cycling in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and beyond…..

The Dole Run – in praise of Granny rings

The phone rings on Tuesday evening. “Are you coming out on the Dole Run?”
“Yes.”
“That’s good. Do you like hills?”
“They’re ok.”
“Meet at Brooks Cycles, Welshpool at….”
“10am?”
“Yes that’s right. See you tomorrow.”
“Until tomorrow then.”

Just after 9am I set out for Welshpool, nervously wondering what I had let myself in for. I had been reassured that the Dole Run was a more civilised pace and more social. Arriving at the shop in good time I went in and there was one person waiting – Yogi. We introduced ourselves and I met the shop owner as well. Brooks Cycles is a sponsor of the club. In the end six of us turned up, two of whom I knew and we set off just after 10am. We did a tour around the block to arrive within 20 yards from where we started and then turned into Church Bank. Knowingly one of the group said we were going to go up Red Bank. We did – first arrow of the day – and steep it was too. Eventually we joined the A490. I sort of like these A roads, there aren’t any cars on them, but there was a lot of climbing on this one. Left at Groes-Lwyd on to the B4392. The pace was far more realistic allowing conversation as we went along. Apparently the run is so called as you had to be on the Dole (unemployment benefit) to be able to do the run and is not some Welsh term that I need to learn. That said I can’t pronounce the place names – Bwlch-y-cibau anyone?
At Cefn du uchaf a right down a steep descent with a downhill arrow – bit of a novelty the downhill stretch; could get used to those. But followed in quick succession by two uphill sections, both with one arrow to Maesglyn. After topping out a very steep descent (2 arrows) followed by two further steep descents of 1 arrow each. Onto the A495 and then off towards Pontrobert. My ride companions groaned and then explained – all roads out of Pontrobert are climbs. In fact my ride companions took great delight in informing me of the nature of the road ahead. I wonder, is it better to know what is coming up or to meet it in complete ignorance? It was climb of two sections of 1 arrow but studying the map from the comfort of home I should be grateful that we did not take the left turn with three sections of 2 arrows. By now the amount of climbing was wearing the patience of all but our ride leader. We have been through a lot of mud, cow dung and slippery steep sections. The gallows humour was in full flow. Had our ride leader had a bash on the head as this was an exceptional amount of climbing for a Dole Run – Steve was to check with the ride leader’s wife on return to see if he was ok. Was Snowden really the highest peak in Wales? Surely we had climbed higher? But thankfully we has some respite – two downhill sections with 1 arrow. On to the B4395, a cut through, 1 arrow downhill, to the B4393, and then a climb to Lluest-ddu. We turn into the drive – about midday. Turned out it was the home of our ride leader’s brother and his wife. A great baker; we were fed Bara Brith, cake and more cake washed down by some very welcome tea. “Your plate is empty – have some more cake.” “Thank you.”

Our ride leader is a man of gadgets, not just the radar equipped Garmin rear light. “You know we have done a lot of climbing.”
“We know – you seem to have tried to beat the record.”
“Well we have climbed 3000ft in …. 20 miles.” “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“And some quite steep ramps – over 20%.” “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Have you seen Lake Vyrnwy? It’s just around the corner?”
“No, but it can wait until another day.” Oh yes we were in The Mountains just on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.

Talk turned to the return journey with rain forecast for the afternoon and Yogi wanting to be back by 2pm. We decided to go back down by the fastest route – only a few climbs they cheerfully told me. Back to the B road but a puncture held us up. As it was being repaired Steve approached me and asked about That Sunday Ride. I told him it was too fast for me and not much fun. Steve is a committee member and he admitted that they had problems (not issues – how refreshing!) with the Sunday ride. Two riders had recently joined from Llan-something-or-other club and they are very strong. The local top riders were basically competing with them on the Sunday ride to set the pecking order. It was causing a problem and people would not join the club if they weren’t enjoying the rides. I heartily agreed and my comments were duly noted. From the B road onto the A490 and then major indecision at Bwlch-y-cibau. Straight on followed by a right and left, which everyone thought to be the quickest and easiest – wow two wonderful words used in the same sentence or turn right. The ride leader said right to many groans – all bunny hops and then a sharp left down what looked like a track, though is a yellow road on the map. The A490 takes you back to Welshpool – not straight, plenty of wide bends – but there is a sting in the tail. After a big right hand bend is the hill which the club use for their hill climb. No arrows, steady gradient, just long with the QOM set by Emma (sorry don’t know Emma who) at under 4 minutes and no idea what they said about KOM. Suffice to say I made it and kept my dignity. Do you focus on your pain as you climb or do you distract yourself? I do the latter and thought about a warm bath, food, tea and comfort. Finally Welshpool. “Have you time for a stop at the Royal Oak?”
We had tea in the rain and were told we had done a further 2000ft of climb. I can feel it in the legs. No Sunday ride has been posted yet – if it is it will go from Newtown. Newtown rides tend to be hilly, Welshpool rides tend to be flatter – all due to the local geography. “Pardon!?!?”

Steve said that if he posts a ride it will definitely be a “B” group ride.
“If you do go would you like to join us at the Nag’s head and we can go down to Newtown together? Just make sure you do not go with the nutters – they treat the ride between Welshpool and Newtown as a time trial and then go home – make sure you find us.” I said I will see what the weather is like. Going with them would be fine – it is the flat route along the A road. All other routes out of Llandyssil have an uphill arrow on them.
And so the 10 miles home in the rain – thankfully just rain and not Welsh rain so much of the mud was washed off the bike rather than me being washed off the bike. The signpost to Llandyssil says 2 miles, very comforting except for the two ramps. The first I made in a straight line and down the other side. Llandyssil ¼ mile. Just get into the granny ring now and think about anything but the 50 metres up to the house. Zig zag and collapse.

2 Comments
  1. Thankfully there was no Sunday Club Ride. So got my workshop ready instead. Can still feel the burn.

  2. Well that sounds much more positive than last Sunday’s ride! I suspect that due to your choice of location a large smattering of OS arrows is going to be the norm on all your rides. You’ll have legs of steel in no time and the Surrey Hills really are going to seem like bunny hops when you come back for a visit!
    Enjoy the burn. ????