British Heart Foundation South Wales Bike Ride 2011

With the original British Heart Foundation 2011 South Wales Bike Ride postponed in July due to the Fforestfach factory fire, it was good to get the green light for the event this time around.

My jersey and ride number

Until this year, the charity ride was known as the British Heart Foundation Gower Bike Ride – I don’t know why it changed – but judging by the numbers involved today it seemed as popular as ever. It’s just a shame the atrocious weather couldn’t have been more accommodating, but I guess that’s the risk you take with a bike ride in mid-September.

The other (welcome) change was the addition of a 50 mile route to this year’s event, which in combination with the 29 and 16 mile route options meant that all cycling needs and abilities were catered for.

This was my 4th BHF bike ride in these parts and I simply couldn’t resist the challenge offered by the 50 mile route. Here is an overlay of the course as recorded by my Garmin:

BHF South Wales Bike Ride 2011 Route Map

Basically in order to ‘fit in’ the 50 miles, the route continued along Carmarthen road, through Penllergaer, Pontlliw, Pontardulais, Llanedi, Fforest before looping back through Pontardulais and then onto Grovesend, Gorseinon and Llwchwr before joining the 29 mile route in Gowerton.

As I’d expected – and been told by far more experienced cyclists – this route ‘extension’ wasn’t very forgiving and there were plenty of challenging climbs along the way! The elevation chart below illustrates this perfectly 🙂

BHF South Wales Bike Ride 2011 Elevation Chart

Whilst it was certainly a challenge, I think the driving wind and rain for the majority of the first 20 odd miles made things far more difficult than perhaps they would have been otherwise. Although having said that, the thought of doing it in July amidst a 25°C plus temperature isn’t exactly ideal either!

I was fortunate enough to escape having a puncture – although I saw plenty who did – but my achilles heel was certainly my continued acquaintance with my cleats! Twice I managed to fall off before even reaching the halfway mark of the route.

The first time was at a set of traffic lights in Gorseinon. I successfully stopped and got my left foot out of the pedal… however, whilst adjusting myself – or rather my shorts – I lost balance and slowly (gracefully?) fell over to my right. Thankfully, the lights had only just changed – so apologies to the blonde lady driving a silver Mazda, I really wasn’t attempting to land on your car bonnet!

The second time was through mechanical failure – honestly. Whilst climbing up Ystrad road towards the B4295 going through Gowerton, I managed to jump gears and my chain came off… the next thing I was in the hedge, well brambles to be precise. Now I was nursing two sore buttocks, dented pride and had a chain to fix 🙁

During my downtime fixing the chain, at least half a dozen or so riders whom passed by, offered their assistance or asked if I was ok. Thanks to each and every one of you – it was a nice gesture and shows that there are decent, genuine people out there after all (which isn’t always the case at sporting events such as this).

I’m glad to say the rest of the ride passed without incident and the only items of interest worth mentioning were the fact that the showers began to become less frequent and some guy doing the 29 mile course on a unicycle! Fair play that must take some doing – especially giving the conditions and amount of climbing – respect to you whomever you are.

After all the climbing, it was a welcome (and speedy) descent down Mayals road and it was time to go flat out along Mumbles road with one eye on the clock and the other on the finishing line in the Recreation ground next door to St. Helens.

According to my Garmin, I covered 51.20 miles in 3 hours 47 minutes, averaging 13.5 mph with a top speed of 36.8 mph (probably down Mayals road!) and burnt 4,088 calories in the process.

BHF Charity Bike Ride Goodies

I was relatively pleased with my time – the fastest I have ever done 50 miles – but no doubt I will pay for it tomorrow… especially if my butt cheeks are anything to go by!

Unfortunately, I have to round off my blog on a sour note. Without wanting to sound as though I’m… (a) a miserable 40 year old git or (b) a do-gooder, I do find it extremely stupid, annoying and contradictory that some people taking part in the event, see the need to stop at various pubs along the 29 mile route to have an alcoholic drink.

Apart from it being dangerous – you are after all in control (allegedly) of a mode of transport on a public highway – it kind of flies in the face of raising money for the British Heart Foundation don’t you think?