December bike blog: Adventures close to home

December 19, 2012 3 Comments »
Runner on bridge

Photo by Simon Nurse.

In his final post of 2012, yourCardiff bike blogger Simon Nurse talks about the joys of (safe) night-time cycling in and around Cardiff. Simon cycle commutes daily, races cyclo-cross for Cardiff JIF and edits the Odoni sponsored cycle blog Contact him on Twitter @cyclestuffblog.

Dark. Cold. Wet. Great isn’t it?

Ok, so the weather might not be the best, but in common with many outdoor pursuits, one of the great things about cycling – in the eyes of this obsessive at least – is interaction with our environment and enjoying the best the season has to offer. In the dark winter months opportunities for good local adventures abound, particularly if you enjoy mountain biking.

There are few more pleasurable cycling experiences than riding an empty trail. Whether it’s gentle trails and shared time with the children or cross country mountain biking, winter trails are quiet, largely empty and offer a great opportunity to get away from the Christmas hoopla without travelling too far from home. Adventure need not be something that happens elsewhere. This is perhaps even more apparent if you’re planning to dip your toe in the water of night-time mountain biking.

Armed with a good set of lights (and I do mean GOOD, high power LEDs are the order of the day such as these from Exposure), night time mountain biking is a superb experience and we’re blessed with plenty of opportunities to enjoy it right on our doorstop. Around the periphery of Cardiff lies the Ridgeway, a route that extends from the Rhymney Valley and loops around the Caerphilly basin. Encompassing Rudry forest and offering opportunities to connect with Machen, Caerphilly common and Fforest Fawr (Castell Coch), it’s the perfect place to hone your night time skills without travelling to the more obvious – and busier – destinations of Cwmcarn, Afan Argoed and Glyncorrwg. Nothing, but NOTHING, matches the feeling of a great ride in challenging conditions followed by a good meal and flopping on the sofa. It almost makes poor weather palatable.

Still interested? Good. Kit wise you’ll need the lights (mentioned above), helmet, appropriate cycling kit (jacket, cycling tights, jersey etc.), some additional layers in case the weather deteriorates and it’s highly recommended that you take a phone and tell a friend or relative where you are headed (and remember to stick to bridal paths). If you’ve done all that, you’re good to go.

This all comes with the caveat that if trying night time mountain biking for the first time, stick with a trail you know; you’ll quickly get a sense of how your skills transfer to riding in limited light conditions and it’ll breathe fresh air into existing trails. One further suggestion for winter training, if riding a bike proves unpalatable in poor conditions; consider supplementing a ride with the odd run to keep your fitness levels topped up. Nothing can ever replace muscle specific training, but over Christmas and the New Year, when life becomes a whirlwind of potential excess, the odd run will go a long way to keeping you in good condition

Moving away from family and recreational riding or training, we’re now very much into the off season for racing cyclists. The cyclo-cross season has now ended in Wales and warm congratulations are extended to my Cardiff JIF team mates Adam King and Ian Jeremiah, the Junior and Veteran Welsh league champions respectively. It’s been a fine season for Adam in particular, who is poised nicely for a podium place in the National Trophy with one fixture remaining and who enjoyed the great honour this season of representing GB at the World Cup in Koksijide, Belgium. Well done both.

2012 is almost behind us. Will it be remembered as the year that cycling became embedded in the public consciousness? I suspect so. In an Olympic year, British cycling enjoyed tremendous success at home and abroad. Cycling advocacy continues to rise in public profile and with prices at the petrol pump still inordinately high, more and more people are finding out just how good a vehicle a bicycle can be; for both transport AND leisure.

Have a fantastic Christmas and New Year.

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  1. Geoff December 20, 2012 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Nice one, Simon…a fantastic photo too!

    However, I hope your enthusiasm for winter and night time cycling does not encourage too many "fairweathers" out this season. For those of us not into competitive, club or "crowded path" cycling this is the best time of year, don't spoil it for me now!

    Keep up the good work.

  2. simonnurse December 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks Geoff, I understand the sentiment!

    Enjoy those empty trails.

  3. sterrffr January 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    As soon as we reach the last week of October, the sound of fireworks becomes a regular feature of the darkening evenings. Guy Fawkes Night.-Ron D. Smith

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