Oil on the chain

The bikes have been out and about, though perhaps not quite as much as we may have liked.  Although we’ve maps of cycle paths the bulk of them are not really in safe cycling distance from Base Camp.  And if I mention that we hope to Summit imminently then you may appreciate that Base Camp is somewhere in the foothills.  To go out at all means doing what we do at home, which is using all of the gears and a great deal of effort.

I’ve managed to find route, planned mainly around not losing height, which gives a reasonable morning ride and return to Base Camp before The Urchins manage to withdraw from the indoor pool.  It’s a route that takes me to a quite staggering view of the coast below, the hills of the peninsula disappearing to the west, and the magic of Angelsey calling.  Thus far only the car has taken us over Telford’s bridge, but on foot and on bike remain on the to do list.

So loading all the bikes on to the rack, and plotting a safe route for all, takes a bit of advance planning.  And that was how we found Llyn Brenig.  A  bit of  a journey, it involves taking the mountain pass, a road I’m enjoying more with every crossing whilst the weather remains kind.  There’s no stopping at Betws for this one, the reservoir being a bit further down the road.  There’s a visitor centre and a handful of waymarked routes, with helpful notes on the extent of the climb involved.

This is isolated and ancient territory, rolling high ground, deep in heather, a contrast to the ridges and peaks straining skywards to the west. But these are ancient lands, peppered with turf barrows and burial chambers, ring cairns and circles of stakes. Bronze Age man worked with even more ancient charcoals. The remnants rest above the reservoir as modern life dictates that waters be stored. The black grouse lek here yet, absent though during our sojourn, just as they have been back home for some time.

The circular route went down well with all, perhaps because the panniers were packed with picnic, the tartan rug on the rack.  It wasn’t a huge distance, around 10 miles, but with close to 1,000ft of climb, and some pretty rough ground to cover, there was something for everyone.  Off-road trundling on The Grasshopper is something I’ve tried to avoid.  But knowing the ground was not wet and slippy helped me on the way.

There were stretches on lumpy hardcore which turned the ‘bent into a boneshaker, and then long climbs and slow descents on paths of loose shale.  This was testing stuff for The Urchins and both showed terrific brake control on some pretty steep downhill sections after the lunch break.  The final run-in back to base was a very welcome spell on tarmac, largely traffic free, and with a warm sun on the face there was consensus on another fine day out.

We met runner out in the wilds, pounding downhill water-bottle in hand, as we licked lamb koftas from the fingers, Urchins with the pakora on the tartan rug. He was going against our tide. We met him again a while later, on our homeward stretch, looking fresh yet. Then once the bikes were back on the rack, after ice cream in the cafe, he went past again, a smile and a nod. So that was at least two circuits, 1,000ft of climb each time, on rough terrain, in 23 degrees of sunshine. Running, it seems, addles the brain.

But for us the Summit beckons, and that’s a climb I might have to tell you more about, assuming survival.  You’ll have to wait.

And that oil on the chain? I’m testing a new one, containing teflon, and given the dry and dusty ground we’ve just been through it does indeed seem to be pretty non-stick, and with a chain of the length of the ‘bent that seriously reduces the maintenance. It’s from Decathlon, who’ve also produced a little bottle of dry hand-wash, ideal for cleaning up when the chain jumps off halfway up a climb. Some running repairs needed, but let’s not be deterred; just avoid any hill that needs first gear, which for these old bones is any hill at all.

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