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Tag Archives: wales

A-to-B. Via C.

  • Posted by alex
  • 20 June 2012

Routine can be a good thing, but I recently realised I've been stuck in the grind of A-to-B: Ride to work. Work. Ride home.

The routine has been broken a little in preparation for racing in Italy. So A-to-B has had a little B-to-B loop added at lunch, but last night reminded me it's a lot more fun when A-to-B goes via C. Especially when you don't know where C might be.

I live about 1 mile from work and it took nearly 2 hours to get home via a 30 mile detour on roads I've never seen, over hills I've never climbed and getting lost at a crossroads I couldn't get back to with a map, let alone without one.

Finding myself a little lost, faced with uphill one way and downhill the other, the temptation was to take the easy way out and roll down. But with the setting sun as my only bearing, onward and upward west was the order of the evening and eventually, all would be alright. At the summit, the Preseli's came into view in the distance with familiar-looking fields lining the river valley. It was clear I was heading back to B.

Today is the longest day. 16h 38m 20s of daylight (give or take). That's plenty of time to take the long way home.

Ever wondered where A-to-B might take you if you go via C?

Birthday Club

  • Posted by alex
  • 15 May 2012

Saturday was belting sunshine out west and Hazel had rallied us up for her birthday to ride the Tour of Pembrokeshire. We couldn't have asked for better weather to take in 75 miles of Wales by bike.

The miles passed as the skin got pinker, taking in coastline out of St. Davids and up towards the towns closer to home, before turning back over the Preselis towards the finish.

Plenty of riders passed us by while we stopped for lunch or to high-5 santa; our faux Birthday Club t-shirts giving away that we probably weren't taking things all that seriously. In fact, by the end of the ride, we had picked up a few companions along the way, making the ride that bit more fun.

Sometimes with cycling to work and rides penned in the diary, I forget how great it is to ride without an agenda - not riding to train, abandoning the GPS and the ticking clock, no pace to keep or person to beat.

Note to self: Ride more. Train less.

Roll on summer.

Lunch.

The top of the climb. On top of the world.

Rest Less Ride Film

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 May 2012

On the night of the Spring Equinox, Rob Penn and friends took off on an overnight cycle ride across Wales.

The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.

The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.

Rest Less Success

  • Posted by alex
  • 27 March 2012

Last weekend the Rest Less Ride took riders across the whole of Wales from beach to border overnight. The roads were riddled with pot-holes, sheets of gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends, dropped into deep dark valleys, through forests and over 25% climbs in a race against the sun on the night the clocks went forwards.

The ride was born out of a story that writer - and friend of howies - Rob Penn, shared from a chance meeting on the road with a passing cyclist, reminiscing over night-long club rides in the late 1950's; the quieter roads, the lack of traffic, and the peloton pushing one another on through dawn.

The roads back in the 50’s aren’t too dissimilar to the country lanes in Wales, so only one question remained; "When shall we do it?"

On Saturday, 16 riders set off from howies HQ to Abergavenny, all that led the way were small road markings, the faith in the peloton and the promise that no-one would get left behind in the wilderness.

The pack was made up some of Rob's and our riding friends, who had come from across Britain, to take on this incredible adventure. A last supper gave time to go over the route, fettle bikes and exchange names with the riders who would help carry one another across the entire country in the dark.

Barely 10 minutes into the ride, a disturbed badger darted into the pack, causing a tumble. The sound of bikes hitting the ground and cries in the night halted riders in front. Once turned upright, we re-grouped and pressed on. What other dangers waited for us in the dark?

Winding out of the Teifi valley, the stronger legs set a steady pace along the undulating road to Lampeter. The hills began to get steeper, breathing deepened and gears simultaneously jumped in the dark to bigger cogs.

The descents made up for the climbs and soon everyone seemed settled, taking to the 40mph bends, down over humpback bridges, free wheeling to allow the legs to rest for the next inevitable climb.

At Lampeter we left the safety of the A roads and towns, heading into the wilderness. The quiet back roads were brown and green down the middle, with fractures to test skinny tyres and fords to test nerves; a surface barely ideal in daylight, let alone in the dark.

These country lanes were bound for the lake at Llyn Briane, up winding valley passes and through pitch-black, potholed hairpins. Chatter in the pack slowed as concentration increased to keep wheels in line over the rough surfaces and spotting markers to keep on course - we had not seen a house or car for miles and rumbling over cattle grids. There would be nowhere to go if you gave up here.

News of the coming halfway stop for hot soup refreshed tired minds. Eager stomachs wound up the pace and soon everyone was huddled around a 2-ring gas burner awaiting some real food. Passing round bread and stretching, we noticed the time, 3am. With darkness all around, we were halfway from nowhere and nowhere near somewhere with an handful of hours 'til dawn. The race against the sun had begun.

The climb past the lake, invisible in the dark, led to fantastically smooth tarmac lining the valley as it wound through the hills and over barrier-less summits with steep drops into the dark.

Approaching the pine forest, a broken chain tore apart Alex's derailleur, demanding some roadside repairs. Stopped in the silence, it was obvious the damage was irreparable. Cut down to a single speed, the best attempt to limp on, wasn't going to get the bike over the 25% climb of the Devil's Staircase and certainly not onto Abergavenny. It was game over for Alex.

The Devil's Staircase is famed for it's 25% walls levelling out briefly before the next step upwards. The set of short, sharp climbs marked the midway point through the wilderness. A series of sketchy but exhilarating hairpin descents to the valley floor followed. Mist collected between the hills as the road bounced along, mimicking the bed of the river until finally a junction and another short rest.

Signposts pointed through a dark forest to Builth, where the pack regrouped. The dawn chorus had begun, and the promise of daylight was in the air. The quiet A-roads were smooth and wide, with street lighting easing the dependence of lights which would surely be near the end of their battery life. These roads gave the pack their best chance yet to work together, forming a train of tired legs each taking turns out front to break the cold air.

Crossing the river, heading for Hay-on-Wye, the B-roads were foggy and felt chilly without the climbs to keep the body warm. Staying together for company and warmth, the pack pressed on in the mist.

Leaving Hay behind, daylight finally broke over the hills of the Black Mountains where the final - and hardest - climb of the ride came into view.

Every rider stopped to shed weight, jettisoning surplus layers and water bottles. Feeling sore and empty, the beauty of the scenery laid out in the early morning sun was enough to make the riders forget their tired legs. The end would soon be in sight, with a 15 mile whooping descent though the Llanthony Valley to breakfast. And it would be the best breakfast ever, in soft chairs with hot food.

The ride forged friendship through adversity; sharing the experience of digging deep when you’ve got nothing left, feeling sick, delirious and weary but pushing yourself and fellow riders further than you could possible ride on your own.

Despite the grueling climbs and rapid descents over tarmac laced with gravel and pot holes, 14 of the 16 riders completed the challenge - 124 miles, over 3000 meters of ascent with only one final question remaining; "When shall we do it again?"

A short video of the ride is here.

Mountain biking in Brechfa

  • Posted by howies
  • 14 March 2012

Here’s your chance to win a weekend posh camping in the Brecon Beacons and ride the trails on your doorstep at Brechfa.

You and a friend could be off on an amazing weekend of mountainbiking and posh camping from the kind people at Canopy & Stars. We’ll join you to ride some of the most famed trails in the country and throw in some howies performance Merino baselayers for you both.

And the best part is you get to pick which weekend we go

To enter, simply submit your details below or over on the howies Facebook page to win a place for you and a friend.

Good luck.

Thanks for all your entries, this competition is now closed.

Cwm Rhaeadr Trails

  • Posted by ruben
  • 15 May 2010

Me and Hicksey set off at the crack of dawn this morning to visit the MTB trails at Cwm Rhaeadr.

There's just one 6km loop with a 3km climb followed by a long decent on some really nice singletrack. It's one of those runs that can be as challenging as you want it to be. You could easily roll everything, but if you go for it there're some nice jumps and tricky bumpy bits.

We did two quick laps, and had a great time. The views were amazing in the mid morning sun, with a waterfall in the distance (there's a footpath that takes you closer to that I think)

Well worth a look.

More info on the MB wales site here

Super Furry Animals Artwork

  • Posted by tim
  • 28 April 2009

If you haven't got the latest Album from the Furries  Dark Days Light Years you might not know about the great downloadable artwork PDF they have over on their site here.  

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howies on TV!

  • Posted by ruben
  • 23 January 2009

howies got on TV yesterday when our very own Clare Hieatt appeared on the Welsh affairs show Dragon's Eye. 

Check it out on BBC iPlayer.

The episode is about the decline of the Welsh language in West Wales, but if you just want to see howies, skip through to about 14 minutes in.

Dear Arriva

  • Posted by howies
  • 6 January 2009

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When I first arrived in Wales a few years ago I was impressed by the bike racks on the back of your buses... I was like “Yeah! Wales has got it right!”

Then a couple of weeks back I tried to use the X50 from Aberystwyth to Cardigan and the driver told me that he couldn't use his racks but the 550 could...

So I waited 40 minutes and the 550 driver told me to wait for the next one because he was too busy...

So I wait again...

This time the driver tells me he's not trained and no one is and there is no way any driver will let me on... 

I can't believe it, the whole bus couldn’t, I begged him to use his initiative as the racks looked simple. He refused and drove off.

So by this point I was pretty upset and I ring Arriva up to work out whats going on.

They tell me only drivers in Yorkshire are trained to use the bike racks and my only option is to remove my handlebars and put my bike in a box. This wasn't an option.  So I take my wheels off a plead with the driver to let me put it the luggage racks on the bus... After I tell the whole story he lets me on, feeling a bit sorry for me.

C'mon Arriva…

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