Bear Bones 200 (2015 edition)

In his recent writeup of the Bear Bones 200, Ian Barrington reckoned that Stu should have cleared out some of the hike-a-bike sections for us, to make up for the excessive punishment in 2014. I have a differerent theory. I suspect Stu actually uses the BB200 as a means of clearing new singletrack for himself. He draws the route where he thinks it might be nice to have a new trail for his personal pleasure. Admittedly, this year Stu was much more reasonable in his ‘trail building’ demands, with only a few such sections – the longest of which was covered earlier in the route during daylight hours. Stu, I sincerely thank you for your thoughtfulness. I hope you enjoy the new trail we cleared for you! It’s sure to be a cracking descent going the other direction!

Playfulness aside, the Bear Bones 2015 route was not only more rideable than last year, I’d say it was altogether more fun (mostly the type 1 kind). The fast and grassy switchbacks down to Llangynog had me giggling with glee. The long, chunky descent (Cwm Pennant?) from the B4391 after the hike-a-bike was glorious, as was the Wayfarer climb and descent towards Glen Ceireig… although I managed to drive a massive nail through my tyre and out the side wall (see below).
Of course, a significant factor in my increased enjoyment this year must have been down to lessons learnt from 2014. I did manage to finish last year, but only by a blade of tussock.


Don’t overcook it! Start easy!


This was my mantra in those early KMs. I held back and focused on conserving energy. I took stretch breaks and climbed in lower gears. It was good to be chatting with Emily, my riding partner until Landrillo, as that helped to maintain a more casual pace. It’s easy to get excited and get the heart rate pumping at ‘training ride’ pace, but it’s just not sustainable on a ride like this (except for an elite few).


Last year I packed all my food for the whole route and I chose badly. I had too many sweets and snack food. This year I focused on eating ‘real food’; well, sort of…

I carried a plastic bag full of yesterday’s pasta. I gobbled it down outside the pub in Landrillo with a titanium spork. The lads outside the pub watched with amusement and suggested I needed motor for the next climb. I tossed some SIS powder in my Camelback and got back on the bike.

Not long after, I wolfed down two sandwiches and an guilty energy drink at The Cross Stores in Glen Ceiriog. This was enough to get my pace up to reach the chippy in Llanrhaeader-ym-Mochnant where a few of us grovelled for last orders just after 9pm. I forced down the entire cod and chips as if I were trying to make foie gras and then I grabbed two more sandwiches and some peanuts from the Spar and set off into the night. It became harder to force the food down after midnight, but it saved me falling into the awful state I met in last year.


Admittedly, I regularly suffer from Renaud’s, but I swear it must have been colder in 2014.  I remember becoming quite cold! My hands and feet were numb and I stopped to warm up in my bag around 4am.

This year I brought extra layers including the down vest, but I didn’t end up needing them! The night air seemed balmy and almost too warm by comparison. Did I imagine this? Was it just my metabolism or was it actually warmer this year? Dunno, but it certainly made it easier to get through the night without stopping for sleep.


Last year I started popping my ‘crack-uprofen’ cocktails (caffeine+ibuprofen) at around the 50km mark. In hindsight, it was certainly a factor in my loss of appetite in 2014. This year I was careful to save the cocktails for ’emergency only’; Instead, I only popped a few caffeinated SIS tablets – and only after food. I didn’t even use the ibuprofen until the next day (when I definitely did need it!).

Bear Bones 2016

Bring it on! My experience this year was a world apart from 2014. Looking at my overall moving time vs elapsed time, I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement. Even without a sleep, I somehow lost over four hours in stop time. I spent too much time in the towns and fixing (two) punctures. I am already looking forward to getting back there for a faster ride next year … hopefully on a new bike! Shhhh!!!

I was joined at the start by Emily who brought the same Caribou that she rode across the Yukon. Stu jotted down our start times before we set off.
It was a gentle climb out of Llanbrynmair following the tracks of eager 08:00 starters.
We made it only as far as Llanwddyn (~36km) when the coffee shop lured us in for a muffin and toilet break. A few other riders were already enjoying a sit down meal inside.
We continued to climb up onto the moors, passing through many gates. It soon became a social ritual, like passing the baton for the next arrival, offering to hold their bike whilst they closed it.
Emily’s Caribou bounced playfully over the grassy bridleways. I am becoming increasingly fatbike-curious, but I am lusting for a lean hardtail before adding a fatty to the arsenal.
We didn’t know exactly what was coming next, but we knew it involved going down…
… I could finally savour a moment of satisfaction with the full sus bike after watching all the hardtails and rigids climbing with their solid rear ends.
Of course, the ‘type 1’ fun would last long. Stu had other plans in store. Specifically, it was a bastard hike-a-bike up an overgrown footpath that he wanted cleared for his own riding pleasures later.
I love this photo, not least because of Emily’s cheeky smile, but because I took it after she fell over in the bushes when I stopped abruptly. The fat bike toppled after her and she lay nestled in the bracken, slightly annoyed with me. We later joked about how I pushed her in the bushes and threw the fatbike on top of her.
The hike continued across the summit, even after we thought we had reached the top. I think Stu tends to mark the route according to the OS map, but the exact trail location can vary. Is it cheating to overlay it on satellite imagery and make a few corrections? Hmm…
Erm, back on the trail… sort of…
It was a fantastic descent to Landrillo. Once again I was grateful for the suspension, as it soaked up the chunky loose stones and soft ruts…
Sadly, the fun didn’t last. I found a truly massive nail (sword?) on the descent into Glyn Ceiriog. It entered as shown, and this would not have been a problem for Stan’s tubeless. Unfortunately, the ghastly thing exited on the sidewall near the rim and Stan’s would not seal it well enough for a reliable fix. Argh! Out came the Stan’s jizz and in went the Slime tube with much haste and cursing.
After the tyre slaying, it was looking unlikely that I would reach the holy chippy in Llanrhaeader-ym-Mochnant before closing at 21:00. But something got into me (ie, massive hunger) and I pushed the pace up from Glyn Ceiriog, managing to get to the Chippy at exactly 21:03 with a few other riders. We pleaded with them to serve us and they finally obliged. The group shown here were the last served.
The cod and chips started to tempt the sleep monster, but with the deep fry batter, the energy turned out to be a slow burner. I made it to the bull fighting ring not long after midnight. The foggy night crept into the early morning hours as I continued chasing the little red tail lights in the distance – some of them real and some probably induced by sleep deprivation. I passed a rider at around 16km to go and then I just pedalled like mad to the finish, looking forward to a much deserved hobo snooze in the car.

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