Restrap customer Toby Willis shares the ups and downs of long distance riding through the mighty roads of Wales. 600km and 8000m of climbing? No problem...
"So how far have you come?"
A question I'm asked frequently when out on my bike.
"What!? You've ridden all that way!?"
"You must be crazy!"
When I first joined Audax I thought I was crazy. I was often completing rides of 200 and 300k and throwing in as much elevation as I could find.
Thing is, there's always someone crazier than you. And it turns out there's loads of them!
At the start of last year a couple of really great chaps from my home town cycling club persuaded me (though it wasn't difficult) to sign up to The Bryan Chapman Memorial Classic Audax ride. 600k with approx 8000M of climbing. Wales in a weekend is its billing and it did not disappoint.
Bryan Chapman Memorial ride
It's a sell out too and people ride much more than just bikes. I'd found a whole new level of crazy. There aren't enough words in the English dictionary to adequately describe it but there are plenty of fantastic write ups out there for interested people to check out.
After completing what still rates today as one of my finest cycling achievements I discovered that the BCM was just one part of a much larger jigsaw: A Super Randonneur Series.
The SR consists of rides of 200/300/400 and 600km long in a single season. What's more, due to the amount of climbing involved during the BCM, riders are awarded what's called AAA points. The plot thickens.
Heading over Snowdonia
There is also an SR series with AAA points where each ride must have enough climbing to earn these points. Now that sounds like my cup of tea, I thought.
I had 3 months to check off the final 3 rides and it wasn't plain sailing. I bagged the 200k including climbs like The Road to Hell, Penmachno, The Grim and Bwlch-Penbarras for starters and then went about my business attempting the 300k.
Now my route planning can sometimes be a little over ambitious and on this particularly hot summer's day, with some of North Wales' steepest climbs thrown in, I was found somewhat wanting.
Dylife mountain road
I'd thrown in Worlds End, The Old Horseshoe Pass, a right horror known locally as Gravelslip, Llangynog Climb, The Hirnant, Bwlch-Y-Groes and Bwlch-Penbarras. The latter being a step far too far. Home beckoned. The ride itself was amazing and something to be proud of but it didn't meet the criteria required so it was back to the drawing board.
The dreaded Bwlch-Y-Groes
The next outing wasn't to be any easier however with torrential rain almost all day but after a fist fight with The Dyfi Forest road and some derogatory name calling of the almighty Bwlch-Y-Groes I managed to bag the points. I certainly wasn't giving up again.
My final ride was something I'd had planned for a long time but for one reason or another it had never materialised. An overnight trip to Bristol from Chester via beautiful Wales. (Wales is a reoccurring theme in nearly all my rides).
There were plenty of climbs along the way and I settled for Dylife Mountain Road, The Devils Staircase and The Tumble. The latter being like a slap in the face after 300k and 5000M. 18 hours in the saddle though and it was completely worth while with a massive sense of achievement.
Reservoir at Devil's Staircase
I was beaming from ear to ear for weeks having completed my first AAASR. I even bought the badge. Looking at the results section of the Arriveé Audax magazine fills me with pride while at the same time keeping me grounded as I see the people who have been achieving these things for years. I can only hope that I have their longevity and can follow in their inspirational footsteps.
Snowdon at sunset
Follow Toby (/tobychillis) to see how far his "bravery and stupidity" (his words!) will take him.