Tour of South Wales – Day One – July 2021

Bristol to Brecon

For the 2nd year running, my planned trip to the French & Spanish Pyrenees got cancelled. Rather than cry over spilt milk, I spent a few weeks considering alternative options & eventually decided on a 5 day adventure touring around South Wales. I’m delighted to say that my cycling buddy Sean has decided to join me!

This trip is a bit different to usual, as I’m carrying everything I need for the next 5 days on my bike – (my weight = 182 lbs, bike = 40 lbs, kit = 24 lbs) – in other words, I’m dragging 17 stone 8 lbs around with me & up every incline! As a result, this trip is about enjoying the adventure, rather than seeing how fast we can ride.

I met Sean at Mangotsfield Station on the Bristol to Bath cycle path at 8.30 & set off towards the old Severn Bridge crossing via quiet country lanes as we passed through Frampton Cotterell, Gaunts Earthcott & Tockington. With bruised grey skies, there was a constant threat of rain hanging in the air, but we’re on holiday, so a bit of rain wasn’t going to ruin the day. We were surprised by how strong the breeze was as we crossed the bridge & entered Wales, it was a battle to keep the bikes pointing in a straight line.

After skirting around Chepstow, we took the B4235 & started our first climb of the tour – the road was never that steep, as we meandered through the forest, reaching the summit near Shirenewton. From here it was a swift descent into Gwernesney & then on to Usk, where at the 35 mile marker we stopped at #49 for a bacon sarnie & coffee.

We took the B4598 past the windmill at Llancayo & the tank driving school at Kerneys Commander, before taking a left which brought us to the Heads of the Valley intersection. For the next couple miles we were on a busy main road as we followed the A465 towards the road to Crickhowell. A better route would have been to take the B4246 through Llanfoist & Govilon, but you live & learn.

Having left the A465, we joined the much quieter & more scenic A4077, where we bumped along the side of the Usk valley. We decided to stop for coffee & cake in Crickhowell – by this point we were some 52 miles into the ride. Da Latte was a great little find & after demolishing a slice of Terry’s chocolate orange & an americano, we were on our way again.

Leaving Crickhowell behind, we pushed on towards Talybont-on-Usk, where we joined the tow path of the Monmouth & Brecon canal for a few miles of gravel off-roading – this was the highlight of a great day of riding. We had the place to ourselves & it felt like we were in the back of beyond.

A number of my friends are probably picking themselves off the floor at this point, as I usually avoid this type of surface at all cost. However, my new touring bike has 35mm tyres & the purpose of my trip is to try new experiences outside my comfort zone.

All that remained was to pick up the main road for the last mile or so into Brecon & check-in to The Wellington, our pub accommodation for the evening. While we sat relaxing with a beer we both reflected on how quickly our first day had passed by – if our next 4 days follow the same pattern it will be a trip to remember! Tune in tomorrow to see where we’re heading next!!

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