Two versions of the report on this ride are now available - the 'Executive summary' and a more detailed report based on an email sent by Dave Minter to his friends back in Australia.
Paul Evans (organiser) - Brompton T5 with a
second chainring ("Welsh gear") selected manually,
Susan Barlow - Brompton 5-speed, Brompton tyres
Tony Hadland - Brompton 3-speed, Primo tyres
Dick Hanson - Brompton 3-speed, second chainring and mech, Raleigh Record tyres
Dave Minter - Moulton Stowaway, 2-speed, Brompton tyres - a combination of his Stowaway front and the back of Tony Hadland's Stowaway; later transferred to Tony's Brompton
Jenny Palmer - Brompton 5-speed, Brompton tyres
Mike Hessey - Birdy Red, Schwalbe tyres
The bikes were folded (separated in the case of the Stowaway) and bagged for main line train travel, and folded and for the most part bagged on other trains.
Saturday 18th May
Main line train to Bangor. Dick and Tony joined the train at Birmingham New Street, I joined at Wolverhampton and the others at Crewe.
Arrived in heavy rain, and then cycled to Caernarfon. Tony suffered a puncture early in the ride (back tyre); rain made it impractical to repair the tube on the spot, and a replacement tube was fitted. No sign of what caused the puncture. Quite soon afterwards he had another puncture - this time we found a fine sliver of flint in the tyre, and removed it. Rain finally stopped at this stage, but tube replaced again. Dry from then on all the way to Caernarfon.
Welsh Highland Railway to Waunfaur, and then back as far as Dinas. A very enjoyable train ride, and no problems with the bikes.
Cycled from Dinas to Porthmadog, cycle route for the first part, and then lanes via Criccieth and main road from Criccieth to Porthmadog. Jenny suffered a puncture (rear tyre again, of course) on the cycle path. We had some difficulty fixing this as the most of the pumps did not seem to want to mate with the Schraeder valves (another reason why I use Presta valves!).
Stayed overnight at Owens Hotel in Porthmadog - quite satisfactory, and the bikes were safely housed in the cafe section overnight. Evening meal in local establishment good, although difficult to find anywhere which was willing to take a group of 7 on a Saturday night without a prior booking.
Tony's knee had been troubling him during the day.
Sunday 19th May
Ffestiniog Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog - as enjoyable as always, and no problems with the bikes. Tony decided that his knee would survive the day's riding, and we all set off for Llandudno. After only a few kilometres Dave investigated the handling of his Stowaway, and found serious cracks in the rear forks. It was decided that he and Tony would return to Blaenau and catch a bus to Betws-y-coed (Paul already had bus alternatives worked out), while the rest would cycle there via a scenic, but hilly route. A hard climb out of Blaenau, but an excellent but very remote cafe stop at the highest point, before turning off to the left towards Penmachno and some exciting descents. Paul broke a spoke in the rear wheel during one of these descents.
At Betws-y-coed it was decided that Tony would complete the journey by bus with the defective Stowaway (he was not going to be able to be with us on Monday anyway), and Dave would take over his Brompton.
Some not very serious rain for our ride from Betws-y-coed to Llandudno, where we stayed overnight at the White Court Hotel - excellent and highly recommended. Bicycles were stored indoors overnight. Evening meal in a very good Italian restaurant just across the road - also highly recommended.
Monday 20th May
Light rain and rather ominous clouds first thing - so decided not to visit Snowdon. Great Orme Tram was the plan for the first part of the morning, but we found it did not start until 11:00 (shown as 10:00 in the literature), and anyway it was only running half way, with a bus service for the remainder of the way due to engineering work. Dick and I decided to walk up,. while the others would take the cable car instead. When Dick and I reached the top we found a sign saying the cable car was not running due to strong winds (and they certainly were strong winds at the top) - so, as expected, the others finally got to the top rather later after using the tram and bus. Walked to the half way point and took the tram down. The bikes had been left at the hotel for us to collect at lunch time - very helpful of the hotel. Set out to ride cycle route around the coast to Rhyl - a very good cycle route, with excellent surface. Stopped for lunch at Beach Cafe at Colwyn Bay - a much nicer establishment than the name might lead one to expect. As we were running ahead of schedule, we decided to ride on the Prestatyn. Arrived there just in time to catch an earlier train than planned - but something of a panic folding the bikes in time - several of us loaded the bikes partly folded, and finished folding on the train.
Uneventful train journey to Crewe, where the group split up to complete their journeys home.
A very enjoyable long weekend. Thanks to all those who took part, and especially Paul for his very thorough planning.
For once we did have some problems with the bikes (mainly punctures), but nevertheless it was great fun. We are already thinking about future expeditions!
By Dave Minter
[This report is based on an email sent by Dave to his friends back in Australia - Ed.]
Our second weekend of May this year was spent with some friends in an attempt to 'bag' some more steam trains in North Wales. For the record, the group comprised:
Paul Evans - the indefatigable organiser with a yen to find the
maximum capacity of a Brompton bag.
Susan Barlow - the Brompton-riding pass-stormer.
Tony Hadland - the Moulton-meister was bringing a Brompton to do the first couple of days only.
Dick Hanson - his modified Brompton was to be thrashed up some more hills.
Photograph: Dick was looking particularly smart for this ride - a new jacket and streamlined sunglasses to help him to go even faster!
Mike Hessey - the keeper of the Folding Society flame broke the near mandatory requirement for using Bromptons by bringing his Birdy.
Jenny Palmer - the Brompton-borne newcomer to the group for this 3-day weekend.
Dave Minter - your narrator was on Frankenbike, half Tony's Stowaway, half mine and like Ms Shelley's original, destined to end in tears.
Susan and I took the Virgin Trains bus to Crewe (I just love bustitutions, Paul's rather accurate terminology) to join the others on a train to Bangor. This simple action was a little more difficult for us Aussies than you might expect. In my customary state of preparedness, I assumed Susan had the relevant details. Susan duly assumed the same. At one stage, we were only a couple of steps away from jumping on a train to who knows where.
The rain in Bangor at the start was a little depressing but as I was repeatedly told, 'No such thing as Wales without rain.' Thanks! Tony managed to get a flat tyre early on. The girls and I continued on to check out the Menai Straits suspension bridge (and shelter from the rain under the suspension anchors :-). Everybody turned up a few minutes later and some of us cycled both footways of the bridge and checked out an information sign on the far side about the bridge, the builder Thomas Telford and the local area. The water was hooting under the bridge as the tide came in. It took a little thinking on my part as to why this was so. Both ends of the fairly short Menai Straits are open to the sea. Can you guess why?
Not far along, Tony flatted again. Most of the group milled aimlessly for a while as Tony and Mike were just out of sight. After I was shown the (fairly convoluted) way ahead on the Sustrans path by an all-knowing Paul, I wandered back to the pair attempting to resuscitate the stricken machine. An enjoyable time was spent questioning Tony's abilities in detecting and repairing pneumatic incidents until both the rain lifted and he was mobile.
Not too far down the ex-railway line we hopped on a South
African Garrett-hauled train on the Welsh Highlands Railway at
Caernarfon. Everybody managed to avoid the 'dog or bicycle' charge
except for your lazy narrator. Moultons take a bit more effort to
pack than most portable machines.
Photograph: The group at Caernarfon preparing to board the train, with the castle in the background.
Photograph: The Garrett on the Welsh Highland Railway
Photograph: At Waunfawr, Paul tried (unsuccessfully) to be allowed to drive the Garrett!
On the return journey, we disembarked at Dinas for a pretty (and pretty lumpy) ride to our overnight stop at Porthmadog. Finding a place to feed all of us was a minor hassle, but the most fun was had watching Tony's knees struggle with various flights of steps.
Breakfast was followed by a short trundle to the Ffestiniog
Railway terminus. Another dog/cycle ticket was required for one
member of the party. Personally, I am at a loss to understand the
similarities between these items. By Blaenau Ffestiniog it was
universally agreed that this railway has the dramatic Welsh
scenery aspect completely wrapped up.
Photograph: By the time we disembarked at Blaenau, the weather was looking ominous - Blaenau is well known for its wet and gloomy weather conditions.
The group remounted after briefly examining the filming of a children's show using the steam trains as background. I pity these children!
At the last junction before the BIG hills of the day started I decided to check the slightly wobbly rear end of my bike. A couple of decent cracks in the chain stays suggested that discretion would be the better part of valour. I headed back to get the bus (another bustitution!) to Betws-Y-Coed with Tony surprisingly (based on the prior day's character assassination attempts) deciding to keep me company. A pleasant conversation over lunch filled in time until the appointed hour for catching the bus (in Brummie: booz). A cottage in the village was the site of many Hadland holidays and apparently the first draft of the Moulton book was inspired by the wet, green and grey scenery :-)
Guilt is apparently a strong motivator for some people. Tony appeared happy to stay on the bus to Llandudno Junction and continue homeward bearing my (his) stricken machine. This allowed me to attempt breaking a second machine by riding his Brompton for the remainder of the weekend. Thanks Tony, no greater grace hath a man than to give up his Brompton ... etc. I have no idea who to attribute this misquote to.
I alighted from the bus to meet a happy group bursting to tell me about the spectacular scenery - fast flowing steams, waterfalls, beautiful gorges and the perfect café called "The Café with Altitude" complete with real espressos (the only place Susan has found in the UK so far) and the most wonderful freshly baked cakes that we had missed. It was only later that evening that they mentioned the man on the roadside with brazing kit handing out handfuls of cash and NS Moultons :-^) We waved goodbye to Tony as Susan showed off her newly-purchased rain jacket. The shopping habits of females came in for a fair amount of stick.
We managed to avoid all but the edges of rain storms to Conwy before regrouping for the ride to Llandudno. We stayed at a hotel almost on the seafront with an excellent restaurant only a short walk away.
The forecast ruled out a trip to Snowden, so the default option of doing the Great Orme Tramway (actually a 2-stage funicular, 2 cables, 4 cars) and riding along the seafront was the order of the day. The non-operation of the top half of the tramway and the cable car (too windy) was a small disappointment but the view from the top was worthwhile anyway. It was noticeably windy all day but the rain stayed away and we almost saw the sun occasionally. The Sustrans path was abruptly interrupted alongside a caravan park where a RSW 16 (non-folding though) was spied next to a temporary dwelling.
We cycled the full length of the path to Prestatyn before
finishing at the railway station with mere seconds before the
train arrived. Cue frantic folding. After a little while, the
crush thinned out and our group coalesced again until Crewe, where
the survivors (sorry Tony) found their way home.
Photograph: Steam railways were one of the themes for the ride, but we got an unexpected bonus in the form of steam cars in Colwyn Bay - many examples were parked or being driven, as part of a rally.
PS: Susan hasn't stopped raving about the Café with Altitude and wants to go return soon - oh and also to see Snowdonia and Llanberis Lake.
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Last updated: 30 May 2002