Snowdonia National Park. Wales. UK.
Route 1 information:
Nant Gwynant loop from Porthmadog Harbour.
Length: 57.41 miles
Elevation gain: 5,106ft
Moving time: 4 hours 51m
Total time out on the bike inc. filming, stops etc: 10 hours
Route 2 information:
Llyn Cwellyn loop from Penrhyn.
Length: 54.28 miles
Elevation gain: 3,846ft
Moving time: 4 hours 46m
Total time out on the bike inc. filming, stops etc: 9.5 hours
Basis for the cycling adventure was to discover Snowdonia’s most stunning areas by road bike, taking in some of the famous locations, geography and landmarks. Two loop routes were chosen, that encompass a large area of the National Park. Day one heading through the centre of the mountain range, then heading to the Western side and back round. Day two, again through the centre of the National Park, but the heading East and back round, totalling 112 miles of road cycling through one of the UK’s most wild and rugged scenery.
Day 1 - Nant Gwynant loop from Porthmadog Harbour:
Typical snowdonia weather was the order for most of the day. The first part of the starting in the quaint coastal town of Porthmadog, but soon up into the wilds of Snowdonia. Steep single track lanes taking me through lush green forested areas, on up into the centre of the National Park. Heavy drizzle and increasing winds making cycling anything but easy.
The route passes through the stunning village of Beddgelert. Nestled in a steep sided valley and a large river, with mountain water cascading over a boulder strewn river bed that carves its way through the heart of village. I stopped at a cafe for a coffee and cream scone, as by this time I had been cycling in the wind and rain pretty much none stop for two hours, so it was a welcome break from the weather.
From here, it is a continuous steady climb along a series of large lakes, connected once again by a beautiful river, all fed by the surrounding mountains. Snowdonia is full of water. It pours from every nook and cranny, across rocks and large steep slide woodland, eventually making its way to the sea. At times the water breaches road side streams and pours across the tarmac, bringing with it small stones, mud and moss. A cyclist riding around these mountain passes must always be on their guard, as the road and weather conditions can change so quickly.
Eventually, after cycling up hill for well over and hour I reach the famous Pen y Pass. Home to the trail head which leads to the summit of Snowdon. Always a busy place, with many hill walkers and tourists aiming to summit Wales’ highest peak, before returning for a coffee or beer in Mallory’s YHA across the road. From here the route then heads down through Llanberis Pass, one of the UK’s most stunning valleys. An exciting ride down to the bottom, but then back up again for the route to peel off to the to start it’s loop back. Although its a tough climb, the awesome scenery just keep you going, and all you can do is drink in the views, whilst madly peddling away to keep up hill momentum.
By now the sun had finally shown his face, basking the rugged landscape in a wash of late afternoon golden light. Truly spectacular and awe inspiring. But the sun soon disappeared again, and the wind and rain made its unwelcome return for the last 2 hours of the ride back to the start. And to make matters worse, the route went through some very steep passes, and what ensued was the hardest cycling I had ever done. Poor light, very steep & long inclines, and a 25mph bang on the nose head wind made it tough going. It truly took all my effort to make it through this section of the ride, before I could thankfully turn my front wheel south, through more sheltered roads, and back to the finish point. An epic day of cycling in the true sense of the word.
Day 2 - Llyn Cwellyn loop from Penrhyn.
I awoke on the second day of cycling to much better conditions. No wind, sun shining and very settled dry conditions. Absolutely perfect for cycling. The start of this second route around this incredible place not far from days one’s start point. A similar first section of the route taking me back up to Beddgelert, but in the village heading West a junction takes me off and away across the lowlands of Snowdonia towards the Menai Straights and the coast. Although not as rugged an area as the main part of the national park, it was still a beautiful mornings ride, through sleepy villages with the deep blue of the Irish Sea way off in the distance.
Eventually after cruising through the rolling low lands and arable farm areas, I made it to the town of Llanberis and set my sights directly on stopping for a hearty lunch at the famous Petes Eats cafe in the town centre. A mecca for many adventure thirsty hill walkers, climbers and cyclists, with an amazing photo collage adorning the wall inside of many of its customers hanging of huge rock faces, taken in the surround mountains over the 40 years the cafe and been there. Even getting a mention in the New York Times as being “Cheap and filling” and “Rowdy and fun”. They do a great fry up, and the biggest mugs of piping hot frothy coffee you’ve ever seen.
After a hearty lunch, it was back on the bike and up through the Llanberis pass for a second time on the trip. Again being blessed by the sun as I pass up through this stunning valley, with huge peaks either side, and cascading waterfalls all around. I stopped here, halfway up, next to a tranquil stream to do some photography but also to dip my slightly sore feet into the ice waters.
Invigorated and rested, I continued up the pass, then where as on day 1 turned left, this time I hooked a right and headed back down towards Beddgelert. This was one of the best downhills I have ever done. I flew down winding roads, with a huge lake, and Snowdon in the distance to one side, and steep sided forests to the other. A 10 min continuous decent. Cycling at its best.
I was still flying down hill when my GPS beeped for a hard left, which I would have certainly missed if it wasn’t for the pre turn warning sound on my excellent Element Bolt unit. So from whizzing with ease downhill I was suddenly heading up the side of the valley and into a very wild part of that area. With evening light turning everything golden, and the surroundings seeming to settle in for the evening, this was a truly beautiful last hour of riding, as I ahead along the side of the valley, on a high up old single track road in a really remote area of Snowdonia.
Eventually I came back down onto the main road and back to the finish, to end what was some of the best riding I have every done. Snowdonia is certainly a paradise for any cycling enthusiast.
Power Traveller kit review:
Bike set up:
Open Cycle U.P full carbon gravel plus frame/forks
Beast Components carbon seat, seat post, head stock and bottle cages.
Fulcrum Wind DB50 carbon wheel set
Shimano 105 group set.
Navigation: Element Wahoo Bolt GPS unit.
Lights: Supernova front and rear chargeable lights.
iPhone 7 plus.
Ortlieb Waterproof saddle bag, top tube bag, small top tube bag & handle bar bag.
Power Traveller kit review:
Solar adventurer II
Because of the time out on the bike filming and photographing the adventure, Powertraveller solar chargers and power banks were essential to keep kit charged on the bike, especially bike lights and GPS navigation. My bike lights will only last about 6 to 8 hours max, so being able to keep them charged on long rides is essential.
I loved having the Solar Adventurer II attached to the front of my bike. I had it set up so I could swap out the charging leads from my GPS to my bike lights. The fact that was on the front also felt like a bit of visual comfort, as I could see the blue charging lights and new it was keeping my kit topped up with power. Such a great set up for long distance cycling.
I also took with me the Sport 25, which is so light and handy, and that kept my iPhone topped up the whole time. It fitted nicely in my small top tube bag and I could run the lead to my phone which was in the bigger top tube bag under the frame. Again another perfect cycling set up. As a back up I took the Swift 40, but didn’t really need it.
I also took the Falcon 7 which I laid on a rock in the sun whilst I was doing a photoshoot. It also topped up the Sport 25, which in turn kept my phone charged.
All in all, the set up I used was absolutely perfect for long days in the saddle. I think if I was to have camped and been away from a power source for a few days, I would still have had enough power to have kept my bike gadgets topped up.