Stroud - Mach n back

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qwerty
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Stroud - Mach n back

Post by qwerty » Wed Aug 28, 2019 11:33 am

I've just signed up to the forum here & thought i'd post this write up of a trip i did a couple of weeks back:

So, scratching the bike packing itch has been a while coming for me, this trips been brewing for a while, its my first. I wanted it to be a ride from my doorstep in Stroud & into Wales. I wanted it to be a challenge but achievable.

I wanted an N+1 on a budget (£1000 for bike & all the kit) for this and other trips, I was initially looking for a small Inbred 29er to run rigid with 2.4” tyres but ended up with a small Surly Krampus from the STW classifieds. It was running i21 rims and I had always fancied the look of those 3” tired Krampus when they came out, so I broke the bike down, sold some bits on, raided my parts bin & brought some i40 rims & 3” rubber for it. I built the wheels using the Halo hubs the bike came with, opted for an On One Geoff bar, 2x gearing with 24/34 front & 11/36 rear, fitted a load of accessory mounts and cages, botched some brakes and was sorted:

ImageOnly a mother could love it. by martinddd, on Flickr

I used it along the canal locally, I took it on one trail ride & that immediately showed that those bit wheels slow down on inclines, and that it was in fact rather hefty.

I’ve had a previous bad weather experience where I didn’t have the correct gear for the weather, so a shopping spree was required as I don’t own any proper outdoors kit. I used a number out outlet stores & ended up with my bigger purchases of: Montane Prism insulated jacket, Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent, Gore C3 jacket, Madison Zenith zip off trousers / shorts, AlpKit Skye High 500 sleeping bag & Berghaus Peak Pro insulated mat, Sawyer water filter, Belkin 15000 powerpack.

I’d been on the look out for routes, those of interest were:
http://www.aidanharding.com/ewe/
https://katherinebikes.com/wales-off-ro ... rough-way/
https://www.theracingcollective.com/gbduro.html#

i figured I could ride from home & pick up a route from Aust, head on as far as I wanted and return via another route. My final route & direction wasn’t decided until the day before, I opted for: EWE from Aust – Machynlleth, GBDuro from Machynlleth – Bala, and then I’d reverse Katherines route from Bala – Aust.

Bar resupply points and a profile of the route, I didn’t research the route, I just down loaded the files onto my Etrex.

ImageUppy downy by martinddd, on Flickr

I was aware of biting off more than I could chew, this became my grounding thought process:
“Enjoy it, don’t lose sight of how lucky you are to be out there and above all, manage your expectations. If we treat all things as a pass or fail test we can torture ourselves over the outcome, but if we consider it more as an experiment with an uncertain outcome from the start then at least we always get an answer.” M.H.
I was nervous, I had no safety blanket as my partner & son were overseas, I had no friends to come & get me, no family available. I didn’t have a Spot Tracker. I did sign up for Strava Beacon which I pinged to my partner but failed to make a plan of what to do if I don’t move. I did however have a whistle, a tent & bag, always had some just in case noodles. If able I could hunka down dry & warm for a while and wait it out.

Being a small frame & having no frame bag, a lot of my weight was on the front, I was a bit concerned about this & could for see some over the bars moments, but it was unfounded. It may have helped having no benchmark.

ImageLoaded and all set to go. by martinddd, on Flickr

Day one was an early start, good weather forecast with rain tomorrow.

ImageAust & westward bound. by martinddd, on Flickr

The first 100km were on the road, I did have a little panic thinking that in my GPX file faffing I’d maybe hit the “follow roads” button, but after Abergavenny the tarmac broke and the contours really came, tightly packed contours soon became the norm:

ImageFirst off road contours. by martinddd, on Flickr

ImageGroovy by martinddd, on Flickr

I camped out up high after Talybont On Usk:

ImageOutside of Talybont On Usk by martinddd, on Flickr

I loved the simplicity of being high up, on trails you could see off into the distance, just riding, eating & drinking. I knew that getting food in was a priority, along with water & I tried to vary my intake: sweet, savoury, sandwiches, nuts, fruit etc.

ImageSunrise by martinddd, on Flickr

Its amazing how dry sheep poo just doesn’t stick. However, when wet, and boy did it rain on day two, it sticks like the proverbial. And there a lot of sheep out there all pooping.

ImagePoo bottle by martinddd, on Flickr

I was glad of my front mud guard & gore tex rain kit. I had to knock on a farmers door at one point & ask to use their car port for shelter as I put on more under layers. It was warm though, not cold, but if I stopped my heat was lost pretty quickly.

ImageBrecon Beacons National Park, when the tarmac ends the adventure begins by martinddd, on Flickr

Being soaked, and heading into Llanwrtyd Wells I opted for a night under a roof at Stonecroft Lodge Backpackers, probably the most bike accommodating place I’ve ever stayed, the land lady said “just pop your bike in the lounge” – I had to actually insist I hosed all the sheep poo off it first!

Neuadd Arms Hotel curry went down a treat.

ImageNeuadd Arms hits the spot. by martinddd, on Flickr

ImageForest roads. by martinddd, on Flickr

The EWE from Llanwrtyd Wells was mean to me, some of the trail were overgrown or had disappeared. One bridalway sign had clearly been recently replaced by the county council, but it pointed into wilderness. On one section of trail, I had to leave my bike behind in order to cut out the thick brambles that criss crossed the trail with my Opinel before returning to my bike to drag it through thick gorse, up a steep rut of a stepped trail. This was slow going!

ImageBushwacking. by martinddd, on Flickr

Then I hit a few bits of the most stinky bog that ate my bike up.

ImageBog stench by martinddd, on Flickr

Then my King Cage USB broke:

ImageOh dear by martinddd, on Flickr
ImageSecret stash by martinddd, on Flickr

ImageSorted by martinddd, on Flickr

These events all slowed down progress.

ImageClaerwen dam. by martinddd, on Flickr

The section of gravel track after Claerwen reservoir really lifted my spirits, as did the size of the reservoir, I loved it & the bike ate up the track.

The next camp spot was superb, up high, no wind or midges, no moon, silent sheep, perfect.

ImagePukka by martinddd, on Flickr
ImageMorning view by martinddd, on Flickr

Putting on damp kit had been a worry of mine, it wasn’t cold, I managed to air it a bit, so it wasn’t too bad. For night time I’d packed cotton boxers & t shirt and I always treated all cracks & crevasses with athletes foot talc before bed. I probably didn’t clean my teeth as often as I should have & I was beginning to smell a bit.

My front fork mounted bag bodge with the cable ties was now becoming a liability, so I headed into a sunny Machynlleth for a more robust solution.

ImageMachynlleth bathed in sunshine. by martinddd, on Flickr

ImageReturn To Base. by martinddd, on Flickr

Breakfast first though:

ImageMach bap. by martinddd, on Flickr

I should have just used these in the first place, much stronger and the cage plate is in full contact with the fork leg:

ImageReinforced. by martinddd, on Flickr

I had already decided that Machynlleth would be my turning point, Bala will have to wait for another day, so I started my return. It wasn’t failure, just managing expectations & not treating my trip as a pass of fail. I was content with my choice, after all I wasn’t even sure about my trips final outcome.

ImageGraaaavel. by martinddd, on Flickr

I struggled to find a “nice” spot for the next night, I thought about riding into the dark, but didn’t want to pitch my tent in the dark, I settled on this midge infested, humid spot in the end.

ImageJust up from Llyn Brianne by martinddd, on Flickr

Day five, turned out to be my final day. I set off from just before Llanwrtyd Wells, the weather was dry & sunny
ImageBeautiful. by martinddd, on Flickr

I got baked proper ascending The Gap

ImageCribyn by martinddd, on Flickr

On the descent, my troublesome small seat pack finally wore through. My small frame & 29+ tyres clearly didn’t offer enough tyre clearance. I took most of the kit out & put it into my bum bag (I should have done this days ago) and carried on the descent without any more dreaded tyre rub. A rear rack is the solution I think, but ones for 3” tyres are hard to come by & pricey.

ImagePontsticill reservoir. by martinddd, on Flickr

The section after the work of art that is Pontsticill reservoir, was bizarre, an old quarry, set high up, huge, disused & a bit earie. A perfect rave spot.

The more westwards I got the opportunity for camping out high diminished, I though I’d just keep riding and sleep rough somewhere when tired, I kept going and made it home at 02:30.
Garmin says:

ImageFinal Count by martinddd, on Flickr

Image29" x 3" by martinddd, on Flickr

Daily Stats:
Day1: 103 miles / 10222’ / 11h44m
Day2: 56 miles / 6293’ / 8h32m
Day3: 60 miles / 8142’ / 9h33m
Day4: 64 miles / 8309’ / 9h03m
Day5: 120miles / 10330’ / 14h19
Total: 403miles / 43296’
Washes: 1

Final thoughts:
All in a fantastic baptism into the world of bike packing, I enjoyed the weather, I didn’t mind the rain but if it was solid I’d have reassessed my options. The 29”x3” tyres rolled really well if I could keep it on the 34t chainring, but with my little engine as the powerhouse any incline of gradient or length meant dropping into granny & winching. Those huge tyres are dead comfy, and technical ascending like the Gap, and smoothing out rough fire road rocks was their strong point. Thank god for tubeless as all that gorse would have been so much worse. I wasn’t keen on the tent, a bit faffy to set up right & a low ceiling overhead, I might sell it on & try another. My 3 season bag was too warm, but I could only buy one & I made my choice. My poor Porcelain Rocket seat pack despite setting off with an anti sag Voile strap it just didn’t have the space it needed on the rough stuff, it cost me a lot of time faffing with it, its now a bit holey, definitely a rack needed for next time. On One Geoff bars were fantastic, I loved the multitude of hand positions & the ability to just strap a dry bag to their underside without the need for a harness. My arse suffered badly, it took 3 days to figure I needed my saddle further forwards, but by then the damage was done, thank god for Charlies bum butter is all I can say. I’m rather amazed my legs did what they did, I wonder what else they can do, but I think in these things its equally about mind. Voile straps are simply fantastic. I faffed a LOT, but that’s ok. My bike weighed a lot, a lot of fire road gates were locked and needed the bike lifting over them, it was a feat to do it especially as some are rather high. The Krampus took the whole added weight in its stride, it didn’t bat an eyelid, i’d like to take it unladen to the Lakes / Gap and try it there. If I were to do similar again I may look at 2.5 / 2.6 tyres, maybe. Really happy with my clothing purchased beforehand, they worked a treat. I absolutely loved the remote areas, particularly when up high & loved seeing the trail disappear on wards & upwards. I loved the simplicity of the daily challenge of just riding, navigating, eating, searching for camp spots. I like those big open spaces.
I got home at 02:30, I was still buzzing the next day until about 16:00 when fatigue hit me, more food sorted that (and beer), I’m having a few days resting now & allowing my butt chafing to recover.

Wagon Wheels are great.

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whitestone
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by whitestone » Wed Aug 28, 2019 11:52 am

Nice one :-bd You deserved a Wagon Wheel (or two) for that :lol:

It's always a learning process, finding out what works for you and what doesn't, kit that works, etc. Probably one trip in five I'll think "I got that right" but sometimes the "getting it wrong" bits lead to more fun :wink:
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benp1
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by benp1 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:00 pm

Looks like a good trip with lots of lessons learned

Good job, thanks for sharing

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RIP
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by RIP » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:08 pm

Aye, thanks for sharing Qwerty, always nice to hear from a new sufferer :smile: . Nice to hear you didn't research too much - much more fun just to let it happen. Some good bodging going on too :smile: . Beware sheep poo on water bottles - nobody else agrees with me but I keep mine in a stem cell up top :wink: . Glad those 'Welsh Bridleways' (ie non-existent) wooed you with their charms. Not sure about the trip's outcome? Lots of bonus points there :-bd . Look forward to hearing about the next outing. See if the Bivvy A Month thread appeals - trouble is, once you pop you just can't stop...
"There comes a time in your life Ponsonby, when you think: 'My God, I'm two-thirds of the way to the grave and what have I done?" - RIP

"It is in the petty details, not in the great results, that the interest of existence lies" - JKJ

benconnolli
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by benconnolli » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:30 pm

Very strong first trip! Plenty of good bits in that write up. Solid commitment to take that on and glad you were so pleased with how it went. As others have mentioned, stuff is rarely perfect so those blagging skills put you in a solid position. After years I am still taking seemingly obvious lessons away from nearly every trip, but all in good spirit.

I am just down the road in Chalford so let us know if you are keen for an evening roll around the 'wolds or another escape to Wales or even a beer down Stroud brewery? I have just booked my ticket to that event you mentioned in another post. Ridden across that bridge a few times now and it always feels so cheeky.

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BigdummySteve
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by BigdummySteve » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:20 pm

RIP wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:08 pm
Beware sheep poo on water bottles - nobody else agrees with me but I keep mine in a stem cell up top :wink:
Puts hand up......I DO!
If you’d seen the state of me after the SDW :O)
Mine is safely in a stem cell, I use the disposable water bottles (many times) with the sports cap which covers the spout.

It really knocked me for six, best part of two weeks before I was over it. I’m also more careful when eating when out on the bike now, I think Mike was pretty I’ll a while back as well.
Last edited by BigdummySteve on Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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They’re widening the motorway”-HMHB

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RIP
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by RIP » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:33 pm

Was that the cause in the end then d'you reckon? Did sound very unpleasant experience :sad: .
"There comes a time in your life Ponsonby, when you think: 'My God, I'm two-thirds of the way to the grave and what have I done?" - RIP

"It is in the petty details, not in the great results, that the interest of existence lies" - JKJ

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BigdummySteve
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by BigdummySteve » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:48 pm

Obviously I can’t say for certain, just as likely the be something on my hands etc but I’d not take the chance again. It’s easy to be flippant about hygiene when you’re in full on tramp mode.
We're all individuals...except me

“Y’all, think on
While you’re capturing the zeitgeist
They’re widening the motorway”-HMHB

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Borderer
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Re: Stroud - Mach n back

Post by Borderer » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:55 pm

Great to see someone just getting out there and doing it. The kit you can refine later, it's more important that you have those memories tucked away forever now.

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