I mentioned this in a previous post, but today was the day I accompanied Russ for the Wales leg of his round-Britian charity ride.
There was a slight misunderstanding over meeting times, but eventually I tracked Russ down in a petrol station in Llanrhystud, on the coast road South of Aberystwyth at about 9:30 am. The day was cool, with a bit of rain in the air, so my choice of leather jacket and jeans wasn't too bright. We set off onto the B4337 and passed through Lampeter before stopping for a coffee and a bacon baguette (mmm) at the famous West End Café in Llandovery. We then carried on down the A40 to Brecon and Abergavenny, where we had another coffee at the Bus Station, another favourite bikers' hang-out. In the car parking area of the Bus Station, we saw this weird device:
I understand it is a BMW, although whether produced by the motorcycle or car division I am not sure. It looks wildly top-heavy, and on its tiny scooter wheels I can't imagine it is very stable. But the dapper and bearded gentleman who climbed off it (or should that be out of it?) seemed unconcerned with such matters.
I planned to ride with Russ as far as the A449 at Raglan. However, I had already run onto reserve and when I realised that I would have to join the A449 and ride it for some miles before I could turn back (and I know for a fact there are no petrol stations on that stretch), I bailed out into Raglan town to look for fuel. Russ carried on towards his goal of a campsite at Weston-Super-Mare.
Russ turned out to be a thoroughly nice guy, and his passion for the cause of cancer research was clear. He's already a long way to achieving his fund-raising goal, and I wish him well with it. I hope the bacon baguette was a suitable contribution to his well-being for the day.
I decided to make a meal of the journey home, so I hunted around the road map until I saw something suitable. By going back along the A465 Heads of the Valleys road as far as Merthyr Tydfil, I was able to pick up a tiny unclassified road that led me to the start of the Brecon Beacons Mountain Railway. I almost took a turning that would have led me to the infamous Gurnos Estate, and if I had I probably wouldn't be writing this now. The road picked its way alongside the Pontsticill Reservoir and across the top of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Strangely, I passed within a few yards of the Taff Trail, the scene of the killing of the biker with a metal bar across the trail (posted here). That wasn't deliberate, I assure you. The land there shows the evidence of years of coal mining, with strange lumps in the ground which have now grassed over and look almost natural:
The reservoir, on the other side of the road, was deserted and eerily peaceful.
Once out of the valley and on the tops, the views were stunning:
I have never been on this road before, but I know I will have to do it again sometime. The road finally descends past Tal-y-Bont Reservoir into the village of Talybont-on-Usk, where I surprised to see a swing bridge in my way, and even more surprised to find that it crossed a canal, complete with narrowboats, that was a good five metres higher than the road I was riding on:
And so back to Brecon, the A40 (and a roadside burger) and home.
I was a little anxious about the bike. I always am until any work I have done has proved itself in action. I needn't have worried. The bike went like a dream all day, coping with traffic, A-road blasts and dual-carriageway high-speed cruising as well as I could have wished. Its good manners in slow traffic haven't been compromised, but the hefty belt of mid-range that the airbox and carb mods have delieved is astonishing. Overtaking was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair*, and the bike seems happy to cruise a full 10 mph faster than before. Great for performance, not so great for my neck muscles. The most amazing and gratifying thing was the numbers when I finally filled the tank before returning home - a very reasonable 55 mpg average, which is almost identical to previous long runs before the mods. I did a couple of plug readings on the way home, and they were normal. I think we'll call the work complete for now.
Oh, and the 285 miles I did today has also finally killed off the rear tyre. It is now officially bald. New one should arrive in the next few days. And waiting at home for me was my latest eBay purchase, a Vango 3-man tent, bike-camping for the use of. I'll post about that shortly.
*OK, that's an exaggeration. But it was a damn sight easier and quicker, that's for sure.