The Bala Mini Bash

Until this year, I didn’t know what an audax was, but the Bala Mini Bash will be our third in as many months. Since we started cycling in January, I found out a friend and colleague of John’s does these ridiculously long distance cycling events. One he took part in was about 600 kilometres (370 miles) long on the hottest day of the year! ‘He’s absolutely mad!’ I said. However, before too long, I Googled Audax UK and found out that not all audaxes are stupidly long and hilly. In fact, the entry level Brevet Popular events were perfectly within my capability and, what’s more, electric bikes are allowed on the entry level events, although results may not be validated. We decided to have a go.

An audax is a cycling event that has to be completed within a set time limit, including any stops to eat or rest. However, it’s not a race and individual riders’ times are not published; if you finish within the time limit, you’ve succeeded. Riders are expected to be self-sufficient so they have to be able to navigate round the course and sort out any issues with their bikes. The routes vary widely, with distances starting at around 50 kilometres (30 miles). Some are relatively flat, whereas others cram in as many hills as possible. Audaxes are generally on quiet lanes and most are circular routes. There are checkpoints or controls along the route to prove that it’s been completed. These can include checking information on a sign or a receipt from a local shop or cafe… a great excuse to stop for coffee and a cake!

Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala)

This weekend there were three audaxes leaving from Corwen, of 50, 100 and 200 kilometres. The Bala Mini Bash which we did is the shortest and, although it’s rated as 50 kilometres, it was actually 58 kilometres, with 600 metres of ascent and four controls. The webpage describes it as a scenic and not too demanding ride, with winding roads, narrow lanes, a beautiful lake and a few minor hills.  The time limit for this route is 4 hours 48 minutes… I’m not sure why it’s so precise!

Before leaving home, we downloaded the route sheet and plotted the directions in Outdooractive then exported the gpx file to our devices. This was my second ride using my new Garmin Edge 530 which, amongst other things, is a cycling sat nav. From the map, we could see that the route is a long thin circular route heading out along the south side of the the River Dee and Bala Lake, before looping back along the north side. The mid way control point was the Eagles Inn in Llanuwchllyn. We’ve stayed at the campsite in this village a few times, so we know it well!

We packed our kit and loaded the bikes onto the back of Bertie, the campervan, before heading to Corwen. The plan was to stay over the night before to avoid an early start. Some friends planned to join us at Carrog Station Campsite for the Saturday night, after the audax. A meal at the Grouse Inn, to replenish the calories burned, seemed a good idea!

We’ve recently received some sponsorship from Rivelo, who kindly provided some cycling tops for us to try on this audax and on an upcoming trip with Velo Tours Spain. We already have some Rivelo bib shorts and tops and like them so, when I saw a post on their Facebook page saying ‘Rivelo is now accepting applications for new Team Kit Sponsors! Whether you are a long standing professional club or embarking on a charity ride, we are interested and keen to hear more’, I decided to contact them. We are just a team of two, not in a cycling club, and although we’ve planned a long and arduous charity ride for next May/June, we didn’t really expect to hear anything. Therefore, we were surprised and delighted when we each received a long and short sleeved top to try in return for some independent feedback in my blog and a few hashtags on social media.

Llangower station

It was cold when we woke up so we decided to try our new long sleeve tops… a Woodvale Light Long Sleeve Jersey in petrol and yellow for me and a Weston Light Long Sleeve Jersey in black and red for John. We both found they fitted well… comfortable, and not too tight, which is important at our age, with a bit of middle aged spread! They were long enough at the back and didn’t ride up, and the lining was soft and warm against our skin. Both tops have plenty of pockets including a small water resistant zipped pocket, which was handy for the campervan keys. Although the petrol colour doesn’t match Ruby Ribble, I love it, and it will look good with Betty Bike who is currently on order. Both tops are fairly conservative, which suits our taste. The contrasting colour detail is just enough to brighten them up. However, John is a bit disappointed that the contrasting fabric colour on his top is coral and doesn’t exactly match the bright red of the zip. Maybe thats nit picking, but we wanted to give our honest opinions and, overall, this doesn’t really detract from all the positives. These tops will definitely get plenty of wear.

The audax was very enjoyable, through beautiful Welsh scenery. The route wasn’t too difficult although there were plenty of undulations in the road to stop us getting too complacent. We stopped for coffee and cake at checkpoints in Llanuwchllyn and Corwen, and there was a little drama at the checkpoint in Llandderfel when, of 6 riders, none of us could find the information we were supposed to! Everyone was very friendly and I really like the non competitive nature of audaxes, at least at this level. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we do another but first we have our long awaited trip to Spain!

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