28 December 2019
By Ren Withnell
Lake Vyrnwy? Wurzzat then? With that many consonants used as vowels it's obviously Wales. How do you pronounce it? "Vin-wee", "vine-wee", "vee-urn-wee", "vee-urn-ooh-eye"? If there's a Welsh speaker in the house please help an ignorant Englishman.
Anyhow that's where I'm going today. Madam Parker is having a birthday come late Christmas day with her offspring so our entourage consists of myself and two Andys, messrs P and LMc.
The weather is the unusual thing today. The skies have a familiar greyness as is the way in North West England but temperatures are mild, possibly even almost warm. Double figure Celsius means I might even venture to take off one of my several jumpers later. There's no rain forecast either. I feel most peculiar in the car park as we muster, I'm not shivering or wet, or both.
Andy P's new sat-nav leads us a merry dance through Cheshire, taking us down unknown lanes then suddenly reappearing onto familiar roads. I know Andy P likes to press on and Andy LMc can hustle that Enfield 500 at pace too. I'm out of practice with this kind of riding, it takes a while to re-tune my brain and (barely) keep up.
My main concern is the roads. We've endured a LOT of rain this December so any road that isn't a primary trunk road has at least a muddy brown tinge along the lane centre between the car's tyre tracks. This is greasy at best so it's better to keep in the tyre tracks. Often times there's washout mud from fields, mashed up twigs and fauna then throw in horse poop and muck from tractors for good measure.
The two Andys appear oblivious to this, I can feel the bike slithering and sliding beneath me which rather concentrates the mind and tensions the buttocks. It's me, I know it's me. I might have half a million miles under my tyres but I'm not a fast rider, never was, never will be, despite my best efforts.
The landscape changes from rolling Cheshire to more and more angular Welsh hills and mountains. The houses change from footballer's mansions to those gorgeous Welsh cottages. The lanes get narrower and ever more precarious with mud and fallen vegetation. It is a delight to see the Welsh countryside in winter, well it would be if I could take my eyes off the road for a moment.
Lake Vyrnwy is obviously not a lake, well, not by my definition. There's a large damn at one end thus making this a reservoir. At the damn end (south east end) is a cafe in which we take tea and chat. I am reassured to hear my riding companions have also noticed the roads are a little, erm, challenging.
Brew and a pee. Ooooh that better.
Lake Vyrnwy is worth the effort. The damn is glorious Victorian engineering, the waters mirror flat on this calm day and the countryside is winter naked. We take a handful of minutes to appreciate and photograph before kitting up once more.
Proper Victorian Engineering.
A very calm and mild winter's day.
Many more miles of single track bring a mixture of pleasure and fear, of seemingly remote beauty and sharp bends covered in dead ferns and grasses, of steep empty valleys and potholes, of high passes with grand vistas and cattle grids on corners. I am both thrilled and scared. Bala brings better tarmac and yet a sense of an end to the adventure.
We get split up, we go our separate ways and we make our way homewards. Yes, the roads are a mess and yes the pace was more than I'm used to but I really must take Sharon to Lake Vyrnwy because I've had a good day out.
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Borsuk said :-
Sounds a good run, must have a look see next time I am in the UK.
13/1/2020 6:15:09 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
I'm sure this damn spelling gets worse.
Nice spot though.
Haven't been for ages.
13/1/2020 6:43:16 PM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I'm with you Ren.
The roads have been really greasy all winter, and I've been riding round like I'm on sheet ice most of the winter. My rear brake shoes are probably nearly down to the metal through over use, and my front brake caliper is probably seized through lack of use. Bends have been negotiated in an almost vertical inclination, unlike dry summer's days when I've been known to get as much as five or six degrees from the vertical going round bends. Ha! Eat your heart out Mr Valentino Rossi!
14/1/2020 1:54:41 PM UTC
nab301 said :-
Lovely scenery , many moons ago I followed a group led by a local to me ( Irish based) motorcycle instructor around parts of Wales including Bala under the auspices of a (motorcycle)training weekend. Early ferry, Sunday morning to Holyhead , return Monday evening. Again, I found the pace was a bit too quick , the roads were fine though. I must put a solo
Wales trip on the "To do list" !
14/1/2020 5:44:15 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh yeah Upt'! Erm, damn - it should be spelt dam... Sorry. I could correct it but then your comment wouldn't make sense.
CrazyFrog - 6 degrees you say! You wild and dangerous rider you, no squared off tyres for you I guess. Bet you wear the edges off before the centre line. I wonder what the science is behind this. You can't simply say "the temperature is x therefore the roads are greasy" or "we've had x much rain therefore...". I suspect it is a combination of many factors. Leaf litter, leaf litter bio-degrading conditions, washout, amount of rain, temperature, air moisture, salt spreading and wash off, any other things anyone else could suggest?
nab301 - while it did make a pleasant and refreshing change to up the pace a little (we weren't going silly) overall and generally I prefer to take it easy. It's a balance thing, it is still exciting and thrilling to open the taps yet I find more and more I enjoy pottering about, soaking up the ambience (or the rain) and having time to see the things I'm riding by. I know I'm getting old but ever since I've slowed down I find I'm enjoying my riding more. I am a plodder, but a happy plodder. If you do come over drop us a line, we'll see if we can meet for a brewski.
14/1/2020 8:24:20 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Since when did MY comments make sense?
And you're being pleasant.
Am I in a dream?
If I am, I hope I wake up to find the wind hasn't blown my garden fence into the North Sea and I haven't just drunk the last wee dram of Whyte and Mackay.
But in case I am awake, it's a lovely ride through Whitchurch and Oswestry to Wales. Remember it well.
On the topic of greasiness, aren't tyres good.
14/1/2020 11:23:14 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh heck I've confused Upt'. Right Ren sort yourself out boy. Ahem.
Upt' you plonker! Can you not see I made this mistake intentionally? I'm checking to see if you're "Upt" to scratch and paying attention at the back. Erm. It's a play on words showing my intellectual superiority. Errr. I'm using an archaic spelling. Look just shurrup about it. Pffffft.
And yes tyres are good, just think you could polish yours in old engine oil and make them all shiny. Just think how good they'll be then!
15/1/2020 6:26:48 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Oh good, back to normal and not a dream after all. Unfortunately that also means my fence is currently on its way to Denmark and my whisky bottle is empty, one will be easier to remedy than the other.
But yes, tyres.......how are they so damn good? You only have to walk on a road with your winter grippy shoes on to realise how darn slippy the surface is. Then you climb aboard your chosen transport and completely ignore the slippiness and they grip like (use your own metaphor).
Obviously the wiser souls amongst us probably ride/drive accordingly and allow for the lowered grip levels although there are a lot more who pay little or not attention to such conditions and yet they live (normally) to drive another day.
How do these little black things (other colours are available) do it?
I fitted Er'Indoors car with 4 season Michies which are a truly astounding tyre. When I say I fitted, I obviously mean I sat drinking coffee whilst some grease monkey changed them. This one tyre will allow grip around curves, during braking, accelerating and will do it in summer, winter, dry, snowy, flood water, amazing. Our bike tyres will do almost the same with a contact patch the size of a beer mat. But I wouldn't try that in the snow.
If only everything in life was as dependable as tyres.
Now where's my fence gone?
15/1/2020 9:40:56 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I always find it slightly amusing that when those silly bike mags talk about tyres it's always dry grip they go on about, and generally say "when warmed up". When you actually need the grip is when the tyres are cold and the surface of the road is all slimy and slippery.
As Upt'North says, bike tyres grip better than shoes. On one memorable occasion I was struggling through freshly fallen (and fallen) snow on top of ice going home from work on the Commando. As I approached a ped crossing the lights changed to red - a very cautious application of the brakes saw me sliding down the road. I couldn't stand up to right the machine till I slid into the gutter and could use the kerb to help.
I have to confess that I then parked the bike till the snow all melted.
With respect to car tyres I use winter tyres all year round on the Discovery. Again, any slight loss of grip in warm weather (which I've never noticed) is offset by the better security in cold wet conditions. And despite received knowledge that they'll wear faster they're still going strong at almost 40,000 miles......
15/1/2020 10:04:21 AM UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I just love the way the bike press review bike tyres. Phrases like 'the tyres give plenty of feedback and warning when they are about to break away' tells you everything you need to know about how these idiots ride bikes and test tyres. Their reviews of bikes and tyres, to me as a 'normal' rider, are about as much use as a chocolate fire guard ☹️
16/1/2020 6:51:54 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The problem is we are all preaching to the converted. My scribblings seem to have attracted the mercifully sensible end of the motoring spectrum. We are however in a minority and minorities don't make much business sense. Magazines that sell well sell to those who wish to read about "plenty of feedback", "maximum revs", "peak power" and "knee down". I'm sure this blog would be more popular too if I were capable of doing the same. It helps if you throw in a few scantily clad ladies but Sharon still refuses to go any further than an unbesocked ankle.
Think how much tyres have improved since the 'owd days.
17/1/2020 1:40:07 PM UTC
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