Spring days were made for this. Beautiful, sunny weather, historic landmarks and epic climbs.
This was a day that we covered around 190km, climbed over 2,500 metres and burned around 12,000 calories between us. However, it was an opportunity to try out an Audax route (well, at least part of it) that our friend David had been working on.
We started out at Plan2Ride in Tongwynlais, where we discovered that one of us had a jammed front derailleur. Fortunately, Plan2Ride is fully kitted out and Raoul was able to fix that in a jiffy.
From there we headed off down to Rhiwbina & Llanishen to follow the lane to St Mellons and the old A48.
To the Newport Transporter Bridge
There’s no other way to dress it up, the old A48 is nothing to write home about, or write on here about for that matter. It’s a dual carriageway that was mercifully quiet thanks to it being a bank holiday, but it was a means to an end and took us right to the Transporter Bridge. For £1 each you can ride across on its gondola and emerge on one of Newport’s cycle routes.
This is where you’ll find a network of beautiful country lanes snaking their way through the Gwent Levels. If you wish you can loop around to Goldcliff for a cuppa, but time was of the essence here, so we ploughed on before rejoining the main road east of Magor. After travelling through Rogiet and onto Caldicot we took a left through Dewstow Golf Club (have played there…not bad…) and onto Caerwent to rejoin the A48.
Move along, nothing to see here…
Suddenly, we were at Chepstow, where we took the A466 all the way to Tintern for our first civilised coffee & cake since leaving Tongwynlais. There’s a nice little cafe just north of the Abbey that on this day was full of cyclists. It’s understandable though —Tintern is a stunning little place.
However, we didn’t have the time to stop and take in the sights, so we ploughed on to Monmouth, sticking with the A466. As A-roads go, the A466 between Tintern & Monmouth is actually a really good road to cycle on. It follows the Wye all the way up and the scenery is quite spectacular. It’s definitely one to revisit, perhaps on a multi-day ride where there’s more time to stop & enjoy the views.
When you reach Monmouth, take a right at the roundabout and follow it along to Kymin Road.
The first climb – to the Kymin
David had been suggesting for some time on this journey that the climb to the Kymin was a bit of a swine. Sure enough, it was. It’s a narrow lane that features a couple of switchbacks and is fairly relentless. However, the Kymin is worth the climb, mainly because the view is absolutely spectacular…and there is a toilet!
From here, the only way is down the way you came up and back the the roundabout. You then have to cross the A40 and head into Monmouth town centre. There’s a few coffee shops, a few pubs & restaurants and a supermarket here, so fill your boots. It was just a flying visit for us though as we needed to press on.
The Leg Sapper
Leaving Monmouth via Rockfield (you can cross the Monnow Bridge and take a right at the roundabout) we headed for Abergavenny. This road is a series of climbs and descents that make a gradual ascent upward. On Strava it is called the Leg Sapper for a very good reason. It’s essentially interval training, uphill, for an hour. The trick is to try to carry as much speed as you can from the descents so that you only really have to pedal towards the top. This isn’t always easy with the traffic though. It took us about an hour to get from one end to the other, but fortunately there was a plate of chips and a jumbo sausage waiting at the other end.
The scenery in this area is spectacular though, with the Brecon Beacons National Park coming into view as Abergavenny approaches. Abergavenny itself is not too shabby either.
There’s also a train station here, should you feel like calling it a day and heading back to Cardiff.
Llangynidr – 100 Greatest Climbs No. 94
When people talk about cycling around this neck of the woods, everyone seems to gravitate towards the Tumble. The Tumble is a climb we have yet to do, but on paper at least Llangynidr is more than a match for it. It’s a category 2 climb according to Strava and sure enough, it is a monster.
From Abergavenny, your next move is to make your way towards Crickhowell on the A40. Our plan was to take Crickhowell Road, but for us the roadworks on the A465 knocked that idea on its head. From Crickhowell you can head along the B4558 to begin the climb.
It starts at just over 100m above sea level, but ends at above 500m just 5.8km later. Strava has given it an average grade of 7%, but this takes into account the brief period of respite towards the top.
As climbs go, it’s tough, especially after the 100km you’ll have already covered. Having said that, the payoff is a wondrous view across the National Park and it is definitely worth the slog. Sadly, we didn’t stop to take photos here, but there’s plenty of time over the summer for that.
The Ride Back
Being completely and utterly spent and in complete darkness by this point, we managed to get a little lost on the way back. However, it wasn’t until we consulted the map the following morning that we realised where we went wrong.
The road from Llangynidr will eventually cross the A465 Heads of the Valleys road into a place called Garnlydan. From here we needed to get to the A469, which would eventually bring us all the way to Caerphilly. Riding on the A465 isn’t recommended, but there is a route (NCN46) through the streets to Bute Town at the top of the A469.
You should be able to follow A469 all the way back to Caerphilly, before joining NCN Route 4 and the Penrhos Cutting back to the Taff Trail. However, in our fatigued haze we ended up climbing out of Pontllotyn and over the tops of the hills between Treharris and Bargoed. The climb out of Pontllotyn is absurd. Don’t do it! Just keep heading south!
It certainly added to the adventure, put it that way! It’s also a ride that would be excellent as a proper audax, or even as a weekend away. We’ve talked about going away by bike before, but there’s a few interesting landmarks and villages on this route that would be worth further exploration. Hats off to David for such an interesting yet challenging ride.
Over to you!
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