Like a mini Welsh Ride Thing … Only colder!
For some riders El-an Back gave them the perfect excuse to get themselves off the sofa and out on their bikes, for others it simply signified the start of their bikepacking year. Saturday saw 38 riders arrive, drink tea, eat toast then head off into the hills. There was no fixed start time, riders were free to choose, so while some were away just after 10.00am others didn't leave until nearer 2.00pm.
photo © Clink
The goal for everyone was the same, ride to Pont Elan and back to the start by whatever route they devised with the help of some common grid references. 100km to 130km seemed to be about the average distance required to complete the challenge. Some wintery weather had been forecast for the weekend and it didn't fail to appear. A slightly damp start saw conditions improve/deteriorate throughout the first day depending on your point of view and where you planned to spend the night. Snow arrived by mid afternoon but was soon swept aside by clear skies, a cold wind and minus figure temperatures … ideal conditions.
photo © Slugwash
photo © Ian
Plotting and following a route seems like a pretty straightforward affair but this part of mid Wales shouldn't be underestimated. Even for the experienced navigator the area throws up some unexpected issues with maps showing one thing and the ground doing something entirely different! It's no surprise then, that there was lots of discussion between Sunday's returning riders involving all manner of boggy, soggy, steep and tussocky sections, many of which seemed to come as a complete surprise to the unfortunate travellers.
photo © Faddyvictor
I'm sure any pain felt by riders returning on Sunday would have been eased by the now customary cake and tea upon their return. The overnight temperatures allied with tricky navigation meant that some riders never saw Pont Elan, choosing instead Hafren and back or Llanidloes and back, not that it really matters. The simple satisfaction gained from of getting out there, braving the elements and making it back under your own steam is what it's really about.
If you're looking for a reason to get off the sofa next January, then join us on the 11th/12th when we'll be going somewhere else and hopefully back.
Read about Paul Errington's El-an Back >>>