Bangor to Aberystwyth Bike Ride
A group of staff at Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities decided to coordinate a bike ride between the two campuses. The idea was to create a social approach to the Alliance between the two Universities and as a contribution to the Health and Wellbeing programmes at each University. I of course couldn’t resist joining them so booked a days leave and set off into work early on Friday morning to meet the others.
It was certainly looking like a lovely day for a bike ride.
The plan was for a minibus to take the Aberystwyth contingent and our bikes up to Bangor where we would meet the Bangor contingent. We would all then ride back to Aberystwyth, the minibus would follow us and it would then take the Bangor contingent back.
I’m quite used to riding the distance which would be around 90 miles on my own, equipped with a couple of water bottles a few snacks, some spares and £5 for a coffee and cake. However, seeing as we had a minibus following us I had a bag with a few extra spares and some extra snacks as well. Plus a jacket and an extra layer in case the weather wasn’t quite as nice as forecast.
Things didn’t start well for me. I pulled up into the car park at work, got my bike out and pumped up the tyres as I normally do, but then the tube in the rear wheel split and immediately went flat. I had 10 minutes to spare so got to work taking the back wheel off and changing the flat, but as I tried to do so I snapped my tyre lever and therefore couldn’t get the tyre off. I had to put the wheel back on, get my bag and walk my bike to the minibus so that I could borrow some tyre levers from someone else. With tyre levers in hand (thanks Chris) and a little bit of time whilst waiting for the others to turn up I soon managed to put in a new tube and pump my tyres up so that I was ready for the ride. We all strapped our bikes to the trailer, jumped in the minibus and had a fairly uneventful drive to Bangor, chatting as we went. We stopped halfway at Coed y Brenin to collect Hannah who had driven there from Aber so that she could leave her car there as she only planned on cycling the first half of the route.
The weather was looking beautiful for a bike ride and things were looking good. Once at Bangor University, we met up with the others, and got our bikes off the trailer ready to go.
This is when I discovered that my front tyre was now flat. What’s going on here, I never get flats and now I’ve had two in one day already. Further inspection showed that during the drive up the front tyre had been rubbing on the trailer and it had rubbed right through the tyre and the tube. Luckily I had packed a spare tyre so once again set about changing it. My rear tyre had rubbed a little as well, but looked to be holding up. Tyres on other bikes had also rubbed, so a quick trip to a bike shop for some spares for them was organised and eventually we were ready to go. One tyre, a set of tyre lever and two tubes already used from my spares and I’d yet to even put my leg over my bike, but we were at last about to roll out on our bikes through Bangor and off en route to Aberystwyth.
I think there was 19 of us altogether and the plan was that the faster riders were going to take the slightly longer route with more climbs through Snowdonia whilst the others would take what was apparently an easier route. Not really knowing many of the riders I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be classed as a ‘faster rider’ but Jeff (who I did know and knew would be in the faster group) just said ‘I think we’ll be going this way’ to me. He obviously assumed I’d be in with the faster group so that’s where I went.
It soon transpired that he was probably correct. We split up just outside of Bangor and were soon climbing up towards Bethesda. I think there were around 10 people in the faster group, but we lost a few on this first climb. I stopped in Bethesda for a quick toilet break and we regrouped. Next up was a longer climb up the Nant Francon Pass to Llyn Ogwen. Once this climb started the front group was immediately down to three, just myself, Jeff(a very accomplished cyclist and Ironman from Aberystwyth) and another guy (also an accomplished cyclist and Ironman from Bangor). We were obviously talking about triathlon as we went and having a good time in the gorgeous weather. We were pushing on at a fair pace though. The other two were stronger than me so I wasn’t doing a huge amount of work at the front, but I put in the odd effort here and there and obviously took the odd friendly jibe about only doing ‘baby triathlons’, not Ironman distance ones.
The next big climb was up towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. I sat up at the front for this, taking the headwind but also meaning that I didn’t get dropped and was able to stick with the others once things levelled off. They were obviously taking it easy behind me on the climb but it did at least mean that we could stick together. We pushed on at a decent pace through Blaenau and on towards Coed y Brenin where we were stopping at the halfway point for lunch. The original plan had been to all regroup here, have lunch and then ride the second half to Aberystwyth. The guy from Bangor with us (sorry, I’ve forgotten his name) was planning to cycle back to Bangor though so he wanted to push on and get to Aberystwyth as soon as he could. The others knew this so were expecting him to head off at a fair pace on his own. Jeff decided to help him out by cycling to Aberystwyth with him and as I had gone off the front with them, I by default seemed to be doing the same. We had a quick coffee and cake and Coed y Brenin and then set off for the second half off the ride on roads more familiar to me.
I could have waited at Coed y Brenin for everyone else and had an easy ride back I guess, but I would then have had to sit there on my own for probably the best part of an hour waiting for them, so instead I decided to try to hang on to the wheels of these two ‘Ironmen’. That was easy for the descent into Dolgellau and the flat along the Dolgellau bypass, but I dropped off the back a bit on the climb up to Cross Foxes. I could see them ahead of me but just couldn’t get back on. I thought that maybe they’d wait for me at the Cross Foxes junction, they didn’t but I could still see them just up the road. They didn’t wait at the top of the Minfford Pass either and I lost sight of them on the descent to Tal y Llyn so was now on my own back to Aberystwyth. At least I could ease up and ride at my own pace rather than trying to hang on as best I could, or at least that’s what I thought because as I climbed up towards Corris, there they were at the top of the climb waiting for me. I don’t think they’d been there long so as I arrived we all rode off together and once again I had to pick up the pace to stay with them. I did manage to stay with them as we rode into Machynlleth and then on towards Aberystwyth. My legs were beginning to cramp now though and so were Jeff’s, but we kept up a good pace all the way back, arriving at the University at around 4pm after 90 mile on the bike that took just under 5 hours.
We had a quick drink and sat in the sunshine chatting before the Bangor guy started his ride back. Jeff and I had to wait for the minibus though as our bags were on it, but we managed to organised an advance car driven by Hannah who only rode to Coed y Brenin to bring our stuff, so we sat in the sun drinking coffee and chatting until that arrived.
Anna and Morgan were still around as well so popped up to say hello before heading off to get a bus to Scout Camp.. I joined them later in the car after getting my kit, driving home to get changed and then driving to Scout camp to meet them.
All in all it was a good day on the bikes. I met a few new people, had a decent workout and rode some new roads. Thanks to riding with other I got a few PB’s on certain Strava segments and we helped to forge the Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities Strategic Alliance too. They are hoping to plan another ride for later in the year as well, so hopefully I’ll be joining that. I doubt if the weather will be quite as kind to us as it was on Friday. but I’m sure it’ll still be a good day out.