Nik’s Tour of Wales

The plan - to combine two National Cycle Network (NCN) routes, the Lon Las Cymru from Cardiff to Holyhead, Anglesey and the North Wales Coastal Route from Holyhead to Chester.

Ride of choice - my road bike with 25mm slick tyres, rim brakes, flat pedals, travel and camping gear and snack food, total weight (including bike, but not water) 22 kg.

It didn't start out well as I thought I'd lost my debit card and driver's license within half an hour of arriving in Cardiff. Turns out I'd put them in my back jersey pocket. Tip - put items back in the same location you originally packed them.

After that panic was over the ride out of Cardiff was quite enjoyable, although I was surprised at how long it was taking and the slow average speed. Something I would find that didn't get much better the whole trip.

On day two it rained all day. My socks, shoes and feet were soaked but my merino socks kept my feet surprisingly warm.

The NCN paths, the two I rode anyway, are great at keeping you on tracks away from fast moving traffic for most of the routes. The downsides are the tracks include far more undulating hills than the roads, there are often pedestrians and dogs slowing progress, some tracks are unpaved and muddy and there are numerous farm gates.

Other obstacles included a fallen tree blocking a path, and having to backtrack on a muddy forestry road a couple of kilometres because a bridge was closed due to floods or heavy rain.

By day four I was getting fatigued, and with strong wind gusts forecast I decided to miss out the Anglesey portion of the trip and take a rest day. My hope of wild camping having to wait for another trip.

One positive about the NCN routes is they can include amazing stretches like the long and wide paved section leading to Caernarfon.

Going north it's slightly downhill, the prevailing winds are behind you, there are very few pedestrians, it's free of cars and mostly straight so you can cruise along at 30-40 km/hr for a good half an hour.

Nutrition-wise it wasn't hard to find food along the way. Water turned out to be the most important thing to keep an eye on. I travelled with two 750 ml bottles and often strapped an additional bottle to the back of the bike. Occasionally these came loose and crashed onto the ground emptying out; next time I'll try carrying larger drink bottles, or pack better. Favourite travelling food, Torq flapjacks (nice and moist) and Haribo Supermix.

Other than getting up close and personal with a hedge after my front brake locked open I didn't really have any bike maintenance issues other than mud and rain clogging up my gears. Nothing is worse than the awful sounds coming from a filthy drivetrain. I carried chain lube which helped but next time, on NCN routes, I would probably take some degreaser as well.

Had no problem with flat pedal shoes, in fact they were great on the muddy paths.

There were no problems with the tubeless tyres, I was quite surprised after all the kerbs and rough, unpaved paths they had ridden on. Gravel tyres probably would have been better. No problems physically other than my rear getting sore on the last day, and as previously mentioned some fatigue; I would probably keep to 100 km days if riding NCN routes in future.

  • Day 1, Cardiff to Brecon - 118.25 km, time 6:43, 1364m

  • Day 2, Brecon to Dolgellau - 150.48 km, time 8:38, 2379m

  • Day 3, Dolgellau to Bangor - 119.14 km, time: 6:36, 1510m

  • Day 4 - Rest day

  • Day 5, Bangor to Chester - 109.75 km, time 5:36, 1027m

  • Day 6, Chester to Crewe - 45.14 km, time 2:10, 210m

Total distance: 542 km / 337 miles Total riding time: 29.7 hours

Total ascent: 6,490m

Unpaved: 28.3 km Compacted Gravel: 13.0 km Paved: 311 km

Asphalt: 185 km

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