Off to Wales

18 April 2014

Sandbach – Chester

While I was home, I got my bike repainted, and so had the fun of taking it apart and putting it back together again. While doing so I re-did the cabling and changed some other parts. It was not a complete disaster, but it wasn’t far off. My mum and I would do one part of putting the bike together and then hit a stumbling block that needed a side task and delay to continue. From accidentally putting my chainring on the wrong side, because I wasn’t paying any attention, and so needing to get a tool to remove the crank, to having to bake parts that had rusted so the screws could come out, and not being able to find a small piece of plastic part that routes my gear cable in the shifter.

I’d arranged to go on a short tour with Gaz, a school friend who is thinking of joining me in July/August for 4-5 weeks, and I figured that the Wednesday before I left would give me plenty of time to have my bike ready. It didn’t. It wasn’t until the Sunday night that I’d noticed the lack of that small plastic part, which while I’d ordered hadn’t arrived by the time Gaz turned up so I’d be riding with out functional gear cables. I was still able to change gear, but it involved getting off the bike and pulling the cable directly at the hub.

While the cable stopper didn’t arrive, my new saddle did. I’d been in touch with Jon since back in January when I’d seen pictures of his saddle online and I’d been intrigued. It’s a very different looking saddle, as proved by the reaction of not only my mum, which involved a lot of laughing, and everyone else that’s seen it. It’s called the Manta MS-9, the nine referring to the number of elements that make it up. The elements act like a wave and so while you pedal they go up and down supporting not only your posterior but also a little bit of your upper thigh. The design is meant to remove any of the pressure that is associated with cycling, and I look forward to seeing how it goes. It’s also meant to be good off-road, and there’s good chunks of that coming up.

Gaz turned up while I was working on getting my saddle positioned right. He’d only owned a bike for 2 weeks, and so was a little sore from riding the 10km from his place to mine. With my new Manta saddle, my old Selle Anatomica was going spare and we set it up on Gaz’s bike. That was followed by going through his backpack to put his things in C’s panniers that he’d be borrowing. While sipping on a couple of beers we got rid of about half of his weight after I persuaded him that he really didn’t need 3 pairs of footwear, or 5 pairs of legwear for a 3 day, 2 night trip.

For me it was a short day, with only 50km separating us from Chester and our Warmshowers host, but Gaz, having just ridden 10km, had never ridden more than 15km in a day. Thankfully, being very sporty he did a lot better than some others might have done. We had a few breaks, including the obligatory pub visit, and other than a very sore bum and overall aching we got to Chester with little drama. We’d found lots of small roads with almost no traffic, and then in Chester there was a great selection of bike paths.

Our hosts, Rob & Wendy, haven’t really done much cycle touring, but have hosted lots of people. Rob prefers audax/randonneuring which is when you have a set time to ride a rather long distance. 200km in 13.5 hours, 400km in 27 hours and 1000km in 75 hours being some typical standards. It’s very much a different challenge, and in a way strikes me as a little bit crazy – but then aren’t most endurance events?

Talking with Gaz

Chester – Prestatyn

Rob and Wendy had already gone by the time we got up. Gaz was feeling very tender from the day before, and hadn’t slept that well. He was definitely in no rush to get back on the bike. I’d found my saddle comfortable the day before, and so let Gaz try it out as a motivation to ride again.

We’d been on the bike for less than 5 minutes before our first break, playing in the local park which was filled with Gaz doing a variety of confusing gymnastics. Another 5 minutes and we had arrived in Wales, although with no welcome to Wales sign we had to visit Morrison’s to get a picture.

I’d been happy to see a bike path that’d take us most of the way to Prestatyn, and it would have been lovely riding if not for the 30kmph headwind which we rode into all day long. The highlights were a couple of pub visits, with a full English breakfast for lunch, and stopping off at Flint Castle.

Our host, Dan, had done lots of touring both in the US and Central Asia, and has a plan to go to Iraqi Kurdistan in July. He was full of stories, and also beer, which definitely helped with the recuperation and numbing any pain that Gaz was feeling. The Manta had been more comfy than the Selle Anatomica, but he was still in pain, and it was worsened by the sunburn.

Prestatyn – Sandbach

Dan treated us to a full English breakfast before leading us out on our way to Wrexham, and then accompanied us as far as our first pub of the day. The sun was out in full, which was lovely, but we didn’t have any suntan lotion on us so Gaz’s sunburn was just getting work. Outside of that, he was feeling better than he had, helped by a very good night’s sleep and the roads were generally lovely to ride on.

Only having 3 days we couldn’t make it back to Sandbach, so my parent’s came to meet us in Wrexham and our bikes went on the back of the car. There was of course another pub visit on the way back, and our short 3 day trip was over. It should really help Gaz plan and positively he’s still eager to do the trip in July/August. There’ll definitely be some differences – no way we’ll be staying with Warmshowers hosts every night, and Gaz doesn’t yet speak Spanish – and I’m optimistic that it’ll go well. For me, it definitely involves reeling my aims in, as we’ll probably go 50-60% as far as I would in the same number of days. That need to not only ride at a different pace but also be more conscientious of someone else’s plans is going to be interesting.

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