5 June 2023 – Dyfi forest


As we haven’t been doing any rides worth talking about recently, I thought I’d go back to last month, when we were on holiday in Aberdovey, Wales. It was a bit of a family gathering, and Oliver and Kirsty and the boys came too. As well as bikes of course.

Oliver was keen to try out some of Simon Warren’s “Greatest cycling climbs” in the area, and there were a few within striking distance. We started by having a crack at the Dyfi forest climb.

We set out at 8.30am on another sunny morning, this being the middle of the early June heatwave of 2023. However, there was a fairly stiff easterly breeze to contend with, and we were heading east from the start.

Pretty soon, Oliver stopped to pick up a Red Bull from the local shop. I carried on, and sure enough, he caught me back up within a few minutes. The coast road we were taking was fairly winding and wooded for much of it, giving us a bit of protection from the headwind. I was a bit worried that the traffic would be heavy with us starting out on the main road at rush hour, but it wasn’t too bad, and everyone waited patiently till they could overtake.

After a while, we reached the top of the Dovey estuary and the turnoff for Machynlleth. We went straight on, and after the roadworks for the new bridge to Mac, we turned right onto a minor road, headed for Aberangell and the start of the climb.

The road was quiet and pleasant to ride along, with views of the Dyfi valley over to our right. Then we got a fright as a squirrel decided to cross the road just as we were passing. It ran right up to Oliver’s back wheel and then must have got caught up, as it span right round with the wheel, through the seat stays and down onto the ground on the other side. It then managed to find its feet and scurried away into the undergrowth. That was a close call, both for the squirrel and Oliver, as it could have ended much worse for both of them.

A bit later on, I needed a stop to take some painkillers, as I’d been suffering from a sore back for a few weeks. The bumpy nature of the little side roads had set it off again, but luckily the ibuprofen kicked in quite quickly and half an hour later it was forgotten about.

Oliver also took the chance to check our progress towards the start of the climb, when he discovered that we were heading for the finish of the segment, and therefore we were at the wrong side of the mountain. That caused a bit of consternation until I discovered that there were two Dyfi Forest climbs, one from either side. And I had plotted our ride based on the harder one!

The road started to get steep as we entered Aberangell and found our way to the start of the climb segment. I waved Oliver off, then settled in to do the climb at an easy pace. Perversely, as soon as the climb started, the road flattened off, then even went downhill for a short while, but it wasn’t long till I started to see warning signs for a steep road ahead.

I stopped at the bottom of a short dip to take a photo, but stupidly didn’t change down gear. When I started again, the gears complained loudly as I clunkily changed down all the way to my bottom gear.

It was very steep straight from the off, and soon reached 20% gradient in places. It carried on like this for over half a mile, before levelling off and giving me the chance to catch my breath a bit. I could start to appreciate the scenery of Dyfi forest a bit better now. Areas where the trees didn’t encroach fully on the road afforded some great views across the forest.

There then followed another half mile section where the gradient ramped up to severe again, till I got over the top eventually, and found Oliver waiting for me on the other side. He was pleased at finishing in the top 10 of the nearly 1000 people who have attempted it. 

Then we had the descent, where I would have preferred to have disc brakes for the steep drops. The descents were mixed in with short, steep bits of climbing too, with the odd stop to take photos. 

At one point, I hit a bump and my water bottle came flying out and skidded over to the left of the road. I stopped and walked back, noticing a steep drop into a ravine at the side of the road. Luckily my bottle was stopped from rolling off into the irretrievable deep by a clump of grass. I thanked my lucky stars then carried on to catch up Oliver, who was waiting at the bottom, wondering what was taking me so long.

We had reached the (ex-)slate mining village of Aberllefenni, which Colette and I passed through on a previous visit to Wales, and Oliver and I would pass through again later in the holiday on an even bigger and more climby day.

But for now, we were concerned about getting back to base. Our route took us through Corris, where we turned left and onto a very narrow road leading south. However, after Oliver had a close call with a car coming up the other direction, we bailed out onto the main road and enjoyed an easy gradual descent to the roadworks near Mac that we had passed through earlier.

Oliver knew that there was a near 10 mile segment coming up from the Dyfi bridge back to Aberdovey. He decided to go for it as an all-in time trial effort, while I took it a little easier and enjoyed the ride and the continued sunshine on what was becoming another hot summer’s day. When I caught up with Oliver at the holiday house, he a big smile on his face after clocking up another Strava KOM!



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