WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Week Two; Cherished Days

What a week this has been. It turned out to be rather intense... still nursing the knee a bit, but overall getting into shape. At first, I felt bad for not riding on Monday, but I certainly mad up for it over Tuesday through Friday with a daily average of almost 60 miles. Today, I am relishing the time off the bike. The big issue still looming is non-stop cycling!

Amber storm warnings for gale force winds and heavy rain as Storm Imogen hits kept me safely inside, warm and dry today. However, all this lousy weather is supposed to pass tonight so the remainder of the week should be good for a few rides. This leisure time has provided the opportunity to install new brake blocks, tyres, tubes, and generally give the ole' girl a thorough tune-up. (and she looks smashing, if I do say myself!)

Out with the Kingfishers today. I don't know why exactly, but I've been saying to myself that I should try to keep these days down to about 50 miles. It never works out... I always end up riding over 70 miles. And today was long and wet and I am wiped out.

Those crazy fellas... The Kingfishers - Caldicot, Oct. 2013

Graham came out with us today and bless you fella!... If John starts going crazy fast, I can always sit back with him and regroup. It's mighty impressive that at 83 he can still go out and ride 50 - 60 miles and I hope I can when I'm his age... but he's the only person I've ever cycled with that can pedal at one (1) mph up a hill.

We rode out to Blackrock; a place John has spoken of many times, but it was new to me. I failed miserably to take any photos (no excuses there...). The day started out lovely. It was chilly, but the sun was shining and looking out over the Severn Channel was beautiful. However, the skies darkened dramatically as we turned into Caldicot, so the decision was made to have lunch and head back early to avoid the oncoming storm.

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 09, 2016
Distance: 72.8 miles
Elevation: + 2740 / - 2763 ft
Ride Time: 07:05:58
Weather: Sun & Heavy Rain
Temperature: 5℃ / 41℉
We ate at a great little cafe in town packed with locals (insert name...) under threat of heavy black skies, but surprisingly enough when we left the skies opened, the sun came out and we had a wonderful little ride along the Gwent Levels back to Newport. But the rain was inevitable and it was at this point the weather decided to bite. It wasn't too bad coming around the sea front and up into Rogerstone, but just after we split up along the High Street heading toward Crosskeys, the rain came down in buckets.

I finished up pedaling home slowly through Sirhowy Parc and the wet streets of Blackwood in the dark and pelting rain. I am tired. I am sore. I am going to bed.

Riding yesterday in the cold and rain really zapped me of energy... always does. And today I had to ride down to the Newport Wetlands to meet with various folks on planning the "Newport Family Cycling Festival". Urgh.

Newport Wetlands - Aug. 2015

Up at 5:30 am, fumbling about the house, coffee, breakfast, check the bike, coffee, get dressed, check the weather, coffee, pack the bike... out the gate by 7:30, off to meet Mr. Dean Piper in Newbridge by 8. Urgh.

Along the cycle path at Newport Wetlands - Aug. 2015

It was overcast, but the sun seemed to be breaking through the clouds a bit. I met Dean and we set off on a relaxed ride down for our 10:30 meeting. After a few miles I began to get back into "the rhythm", but I was decidedly in the back for most of the ride... hollering ahead where to turn or stop or whatever. I'm still nursing the knee a bit... still feeling the day before as well. Urgh.

We made it down through Newport without much hassle from traffic. The sun came out, we followed NCN 4 and 47 for most of the way and once we passed over the A48, the roads were quiet. We passed several other cyclists out for a morning ride too. Part one of the day was quite lovely. (He said yawning...) The only drawback was that my left pedal began creaking incredibly bad... clearly something wrong with the bearings? Urgh.

Ride Report - Part 1
Ride Date: February 10, 2016
Distance: 21.7 miles
Elevation: + 639 / - 1378 ft
Ride Time: 01:52:47
Weather: Overcast to Sun
Temperature: 3℃ / 37℉
Okay, we had a great meeting. The event is really starting to come together. We met with the the "Communities First" representative who will be handling a group of kids and most importantly... Dean scored a major win with successfully acquiring two buses to transport the little kiddies back and forth. Woohoo! Great job Deano! More on this event to come!

So on a high note and with a lovely day ahead, we set off for home through Caerleon toward Cwmbran. Dean showed me a great new route and despite the very moderate climb, I was still nursing that infernal knee. After a week and a half, it's still bothering me some. It's not bad enough to prevent me from riding, but it's a nagging pain which I'm very concerned that I don't over-strain again. Right knee burns; left pedal pops and creaks... alternating annoyances.

Ride Report - Part 2
Ride Date: February 10, 2016
Distance: 33.2 miles
Elevation: + 2088 / - 1353 ft
Ride Time: 03:48:35
Weather: Glorious Sun
Temperature: 3℃ / 37℉
I get red marks too for not taking any photos along the ride home. At one point we could see all the way down the valley to the Transporter Bridge. A surprising and stunning view that I will make a point of visiting again. (That's two days; two missed photo ops.)

Once in Cwmbran we climbed onto NCN Route 492 to Pontypool. The day was getting late; we were both tired and it was close to rush hour as we started out Old Crumlin Road. Dean split off to climb his own personal monster while I suffered along toward Hafodyrynys, Crumlin, a few stiff climbs, a miserable attitude, a shower, and bed; creaking and popping up the stairs... feeling every inch old and worn out.

Up early, drag out the trailer, jump on the bike and down to Blackwood by 8:30. Pick up the donation tins from the post office, load the trailer, ride back up Coal Yard Rise to home, quick breakfast, fast coffee, throw off the trailer, oil the bike chain... back in the saddle again by 10! Man it's cold out, but I'm already sweating.

Looking down toward Gilwern from Clydach Gorge - Jan. 2013

Sometime during all of that I had time to pull the pedals off the Trek and swap 'em out to the Dawes. Half way up the path toward Hollybush I look down at my feet and say out loud; "man... these pedals are great!". I guess I'm feeling pretty good? I've lowered my seat by 1/2" and feeling no pain whatsoever in my knee. The Upper Sirhowy Valley is my oyster and this little quiet ride along NCN Route 467; my pearl. I'm heading toward Tredegar, Brynmawr, and snow.

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 11, 2016
Distance: 52.6 miles
Elevation: + 3646 / - 3646 ft
Ride Time: 05:40:40
Weather: Overcast
Temperature: 1℃ / 33℉
Thursday was my first "free" day. No schedules, No one to meet. I could ride as fast or as slow as I wanted. I could go wherever I like. Along with the saddle height adjustment, different pedals, and a long hot shower followed with Deep Heat on the knee the night before... by Thursday morning I was feeling better than I had in well over a week. Good news indeed.

So my thought was to have a big mileage day, but an easy day. Get myself up to Heads of the Valley, then drop down through Clydach Gorge to Llanfoist, hop on the canal path and slowly wander home. It proved to be a great decision. It was cold with some light wind, but what a good day. Just look at that big lazy loop on the map above! Big miles and big smiles.

And that was just how the day turned out to be. I was relaxed. I took my time. I didn't work my knee too hard. Overall, it was the best day I've had since the "Wentwood Massacre". I made it home happy. I felt great.

Day four on the bike this week. Gotta head down to Cardiff to join other Sustrans' Volunteers for the Annual Group Coordinators Meeting.

I felt good. I'd come through three big days on a positive note... something important for my moral. This day was to be a fairly easy set of rides down to Cardiff, out to Penarth and Sully, an afternoon sitting around a conference table, followed by a quiet ride home.

Sully Island - May, 2015

This day too, should have been broken into two separate rides. The mileage in the Ride Report below is misleading because this was not one continuous ride; there was a significant (3 hours) break between arriving for the meeting and when we eventually left for home. As I roughly recall, the numbers were: 24 miles to Cardiff Central, 8 miles to Sully and back to Penarth, (break for meeting), 30 miles home. However, the Garmin Rules. You can trust my maps and reports are directly downloaded into Ride With GPS from that lovely little and essential unit. HA!

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 12, 2016
Distance: 61.4 miles
Elevation: + 3017 / - 3073 ft
Ride Time: 06:28:05
Weather: Sun, Clouds
Temperature: 5℃ / 41℉
The ride down was straight-forward. I've ridden it 100 times at least... it's lovely heading down Pandy Road, through Bedwas and Caerphilly, then onto the Taff Trail into Cardiff. Easy peasy.

I then met up with the other fellas at the train station and we had a great ride out to Sully on NCN Route 88. The sun came out and it was quite scenic along the coast. AND guess what?!?!?! I missed yet another photo opportunity! AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!! I just cannot believe myself. Perfect time to get a shot of all the Group Coordinators together too. That's it. I have just given myself a red card for poor photography efforts for the week. Shameful behaviour.

Okay, great meeting. More to come on that. For the ride home I had the pleasure of Mr. Dean Piper joining me again. We left approximately at 3:30 from Penarth Pier (missed photo ops!) and cycled back across the Barrage to Cardiff Bay. Once into Cardiff proper, we scooted past the castle and joined the Taff Trail to Nantgarw, then the Celtic Trail (NCN Routes 8 & 4, respectively) up to Caerphilly.

At this point, we joined the road for the remainder of the ride; passing through Llanbradach, Ystrad Mynach, and Hengoed. Then across the lovely at night viaduct and into Pontllanfraith where we went our separate ways. Dean heading down and up, and up again, then further up and up to his house on top of the world.

I just toodled quietly through Blackwood and up the slow climb of Coal Yar Rise to Oakdale. It was a long day... and the end of a long week. I rode 249.5 miles, averaging just under 60 miles over four days. (You can see a monthly chart here: 2016 Monthly Details.)

So I as sit here on this sleepy grey Sunday morning, reflecting back; I've not been in the saddle for two days and these are indeed "Cherished Days". Soon, I will not have these long periods, relaxing on the sofa, legs stretched out typing casually about my nonsense.

In two weeks, I begin the crazy: 55 for 55, and I wonder if I'm ready for it?