For today, I chose a route from the book, Lost Lanes Wales. We’ve done a few of the routes from the book already and thoroughly enjoyed them. This one was listed as ‘very challenging’, with a rough off road section, and a lot of ascent. ‘That’s ok’, I thought… ‘we’ve got all day. I can do it.’
We rose early and had breakfast. They have brand new decking at the Riverbanc and we were the first customers to use it, and we thoroughly enjoyed our food. Then we we wrapped up warm, packed the bikes and set off.
After leaving Llangollen, we turned off steeply uphill, on to the Panorama road, contouring the hillside past Castell Dinas Bran. The views were over the valley were beautiful and the sun kept peaking out from behind the clouds. This is the life!
Next came a steep descent down to Trevor Basin on the Llangollen Canal. We got off our bikes to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, high above the RIver Dee. We’ve hiked it, kayaked it, packrafted it and now cycled it 😊
Further along the canal, we dismounted again to go through the Whitehouses Tunnel. It felt rather strange manoeuvring our bikes alongside the canal… very dark and disorientating. Then we realised we had our sunglasses on, took them off and it became easier!
An easy section came next and we made good progress along a nice smooth tarmac road. Even when the road started to climb, we still found it relatively easy. Then the road turned into a track and started climbing more steeply into the Berwyn Mountains until we came to a ‘road closed’ sign… oh no! We’d come too far to turn round!
Just then, some off road motorcyclists came down down the track. ‘Is is closed?’, I asked. ‘Can we get though?’. The guy I asked said it was possible to get through but looked down at my tyres and said, ‘but it’s very rough.’. I’d put my big girl knickers on and psyched myself up to do the off road section so, after a quick assessment of the pros and cons, we decided to try it.
I immediately had problems. It was steep and, although I had put my motor on, I was in the wrong gear. ‘That’s ok’, I thought, ‘I’ll walk this bit’. John did better than me, but was soon off his bike too. After debating how far it was, we decided we’d keep going.
We got on and off our bikes a couple of times, as the track got worse and worse. It had obviously been used by off road motorcycles and 4x4s, and the track was rutted and rocky. It wasn’t a gravel track, which is what we’d expected. Next we reached a couple of sections of flooded track. John had to carry our bikes around one particularly wet and boggy section! ‘I’m glad you picked this route, not me!’, he said!
At one point I saw some board walk ahead. ‘Fanatstic!’, I thought. ‘Now we’ll make some progress.’ No such luck. Immediately it was battered and broken. This was turning into an assault course with new obstacles at every turn! Still I stayed strong and carried on pushing my bike, although shoulders were starting to ache by now.
As we approached the top at last, after a couple of miles pushing our bikes, the gradient increased again and the boulders on the track got bigger. I practically had to drag my bike over them and was nearly in tears. ‘I’ve had enough!’ I shouted to John, but we had no choice but to continue. We just kept saying to each other ‘At least the downhill will be a bit easier’, although I was worried about that too because, from previous experience, holding your bike back when it gains momentum can be as difficult as pushing it up.
Finally we reached the top. Hurray! We stopped for something to eat and put extra layers on because the wind was cool and we knew we’d be colder going down hill. As we went around the corner from the summit I thought ‘This looks ok. I might manage it’.
We set off down the track, bumping over the stones and rocks. John was shouting instructions to me…. keep your weight back… heels down… relax. My muscles were burning as I bounced my way steeply downhill, picking the route that looked least scary. Yay! I made it to the first gate where I stopped to catch my breathe. ‘That was ok. I did it!’
As we descended, my confidence grew, and the track became less rocky, more gravelly, and at times we could use nice smooth grass verges. Finally we reached the road. This was still steep and my hands and arms burned as I gripped the brakes, but I was much more confident as I picked up speed and bounced through and around the pot holes. I have to admit I felt rather pleased with myself for conquering some fears!
By the time we reached the main road, we were both rather tired. We decided against stopping at a cafe in Corwen, choosing to get back to Llangollen instead. The route roughly followed the River Dee, through Carrog, Glyndyfrdwy and past the Horseshoe Falls. We’d expected it to be pretty flat here, but we were surprised by a couple of short, sharp climbs that made our thighs burn. Eventually we reached the edge of Llangollen and were soon back at our B&B. Phew! That was a bit of an epic!
75 kilometres (46 miles) and over 1200 metres of ascent (more than Snowdon!), including 3-4 kilometre (2 miles) pushing our bikes. What an achievement! Now we’re looking forward to a ride home in wind and rain tomorrow 😂