Tim’s tale of cycling the Lon Las Cymru

Hello! I’m Tim, Head of Product at Nikwax. This is my tale of cycling the Lon Las Cymru (Green Lane of Wales) with zero preparation last month, before Wales entered lockdown!

In early September, I was lucky enough to find myself with a week of holiday to hand. Due to the delights of covid-19, the idea of a solo trip abroad didn’t really appeal. I’d been mulling over the idea of a week long solo cycle tour, but where to go? I was nowhere near fit enough to do LEJOG in a week, the C2C across Yorkshire was 8 hours drive away from my home on the south coast. A chance call with ‘Dave’ from one of our chemical suppliers introduced me to the idea of cycling the Lon Las, from Cardiff to Holyhead. A 260 mile, route following Sustrans Route 8 across Wales, on quiet lanes, and traffic free paths.

I decided to go for it – I booked a series of hotels along the route a couple of days before leaving. The plan was to aim for 40-60 miles a day over 6 days, travelling as light as possible, cycling kit freshly conditioned in Nikwax Base Fresh, and jackets proofed in TX.Direct. With my pre-ride training complete (a single day of cycle commuting the 16 mile, flat, round trip to Wadhurst and back) I was ready to go… How hard could it be?

I drove to a family member’s farm to leave the car near Abergavenny, caught the train to Cardiff for the start line. The first day was a nice gentle 15 miler, from Cardiff to Pontypridd. The roads were quiet, and the majority of the route followed the Taff Trail along the River Taff. Apart from dodging pedestrians and the odd stray dog, a very pleasant start to the week!

Start-line in Cardiff : The Millennium Centre

Day Two:

Day Two was a gentle taste of things to come – 36 miles from Cardiff, to close to Brecon. The majority of the day was easy off-road riding, up the Taff Trail… until the hills began, around the Pontsticill Reservoir and up to the Talybont Reservoir. I also began to sense another theme for the week… Punctures! On day two, I had three pinch flats (probably due to low tyre pressure) in the space of 15 miles. Not a great start to my first proper day of riding. The route passes between the Brecon Beacons, and the Black Mountains – it really made for a stunning ride.

Somewhere near Talybont Reservoir!

Day Three:

Day Three was a monster for my unprepared legs! 62 miles, and just over 4000ft climbing made for an interesting day in the saddle. Mostly gentle climbing, but up, all day! Builth Wells was an interesting stop-off, to stock up on food for the rest of the day. After another two punctures courtesy of some freshly trimmed hawthorn bushes, and plenty of climbing up narrow, steep lanes I made it to my overnight stop in the picturesque market village of Llananidloes. Fuelled up on beer and a burger, and having completely exhausted my supply of innertubes, an evening of puncture repair provided entertainment…

Day Four:

Day Four was another tough day, but without a doubt the most rewarding! A short stage at 40 miles, but with two 1200+ft ascents, the climbing and the views were spectacular. The day started with the ride up towards Bryn Y Fedwen with an amazing view at the top! The 8 mile descent to Machynlleth was memorable… not for the 45mph achieved, but the hawthorn puncturing the front tyre which nearly had me off! Machynlleth was another interesting town to ride through – It is home to the “Centre for Sustainable Technology” which pioneered a lot of ideas in the 1970s about sustainable living. The final summit of the day was another cracker… I bumped into a farmer at the top, and was grateful to stop for a chat and cool down… 25C is a warm day riding up an exposed hill with luggage! I was very grateful to make it into Dolgellau, for a shower and a pint!

Day Five:

Day Five was another memorable day – Beginning by riding out towards Barmouth. Riding along the river and up to the estuary bright and early provided plenty of opportunity for spotting wildlife, including a couple of pairs of beautiful Kingfishers! There was plenty of climbing to keep me entertained, with the most memorable being Moel Goedog, offering stunning views across towards Porthmadog and Port Merion. After the climb out of Porthmadog, the majority of ascent was behind me, and the riding was fairly easy into Caernarfon. Seeing the castle appear, as you ride into the town was a genuine “wow!” moment.

Day Six:

Day Six was without a doubt the easiest day of the bunch! A nice flat ride, with the wind on my shoulder from Caernarfon to Holyhead- although I elected to push on to South Stack Lighthouse, as I felt ending the ride at Holyhead Port was a little of an anti-climax! Being a bit of a lost cause, I was rather excited to cycle over the pioneering Menai Suspension Bridge and to stop off at “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” station for a photo opportunity.

All in all, a fantastic week out, especially with the stunning weather I happened to have! Whilst definitely a physical challenge, it was do-able without any serious preparation – just a reasonable level of baseline fitness. I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for a challenging week away on a bike – just remember plenty of innertubes!