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Cambrian Series – new 1000km permanent

December 27, 2011

Cambrian 10A – 1000km 18AAA

A hilly 1000km permanent in Wales

Based on three loops from Llandrindod Wells, each loop has a choice of direction and the loops can be taken in any sequence.

The general principles of the Cambrian series apply:

1)    The route is free, with only the towns needed for Controls being required. It is the Entrants’ responsibility to ensure that any roads and route chosen are suitable for them.  A suggested route is provided, however, where there are possible alternatives these are also described as well as the impact these alternatives have on distance and climbing.

2)    The route may be started at any one of the Controls on it, or anywhere between that can provide proof in the way of a stamp or receipt.

3)    Each place where a Control is required is large enough for you to obtain evidence; (a Post Office can provide the ideal “stamp”) a signature is not required.  To my understanding all of the listed controls have an ATM machine.  However, supermarkets should not be assumed to be open 24 hours and 24 hour filling stations are also very rare on the ground.

4)    Once entered for a ride you are free to start at any time and date within reason. You also have the choice of which way round to go, so long as the Controls are obtained in the correct order.

Risk assessment and ride notes

Riders should be aware that this event is of extreme distance and, for its length, significantly hilly.  It is suitable only for very experienced randonneurs.  Riders should have previous experience of hilly long distance events of at least 600km before considering this event.  As a guide, riders attempting this route should have completed an event such as the Bryan Chapman Memorial in 35 hours or under, or the Kernow and South West 600 in 40 hours or under, to ensure that they can complete the distance with sufficient short breaks for sleep.  Many of the roads used are in mountainous areas and subject to adverse weather conditions; riders should not consider starting the event if there are any Met Office weather warnings covering Wales during the planned duration of the ride.   Some of the roads used (including but not limited to: the mountain road between Beulah and Tregaron, the mountain road between Bala and Lake Vrynwy, and the road between Hay-on-Wye and Longtown are extremely remote with low traffic volumes); riders are advised to carry some form of survival bag in case of mechanical problems or injury in these areas.

The distance is such that riders are recommended to making provision for sleeping facilities on route.  Most of the towns have bed and breakfast accommodation and there are Travelodge facilities between Pontardulais and Neath (M4 Swansea Services) and west of Monmouth.

Although the route uses many A roads most of these are in rural parts of Wales with relatively low traffic volumes.  The busiest roads used are also used by a calendar event, the Bryan Chapman Memorial.  Traffic on these roads is likely to be heavier during the week (especially HGV traffic) and I would advise riders to make the most of weekends and bank holidays for the route.  There is a proposed alternative for a section of the A470 south of Brecon, which, in my view, is also overly busy unless taken in the dead of night – however, there is no easy way of getting proof of passage on the alternative, so the shorter route is used in calculation of distance and climbing.  The A48 between Pontardulais and Neath is also likely to be very busy, however, in most of the options this would be ridden at night when traffic volumes are likely to be low – as this section includes access to the Travelodge at the M4 Swansea services that would be ideal accommodation unless riders were particularly fast.

There are several intersections with the national railway network that allow an overly fatigued rider to abandon the event if encountering problems, although services at many of these will be infrequent (again a survival bag is recommended).  These include: Llandrindod Wells, Aberystwyth, Machynlleth (on the Llanidloes – Dolgellau section), Penrhyndeudrath (6km from Maentwrog on the Dolgellau – Llanberis section), Betws-y-Coed (on the Llanberis – Bala section), Newtown, Fishguard, Carmarthen, Pontardulais, Neath, Treorchy, Knighton (on Clun – Hay), Abergavenny (on Monmouth – Blaenavon).

There is a small amount of road ridden twice in the same direction – the A483 south of Llandrindod for about 10km, and three sections of out and back (Llanberis Pass – Llanberis, Knighton – Clun, and Blaenavon – the summit of the Tumble.  (I’m quite pleased that I am able to include this iconic climb in a Cambrian series event for the first time).

There are three example options of how the ride might be ridden to help riders who might contemplate such an adventure.  There are plenty of opportunities for sleeping accommodation on the route – including a Travelodge on the A48/M4 junction on “Loop 2”.   The intention is to allow riders a choice in the order they take each loop so that they can build a strategy around appropriate sleep stops, but also allow a fast rider to base themselves in Llandrindod Wells and do three loops.

Climbing

The table is based on Google Maps – taking the shortest route using the on-foot option – and checking against my library of Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 maps to ensure that the proposed routes are actually surfaced roads.    I’ve used the OS maps to do a contour count.  There are a few valleys where the contour count is not clear (in particular east of the Devils Staircase between Beulah and Tregaron) and in the valley south east of Builth Wells.  I have used my own experience to augment the contour count on these two sections.

From feedback this method does slightly undercount the actual ascent.  Steve Snook has used several tools to check the amount of climbing and rounded up the contour count from 17160m to 18000m of actual climbing.  The difference (an extra 4.8%) is applied in proportion to the contour count figures for each stage to give an adjusted estimate of the amount of climbing between each pair of controls.  This is an indicative figure only and actual figures measured on the ground may be slightly different.

The route

The following three tables give an indicative route.  As always with the Cambrian series the route is free, although in most cases the options are limited.   There is one table for each loop of the ride.  The footnotes show the most obvious alternatives.   The distances are calculated based on the shortest route between controls, in a few cases this is probably not the most practical.  It is likely that riders will add an extra 16km by taking a more practical route (particularly on the Newtown – Llandrindod Wells, Llandrindod Wells – Clun, and Monmouth – Chepstow sections).

Climbing is based on the most practical route (not the shortest route) as there are a few hills, which are easy to avoid (as mentioned in the paragraph above).   It follows that if the shortest distance is ridden there will be more climbing than the amount stated.

It is possible to reduce the amount of climbing by taking longer routes to avoid hills; this will add substantially to the distance, as described in the footnotes.

Loop 1
Start Finish Route Dist Cumul Climbing
Llandrindod Wells Aberystwyth Nantmel – Rhayader – Devils Bridge* 63.5 63.5 1040m
Aberystwyth Llanidloes A44, turn left at Llanifyny and use mountain road past Blaenbythgion and Castell-greide1 45.2 108.7 650m1
Llanidloes Machynlleth B4518 – Dylife (minor roads) 31.7 140.4 780m
Machynlleth Dolgellau A487 to Cross Foxes, minor road through Tabor 24.7 165.1 440m
Dolgellau Llanberis A470 – B44102 – A4085 – minor roads through Coed Caeddafydd – A498 – A4086 65.1 230.2 890m
Llanberis Bala A4086 – A5 – Glasfryn3 – minor roads  – B4510 – A4212 57.3 287.5 1040m
Bala Newtown Lake Vyrnwy – B4393 – minor roads Glyndwr’s Way over Pen-y-Braich to Pont Logel – Dolanog – minor roads via OS078102 to A495 – A458 – Llanfair Caereinion – B4389 – Tregynon – minor road – Newtown 63.3 350.8 1280m
Newtown Llandrindod Wells A4834 with short cuts through The Dingle to Dolfor – then B4385 and minor roads to Llanbadarn Fynydd – A483 – minor roads through Criggin – A483 37.2 388.0 300m4
6420m

* via Llangurig and A44 is 71km

1ascent figure for route is using A44 and A470 which is 2km longer.  If following minor roads for shortest distance would have extra 180m ascent.

2via Penrhydeudreath is 3.5km longer but saves 200m ascent.  (Note that Google Maps walking route as a default takes the rider through Croesor and onto mountain footpaths not suitable for road-bikes).  The climbing figure is taken using A4085 to Beddgelert which is 1.5km longer.  The direct route through Coed Caeddafydd is 100m extra.

3via Cerrigydrudion is 4km longer but saves 120m ascent

4the ascent figure is used based on A483 which is 5.4km longer.  If the direct route is followed this results in 320m extra ascent

Overall, if route instructions are followed then this loop is 8.9km longer than the theoretical minimum – ie 396.9km long.

Loop 2
Start Finish Route Dist Cumul Climbing
Llandrindod Wells Tregaron A483 – Howey – minor road – Newbridge-on-Wye – B4358 – Dolfan (1km N Beulah) – right on minor road to pick up road to Abergeswyn by the church – over Devil’s Staircase – Tregaron 51.1 51.1 1330m
Tregaron Newcastle Emlyn A485 – Glan Denys – minor roads – Capel y Groes – Cwrtnweydd – A4751 46.0 97.1  790m
Newcastle Emlyn Fishguard A484, B4332, A4872 39.82 136.9  690m
Fishguard Carmarthen B4313 – Maenchlochog – minor roads – Llanboidy – minor roads – Meidrim – B4298 – A40 (cycle path available)* 55.4 192.7 1210m
Carmarthen Pontardulais Minor roads – B4306 – short cut to Lannon – B4306 – L under M4 – A48 – Fforest 27.8 220.1  590m
Pontardulais Treorchy A48 – B4287 – A4107 51.0 271.1  920m
Treorchy Brecon B4061 – B4059 – A4703 47.4 318.5  540m
Brecon Llandrindod Wells B4520, A4834 38.3 356.8  720m
6790m

* via Haverfordwest is 14km longer but saves 340m ascent.  Not recommended as very busy road.

1 using A485 and A475 through Lampeter is 1.5km longer and has 90m less ascent.  Climbing figure and distance is based on direct route

2 Google Maps shows 39.4km but there is use of an unsurfaced road and approximately 100m extra climbing.

3 alternative route via Heol Senna (minor roads) to avoid busy A470 is extra 4km and 200m ascent.  NB – Google Map walking route takes you along unrideable footpaths to E of A470 near Brecon.  47.4km is shortest viable route.

4via A470 is extra 5.5km but saves 210m ascent.  Distances and climbing are based on the B4520- A483 route.

Loop 3
Start Finish Route Dist Cumul Climbing
Llandrindod Wells Clun A483, A44, A4881 37.71 37.7  850m1
Clun Hay-on-Wye A488 – B4355 – B4357 – Old Radnor – B4594 – Gladestry – minor roads – Brilley – Little Merthyr – A438 – B4350 – Hay-on-Wye 48.2 85.9 1000m
Hay-on-Wye Monmouth Minor roads – Craswall – Longtown – Penbidwal – Cross Ash- Newcastle – B4347 – Monmouth (control measured as Medieval Bridge – shops/café not town centre)* 48.1 134.0  830m
Monmouth Chepstow A4662 23.9 157.9  280m
Chepstow Abergavenny B4293 – Star Hill – minor roads – old A48 – Abergavenny 35.6 193.5  410m
Abergavenny Blaenavon The Tumble 10.1 204.6  450m
Blaenavon Llandrindod Wells B4246 – minor roads – Gilwern – A4077 – A479 – A470 – Boughrood – minor roads and B4567 – A481- A483 66.8 271.4  900m
4720m

* via Golden Valley is about 4km longer but saves 150m ascent

1 distance is given using minor roads through Llanbister Road, Heyop, Knucklas to Rockhill.  The climbing figures for the direct route on this leg are identical.  However, riders may find the navigation easier using the main road which is 4.3km longer.

2 distance is given using B4293 and minor roads.  The A466 is 2.5km longer but has only 290m climbing.  The direct route has 450m climbing

Overall, if route instructions are followed then this loop is 278.2km longer than the theoretical minimum – ie 396.9km long.

Totals

Loop Distance Climbing
1 (Mid & North Wales) 388km   6420m
2 (South West and Black Mountains) 356km   6790m
3 (Mid & South East) 271km   4790m
Totals 1015km 18000m

Additional notes

The route is designed for three loops from a single base (hotel, bed & breakfast, self-catering) in Llandrindod Wells.   It is possible, as with any of the Cambrian series rides to start anywhere on the route but that would be a difficult ride.  The total time allowed for the ride would be 76hr 19m at average speed 13.3km for 1015km.  Some possible options for completing the ride (not an exhaustive list)

Option 1    (Loop 1 – Loop 2 – Loop 3)

The design is for a fast rider to complete loop 1 in 20 – 24 hours, with a 6am or slightly earlier start, loop 2 would also take 20 – 24 hours allowing short sleep stop on night 1 at the base.  The last loop would take 12 -18 hours allowing a late evening / early morning finish in 60 – 66 hours. On the Chepstow to Abergavenny link there is a Travelodge near Raglan that could be used for a late bail – this would be around 100km or 5-6 hours from the finish.

Option 2  (Loop 2 – Loop 1 – Loop 3)

An alternative would be to start late morning and organise accommodation at the M4 Swansea Travelodge (en route) at approx. 230km, B&B Llanberis  or Bala (586km or 643km), and Monmouth Services (920km) to finish by early afternoon.  It would also be possible to bail by taking a 10km detour from Monmouth on the Monmouth to Chepstow leg (888km)

Option 3 (Loop 3 – Loop 2 – Loop 1)

Start 9pm and ride Loop 3.  Continue on to Loop 2 with aim of reaching Travelodge M4 Swansea at 500km by late evening/midnight on second day (27hours).    Complete Loop2 and start Loop 1 reaching Machynlleth (766km) for B&B.  Complete remaining part of Loop 1 234km with finish before midnight (75 hours).

Route Map (Approximate)

10-picture

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2 Comments
  1. Sounds interesting. Do you have any GPS tracks of the three loops for riders entering the ride that aren’t into route planning?

    Cheers
    Hip

    • Hip

      I’ve not got a GPS so have never put together a track, nor have the technology to do so.

      Apologies

      CEY

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