What you need to know

Entrance Fee

This is a not-for-profit event organised by a team of volunteers who are giving their time freely. We are not expecting to make a surplus over the cost of providing basic facilitates. We shall provide details of these facilitates as the number of entrances become clear and we firm up details. Any surplus will be given to charity. We are following the Audax UK  entrance fee policy.

Which route to ride?

All of the rides have been designed to be challenging in their own right. The question quickly turns to which one to ride? We are not going to answer that for you. With a little planning, you should be able to pick the ride that provides YOU with a good challenge. And that is different for us all. There are a few things you might wish to consider when making that decision:

  • The total distance
  • The total climbing
  • The time allowance
  • The surface
  • Your bike
  • Your kit
  • The need for food and water
  • The lack of outside organised support
  • The weather

To help you decide which event to enter and plan an appropriate ride strategy, we have included on each event page a set of basic metrics, a route description and some brief reconnaissance notes.  Below you’ll find a general description and reflection on the surfaces we encountered and the bikes setups we used during our reconnaissance rides.

Consider your fitness and riding experience to use the information we have provided to estimate your average moving speed. Will you get round in time? Having all that in mind, take a good look at a map and figure out how you are going to feed and water yourself. And what are you going to do if you have a major mechanical en route at 10pm as the weather sets in? Because we are not coming to get you!

GPX tracks

We don’t want to have multiple and possibly out-of-date tracks in circulation. As such we shall upload high resolution .gpx tracks of each route after Winter weather damage to roads has been assessed. Please bear with us on this one.

Forum discussion

To help in your planning and to build a sense of community around these rides, you may wish to wander over to a forum and join in the discussions. We have listed those we know about below:

YACF forum
TINAT facebook group
Bear Bones Bikepacking forum

Notes from our reconnaissance rides

Reconnaissance rides have been undertaken by four experienced long distance cyclists on a range of bikes. What really sets these rides apart from other Audax events are two fold; the mix of surfaces encountered and the lack of organised overnight shelter or re-supply.

The distances covered are not unique, nor the gradients, the total ascent or the need to carry supplies. The Audax format may be new for some. However, if we combine all this together, we have something a little different.

Whilst the slow pace, steep hills and the need to carry supplies can be dealt with, we feel that the surfaces to be encountered require particular discussion. It will impact upon which event you choose to ride and planning your ride strategy. We are really talking tyres here.

On the 400km ride, we rode with three different sizes of 700c tyres: 40c, 35c, and 32c. Set-up tubeless, the 40c Schwalbe G-one tyres performed very well over all surfaces. My own ultralight Compass 35c tyres also set-up tubeless, whilst fast on the road and comfortable over bad surfaces suffered a minor pinch puncture on the gravel. It did seal up with little problem. The regular 32c touring tyre, set-up with a tube was not the supplest of tyres but performed as expected on road. It also punctured on the same gravel section as my 35c tyre. After a long battle with many tubes, patches and rain in failing light we were unable to repair the puncture and that rider had to abort. He spent the night in the local nick. On a subsequent ride, I pinch punctured my 35c compass tyres again but this time was unable to seal the hole. I was forced to insert a tube to continue. On closer inspection my sidewalls were very scuffed up. The most recent ride on the route was done with 650×48 WTB Byways. Feedback was that the gravel sections were a lot of fun, but the road sections were slow! One of the riders tackled the 200km on a 29er mountain bike. Ideal for the steep climbing and providing real peace of mind and fun on the descents and gravel sections but slow on the roads. However, the ride was completed in time.

Reflections are that wide fast rolling tyres are your friends on these routes. The ideal tyre would be fast rolling on the tarmac sections but have enough volume and toughness to avoid the risk of pinch punctures or sidewall damage and provide comfort on the gravel sections. I’d love to try riding the route using 650x48c Compass Switchback Hill in Standard casing, set-up tubeless. Failing that, a fast rolling 700cx40c seemed to do the trick.

Of course, you could roll on narrower tires and I’m sure our Rough Stuff Fellowship brethren wouldn’t bat an eye lid. However, we do feel that 28c tyres to be the minimum width. The surfaces are not so rough that they are unrideable, but you will have to keep your speed in check, really watch your lines and ride light. You might also suffer from more fatigue in your upper body from vibrations that will take its toll as the ride goes on. This will have an impact on your average speed, your overall strategy for completing in time and the kit you pack as a consequence. Being sat by the side of the track fixing multiple punctures is a real time and motivation drain! Will you make that shop before it closes for the night?

So what are the surfaces like? It’s mix of tarmac, tarmac with wet leaf litter, tarmac strewn with gravel, fine gravel, chunky gravel, and a bit of mud here and there. There will be muddy puddles if it’s been raining.

All routes that head alongside the Claerwen Reservoir will require you to ford a stream. It’s possible to ride through with 32c tires when the water level is low but you may have to wade across following a period of sustained heavy rain.

Pass Storming

For those wishing to add something extra, there is one segment we included on the 400km reconnaissance ride that will not make the final published route. However, we enjoyed this section so much that we have taken the decision to share this alternative route with you.

As riders, we embrace the tradition of Pass Storming which involves riding your bike when you can, and carrying it when you can’t, over some of the steepest most inhospitable places. We included the Nant Braich y Rhiw green lane between Cwrt and Bryncrug on our original 400km route as a bit of an unknown. Turned out that we did have to push and sometimes carry our bikes in order to traverse the green lane. It was slow going but we really did enjoy the challenge and the views. Unfortunately, as significant parts were totally unrideable on the bikes most people are likely to use, we made the decision to not include it on the official routes. We would have been heavily criticized if we had.

However, if you do fancy a bit of pass storming, then it could be included on all the 400km and 300km events – although it might be missing the point if you include it on the smooth 300km event. It does up the challenge level on already challenging routes. And whilst you won’t be under distance if you do go that way, it will impact on your average speed. Maybe see how you feel about it when you get there and see the gravel track rising up the hill ahead of you. And no, we shall not be issuing a .gpx track that includes that section. But we have included a map extract below. The official route is to the south of the marked track and goes through Happy Valley along the cycle route to Twyn.  It’s your call.