Llangurig. Don’t worry, you will only need to cross it to reach the good forest road towards Nant Rhys bothy. Rest assured that the hardest day is over.

Glyndwr Way towards Staylittle
Glyndwr Way towards Staylittle

 

The Hafren forest offers perfect wild camping opportunities
The Hafren forest offers perfect wild camping opportunities

 

Day 2

A degraded ‘tarmac’ road makes for a thrilling downhill to Blaenycwm. You turn left and into the beautiful mountain road to Elan Valley. It is a tarmac road, but a quiet one.

Elan Valley

 

Elan valley is a collection of reservoirs that provide drinking water for Birmingham. Submerging Welsh villages to provide water for the English; Elan valley is still a bit controversial. It makes for nice cycling though, and the visitors centre is a perfect place to still your hunger.

From the Elan Valley the route goes up again. On a quiet tarmac road you ride to the highest reservoir: Claerwen. The road turns into gravel and simply makes for awesome cycling. Enjoy the nice views across the lake, before you know you’ll see the second bothy popping up from behind the hill.

Good progress on this pothole riddled gravel road.
Good progress on this pothole riddled gravel road along Claerwen reservoir.

 

Claerddu is probably one of the most luxurious bothies in the UK. It has running water (!) and the Elan Valley Trust supply a more than decent amount of firewood.

Day 3

A rollercoaster ride on a quiet tarmac road brings you past the Teifi Pools. The downhill into Ffair-Rhos is easy and the B-road to Pont-rhyd-y-groes should not give your – by now experienced – legs too much difficulty. The small café in Pont-rhyd-y-groes is a perfect last stop and a good place to reflect on your trip. The last bit to Aberystwyth will follow the flat Ystwyth cycle trail. 

 

Teifi Pools
Teifi Pools

 

The Inbred 26 – Surly ECR crossbred

The Inbred 26 – Surly ECR crossbred

Riding one bike; I really planned doing this. The Trek Multitrack I own can take big tyres as well as a drop bar and I was going to use it for my daily commute to work as well as the odd bike trip off road. But then a wild On One Inbred frame appeared on ebay, and I had to have it.

The frame set was a bargain, never ridden and half the price of a new set. I found a donor bike with a crack frame for cheap as well and planned on using the parts to build the Inbred to safe money. It was still going to be a cheap bike, at least I promised myself. But the donor wheels were worn, the On One fork didn’t take racks, the cranks were beyond saving, and the chain and cassette needed replacement. The brake levers and calipers, derailleurs and shifters, and seatpost I salvaged from the donor bike.

So I accidentally build a new bike, more or less. But it is a bike with which I am really happy. It fits well with my style of cycle-touring, which is halfway between pannier touring and bikepacking to remote places.

Frame: Inbred 26, dropout/derailleur version, size Large

Fork: Surly ECR (447 mm axle-to-crown / a2c)

Front wheel: SunRingle MTX 29, with 32 Sapim Race double butted spokes and a Shimano XT hub.

Rear wheel: SunRingle MTC 33, 36 Sapim Race double butted spokes and a Shimano Deore hub.

tyres: Maxis Arden 26 – 2.4

Crank: Sunrace M9 with square bottom bracket

Rear rack: Bontrager Disc

Front rack: Nitto M18

On One Inbred -Surly ECR fork
On One Inbred -Surly ECR fork

 

A cycle trip to China; the packing list

A cycle trip to China; the packing list

I have always had this idea, leaving home and cycling east. Just leaving everything behind and vanish. The vanishing part might not be very practical, for reasons of girlfriend and family, but cycling east and continue doing that for a half year is very possible. Heck, people have done crazier stuff on two wheels.

Plan is to start 13 March 2017, so I am in full swing preparation modus. This is my packing list:

Front
Eureka Moonshadow xp 1p tent: 1500
13l roll bag by Ortlieb: 218
Schwalbe Mondial outer tyre 651

Frame bag and fuel tank:
Tube 160
crankbrothers m19 biketool 175
leatherman 211
smartphone 231
nikon point and shoot 1 222
patchset 192
zipties 20x 17
brakepads 8x 57
brake cable, gear cable, extra bolts 137
crankextracter 116
freewheel tool 50
bb tool 53
missing link 2x 5
electric tape 10
budha 11
backup shifter 47
lube 56
pocket knife 97
msr whisperlite plus windscreen 416
pan holder 49
titanium spork 21
careplus waterfilter 72
bbb lock 58
eneloop aa batteries 8x 265
panasonic cc17 charger 106
chlorine drops 41
xtorm powerbank 131
nikon point and shoot 2 151
petzl headlight 75
phone and camera chargers and cables 179
6 back up spokes 45
sanitair 300
ehbo 200
docs 300

Back:
ortlieb drybag big 385
toiletpaper 50
light buff 37
wool hat 44
warm buff 73
patagonia torrentshell 330
rainpants 239
towel 73
pumpsack 52
thermarest neo xtherm 574
downjacket 345
sleepingbag liner 201
sleeping bag 790
icebreaker ls shirt 227
icebreaker ls shirt 184
thermopants 171
underwear 4x 266
socks 2x 150
pot and lid 319
waterpouch 3x 1l 71
cup 57

Frame:
full msr fuel bottle 773
Garmin 157
luggage straps 4x 122

Wearing
zip pants 293
icebreaker ls shirt 227
cyclig pants 144
belt 77
cycling jersey 155
Salomon XA Pro 880

total weight: 14.091 kg

With this set-up and packing list I am very happy. Just over 14 kilogram if I were to sit naked on my bike! Very pleased with that. What is more, I have fitted everything in roll bags and do not need panniers, this will improve my aerodynamics considerably!

Cycling to China

Midges and drizzle: bikepacking West Scotland

Midges and drizzle: bikepacking West Scotland

Some four months ago I decided it was time for a nice bikepacking trip again. I had some time in June and figured Scotland would offer the best mix of remoteness, scenery and culture.  Scotland is easy to reach with planes flying from the Netherlands to Glasgow, and in June temperatures would be just fine. Having already done a trip through the Highlands, I decided my route should focus more on the Scottish Islands instead. The last time I was in Scotland, one year ago, I found out light weight is bliss. I trimmed down my gear list to include the following items:

 

Handlebar bag (Ortlieb pd350 13l dry bag in a diy harness)

Tent (Eureka Moonshadow Solo xp)

Matress (ThermArest NeoAir Xtherm Large)

 

Saddle Bag (Ortlieb pd350 13l dry bag in a diy harness)

Sleeping bag (Cumulus LiteLine 400)

Down Jacket

Wool Jersey

Three underpants

One pair of socks

Two portions freeze dried food

 

Frame bag (made with love by girlfriend)

Three portions of freeze dried food

Parts (tyre patches, tie wraps, brake pads, bolts, lubricant)

Toiletries (biosoap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant)

Map

Stove (MSR Pocket Rocket)

Travel documents

Book (Herman Koch, The Diner, travel edition)

Tent poles

Tent stakes

Head lamp

Heat reflector

Chocolate bar

 

Front fork:

Pan )/(Optimus Terra Solo)

Gas Canister

Coffee and tea

1,5 L bottle water

Pump (Lezyne)

 

Stuffed away in pockets and on belt:

Camera

Bike tool

Leatherman

Energy bars,

Wallet

Phone

DSCN0170small

Coming from a pannier style of cycle touring, I was rather pleased with this set-up. I used the ortlieb dry bags because they are really cheap and durable, the harnesses I made myself, and the frame bag was made by my girlfriend. On the Gear page I will explain how. The following is a travel report I wrote during the trip.

 

Day 1: Glasgow Airport – Arran

[Ardrossan] It is quarter to three and the ferry from Ardrossan to Arran will leave in 30 minutes. I am pleased with this, as I am pretty weary. Spending the night at Amsterdam Airport took its toll, and taking a bike on a plane always is a hassle. In Paisley, near the airport, I buy some stuff at Summit Outdoor store, where I leave a bag with things I don’t need (flight bag and wrench for my pedals) The people I met so far were gentle, but the area I covered  appeared a bit run-down.

[Glen Rosa] The ferry to Arran was fun, passing a rusty lighthouse with the Island being obscured by the low clouds in the background. I feel a desire to call my dad, to tell him about what I experience. I sit down, I cry. The island is beautiful, green slopes reaching all the way to the sea. In Broddick I buy a bottle of beer which I drink in Glen Rosa, where I have my wild camp. It is pretty valley with a nice little river, the midges leave me alone, all is well.

DSCN0033small

 

Day 2: Arran – Loch Awe

[Jeeptrack towards Carron bothy] I left this morning from Glen Rosa. A local advised me not to do the coastal path past Laggan cottage, so I opt for the main road north instead. This turns out to be strenuous as it is, but very scenic.  I took the ferry to Claonaig (Kintyre), here the sun is shining and I say goodbye to the Australian-Canadian cycle tourist I met on the ferry. In a place called Skipness I buy a sandwich and coffee before I continue my route north to Tarbert, via the Kintyre Way, a hiking trail. The going is tough and there was some hike-a-bike involved until a decent track used by the Forestry brought me down again. This way I reached Tartbert, where I did some restocking. The road (A83) to Lochgilphead was quite dull, but from there I followed the Crinan Canal, very scenic, and best of all; flat. Via nice backroad I reached Kilmartin, and via another nice backroad I reached Loch Awe. I couldn’t reach Carron bothy, the path towards the shelter went up and my morale went down. I yielded when I reached the foot of yet another climb. I put up my tent by the side of road, got myself fed and washed and called it a day. The moment I tucked in I saw a little swarm of midges outside my tent, wishing me goodnight.

DSCN0058small

 

Day 3: Loch Awe – Oban

[Ford] I am just underway when an overwhelming feeling of pride hits me. I realize that for too long I wanted others to be proud of me, my father above all. Of course I knew that wasn’t right. Still the fact that he told me he was proud of me when I graduated from university not long ago and not long before he passed away, comforts me.

[Oban] Bottles of beer start at 650 ml here in Scotland. I am enjoying the last sun of the day on the quay of Oban and cannot help but feeling like an alcoholic. The midges of last night were present this morning, in full force.  I have never broke up camp so fast. I ate breakfast in a little village where I also readjusted my rear derailleur. With a bike that finally shifted smooth I continued past Loch Awe. At the head of the loch I took a forest track that lead me south of Loch Nant. The beautiful forest I crossed sometimes was marked by deforestation, but that seems unavoidable. The path deteriorated but remained doable with my 2.1 inch tyres. I cycled through a lovely glen and came out on the other end, just south of Oban. A sweeping descent brought me in the idyllic little town, where a waitress gave me the best beer I have ever tasted. The size of the bottle was of little concern to me, at that point.

DSCN0089small

DSCN0115small

 

Day 4: Oban – Fionnphort (Mull)

[Mull south of Fionnphort] Yesterday I opted for the Youth Hostel. I shared a room with two Frenchmen and German. The German was fat and old, and it took him a quarter of an hour to get in his bunkbed. I offered help and the kind sir responded with a friendly “Fuck You!”. The noise he produced can’t classify as snoring, his farts were even louder than his snoring but somehow couldn’t overpower his bodily odours. I wished I was in my tent, midges or not. Today is Friday and a local discouraged me to head east already, for there would be a lot of Glaswegians in the Loch Lomond area. Besides, I reckoned the islands would get more wind, driving the midges away. I decide to go to Mull today, and spend the night on that island. On the ferry I see a pretty girl with a bike and a Royal Mail vest. Of course she wore it for its fluorescent properties exclusively, but I couldn’t resist: “Royal Mail is pretty hard core these days!” We end up talking and when I tell her I want to camp on a quiet beach she tells me go to the South-Western tip of the Island. I follow her advice and cycle a beautiful but wet road to the end of the world. I put up my tent on a patch of grass overlooking my private lagoon, it is a magical place. It rains a little but still midges are motivated to do me harm, so I hide in my tent. Not long afterwards a little breeze comes up and I dare venture out. I bath myself in the sea and have a coffee. To be able to do this for myself gives me a great sense of control. Washed and fed I snug in.

DSCN0151small

Day 5: Fionnphort – Oban

[Fionnphort] After a breakfast in dry weather and with a perfect view, I pack my stuff. The weather is grey and predicts rain. I arrive in the little hamlet of Fionnphort just in time to see the bus leave. I do not wish to cycle my way back to the ferry, for that would mean doing the same road I did yesterday, though now with a headwind. I spend some time in the little tea room and speak with a local (“Global warming is fake, my son is a scientist and he says it is fake. The North is moving south and so is the ice. Kids killed my dog.”). Behind the counter is tired looking woman. She might have been the prettiest girl in her class, but now looks like past glory. Though the old Scottish locals do not seem to notice and flirt with her anyways.

[Oban youth hostel] It is half past one when the next bus arrives. The female bus driver allows me to but my bike in the baggage compartment. There are only two other persons in the bus and I take a seat close to the driver. She has lived her whole live in Scotland and knows a lot. When we pass a deforested patch of land she tells me the wood has been harvested about 10 years ago. To me it looks like yesterday, never guessed that such areas stay ugly for so long. I ask the bus driver a lot, I hope she doesn’t mind. Back in Oban it is still raining. I once again stay in the youth hostel, it cannot be worse than my last experience, I reckon. The goal Russia made against England has been received in Oban pubs with cheers of joy.

DSCN0169small

 

Day 6: Oban – Gorton bothy

[Gorton bothy] Today was a heavy day. Beautiful but heavy. From Oban I took Glen Lonan eastwards. Here I meet Peter. I know him from a Dutch cycle forum and I knew he was in Oban too. I cycle onwards, do a short section of busy A road and then head for a jeep track on the south side of Loch Etive. It is beautiful path often towering high above the lake. From the loch the track heads to Glen Kinglass. I check out Narrachan bothy, which isn’t more than a shed. It has a door and a roof, but no floor. It was still too early anyways. Past the lodge the track becomes obscure. I clearly see rather fresh tyre tracks in the mud but cycling here is impossible for me, I am a lesser god. For two hours I walk, but it is a pleasant walk. It is dry, and I have plenty of time and food. I decide to erect my tent but then the wind tones down and the midges started dancing out of pure joy. I push through to Gorton bothy, where I arrive at nine o’clock. Outside the wind is blowing again. But I am inside, and that is quite nice.

DSCN0178small

 

Day 7: Gorton bothy – Glasgow

[Glasgow youth hostel] I took it easy today. I left the Bothy at ten, after having had a nice breakfast by the fire.  The clouds hang low and produce a drizzle. After the jeep track I follow the  A road south. It is wet and busy, and the cars drive really fast. Solitude becomes loneliness and am not in a mood to cycle towards another bothy. In Tyndrum I opt for the train to Glasgow. In Glasgow it is the youth hostel again. I sleep well but decide to take a private room for my last night.

DSCN0204small

DSCN0202small

 

Day 8: Glasgow

[Glasgow youth hostel] In the park in Glasgow I see a man walking his dog. The dog has a stick, lays it on the ground and when his boss almost arrives the dog picks up his stick and walks away triumphant. Smart dog. Glasgow was nice, a bit of a mess but charming still. European city centres all look alike though, the big chains are everywhere. Tomorrow I’ll be flying back to the Netherlands after I collect a bike box from Dooley’s, a bike shop near the airport. I often experience high highs and low lows when I am on a trip alone, and this week was no exception. It has been a great trip and now I am looking forward going home.

DSCN0224small

 

 

Hi there

Hi there

I am Tim from Groningen, the Netherlands. I am passionate about cycling; traveling by bike, bike technique, and the role of the bike as a healthy means of transportation. On this website I will tell about my journeys, review my gear, and post bike news.

tim@timontyres.com