CTC stands for Cycle Touring Club which is a national organisation to promote long distance cycling for fun rather than speed. Swansea CTC is very active and has two rides every week. Cycling is really my other half’s thing but I join them when I have time and it is thanks to these rides that we have discovered some of the most beautiful roads in Wales.
The rides are not competitive, slower riders are accommodated and supported. Lunch is a leisurely affair, some members say that CTC stands for Café To Café, but nevertheless it is thanks to the CTC that I have climbed our local mountains and ridden a hundred miles in one day. I doubt I would ever have done either without the support of that bunch of friendly, kind, helpful people.
This was far from typical for a CTC ride. Instead of the usual 10 – 15 cyclists, there were 200 riders, one of whom was arguably the greatest rugby player Wales has ever produced, local legend and all round nice bloke, Shane Williams. The ride was arranged to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the first chain driven bicycle, which was ridden from its home in Glanaman to Swansea and back. This 36 mile round trip was unheard of at the time and was the first demonstration that bicycles can be used by ordinary people to travel great distances.
The grandson of the man who built the bike still owns the farm and generously allowed us all to use his farmyard and fields for parking, refreshments etc.
The first half of the ride was easy – downhill along the banks of the Tawe to Swansea. I had a puncture, my first in five years, but was rescued by OH and several other CTC friends.
By the time we got to the lunch stop, the hotel which had been tasked with catering for us had been forcibly brought to understand how much 200 hungry cyclists can eat. We were greeted by a long, disgruntled queue of people, the last of which turned to me and said “dim bwyd” – “no food”. Don’t know why it was in Welsh, perhaps because it’s more punchy than “they’ve run out of sandwiches”.
Eventually we were given niggardly quantities of sandwiches with little thought to the vegetarians and none at all to the vegans. We managed to hunt down some coffee but rumours of Welsh cakes were sadly unsubstantiated.
The ride back was much more interesting as it involved climbing Betws Mountain. Only 376 metres but you climb, drop, climb and drop again repeatedly. It’s difficult to focus on how tired your legs are however, when you are riding through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
The massed hoards of cyclists had either opted to take the easier route back or had just spread out along the road, so there were times when it was just OH, me, some ridiculously pretty spring lambs and the odd red kite.
The weather was perfect – warm but not hot and very little wind. In fact the whole thing was perfect. Once again, the CTC provided us with a unique view of the Welsh countryside and an opportunity to get some exercise among a lovely group of people. And Shane Williams – wow!