Im stuck in a field trying desperatly to find a out without being spotted by the landowner . , not good. whilst riding around this ridulously large field, I am anxiously eyeing up the big estate house, imagining a woman at the window saying to her husband, ” there’s someone riding their bike through our field Jeffrey “, “really?”,“I will get the shotgun, my cheery blossom ”, Shite pedal faster, I do not want to answer the question “how did you get on my land”
I swear this is the last bloody time I plan a route and think I don’t know how I am going to get from that point to that point, there’s no access, screw it I will work it out on the ground.
Trying to ride and plan this mini bikepacking adventure, I knew it was always going to be a tad emotional given the crap access rights along the River Dee. However I think overall, it was a good thought. Biking the length of the dee it is not something iv’s ever considered before despite spending so much time on it in the past and in a community that surrounds it. I’ve done so much alongside and on that river including socialising, work, practice and leisure. I have swam in it, partied along side it, camped alongside it, met and developed some of my best friendships whilst being amongst it, hence it’s a meaningful place for me.
I was out on a beautiful evening blast along the river, escaping the town, with my cycle shadow running absolutely parallel to my left and sun setting on my right, thinking this is cool, when I pondered the question how much of the river is bikeable.? Mmm. Only one way to see, with the bank holiday coming up in a few days with nothing on I thought, screw it, I decided i should give it a go, it would be rude not to.
Right gather gear and get organised, shite with my stooge sold I have only this one bike and it’ wasn’t a bikepacking rig at all, it’s a aggressive hardtail with 3 inch tyres on, but as the saying goes “the best bike is the one you have”, its on. However there was more worrying considerations, to ignore.
1 the bikes not set up for bikepacking
2 the rear hub is due to fall apart at any time,
3 my right pedal bearings where shot, causing a clicking noise and a uneven wobble, ever revolution,
4 a bent rear mech and gears need setting up.
5 and the bottom bracket has play in it, mmm
would they last a loaded bike and a hammering ? I was very doubtful, but hey ho, screw it.
Right after a few nights I get the bike sorted, longer stem, stooge bars, anything cage in the frame and bike packing bags attached, mech hanger straightened, (kinda) and gears indexed, sorted everything else I would just have to hope they hold out.
I had a route planned out but when I attempt to load it on my gps it says no and then keeps saying no, no to transfer, doh, maps it is. The route was to be a mixture of paths, trails, gravel roads, cycle routes and roads, how much was doable was yet to be determined.
As one of those stupid pub ideas I have previously trekked up to the source of the Dee, its a mile or so out of the bottom of bala lake, cadir side on the right. I knew it wasn’t nice and the ground was very boggy, it was a demoralising slog, and I ripped some trousers last time, it was both a mare and a laugh. Not something i wanted or had the time to do with a bike though. So I would get to the stream bottom of the hill the source sat on and start there and see how far I could get along the river.
Having no way of getting to bala organised, apart from riding I was struggling to make it happen, until I spoke with Jon who very kindly offered to run me, With a train ride to wrexham and a car journey / catch up with Jon we arrive the other side of bala lake. Having loaded the bike, I set off to the stream that comes off the hill upon which the source of the Dee originates.
The ride into bala was a awesome, with amazing weather the day started well, the clicking peddle would eventually drive me somewhat batty I was sure, with a repetitive ear injury, but hey ho, with a bike this battered I will be lucky if it doesn’t fall apart before it does .
I arrived in Bala and found the outlet from the lake, the Dee’s section change, and already it was a sizeable river. I ate some pies and headed off, I followed a trail just before the bridge in the hope there was some access, but it turned out to be a deceiver.
With some miles gone by it became clear that getting access to the river wasn’t going to be possible until I hit llangollen properly, so I stuck to minor roads that ran close to the river. After a few attempts to get off road I accepted my fate and ate up some distance. At Corwen i knew access along the river was not possible, I have tried in the past, and been beaten into a retreat, i pushed on towards Llangollen, being only dupted into venturing off road once with a deceiving sigh that said walkers welcome along a section of trail the railwayruns along side. It was crap after a km of pushing bike through dense undegrowth, i was awarded a dead end, great, about turn.
At llangollen, I got to use paths running alongside the canal until chirk where I crossed the aquaduct. Soon afterwards it was a road spell again with a blast to overton, then onto Bangor on Dee.
Getting onto the open fields was ace, I had just topped up on lemon fanta at the shop and drank way too much, (I didnt want to waste a 1.5ltr bottle) so I was on a sugar high.
The first few sty’s were manageable then I was having to lift the bike over them, then over fences and on and on and on and then the end…………, doh, not good, no more sty’s, means one thing “no access”. So after some time fumbling around in no man’s land, after much cussing and moaning I escaped and found “trails” kinda again. I was moving at a fairly good speed until I hit a series of sty’s that I had to lift my bike over, it seems there was one every 100m at some points, I lost count of the sty’s, but seems like at least a thousand, then there was the fences and gates I had to lift my bike over, it was not funny. This went on for miles, interspersed with both lush fields to sections of ground that was impossible to ride, no trip out is complete without a hikeabike right?
I had a set place I really wanted to make by the of the day, Farndon, so I keep at it, passing farndon eventually I hit my ponder spot along the river and I know I am only 45mins away to Chester, wow, do it. So after 107km and 9 hours of riding I hit chester, mint !!!! I am happy with that, seen some great nature and got to ride among it, ace. I was looking forward to tomorrow and the journey continuing.
Day 2 with a loaded bike I set off again, following the river with the intention of biking to Holywell, the end of the River Dee, but knowing I will go further, as the day went on ‘further’ got ‘further’.
I followed beautiful cycle trails out of Chester, that run along side the Dee, they went on for miles and were great, a really nice ride for parents with children. As I rode the smell of the river changed from fresh water to salt water, more beaches became frequent and the water looked clear, real clear.
After crossing the Dee and then some I came upon the estuary plains where the river opened out, soon to become the sea. Riding on, I eventually came across some designated foot paths, that I pushed my bike along, then bike trails.
Eventually I saw the big ship docked at Mostyn, knowing it was Sunday there would be a market, market meant lemon fanta and fast food, time to fuel. After lunch i set off and with some cleaver map trickery I came upon some more trails that took me off towards Point of Ayr tye site of one of North Wales past coal pits. Now with Talacre beach the the very begining of the sea in sight I hammered out the last bit of trail and arrived 157km and 12 hours riding, inc staoppages, and the source to sea was bagged. The coast was rammed, I came across a fun fair and everything went downhill from there, it was super nice to see thousands of people enjoying the weekend sun and playing on the beach and in the sea. Bored and with some time to kill i head on to LLandudno with the intention of bivying on the orme.
I rode on hoping to time my end with somewhere to bivy for the night then either ride back tomorrow or get the train back, I headed to Llandudno and was informed by someone who knows the Great Orme well that there is no bivy spots there, this is where my planning falls down, this time, I had not looked for a bivy spot, unusual for me, but there again it was a lot more heavy populated than the areas I usual go to and I had no map. Anyhow I turn back 2 miles out of Llandudno 197km in total plus some distances to account for me not resuming my watch, (happens a lot) and catch the train home. I celebrate the success of the trip with a well deserved Kabab and chips.
How did the bike hold out, well it sounds and feels like a broken shopping trolley now, the pedal, squeaks and clicks way worse now, the rear hub sounds like a cheap skateboard wheel, the bottom bracket is one step closer to saying goodbye. The norco held out and did me proud though, I got a few more scars I have no idea where from but all is good, another one bished, bashed, bhossed.