Wayfarer Centenary Ride, and weekend

A weekend in north Wales with the Rough Stuff Fellowship, in honour of the centenary of Wayfarer's snow-bound crossing of the Berwyn Mountains.

Should you delve into the annals of the history of cycling in the UK then you’ll find Cornwall doesn’t really feature at all. Historically little of two-wheeled significance happened here (a point on which I stand to be corrected), and major events rarely venture this far west. As such living all the way down here at the bottom of the nation it is easy to lose touch with the richness of cycling culture further north. I am sure folk more learned than I will be able to explain why the north seems to be more heavily represented than elsewhere; perhaps something to do with the rapid industrialisation of those areas enabling pastimes such as riding while the southwest was still too busy with fishing and farming. Regardless, Cornwall is not, relatively speaking, a hot-bed of cycling culture and thus it is a good thing to poke one’s nose across the border from time to time and join in with goings on of a bicycling flavour farther north.

One hundred years ago on the last Saturday in March a certain Walter MacGregor Robinson, popularly known by his pseudonym Wayfarer, set off on a snow-bound crossing of the Berwyn Mountains in north Wales. His account of the crossing appeared a few weeks later in Cycling magazine and helped cement his reputation as a pioneer of off-road cycling. Rather than repeat that which has already been written elsewhere I’ll point you to this page on the CTC Cymru website that explains a little more, and instead get on with throwing some snaps at you.

The weekend was in fact executed in colour, but you know… nostalgia..

Last weekend, being the centenary, the Rough Stuff Fellowship (https://www.rsf.org.uk/) organised a get together in honour of Wayfarer’s crossing. It was a weekend featuring some terrific riding in the company of friends old and new, all rounded out with evening talks, slides of past Rough Stuff Fellowship exploits, plenty of beer, and “bonhomie”. Well worth the long drive north to dip one’s toe, or rather both legs, and head (I did go over the bars into a peat bog at one point trying to ride something that perhaps I shouldn’t have…) into some proper cycling culture again. The organisers did a fantastic job, kept it nice and informal, and are deserving of a hearty thank you for such a memorable weekend.

I didn’t set out to ‘document’ the weekend, I thought it might get in the way of just enjoying the riding, so stuffed my fixed lens compact camera in along with my sandwiches for some snaps; here are the places I pointed it…

I loved the veteran cycle attendees and their attention to detail. Something I could very easily embrace. N+1 and all that…
Wonderful. The bike is a 1930’s Raleigh.
and colour.. the photos in the chap’s hand are from the original crossing, and I particularly like the pink digital watch. It looks like it could be a Casio F-91W, a model of some notoriety since, aside from being the epitome of minimal, nerdy efficiency in watch design, it was also identified by US military intelligence officials as being a favoured tool of Al Quaeda for it’s ease of application to bomb timers… I have one, but not for that reason, for the nerdy one…
Saturday… dusty trails and sunshine, somewhat at odds with the heavy snow 100 years prior. Being north Wales in March I did not expect that…
A moment of contemplation perhaps
The Wayfarer memorial stone sits at Pen Bwlch Llandrillo at the top of the track that climbs Nant Rhydwilym. It’s a super climb with lots of interest in the form of rocks and water, and a fantastic eyeballs-out descent on a fast, stony track.
I hesitate to use the term “Britishness” as it’s Wales.. but you know what I mean.
nostalgic monochrome-tinted glasses on again… Isla rode the track on her vintage singlespeed Raleigh in a fashion befitting of a former 3-time British cyclocross champion…
Very much not the average weekend chaingang. Really super company.
Indeed. I saw no evidence of increased lushness of the grass in this spot.
Sunday was very much more of a free-form affair. The four of us failed to get out of tents early enough to join any of the groups heading off.. something to do with the return of British Summer Time and late nights at the pub (we were camped 10km away from the pub HQ)…
..so instead a little bit of creative route-finding with a crossing of Cadair Bronwen in true Rough Stuff Fellowship fashion… i.e. a lot of hiking…
“That way!”
..still hiking…
Wayfarer would have approved I’m sure..
Fine views
Still hiking..
Quite steep in spots..
A super-enjoyable day out.
Approaching the summit cairn.
the top… cold.
Smiles… Cass had this Jones SWB on test. Looked like a really useful all-round sort of a machine with the fat Schwalbe G-One rubber fitted. He also had some insanely light carbon rims on test… I imagine there will be a write up on bikepacking.com at some point.
the last dregs… happily the wind was bitingly cold. It wasn’t a sweaty traverse.
More fine views
Super late-afternoon light.
Back at the Wayfarer Memorial, just from a different direction.
Far, far better than synthetic energy gel muck…
A warming toast to Wayfarer… and also preferable to commercial energy goo…
Late afternoon conditions on the descent looked a little more like north Wales is supposed to look…
Incidentally the weekend was also a good opportunity for me to give a new bag design a bit of a beasting. Planning to make it available commercially before too long, return to South America for a few months notwithstanding. Judging by the level of interest in it I seem to have done something right… More details as and when. Do drop me a line if you were there, saw it, and want one!





17 thoughts on “Wayfarer Centenary Ride, and weekend

  • The ride got great reviews elsewhere – I have no idea how they managed to avoid the ego and racing – fantastic indeed.

    • oh it was brilliant, there were no egos or racing in evidence at all. I just don’t think the RSF attracts that sort of thing since there are no awards or emphasis on “conquering” great distances or “epic feats of endurance”.. rather it’s all just good, social, and very inclusive fun with the emphasis on enjoying exploring by bike.

      • Great write up Mike, some super pics. It was a pleasure to ride with you on Sunday morning. Such a shame I had to head home before you got the really good stuff.

        It’s telling that of the RSF’s eight annual awards, I think five are for photography. Another is for best article, and best sketch. None are for furthest, fastest or anything like that.

        • hey Jack, great to hear from you and thanks for the feedback. Such a great weekend, and likewise re Sunday morning, hopefully we can get to ride again some time soon! I really liked the vibe; I used to be a dedicated racer, years ago, but you know.. getting older, learning, enjoying a different vibe now. It was perfect.

  • No doubt this is a best of Mike Hayes.
    Thanks for the joy to read, see and smile.
    I’ve posted the link at L.I., ‘far off the track but too good to miss’

  • Damn you boy! You just kill me… you’re always on top of things. In the know and doing great things. Your photography slays me. And your casual/conversational writing suits the feel of your presentation perfectly. I hate you. Once again, I’d like to use your opening photo on my blog to send readers your way. May I? All the best to you (really) and keep up the great – inspiring work. Cheers! – cm

    • haha, I’ll take that “hate” as a compliment then ;-) I really wasn’t on top of things until a mate dropped me a line a couple of months ago suggesting we go check it out after he saw details on Instagram.. I’d have missed it otherwise. Glad I didn’t.
      re photo, OK, I’ll mail you the permalink.

      • Yes… it’s absolutely a compliment. (Sarcasm can be difficult on this interwebby thang.) I have just joined the RSF and was told about the Wayfarer Event. I had thought about going… – then wam-bam! You’re posting photos!!! One-step ahead, one-rung above… great job.

  • Siempre buenas fotos, con su toque de nostalgia y de actualidad. Y muy interesante esa bolsa del sillín… Nosotros acabamos de llegar a Madrid, de vuelta tras casi cinco años de viaje. Ahora toca pedalear hasta San Sebastián. Empieza una nueva etapa…

    • ok, not sharing too much detail until ready to release it, the way of the bag market, at least in this country, seems to be that anything good very rapidly gets copied but it won’t be long.. stay tuned!

      • Totally understandable… it looks very interesting from the single rear shot you have. I will keep watching for more!

  • Enjoyed this, captures the fabulous day. Being local i have wanted to do the Wayferer for ages but never quite worked out logistics!
    What a super day though, great photos. Need to do my own blog, dont know where the time goes!!

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