It’s always possible to have a true adventure (or indeed, a full ’epic’) within a few hours of your home. Our ride across Wales this summer was one such adventure…and it did indeed include one ‘epic’ where pretty well everything went wrong.
On the third day of riding, I took a hard tumble on the Cli-Machx Trail, north of Machynlleth. The trail is pictured below, but embarrassingly it was actually a fast and non-technical section where I wiped out. I blew out the front suspension on my forks, broke a rib or two and also a thumb. After I’d picked myself up off the floor, we limped into Machynlleth hoping that the bike shop there would be able to revive my dead mountain bike…but they were closed. Battered, bruised and demoralised, I was not exactly feeling the love at this point.
Plan #B was for me to take a three hour train to a friend’s house in Telford, borrow the forks from his spare bike, collect my car from outside his house and then drive back to Wales to meet my friends at Devil’s Bridge…having missed a days’ riding. I headed back towards Telford, but had half a mind to jack the whole thing in; not completing the ride really grated, and I was pretty beaten up. As it happened, once I reached my car I retrieved my shock pump…to my surprise, using this I found that I was able to revive my bike’s suspension. I decided that I was back in the game, and that there was no way I was going to miss out a section of our coast-to-coast ride.
I drove back speedily to Machynlleth, pausing only to buy a chicken kebab which actually proved to be rotten (thanks, Welshpool). When I arrived back at the last point I’d ridden to, it was 7.30 pm and I had 90 minutes of daylight left…in which to cross the central spine of mid-Wales, a very large area of absolutely nothing.
After a frantic ascent, I reached the summit at the exact point the sun disappeared (top pic) and descended through bogs and forestry plantation in encroaching darkness, with only a small headtorch to light the way. I didn’t see sight nor sound of another person for four hours, until I finally reached the main road and pedaled to Devil’s Bridge…where there was no sign of my friends.
I had an uncomfortable bivvy in the rain, with my sore ribs encroaching on sleep somewhat. It subsequently turned out that I’d passed the others a few miles back, sleeping in a lovely warm hotel (no sniggering, please). We were all united after a bit of searching in the morning – it was emotional – and our cross-Wales mission was back on. With a vengeance.