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Here Comes The Rain Again

Summer is creeping up, we've had some glorious sun beams this past week or so and I need to get my legs ready for all the events on my cycling list this year. So last Tuesday I picked up my new ride, a Genesis Delta 10, happily picked up from the Cycle to Work scheme and set off to South Wales to visit friends and hit Dave's Witches Hat route.

The Witches Hat is a route designed by Dave Hann, a well known South Wales big mile road cyclist and long time friend of mine. We knew each other as pub buddies in a wider group, prior to becoming parents, so there's at least 20 years in the bag. Dave has ridden these routes many times and is always keen to share his knowledge and enthusiasm, to help cyclists gain confidence at going long, or riding with groups.

We were looking forward to this for a good few weeks, so happily ignored the fact that there had been a huge lightening storm the night before. I also ditched my security blanket backpack and decided to just head out with shorts, a short sleeve jersey and my tools + repair kit in my saddle bag. Wardrobe basics like jackets, would be left - trying to just concentrate on the route at hand and trying to pack light. Foolish but in good spirits.

I'd previously cycled my new ride from Victoria Station back to East London, after picking it up, but this was my first outing on drop handlebars in about 5 years, so I was a bit wobbly on the balance, but all was going okay. Dave and I headed up to Tongwynlais to meet 2 more riders, Dave and Anthony, at the Plan to Ride Cafe and I got used to the new handle bars and all seemed to be cool.. A little bit of drizzle but nothing to worry about.

The Plan to Ride hub is a great spot to drop by, great coffee, a few essential bike bits and some planning space to talk through the route we were about to undertake. Its been set up for about a year so far and the attitude is super friendly, helpful and easy to park your ride while you take 5.

Dave talked us through the route, which was going to get us hill ready as we rode in and out / up and down the valleys up to Ferndale and East, before dropping back towards Cardiff. It looked like a challenging course, but as Dave pointed out where the cafe's and chip shops were on route, we were all good to go.

So as we left the warmth of the cafe, the rain was hanging out and looking like it may fall, but hadn't started so far. We edged up through Pontypridd and continued on with the hills getting higher and rain progressively worse, but I conquered the rain drops by singing the Beatles (Here comes the sun) and a little Bonnie Tyler, cause you know - it has to be done to cheer you up sometimes.

When we reached Ferndale, we were pretty soaked through, so we stopped at the community Sweet Shop and warmed up with a good chat and a packet of Jazzies. I grabbed a few pieces of Rum and Raisin fudge, just in case; marvelling at the rows of jars of sweets, bon bons, sooo many sweets from childhood. Once we'd tested the raspberry bon bons, we gathered ourselves and started to climb the mountain beyond the village. It was due to be one of the highest points on the ride, but only a few kilometres in, the legs felt cool and all would be fine.

So I would get to test the joy of 18 gears and true to form, granny cog would get me all the way to the top after a few twists and turns in the road. The houses finished, the road narrowed to a single track lane and the clouds were so low, there was no view of the top, so we kept climbing. I apologised to my lungs for filling them this past month with occasional bouts of Marlborough Golds.. I'm not a super healthy sportswoman, I'm a realist - a lover of occasional wine or beers and from time to time the odd fag gets smoked.. I'm human - stupid at times - but human.

Then as we reached the top, we started to pick up speed and get ready for the descent, when I realised all was not well. I couldn't get my pedals to turn and I was stuck on the free wheel only. I looked down and realised that my chain had broken, with the casing of the chain folded back on itself. This was a brand new bike, on its first proper ride out, on the first reasonable sized hill and I was stuck. More to the point, we 4 were now stuck on the top of the mountain, in sleeting rain and no shelter.

Luckily for us, Dave fixed the chain in a few minutes, so we could move on, but it was already too late. We were all soaked, cold, impressed by the quick mechanics, but not in a good place and regretting our wardrobe choices. We started the descent and enjoyed the speed, but it was really slippy and our hands were too cold to grip the brakes well. We gathered at the bottom of the hill where the road split 2 ways and waited for guidance on which way to head next.

We thought long and hard, then agreed that the only route we were interested in at that specific moment, was the way into the pub, which had magically appeared behind us. We rocked up outside the Brynffynon, dripping with rain, then were rewarded with big smiles, huge coffees and the best welcome. Once we came to enjoy the real wood fire and our escape plan (Mally and a van) came forward, it was a group decision to take on board some nutrition in the form of Tomos Watkins ales.

Some days, the plan changes and you have to just roll with what comes up. Was I disappointed that I didn't complete the route? No way - I had a great day, learned a few things.. not to forget to pack your warm gear.. how to fix a broken chain.. that I really miss the taste of scampi fries.. all key learning opportunities

I will be back later in the year to complete the route with Dave, which definitely looks like it has a great bunch of twists and turns.. My new bike - will definitely be returned for a new chain too.. I've a few more rides to do in the meantime, but I'll be back to test it out again for sure xx

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