After finally admitting to my self I have become ridiculously out of shape I've started riding again. This time is different. I figured I should mix my love of exploring and wandering the woods with another previously forgotten love. Cycling. Monday was the first ride I'd been on with my camera. I had a fuckin blast. Mixing the two was a solid choice.
I woke up, had a shower, ate some porridge and kitted up. Granted I sat round for a bit fannying about with stuff before setting off. I opened the garage door to be confronted with a sudden "fuck you" down pour and some wind. In my head I thought "bastard typical" it had been sunny all morning and now it was howling. I figured I'd already slung my leg over the bike so I may as well crack on. What I really wanted to do was go back inside and waste away watching YouTube documentaries. Luckily it was only a heavy shower.
I headed out of Barry towards Wenvoe in search of a trail that leads you to Michaelston Le Pit. I managed to use the vague memory I had of blasting down this route one bonfire night many years ago. A friend and I had tried to buy fireworks but everywhere was sold out. So instead we bought a load of aerosols, lighter fluid and anything we could get our hands on that was guaranteed to make a boom. That was an interesting evening. Any way, minutes on to this route I was in amongst the greenery that stretches through an area between Barry and Ely with Dinas/Michaelston and Wenvoe at it's sides. I've not spent enough time around this area at all. I realised this as I followed the gentle downhill towards a farm. It was quiet, still and peaceful. It felt as if I was miles away from civilisation but in reality I'd only travelled two miles from my garage.
The bike I'm riding now is perfect for this sort of thing. It's a Charge Plug 4. It's equipped with Shimano 105 11speed group set, disc brakes (still alien to me) and some pretty fuckin huge tyres. This has taken a while to get used to. I'm used to one gear, super skinny tyres and using my legs to manage speed.
I have been on a few jaunts since getting it but not really done any thing "adventurous" so to say. (Just enough to know the saddle it came with was fuckin useless! Just wanted to add that in for those of you who were about to give me shit about my bar tape not matching the saddle! Thats an unwritten rule for those of you who are non cyclists) After hitting my first bit of "off road" there was a rocky, muddy climb that takes you to the top of a set of fields. In my usual gung ho fashion I started attacking this section in a high gear and soon ran out of strength and effort. This was the first time I really understood what riding with gears was really about. Ditching the "Big ring or death" attitude I shifted down to the "granny ring" and started spinning my way up. It's a weird feeling going from riding a bike that will call you a pussy for not being strong, to riding something thats a lot more chilled and says "Hey man, lets just enjoy the view" when you're hanging out of your hoop.
I met a few cows then descended into Michaelston. Another learning curve. See when I was younger I used to blow down hills on a mountain bike with zero fucks to be given. After hitting a few rocks and slippery mud patches I was reminded I'm not a young whipper snapper any more nor am I on a mountain bike. This wet rocky downhill trail shook the shit out of me both physically and mentally. Learning some new bike control tricks is high on my list. Riding trails is physically demanding and you have to concentrate a lot more than the road. Again, another humbling moment. The gung ho attitude can gung go get fucked.
From here I followed a sweet sweet downhill to the gate that leads you towards the Mill fields or "The Cwm" in Dinas powys. It was here I got a sense of what this bike was made for. Being out in the open, taking in the views and getting a decent amount of speed along some rougher tracks. The feeling of contentment was growing bigger by the minute at this point.
After over enthusiastically throwing my bike over turn styles and following it in a similar fashion I stopped off at an old friends memorial to say hello. It was kind of fitting that I was in an all lycra get up as I could imagine her taking the piss out of me for it. Throughout school she'd give me shit for my hair as it supposedly looked like road kill. We weren't the closest of friends but her death was the first to shake my teenage years. Her early departure left a huge hole in a lot of peoples lives. These people usually leave bottles of cider, packs of cigarettes and shoes tied to the tree above. Regardless of how close we were I always need to stop and visit when I see this tree.
Not long after leaving the tree I headed through an open wooded area, threw the bike over a few more turn styles and headed towards the deeper part of the woods. This is where I'll usually walk or come and hang out with friends. Its a good place. An ancient place. It sits right on top of the cliff you see above and then some. There was another rocky climb entering this part of the woods. This time the fact that I'm no super man was prevalent so, granny ring engaged I happily trundled up and over this lump of a hill. At this point I was starting to feel like the bike and I were becoming friends. As corny as that sounds I can't deny it. This bike is a helpful bike. Rather than being stylish and fast it just wants to get you there as quick and easily as possible. If it has to slow down so you don't batter yourself it will. It kind of has a nonchalant labrador vibe to it. Its a working dog by every means possible but doesn't really seem bothered by what it does.
After sliding about in the mud for a bit and questioning why the hell I'd gone the way I had I decided to blast down a steep section back down to the fields where I had started. I'd learned from my previous mistake of battering it downhill, so this time I took it quite steady. Suddenly I was in a rhythm and was making a fairly decent pace. That was until I hit the mud. At first I was like "nah, this'll be fine, just keep going" then I started slip sliding everywhere and probably looked like a complete tit to any passing dog walkers. Despite all my good intentions of thinking "well theres only one way to learn, get stuck in" I had to admit defeat. It was fuckin bogging and I was seriously lacking in the tyre department. Plenty of bulge but too little grip. The end of the walk saw the bike resembling something similar to my bmx when I was younger. By that I mean completely unrideable due to the huge clumps of mud that had gathered at the front and back of the bike. My mother would regularly bollock me for bringing my bmx home in similar states as a kid. After a bit of de-clumping the bike had suddenly started to resemble something that I own. Quite nice but a tad unloved.
From here I back tracked a little and explored the road I originally came down after leaving the first trail. I've always wanted to explore this road but have never got round to it. There's a meaty metal barrier across it half way through and I've never been able to figure out if it was a private road or a public footpath kind of thing. Regardless, I followed and it did not disappoint! I was first met with a nice little down hill section on some pretty pitted and flooded gravel. The road was surrounded by fields sat on a hill with trees to the left and on its right an almost valley like view stretching for what seemed like miles. I was too busy having fun to stop and grab a pic but, at one point, all the trees on the left were changing colour. They were almost all in perfect order of colour ranging from deep greens to light yellows. Listening to The Black Keys at the time made stopping feel wrong.
Soon I was met with a farm I never knew existed. A super flat bit of land that was almost put there specifically to raise animals on. To the right of me on the flat ground were a good few pigs having a good wander about and generally enjoying the sun. The field next to them had some truly beautiful horses. All looking super regal in their winter coats. There were animals in almost every part of where I was but what shocked me the most was the little pen right at the end on the left hand side.
They weren't actually fuckin but they were most definitely fuckin emus... Not ostriches... I hope! Kind of blew my mind a little. Only because I'd never seen this type of bird up close. They were like super weary prehistoric beasts wondering who the fuck this camera wielding, bearded dude in lycra was. I'll be honest. I didn't have the balls to get closer to them. They were making a grunting noise with their heads down low as soon as I got close to them. Didn't really wanna fuck them off or end up looking like someone from you've been framed while having my ass handed to me by a giant bird.
From there I blasted the rest of this gravel road while I was feeling pretty good to end up in Ely?! I had no idea it was all linked together. Genuinely amazed by this. At this point I'd been out for roughly around two hours riding and dicking about taking photos. So I headed back towards Wenvoe via some more unexplored lanes. Once I hit Wenvoe again I still had a few miles left in me so I decided to venture down some more unknown lanes. Then the rain hit again. I found the entrance to a lane that supposedly leads you towards Penmark way. At this point my Garmin froze and died. Wasn't amused. So being a lame ass I decided not to push my luck with fitness or weather and decided to head home for a much needed brew.
This Saturday approaching I shoot my second wedding with Claudia. I'm super stoked to be getting stuck back into another wedding. Hopefully next time I'll have some more bike stories and some wedding pics. Hope you've enjoyed this post. Writing about this sort of thing isn't my strong point at the moment so chuck me a comment and let me know what you thought!