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!!!