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Yea, yea, yea, but what is it?

The WRT is a 3 day and perhaps more importantly 2 night ride through and around mid Wales. You'll be expected to be self sufficient, carrying everything you need and sleeping out in or under whatever you think best. It's not elitist, entry is open to anyone who wants to try it. All the money raised by the WRT goes to the Wales Air Ambulance charity ... an organisation I hope you'll never need.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A somewhat strange relationship at times.

Besides tea and bikes I also have a love of maps. I think the UK must have the best mapping in the world, what with OS, Harvey and BMC all producing high quality mapping. Taking a map to bed rather than a book could be seen as a little strange ... but I'm not alone am I?

Every time you unfold the map and start to pick out the green dashes, black dots, faint yellow lines, etc a picture starts to form in your mind. It's almost like you're already riding this stuff while tucked up in bed ... however it isn't always that simple, it certainly isn't that simple here. A gigantic area combined with a minute population can sometimes lead to the relationship between ground and map not always being what it should.

The picture below was taken at the junction of 2 bridleways, there's even that nice post to lean your bike against telling you so. Your trusty OS also tells you you're at the point where 2 bridleways meet ... on the ground there isn't any sort of track or path, not a mere hint, nothing, nowt!

The second picture shows a very well used track through a forest. An orange marker I picked up close by, tells me that it's been used for some kind of motorsport not so long ago ... but this track doesn't appear on any paper map! I'm sure it'll show up on Google Earth though, so no need to panic.

If you can read a map then finding yourself with your bike lent against the post in the top picture shouldn't really cause you any concern ... just follow the bridleway in the direction the map tells you. The second picture could be a little more tricky, perhaps you've decided that you should take the second fork on the right. You've already passed one junction and you've now reached this one ... be honest, you'd go down it wouldn't you!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The White Road (and foxes).

I was meant to be riding with Tiger Matt On Saturday morning but due to one thing and another couldn't make it. This left me at a bit of a loose end on Saturday afternoon ... of course there were plenty of jobs to do but they'd still be there next week. I decided to take the opportunity to look at some trails I'd seen from a distance last year. There was a bike in the workshop pretty much packed, so I stuffed the Tangle bag full of flapjack, stuck a hammock in a dry bag and off we went.

Four hours later, I'd found the trails and a couple of bonus sections that aren't on the map. It was now time to look for a bivvy spot. After a little searching I find the perfect place to rest my head. Close to a decent supply of water, not too far off the track and nicely sheltered.

I woke up in a bit of a panic ... I'd dreamt about foxes raiding my camp for some deep subconscious reason and when I went for my tea bags, they were gone! (anyone who knows me will understand my panic). Luckily the foxes hadn't been stealing during the night and the precious tea bags turned up safe and sound, stashed in a dry bag ... panic over. So brewed up and packed up I set off the 20 miles or so home.

I had a vague route in mind but nothing set in stone and was quite happy to just follow my nose. About half way home I came to a gate, the bridleway on the other side was something I'd ridden a few times over the years, nothing special but there is a long descent on the far side. Now, my rear brake and freehub had both frozen solid a while back ... I was now riding fixed, so I thought skipping a long, fast descent might be wise (yes, yes, big girls blouse, etc). Near this gate is a second gate, which oddly I've never really noticed. A quick glance on the map confirmed it was 'just' a white road with access rights and would bring me out at the same point as the bridleway would.

Well, what a turn up. My poor camera skills combined with an even poorer camera really don't do it justice. Steep, rocky, steppy, droppy and loads of other great words ending in y are all there. It's gets much more severe out of shot ;o)

The full descent is somewhere in the region of a 1/4 mile but unluckily for me contained some large stretches of sheet ice ... not good for impromptu fixie riding! I've a grid reference in mind which will put you pretty close to this, it's well worth trying to find. However, please check the contour lines on the map ... you really, really don't want to be going up it!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shameless self promotion ... the cheek!

Slightly odd one this but here goes. A couple of people have been in touch about entering the WRT but have concerns about their ability/kit/or just the fact that they're bikepacking virgins ... with me so far?
At Forest Freeride (yes that's me but I'm sure you knew that) besides the usual skills training, guiding, etc we also run bikepacking trips and there's two trips before the WRT ... are you still with me?

The outcome of the above is that a couple of people are booking themselves on these trips to gain some experience/try kit out/get an idea of the terrain. A sensible idea, so I thought I'd throw it open in case anyone else fancies it. If you're interested you can find out more here ...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sneaky peek.

One of the great things about the WRT (for me anyway) is going out, scouting tracks, trails and potential grid references ... obviously, you'll all devise your own routes but someone needs to know that an entire route exists and hopefully numerous different routes too.

Today, was my first 'scouting ride' into the hills and it was great. The weather was kind, cold and dry (until I came across an area of forest that's in the process of been felled ... then it got very muddy) and as long as you kept moving it was warm enough. Anyway, thought you might like to see a pic of a potential grid reference or failing that it would make a pretty good overnight spot.

Bear in mind, that if you go the way I went then it's a continuous climb of 1550 ft ... not that you'll know which way I went.

Friday, January 21, 2011

*Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

It's all too easy to get caught up in the whole uber lightweight thing when it comes to bikepacking. Now, I haven't got anything against cutting the handle off my underpants or only wearing one sock, nor have I got anything against buying kit ... I'm at least as guilty as everyone else. The trouble is the expense, once the bug bites then no matter how hard you try, you will be seduced by shiny titanium goodness and the mention of 900 fill power down will make you drool ... honest.

When you're new to it or only plan on a couple of overnighters a year, then it can seem a little mad to throw loads of money at stuff you'll hardly use. This got me thinking about how much you could kit yourself out for. Nothing exotic, just basic and functional kit that should see you through a few summers ... I've a budget of £100 in my mind, so lets see what we can do. We'll start with keeping the elements at bay.

First up and possibly the first item people tend to buy ... a bivvy bag. This is the cheapest bag I could find that claims to be fully waterproof and breathable and it costs less than £20!

Now, I know a tarp isn't something you 'need' but it is nice to have. A well erected tarp will keep off a surprising amount of rain and sometimes it's just nice to have that 'feeling' of shelter. There are cheaper tarps out there but they're designed for a slightly different job ... yes, they will keep the rain off but there'll be a hugh weight penalty, best to leave them at home covering your log store or trailer. This on the other hand is designed for sleeping under, it'll also double as a poncho so you can ditch the waterproofs if you wanted to save a bit of weight. As long as you don't mind grade 1 forces issue, it'll cost you under £22.

Right then, we've £58 left, which isn't a vast amount but I reckon we've a chance of getting everything we need.

*Apologies to AC/DC or any fans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's not all Supernoodles!

Just before Christmas a crack team of bivvy nerds assembled in Machynlleth for a cold (actually it was very cold) mission onto the slopes of Plynlimon. After numerous hours of riding, sliding, pushing, swearing and giggling like school girls their mission was accomplished. Tarps were erected, sleeping mats blown up and an ocean of down and pertex was laid out under a clearing sky. Obviously, after all that hard work sustenance was a prime concern ... food would help keep the minus double figure temperatures at bay. Various types of stoves were fired up and a warm glow enveloped the makeshift camp. After a few minutes (seemed like hours if I'm honest) food was ready, dehydrated meals bubbling away in silver packets ... yum, yum. Then this emerged.

That's right, a full Christmas dinner complete with sprouts. With a little forethought and preparation Taylor had managed to make Christmas dinner at 1650ft, in very sub zero temperatures on a single meths stove ... not bad is it?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meths ... It's not just for drinking

Some of you may remember that last year the WRT blog hosted 'stove wars' where we compared various types of stove to see which would enable you to brew up quickest*. One thing we didn't look at was meths stoves, so I thought we'd redress the balance.
For many the first thing they picture in their mind when someone says 'cooking with meths' is a Trangia stove, the unpleasant memories of scouts and waiting hours for a tin of beans to warm up are still very real! Cooking with meths doesn't have to be like that though, it can be a simple and surprisingly quick process ... particularly if you've honed your culinary skills down to just needing boiling water. A meths stove is the very definition of basic, no moving parts, nothing to wear out or break and you can even make your own for free (we'll have a look at that when there's a grown up here to supervise me).

In the picture there's a home made 'coke can' stove and a slightly posher Vargo titanium one. Both work in the same way, pour some meths in the top, light it, wait a minute or so for the stove to warm and 'bloom' then cook ... simple. Once it manages to stop raining, I'll fire them up and compare the results to last years. You never know we might get a surprise.

*I know it's a little sad but it keeps me happy and at least a few of you must like it

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Answers to questions

Ok, some folk have asked a few questions about the WRT so I thought I'd try to answer some of them here.

Do I have to ride on my own? ... No, feel free to ride in whatever sized group you like. Solo, pairs, 3, 4 whatever it's all good. I love been out on my own but not everyone does (or perhaps other people have friends).

Do I have to ride a mountain bike? ... If it's a bike and you pedal it, it'll do! At the end of the day, you're going to decide on your route so you should be able to tailor it to suit your bike. It will however be impossible to visit every grid reference without 'going off road' so bear that in mind when you borrow your mums fold up shopper*.

Will it be possible to pick up supplies along the way? ... Yes, if you plan your route that way.

Isn't wild camping 'naughty'? ... Strictly speaking then yes, wild camping is illegal in Wales. However, if you're sensible and respect land owners and your surroundings then it tends to be tolerated ... common sense will get you a long way ;o)

Is it true there are still bears in Wales? ... I'm not rising to this one!

If anyone wants to know anything else, so long as it isn't about the Welsh wildlife feel free to get in touch.

*If anyone does turn up on a fold up shopper I'll either lend them a bike or sort them out a special prize.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welsh Ride Thing 2011 ... What is it?

For anyone who's not sure how the WRT works or what it is, here's an explanation.
The WRT is a 3 day ride in the hills and mountains of mid Wales. Riders are expected to carry everything they think they'll need for the duration of the ride. This will also include whatever's required to keep you alive/dry/comfy for 2 nights out, think ... tent, bivvy bag, sleeping bag, credit card and hotel reservation. Where you stay is up to you but I will say that the spirit of the event is one of staying out in the wilds.

Riders will set off around noon on Saturday May 28th and hopefully return early afternoon on Monday May 30th. Start/finish is from Forest Freeride (postcode SY19 7BH). There's ample, safe parking at the start.

Every rider will be following their own route. A month before the start riders will be sent a list of grid references and the numbers of the OS maps required to find them. You can then spend the next month working out (and reworking out) a route that'll pass through these grid references ... the result will be your route.

The WRT isn't a race, there's no prizes for getting back first or visiting the biggest number of grid references ... you're more likely to get something for being the last back!

If you get into SERIOUS trouble someone will come and get you. No one will come for you because it's raining, you're legs hurt or you're hungry. If you've suffered an injury or a mechanical that stops you riding, help is on hand ... but remember, mobile coverage is pretty limited.

So, if you've read all that and fancy giving it a go the first thing to do is email and ask to be put on the list. You'll then be sent a pdf disclaimer form, print it out, fill it in and pop it in the post with a cheque. Sit back and wait until April 28th when you'll be sent an email containing the grid references and map numbers ... spend the next month panicking about your route and kit!

I know that all sounds a little serious, it isn't meant to. The WRT is about riding your bike and having a bit of an adventure.