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- George Washington

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Elan Valley Run

Today was not the hot, sunny memory-of-childhood-summers we have been experiencing lately, but it was a good day for a run nevertheless. The forecast was for showers, but in the event there was no rain - until I started putting the bike away afterwards - and the skies were overcast but with occasional bursts of warm sunshine. Roads were dry all the way.

I met my friends from the local TOMCC in Carmarthen and we rode together to Llandovery, where we had a cup of tea in the West End Café. We were six - Simon with friend Annie on his Sprint 1050, Joe on a Bonneville SE, Jo on her Thruxton and husband Martin on his Honda VFR. And me.

Then we set off on the run proper, up to Llyn Brianne and then over the mountain tops to Beulah and down into Newbridge-on-Wye. This road is a spectacular piece of single-track-with-passing-places, and includes the infamous Devil's Staircase, a 1-in-4 descent round some awesome hairpins.

We stopped to refresh the bikes' tanks in Doldowlod, and then had lunch in the Lamb and Flag in Rhayader. We left Rhayader and rode up the Elan Valley past all the reservoirs and onto the top of the mountains. The roads round there are stunning. I was here a few years ago with Anna, when we spent a long weekend at a campsite nearby and toured the valley and the lakes in the car. I remember at the time thinking what a fantastic area it was for biking, and wishing I wasn't car-bound. Well, today I was on two wheels, and the air was fresh and the bends were great.

We took the mountain road towards Aberystwyth and stopped for tea and buns at the Hafod Hotel in Devil's Bridge.

Bikes outside the Hafod Hotel, Devil's Bridge.

At this point we decided to split up - some wanted to go back to Carmarthen via Llandovery, while Simon fancied a run down the coast road. As I live furthest West of any of the group, it made sense for me to join Simon and Annie, so we said our goodbyes to the others and rode into Aberystwyth and then turned South to run down the coast. It's a road I know well, and even though I was on a bike with half the power of the Sprint (62 bhp to his 123) I managed to keep up through some aggressive overtaking strategies. I would have been even quicker in my full-face helmet (seriously), but the open-face was starting to lift off my head at any speed over 70 and my eyes were watering from the turbulence, so I had to restrict the fast stuff to very short bursts.

We parted at Cardigan with a wave, and I motored back to Haverfordwest along the coast to Fishguard and then down the A40. By now, it was getting cold, so I kept the speeds down and arrived home about 6 pm. I filled up near home, and the bike was returning a remarkable 58 mpg.

I had read about an iPhone app developed by Motor Cycle News called 'Ride Logger' in Oscar India's excellent blog, and yesterday I downloaded it to my phone. Today was the first chance to have a play with it, and it really is good. It uses the GPS function in the phone to log your ride, together with clock times, and calculates acceleration and deceleration data, as well as top speeds, averages and journey times. It has just occurred to me that there is now sufficient evidence in my phone for a successful prosecution - the maximum speed achieved is logged, together with the time and place it was recorded. I think that is all the courts would require. If any policemen or women are reading this, I'VE DELETED IT, OK?

Two downsides to the app that I have found so far: one is that it eats your phone battery. I started today with a fresh charge, and the phone lasted about 6 hours before it was warning me of a low battery. I plugged the phone into the socket I was running the satnav from, but I still had a low charge when I got home, so perhaps it wasn't charging properly. The second is perhaps the fault of the phone: when I was trying to have a look at the ride data, the app kept freezing up and would only work if it was shut down and relaunched. I'll work on this one.

Here's the group I was with:

Annie, Simon, Jo, Joe and Martin.

And here's one with your humble author, just for the sake of completeness.

Richard's anti-hi-viz strategy.


  1. 58 Miles a Gallon, that is pretty good. Looks and sounds like a great place for a spin. Hopefully this summer you have plenty more chances to hit the road.

  2. I'm hoping so. I've done more riding for sheer fun this year already than I have for years. If this is global warming, bring it on. It's a great place for a ride - lonely and quiet, with spectacular scenery, not as dramatic as Snowdonia or the Highlands, but very evocative in its own way. If you're ever in the area, shout me up and we'll go for a spin.

    I was very pleased with an average of 58 mpg (remember, that's Imperial Gallons, so the equivalent of 48 mpg US). Even better, I used two tankfuls on the ride, and the faster section was the more economical. The slow first half, which included all the mountain roads, gave me 57.9, and the second half, most of which was a 60-80 blast on A-roads, gave me 59.7 - average actually 58.8. There's a margin of error here, as these were calculated over a tank's worth and not 1000 miles, but I'm pleased with it. Long, fairly gentle runs seem to return in the high fifties, and shorter local runs in the 50-52 area. The Bonnie obviously likes being run warm.


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