Last year, when I was an intern in Oxford with the Fritz Institute, I was invited by my boss, Fraser Stephens, to go on his annual mountainbiking trip: Mud v Sheep v Bike. This year, I got him to invite me again. He chose Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales for this year’s trip, and it was amazing!
Leaving London Paddington train station to Wales on September 18th:
I got to Cardiff in the early afternoon and spent a few hours walking around and reading my book, then caught my bus from Cardiff up to Brecon. Fraser drove down to Brecon to pick me up, and after a nice evening chatting with him and some of his friends, I went to bed. In the morning, we all got our bikes ready to head out into the hills. I was very lucky that Fishy, one of Fraser’s friends, brought an extra bike just in case. I had planned to use Fraser’s rigid bike, but Fishy brought one with front suspension, which just happened to be the exact same one he lent me last year!
The first obstacle we encountered was bovine. Well, actually we were just waiting for the stragglers to catch up on the road leading to the trails, and this is where we chose to wait:
To get to the mountainbiking trails, we had to cycle for a while on the tow path alongside the canal near Tallybont. I’m decent at taking photos while cycling now…
…and working on improving my behind-the-back shots too:
Some nice views:
Me and my ride:
Mike took a tumble end-over-end coming down the steepest part of the trail – I’m very surprised he’s the only one who did! It was really tough! Luckily his bike didn’t land on him as it came down, which is a common way to get injured – it hopped right over him. But his glasses did cut his eyebrow:
Nurse Dawn had her first aid kit, including medical superglue (used in place of sutures to close wounds). I noticed one of the tires had partly come off the rim so Fraser deflated the tire, put it back in place, and re-inflated it:
A few minutes later we were at the pub for our midday lunch break. Outside the pub was a tiny pony:
Soonafter, we were back on the trails. We passed through the gap / over the saddle between Pen Y Fan (the highest point in South Wales) and Corn Du, and then it was back down, down, down.
It didn’t take long before two bikes got flat tires at the same time on a section I chose to walk because it was quite tough.
One of the two flats was Dawn’s bike, so Mike wasted no time in fixing it for her, which was a nice way to repay her earlier help with his eyebrow:
By the time we got back to Cantref Farm, where we were staying, my GPS unit showed the following figures for the day’s trip. I took the photo because it was strange that all of them were multiples of 5:
This plaque is on the building, but it doesn’t actually say why it’s there. It just says when it was unveiled. It’s basically a plaque that just describes itself, and says nothing about why it was put there (obviously it’s somehow linked to the Foot and Mouth crisis, but what about it?)
That night we had a massive feast. Fraser made his traditional banoffee pie that he does every year:
Fraser’s girlfriend Kate led the cooking effort, and it turned out very well – a bunch of super tasty Indian dishes.
The next day, September 20th, six of us went out for a second day of cycling. Although Fraser always says that the second day will be much easier than the first, I think most people have figured out that it’s never really that easy, so they all stay back and relax. Paul, Kate, Fishy, Adam, Fraser, and I had a great time on our second day, so I’m glad I forced myself to go.
Adam and Paul on one of the easier sections of the day:
Cycling back along the canal to Cantref Farm:
On the ride back, we had ice cream, then relaxed at the farm for a little while before everyone took off for their respective homes. Adam kindly drove me to Newport, and I walked around town for a bit before catching my train back to London. Here’s the only
photo I took in Newport, near the train station:
All in all, it was a great weekend. The mountainbiking was tough but fun, Fraser’s friends were very friendly and interesting, and somehow the weather was perfect too! Hopefully I somehow manage to attend a few more editions of Mud v Sheep v Bike in the future!