The end of the road: or ‘Only glove can break your heart’

In cycling, as in life, you develop relationships with people and things that you come to depend upon. Well, for me, and this sounds flippant, one of those things is a pair of winter cycling gloves that have finally become so worn as to be unwearable. Indeed, they are dangerous: last week on a steep descent I had a sticky moment when the end of my brake lever got caught in one of the gloves between the outer shell and the liner.

I bought these gloves about 12 years ago when I started training properly (or if not properly then at least hard) as a road cyclist. Rides were often long and, in winter, cold and wet.  My combination of old cycling mitts with woolly gloves underneath was not up to the job. My hands were getting so cold I could hardly hold the bar. I went into my local bike shop, Edwardes of Camberwell (home of some of the most vindictive, hostile, rude customer care (in the very best sense)) and asked them for the warmest gloves they had. What follows is pretty much verbatim:

“I need a pair of very warm gloves please – what are the warmest you have?”

“You’re not going to f*****g want them, you’re too much of a tight f*****g c**t.”

“I see, may I at least have a look at them?”

“Get him (me) the f*****g Assos gloves” (boy fetches gloves)

“Hmmm, they’re very nice. How much are they?”

Anyway, they were about £50 and because, at the time, I had become a mature student I didn’t have much money and I remember paying for them in installments. That was the kind of thing Edwardes would do for you if (believe it or not from the above) they liked you.

I’m not sentimental about objects generally, but I have loved these gloves. I must have ridden 20,000 miles in them over the years. I remember one particular Tour of Flanders sportive, where I set off at 6am in the snow in the dark from Brugge – 294km later the only bit of me that wasn’t cold were my hands (we took it in turns to lie down on a huge heating pipe at the end just to try and raise our core temperatures). There was a London-Battle and back ride that we did in the snow. At the road junction at the bottom of the long descent of Toys Hill I tried to unclip and I couldn’t because my feet were frozen into my Speedplays. Again, my hands were warm. An icy chaingang ploughing down Polhill, reaching for a drink at the bottom only to find the bottle frozen. And so on. As they got more worn out I have tried other gloves, but none have been anywhere near as good.  The closest I’ve ever found in terms of warmth are the Gore lobster claw things – but if I’m honest THEY JUST AREN’T RIGHT.

I’ve looked at the modern Assos gloves and, whilst still reassuringly expensive, they don’t look up to much. And also Assos seems SO much to belong to a brand of snotty, grabbing, aspirational types these days rather than to the stock room of a slightly grotty SE London bike shop where the owner calls you a c**t whilst blowing cigarette smoke in your face. All of its original charm is lost to me now.

…so if anyone out there has a pair of Assos Thermax XL gloves from somewhere around the early 2000s please let me know. There is some money waiting, possibly in installments.

Hit the Road Jac

I have a confession.  I enjoy road cycling as much if not more so than mountain biking.  I didn’t feel that way when we lived in South London where I endured and survived a 7 mile commute into central London everyday and weekend rides into Kent meant a 20 minute slog through South London’s Mean Streets.  I don’t cycle as far as I used to and all day epics are a thing of the past – I blame that dog – but a 30 mile ride can be just as worthwhile and rewarding.  The roads around here are so quiet that we can cycle for miles without seeing a car and there are very few roundabouts or traffic lights to break the rhythm.  Bala’s driving test centre is famous, and much in demand, as one of the few centres where a test doesn’t involve such things.  I took my driving test a couple of years ago in Bala, not having the need for a car when living in London.  The first time I negotiated a roundabout and dual carriageway behind a wheel was driving to Chester and back to visit Richard in hospital after he broke his hand.  But that’s another story.

The weather last week was great so we had no excuse not to get out on the bikes.  Sunday was a 32 mile ride (with 3000ft of climbing) over Bwlch y Groes, down to Lake Vyrnwy and back over Rhosygwalia.  Monday was another 30 mile ride through Llandderfel to the top of the Berwyn before turning round and heading back to Bala with a detour around Llyn Tegid.  We had planned to ride over the Berwyns to Llangynog and then Vyrnwy, Bwlch y Groes back to Bala but realised we would be late for our Welsh conversational class in Stori, or ‘siarad caci tarw yn Gymraeg’ as we like to call it, so we cut the ride short. Thursday is chaingang night, a 20 mile thrash starting and finishing at the Bryntirion.

Road Cycling North Wales

Road Cycling Snowdonia

Road cycling Berwyns

What a Difference a Year Makes

This time last year Richard was busy making windows for the Barn (with a little help from Jac), the roof on the extension had just been finished and we had barely started work on the Stable.

 

A year later and we’re all finished and fully occupied…

 

But we haven’t stopped working.  This summer we’re going to build a pump track in our field and a proper fire pit with seating.  Watch this space.

Tim, Emma, Daisy and Mosy’s Welsh Adventure

Begin with four bikes and three dogs.  Add dry dusty trails and sneaky singletrack.  Throw in some big views and empty landscapes.  Add lashings of sunshine and a dash of Welsh beer and cider, combine with lots of enthusiasm.  The result is two satisfied customers, three tired dogs and two very happy hosts.

Through the Pane Barrier

Catchweasel windowRichard is making windows.  Eight of them.

Made from sustainably sourced oak supplied by our local timber yard, each one is different.

Inspired by old Welsh farmhouses, they are a modern take on an old style designed to keep the weather out, the heat in, and the spectacular views framed.  Nicely done.

Mountain Bike Heaven

As I had said before, one of the reasons we decided to move to Bala was its proximity to trail centres.  We’re a short drive away from Coed y Brenin, Llandegla, Antur Stiniog (Blaenau Ffestiniog), Revolution Bike Park (Llangynog), One Giant Leap (Llangollen) and the ClimachX, Marin and Penmachno MTB trails

What we are also discovering is how much wonderful natural riding there is on our doorstep.  It’s possible to ride out of the back gate and string together everything from a gentle cross country ride to an insanely steep plummet through a forest, from a short evening potter to an all day adventure and everything in between.

Ty Beic Mountain Biking

We also have a little project of our own.  May I introduce Richie’s red bits……

Ty Beic Mountain Bike Centre
We’re building a track in our field.  It’s going to take a while as we do need to finish converting the barns first, but its a fun distraction.