Friday, 31 May 2013

Moel Arthur and Horseshoe Pass

Moel Arthur

After riding the Penbarra climb I headed into Mold with my dad and the dog for a spot of lunch. Mold turned out to be a nice little town and the sausage and egg sandwich I had, whilst not considered ideal from a sports nutrition point of view, was lovely.

Whilst strolling around Mold it was apparent that the calf muscle I wrenched on The Shelf was going to be an issue as it felt quite tight but as I was so close to the Moel Arthur climb, and bad weather was forecast for the afternoon, I decided it was best to press on and see how the riding went.

Finding the start of the climb is made much easier if you look on the map for the ancient hill fort and then just head downhill from there. The little lanes in the area all look the same and it is very easy to get confused as to where the start of the ride is otherwise. The hill fort marks the top of the climb and has a small car park.

The descent down to the start of the climb was interesting to say the least. The narrow road is very badly surfaced with huge potholes and crumbling bits of asphalt all over the place. At least going up my slow speed would enable me to miss them more easily.

The first part of the climb is fairly gentle and it is only when you get to the mid section that things start to get serious. The road ramps up to 20% and the surface of the road also gets worse. I'll be honest and say I struggled on this climb. My leg was worrying me and I really don't like it when the road reaches 20% or more. A 20% gradient is the point at which gravity stops being my friend.

Sheep lurking like trouble making teenagers in the Moel Arthur car park

After huffing and puffing my way up the steepest section I was able to regain a bit of composure on the easing gradient but never really got up to a great speed. I arrived back at the car park to find a number of sheep rubbing themselves all over some poor buggers mini. I've no idea what it meant for the cars paint work and thankfully the arrival of a red faced man on a bike scattered them away from my car.

After packing the bike away at the top of Moel Arthur it was back to the Travelhovel at Wrexham and a rather nice curry from a local takeaway. There was very bad weather forecast for the evening with heavy rain being the main feature. Hopefully it would clear by the morning, along with the pain in my leg.

Horseshoe Pass

After a night of listening to rain battering against the window May the 15th started grey and damp. The rain was still clearing away from North Wales and the drive to the Horseshoe Pass took in quite a few flooded roads. Thankfully the Qubo has pretty good ground clearance and I have zero mechanical sympathy and we made it through the flooded sections at speed and with no real hold ups.

At the top of the pass it was wet and windy and so cold I had to layer up with my winter gear including long fingered gloves and neoprene overshoes. I'm sure in good weather the views are stunning but to me it just looked like a long wet uphill slog lay ahead. Rain eased off as I descended to the start but it became clear that the wind had every intention of hanging around. My left leg also hadn't improved much over night and as I span my way up the first gradients on the lower part of the climb I decided that my time in North Wales was going to finish a little earlier. Fighting into a head wind on the mid section of the climb was quite painful and I figured it was best to rest a wrenched muscle rather than press on and attempt other climbs. I would only have risked giving myself a worse problem to deal with.

Without the persistent wind on the mid section of the climb it would have been a quite pleasant ride. the gradient never gets too steep and on I good day I reckon I could ride up at a decent pace. As it was I wasn't having a good day and it took until I reached the upper section of the pass and had some shelter from the wind before I was able to pick up the pace. It hurt pushing a higher gear around but it was nice to be able to stick some power down. Of course as soon as I reached the final bend in the road before the summit I rode straight back into the wind that had made most of the climb such a misery. Ah well, can't win them all.

Riding into the wind meant this section took forever to complete

It was clear I needed to stop pushing my knackered leg any further and so we decamped to Llangollen for lunch. This is another nice little town and is clearly on the tourist trail. The dog caught the attention of a Japanese tourist who decided that he needed a picture of a miserable looking Cocker Spaniel to complete his holiday snaps and some American tourists in the pub where we stopped for lunch also gave the dog some attention. He was looking much happier by this point as there was food in the pub.

After lunch it was time to head back to Wrexham, pack up and go home. It was an earlier departure than I had hoped for but it was the right decision to make. I took a couple of days off from riding the bike and have kept the rides relatively light. I've got a trip to Yorkshire coming up soon and even though my calf muscle still isn't a hundred percent I'm pretty confident that with a bit more rest it will be up to the task.

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