Wales Fire Ride 2015
I took a days leave from work yesterday to join some of Wales Fire Crews on their epic 14 day Wales Fire Ride 2015. They are riding to every fire station in Wales which will see them covering over 1300 miles in two weeks, raising money for the Firefighters Charity and the Wales Air Ambulance.
A few of them visited the Sport & Exercise Science Department at the University for some lab testing and advice. I work there which is how I got involved and thought that it would be nice if some of the staff from the Sport & Exercise Science Department joined them on the ride for a bit. I had hoped to join them last weekend while they were visiting our local stations in Borth and Aberystwyth, but we were away for the weekend so couldn’t. They weren’t too far away yesterday though, riding from Newtown. I managed to get two other people from the department interested, so after an early start and a very wet drive I met Simon and Marco at Newtown fire station, along with the firemen who were riding today. Only a few of them are doing the entire ride, but others are joining them here and there when they can.
Grim…. That’s the only word that can describe the weather at 8am as we set off. It was dark, grey, and absolutely pouring with rain. It was, cold, it was wet and it was miserable as 9 of us headed out of Newtown en route to the first stop of the day at Llanidloes Fire Station. Just to reiterate, it was wet, it was cold and it was horrible! There wasn’t much talking going on, everyone just put their heads down and pushed on through the rain. We stopped at each station where we were presented with cups of tea, coffee and biscuits, and despite the weather, managed a smile for the camera too.
Simon, who was on the wrong bike for this sort of thing headed back from here whilst the rest of us headed off once more into the gloom towards Rhayader Fire Station. I got a bit split up from the group here, I was sure there was at least one person ahead of me, and the main group were behind me and I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether to chase the guy in front of me or wait up for the others, so ended up riding on my own in no mans land. At least the rain had stopped by now, although I wasn’t quite drying out yet and it was still pretty chilly. Once in Rhayader it was more coffee and biscuits, a quick photo and a quick visit to the bike shop and then we headed off again, this time towards Llandrindod Wells.
There was now the occasional glimpse of blue sky so things were looking up as we headed through the Welsh countryside. The Fire Station at Llandrindod Wells was a pretty impressive affair, It was huge and all very new and well appointed with a large ‘command centre’ too. It was made even more impressive by the comfy chairs and the huge haul of free food that one of the crew there had managed scrounge from the local supermarkets – It was all for charity after all, but you’ve never seen quite so many cakes, flapjacks, chocolate bars and crisps, along with pasties, sausage rolls and a few more cakes! Simon met us here having driven down from Newtown and he and Marco headed back to Aberystwyth in the car from here. I was staying on the bike for a bit more of the ride.
Suitably replenished it was time for another photo and to head off into what was now a brightening day with the next stop in Knighton. It had been fairly flat until now, but finally we were heading into some hills with a nice long drag up a hill from Crossgates to Bleddfa followed by a second climb. It was a lovely road to ride though even if there was a shower threatening. We then dropped into Knighton. I ended up out ahead of all the others having dropped them on the climbs so came into Knighton first, where I went the wrong way and had a tour of Knighton and an extra climb to do whilst trying to find the Fire Station.
I had originally planned to leave the guys here and head back over the hills to Newtown to get my car, but had discovered that Gary, who was driving the support van, was driving back to Newtown at the end of the day so changed my plans and decided to ride the entire day with them and get a lift back. After more tea, cakes and chocolate, and a few jelly babies I therefore remained with the riders as we left Knighton
From here it was up over the hill and down into Presteigne. This was quite a short stint, but that didn’t stop us getting yet more tea and cakes at the station. We were also met just outside of the town by a fire engine and a fire service Land Rover so had an escort through the town to the fire station with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing.
We then had another nice ride from Presteigne into England and then back into Wales for the next stop at Hay on Wye, complete with fire engine escort again. We went through Kington where there was a fire station but this wasn’t on the list of stops as it wasn’t in Wales. The Hay Festival was on in Hay-on-Wye so it was pretty busy but the sun was now shining and things were looking good. Charlie managed to get his cleats fixed at the bike shop and other mechanicals that had been a bit of an issue were ironed out. Another rider left us here as well, so were were now down to six (or was it five?) for the last couple of stints.
Next up was Talgarth where we were greeted with another buffet at the station. Pork pies, savoury eggs and cup cakes this time, in addition to all of the stuff still in the back of the van!
It was getting later and a bit chillier now though. Each stop takes at least 30 minutes, and we had now covered over 90 miles. Not far to go though with just the final ride to Builth Wells.
A couple of the guys were struggling a little by now with 8 days of riding in their legs. I sat on the front and helped them up over the hills as we headed into a fairly strong headwind. I was still feeling quite fresh though and raring to go, so decided to put the hammer down a little for the last 5 miles or so into Builth Wells, and was pleasantly surprised to find that despite having already ridden over 100 miles (albeit at a very easy pace), I still had plenty left in the tank for a really fast ride into town chasing another emergency service vehicle! The others rolled in a little later, but everyone was there before 7pm. After a final photo I jumped into the van with Gary for a drive back to Newtown and then into my car for the drive home, eventually getting in just after 9pm after a long but satisfying day out on the Wales Fire Ride.
And that was it, a day on the Wales Fire Ride was done, 106 miles, 9 fire stations and more tea and cake than you can imagine! I only wish I could join them for more days – maybe next year? It was good to be out riding with the fire-crews and raising money for two very worthwhile charities. If you want to help, then you can of course sponsor them by donating here – every little helps, and it could be you needing the fire brigade or air ambulance next.