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, 28 February 2016

Week Three; Getting Excited

It was a pretty relaxed week. The weather was mostly fine; a tad cold, but sunny and I had three respectable rides. I've had two days off the bike now and I'm feeling good.

Today was the first day since the "Wentwood Massacre" when my leg felt pretty good AND I was free to just ride. I set off in frosty but sunny weather with the plan to assess the time it should take me to complete the route in "ideal" conditions; to set the "Ride Standard".

Start Time; 9:00 am.
Section 01; Distance; 20 miles. Time to complete; 1 hour, 45 mins.

The first six miles are super easy, mostly downhill to Newbridge and then a straight shot over to Llanhilleth. This section is a great warm up because the next couple of miles are pretty tough. It's a 1.3 mile slog up to Swffryd (220 ft. +gain) with the last 100 yards at a brutal 16%.

A chilly morning along NCN Route 465 in Hafdrynys.

With that done, the next 12 miles are a breeze. It's an easy cruise into Pontypool, through town, a relaxed glide through the city parc, along the canal, then ripping it down the dual-carriageway to Little Mill, and zippity quick into Usk.

Break One; Time; 10:45 am - 11:00 am, Total Dist.; 20 mi., Travel Time; 1 hour, 45 mins.
Section 02; Distance; 14.5 mi. Time to complete; 1 hour, 30 mins.

Here, I usually pour a carafe of coffee in my system, stretch a bit, hit the can, and regroup. Heading out of Usk by 11:00 am and down to Caerleon is relaxed and fairly easy with some slight climbs over rolling hills. I take NCN Route 42 down to where it splits off to Wentwood and bear south toward Kemmy's Inferior along Bullmore Road. Once I reach the Celtic Manor golf course, the ride is halfway complete at 28 miles.

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 15, 2016
Distance: 55.8 miles
Elevation: + 2878 / - 2879 ft
Ride Time: 04:51:58
Weather: Cold & Sunny
Temperature: 3℃ / 37℉
The next 6 miles are a mixed bag of lovely traffic-free cycle paths (NCN Route 88), some annoying roads (Albany St. Lynn Road, and whatever you call the service roads along side the A4042, A4051 & B4591... ARRRRGGGHHH!), a bit of pedestrian dodging over and under catwalks and subways by the train & bus stations, followed by a glide along the lovely refurbished riverfront of Newport (NCN Route 47). Now at 34 miles; I generally stop for my second break down by the river bend and it's also where I plan to have lunch each day.

Break Two; Time; 12:30 pm - 12:45 pm, Total Dist.; 34.5 mi., Travel Time; 3 hours, 30 mins.
Section 03; Distance; 11 mi., Time to complete; 1 hour, 15 mins.

From here I then navigate alongside the busy A48 past the Transporter Bridge, down Docks Way, through scenic Duffryn, past Tredegar House, the monster A48 roundabout, and up Forge Road into Bassaleg (NCN Route 4). It's a crazy, busy, and hectic 5 miles... perhaps the hardest section of the entire route(?). It's definitely my least favourite.

Now at Bassaleg, the ride starts to wind down. I've got a couple of very slow, but mild climbs past the old aluminium works, a bit of busy traffic along the High Streets through Rogerstone, Pontymister, and Risca. But everything gets really quiet once I turn into the housing estates behind Crosskeys toward Waunfawr Parc. Now I can sit back and relax... the next 12 miles are easy-peasy.

I plan to glide into Sirhowy Parc for my third and last break by 2:00 pm. Again, this is a great place to stop, stretch my legs, hit the can, have a snack, and regroup for the last 10 miles home. The first 4 are through Sirhowy Parc itself and is wonderful. The ride is a quiet gentle climb and protected from wind and rain and perfect to prepare for the very last push.

Break Three; Time; 2:00 pm - 2:15, Total Dist.; 45.5 miles, Travel Time; 5 hours.
Section 04; Distance; 10.3 mi., Time to complete; 1 hour, 15 mins.

Leaving the cover of the parc, I begin the last six miles through Blackwood on the High Street... which can be very busy. I then cross the Chartist Bridge and up around the back of Oakdale following Coal Yard Rise; which is a slow slog climbing 240 feet (over one mile) up to Cherry Tree roundabout. Then the last mile and a half I simply cruise into Croespenmaen, through the housing estates and back lanes to home.

Finish Time: 3:15 pm., Total Distance: 55.8 miles Total Time; 6 hours, 15 mins.

And that's how I did it Monday and how I'd like to do it most days... the "Ride Standard" so to speak. My main concern at this point is how long it will take me on rainy days... days when I'm not feeling great. A big question, eh? So... my next test ride will be in the rain!

It was another early start heading down to Rogerstone to meet John & Graham for a ride with the Kingfishers. It was also another sunny, but cold morning. I knew it would be a longer ride, but it was to be a slower ride with a nice lunch break in at Raglan Castle.

Looking out over Llandenny from "Lord Raglan's Bugatti".

We joined Eric at the common in Caerleon and headed out our usual route across the Celtic Manor Golf Course and Bullmore Road to Usk. It was a beautiful morning and we were all excited to be riding in the sunshine. It's a slower ride heading north along this route which gives us all ample opportunity to play whatever "jaw music" crosses our minds. It's an easy 10 miles to Usk where we stopped, had some coffee and snacks; bananas, and Twix candy bars.

Graham, John, and Eric... lookin' grand!

Warmed up and recharged, we headed out one of my favourite routes which runs past the former property of Fitzroy John Somerset, aka: Lord Raglan. Well known for his collection of antique cars - especially a 1933 Bugatti Type 51, I can easily imagine Lord Raglan speeding along these lanes in his little red car. I call this section; "Lord Raglan's Bugatti". Quite simply, everyone should cycle this short 3.5 route above Llandenny.

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 16, 2016
Distance: 76.4 miles
Elevation: + 3834 / - 3835 ft
Ride Time: 07:37:05
Weather: Cold & Sunny
Temperature: 5℃ / 41℉
Brian met us at Raglan castle for lunch, then we all sauntered off for a lazy ride back to Caerleon much the same way we had come. Of course, we again had a brief stop in the square at Usk, but then sorted our different ways and headed off to home.

It was a great day overall because it was sunny. Everyone enjoyed the relaxed feel and without much effort; the miles just rolled under us. This is precisely why I enjoy riding with these fellas so much... there's no concern with our speed, or heart rate, or cadences, or any of the nonsense so many "new" cyclists focus on. For us, it's just the joy of being out on the quiet lanes, enjoying the countryside, and simply riding our bikes.

I set out on Friday with my bike trailer to distribute promotional flyers and donation tins to various retailers along my 55 for 55 Event Route. I felt totally relaxed and kinda lazy with the knowledge that I'd be going slow and stopping often.

It's not much to read about, but here's a quick overview of the places that are posting a flyer and/or are hosting a donation tin.

In Oakdale:
  • The Oakdale Library
  • Oakdale Chinese Take Away
  • Pearn's Pharmacy
  • Oakdale Surgery
  • The Co-operative Food
  • Gulf Petrol Station
  • The New Forge

  • In Croespenmaen;
  • Nisa

  • In Pontypool;
  • Torfaen Leisure Center
  • Pontymoile Boat Basin

  •   In Usk:
  • Green Flute Cafe
  • Greyhound Inn

  • In Caerleon:
  • Celtic Manor Gold Club

  • In Newport:
  • Fanny's Rest Stop Cafe

  • In Pontymister:
  • Commercial Inn

  • In Risca:
  • Martyn Ashfields

  • Okay... that's if for now. One week to go. I'll keep you posted.

    Cheers! ~ cm

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