Trans Cambrian Way ITT

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slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:48 pm

After a couple of years wait I thought I would have another crack at the Trans Cambrian Way double. This time it worked. Conditions have been very dry, and there were no wet sections at all on the whole route. All the peaty bog was dry and firm, and the sunken road to the Claerwen dam was dusty (there was a small river on it, but wet feet soon dried).

A fast out leg (11:34) indicated how dry and fast the trails are running. A very slow return leg (around 16 hours) indicated how hard this route is. 336km, 8300m of climbing, and total time (including a 45 minute sleep trailside) was 28:10. Roughly 24 hours moving time.

Will post a bit more later, but this route is brutal. If you are thinking of riding it, do it now - you will not often see it this dry (I saw a few people also doing the TCW - one looked like he was doing a W-E attempt and a couple were taking a week to tour it. A few other tyre tracks in the dust also).

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Scattamah
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Scattamah » Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:53 pm

Impressive going fella. Nice one.

Greetz

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Dave Barter
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Dave Barter » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:46 pm

Amazing ride Steve! And a record that i suspect will stand as long as Ian’s did.
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whitestone
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by whitestone » Fri Jul 20, 2018 6:28 pm

Well done Steve. :-bd

Didn't realise there was quite that much climbing in it, that's about 20% more than the YD300.
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slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Fri Jul 20, 2018 6:42 pm

Cheers all - if you have the climbing legs and it's dry a sub 24 hour is possible. I did the Knighton to Dovey leg in 11:34, so a return leg in 12 hours would be doable. The climbs on the Dovey to Knighton leg seem more brutal though (especially the Foel Fadian climb). Counting down the climbs was my main brain activity on the way back.

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Mike
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Mike » Fri Jul 20, 2018 7:58 pm

:-bd good man

Lazarus
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Lazarus » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:53 pm

If you are thinking of riding it, do it now
Doing it next Tuesday
The climbs on the Dovey to Knighton leg seem more brutal though (especially the Foel Fadian climb). Counting down the climbs was my main brain activity on the way back.
And doing it that way considerably more gently paced than you

Good effort and chapeau to you

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Ian
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Ian » Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:29 am

Well done Steve, and a great time knocking a fair bit off my time. I was sure it’d be beaten and pleased to see the title go to you :-bd

By way of a possible consolation for me, we’re you geared or singlespeed?

slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Sat Jul 21, 2018 11:10 am

Thanks Ian. I was going to tell you I rode it fixed, rigid with 24 inch wheels. What I actually rode was geared 29er carbon hardtail. Even with gears there was a fair amount of pushing on the way back. SS would have been a step too far I think (ok for 1 way, it would have destroyed me on the way back). I find SS hard on the hands strangely enough (but I have soft office worker hands).

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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by HUX » Sat Jul 21, 2018 2:07 pm

Top effort Steve. :-bd

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Mike
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Mike » Sat Jul 21, 2018 6:33 pm

Mate u looked pretty tired earlier, good to see ya though fella and thanks for the cake ;)

mje25
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by mje25 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:23 pm

Well done Steve, that is a top effort!

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Ian
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Ian » Sun Jul 22, 2018 2:35 pm

I had a look at my ride data on Strava for this (5 years ago now...!)

I was 12 hours out, and 13 hours back in terms of moving time. Steve’s moving time was 1 hour 1 minute less than mine, but total time some 4 hours 20 mins less. Makes me think, what did I do for 7 hours when I wasn’t riding the bike? :???:

So, in summary - only four hours of stopped in 28 hours is bloomn’ good going :-bd

slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:37 pm

I thought you stopped at Nant Rhys Ian?

On the way out I made sure I only stopped for gates and water. Little rules like only taking clothes on or off at gates when I had to stop anyway. I haven't looked but I hope my non riding time on the out leg was 45 mins or so. On the way back it fell apart somewhat. Lots of pushing up hills, a 1 hour stop trackside for a sleep, and I was losing track of where I was. Gates took longer to sort, and I was getting quite tired of the food I took (I carried everything).

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Ian
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Ian » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:41 pm

Yes, stopped at Nant Rhys, which I think accounted for about 2.5 hours, maybe 3 all in. No doubt a trailside sleep would be quicker (which I did on the Lakes 200).

slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:47 pm

Just for posterity, and in case anyone is interested, my write up (it's a bit factual, sorry).

Kit list:

Spare base layer, arm warmers, buff, waterproof (berghaus hyperlite smock)
Small first aid kit. Silver emergency blanket
Spare inner tube, pump, patches. Multitool and pliers. Small box of chain links, brake pads, odds and sods
Gps Edge1030 and battery pack
Exposure Joystick and helmet mount

21 energy bars. Malt loaf, 6 chocolate snack bars, 400g bag of dried fruit. 4 gels

2 litres water in a Camelbak and a spare empty 500mL bottle on the bike.

Weather
20-24 degC daytime and 13 degC overnight. Very dry and no wind.

I started from Knighton at 4.52 am on the morning of Thurs 19th July, having driven up the previous night and slept in the station carpark. My intention was to take around 12-12.5 hours to Dovey Junction, and then a similar time to return. Water was the biggest hurdle - with the section from Cwmystwyth campsite to Dovey and back approx 120km with no taps I could remember. Hence the spare bottle - leave it empty, then fill it at the campsite.

The first few hours were uneventful, I got into Rhayader after about 3.5 hours. A quick phone call home and an energy bar saw me on my way to the Elan valley. I was aiming to eat 1 bar per hour, and suffer the consequences tomorrow. The trails were dry and fast and all the boggy bits from previous rides were bone dry. Line choice didn't matter as the chances of a wheel swallowing peatbog hole were tiny, so it was a case of hammering through all the rough bits and no worries about wet feet. The sunken road towards Claerwen was drier than I had ever seen it, just a short stream that took a 1 minute detour to get round. At the end of the Claerwen reservoir I saw a guy on a gravel bike coming the other way - we said hello and I guessed he was doing W-E in a day as we were both about halfway. He was quite loaded up though so he may have been on his 2nd day. The next few hours were quite uneventful. Head down, ride fast and keep eating and drinking. At Davids Well the old Reliant Robin wreck had gone. Shame - that was a milestone. Then into the woods the forest had been felled - it looks completely different to how I remembered it. A quick look back so I would remember it on the return leg......

Coming down towards Pont-rhyd-groes I needed water - luckily a house with scaffolding up had a tap on the outside so I took advantage and carried on, into the woods withe the orange house. Signs of life but never any people! A top up in Cwmystwyth campsite and up and over the mountain road. Through Hafren (energy bars were starting to have an effect now, so a quick visit), then down to Staylittle and up over to Glaslyn and down the Foel Fadian descent (I was not going to enjoy this on the way back). With cooked brakes and pumped arms it was onto the old Mach trails, where I passed 2 fellas on their way to Dovey Junction having taken 3 days to get here. Just shy of Dovey Junction i needed water again so stopped at a house where a guy was painting his gate - he let me fill up from his outside tap, and in conversation I told him what I was doing. He couldn't quite grasp the concept, despite being a mountainbiker (but nothing like that!!).

Dovey Junction was a mile or so later, so with 11:34 on the clock, I did the photos, ate food, phoned home and oiled the chain etc, and around 15 mins later hit the return leg. I was in high spirits, having not even considered failure as an option, and felt good, had loads of food, enough water, lights and it was still warm and dry.

The first climb on the return leg was about 5 miles in, up a forest track that was loose, and I was off and pushing. The 2 fellas I saw earlier came past, then it was up to Foel Fadian. That hill made me swear. It is so steep, the hot evening sun was on my back, I was suffering and each push was a series of count the steps, look at the view, count the steps, look at the view. It took an hour to climb the full 500m, as opposed to 14 minutes the other way. A little way after Glaslyn I met a couple on bikes pusing up from the little stream. They were doing the TCW East to West, but taking all week. They also struggled to grasp the concept of the Double, and were stopping the night at Glaslyn before a final descent to Dovey in the morning. They looked like they were really enjoying themselves, and it took me a few miles of pondering to consider whether I was enjoying my ride like they were enjoying theirs... (Still no conclusion to that one). Throug Hafren, then a push up into Esgair Ychion. I didn't recognise the turnoff to Nant Rhys - maybe I was losing it, but then a long push up over the mountain road again and dropping down to Cwmystwyth. It got dark on this descent, so this must have been about 10.30 - 11.00, so approx 18 hours in. I was slowing down a lot, and getting tired, in fact very tired, both mentally and physically. I was eating a drinking, and a water refill at the campsite was a godsend for my morale. Up into the woods, then past the house with the scaffolding, and I needed a rest. At 244km, 20 hours in I stopped for 45 mins. Wrapped in my foil blanket I was quite warm just lying on the grass, and with my alarm set for 30 minutes I dozed off. When it went off I hit snooze (habit) and watched the stars for a few minutes, with an amazing clear sky it was a truly amazing view. When the satellite hit 2:00 pn the imaginary clock I got up, packed up and was back riding almost exactly 60 minutes after I stopped.

This next section was quite tough as I was very disorientated - there was a lot of moisture in the air, so my headtorch was glaring back at me and I couldn't really work out where I was or go very fast as I couldn't see. But when the little "bothy" came into view it all made sense. (This isn't a bothy, but a small 1 room cottage that is being done up over many years. It would be fantastic as a bothy but I suspect it would soon get abused - it is locked and secure so not for the likes of us!). A fairly quick descent down to the road to Claerwen and Claerddu and I was awake again and back to riding without bouncing off the sides of ruts. Around Claerwen was quite slow as the moisture in the air prevented a clear view of the track, but it was all getting close now. I was counting down the km, the hours, the minutes, calculating and recalculating to show I was nearer the end than I was in order to motivate myself. Still, at the end of Claerwen at the dam and I only had 60km to go, and about 5 hours riding - this was nothing. A couple of small hills and this ride was mine!! In reality it was lots of big hills. At the farm under Claerwen dam the dog was loose, and noisy, so a small detour and across the bridge to the sunken road - I am su rprised the farmer didn't come out with his shotgun with a mad barking dog and a strange headtorch bobbing around in his barns....

Back along the sunken road, and then up Gro Hill (this isn't called Puke Hill for nothing on Strava), thendown to the Elan Valley where I stopped at the vistor centre tap for water. It was light now (just), and I was still riding. This was great progres, as it was only 4 hours from Rhayader. Into Rhayader - only a couple of people out and about at stupid o clock, then back up the lanes towards Knighton. I had to take a 10 minutes breather here as my head was losing focus, but a few minutes off the bike, eating more bars, and drinking allowed me to carry on. Up and over more hills, with a lot of pushing now, and through places I only vaguely recognised (even though they should have been obvious. Bwlch-y-Sarnau got me lost and confused. I didn't recognise the track in or the track out, so a couple of minutes of faffing here. Then the mahoosive climb out of Llanbadarn Fynydd. Didn't enjoy that one bit, then a push across the open hill up to Newhouse Hill. On the home straight now, so with spirits lifted, no food left, draining my last bits of water I flew back across Glyndwrs Way. This bit went on for ever, but they were good trails even if they were covered in sheep poo and kamikazi sheep. The last few km to Knighton were ridden in a daze. 28 hours. That's a big ride by anyone's standards. 336 km and 8300m of climbing. That's like riding up Everest.

A quick photo at Knighton station, and making sure I pressed "save" on the GPS, then a wash and wind down in the van. I was pleased with that. 4 Hours faster than Ian's time. 2 hours slower than my target (which looked very possible based on the outward leg), but it is a hard ride. I am sure W-E is harder than E-W as the hills just seem tougher. 14000 calories burnt according to my GPS, and I have no idea how many consumed, however I can confirm that Thursdays diet was not a good one for all sorts of reasons!

My bike went well - a geared 29er hardtail with 30T on the front and 11-40 on the back. Maxxis Ikons front and back with about 25psi (I had to let some air out as they were too hard to start with and I was pinging off rocks etc). All the gear went in a small Wildcat Ocelot on the frame, and my Camelbak. Plus lots of food in pockets,that was accessible.

This is a fantastic route - I have always enjoyed it since I first rode it in July 2010 when I was blown away by the remoteness and beauty of mid Wales. To my knowledge only John Houlihan had ridden it in one go before then, and it was a proper adventure (in the sense that I had no idea how it would end up). This time round there was no adventure - I knew the route, knew I would complete it, had no options of sleeping so the only uncertainty was the time it would take. How things change - it is now a popular route, and I love the fact that it attracts all types, from the people taking a week to ride one way, to those doing it all in a day. The terrain evolves as well. Some of the yellow painted arrows are still there 10 years later, but they are too few to navigate by. The swamps have been drained and surfaced, the bad paths are now good paths, and the vague sections are now well marked either with signs or paths.

Thanks for reading if you got this far!!

Landslide
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Landslide » Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:31 am

Nice write up, enjoyed that.

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Mart
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Mart » Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:49 am

always thought that the Orange house was a strange one - well done, that’s a great ride :-bd
Last edited by Mart on Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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sean_iow
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by sean_iow » Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:51 am

I enjoyed reading that. You make it sound so much fun I'll have to add it to my bucket list :smile:
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whitestone
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by whitestone » Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:07 am

I remember that drop down to Llanbadarn Fynydd thinking that it would be a hell of a climb back.

As for 21 energy bars. Well, I'm just glad I wasn't in the vicinity! :shock:
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ssnowman
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by ssnowman » Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:55 am

Brilliant write-up. Don't apologise for it being factual, it's perfect bloke reading!

That's one on my to-do list. I always fancied W-E, but I'm not so sure now.
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Lazarus
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Lazarus » Tue Jul 31, 2018 5:11 pm

I just rode it W-E and thought it seemed easier than the reverse way - only way I have done it mind- from riding it
Personally I would need some persuasion to ride the broken road upwards to the damn rather than the road the other side of the river. I may need to look at my stop being soft sticker for motivation

Certainly dont be put off by this choice and the best plus is you are riding back to your own car so you dont have to stick to an agenda for a train. Strava seems to suggest it is much much less common to do it this way.
I cannot imagine doing it twice in one day so respect for that

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Richard G
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by Richard G » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:39 pm

I've had a bit of a look over the strava file and I'm pretty damn certain you could have done that a good chunk faster with better pacing / patience.

I'm also wondering if it might actually be better to start in the dark whilst you're fresh, and then get through in full light when you're tired. But then I might be giving away my tactics a bit there... :lol:

Either way, hell of a job that man. I sure as hell wont be trying to beat it unless we get another random heatwave drying everything up for it! :lol:

slarge
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Re: Trans Cambrian Way ITT

Post by slarge » Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:12 pm

You're right Richard, 2 hours would be easy to take off ( no sleeping and fewer breaks), then more big training rides (I didn't do any real prep other than riding lots - commuting etc) could take another hour off. Sub24 is possible, but would take a lot of prep and a bit of luck and dry conditions. An elite level rider could easily go under 24 hours I think. As with any big ride, the head has got to be in it and the body will follow!

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