Registration is now open for the annual South Wales edition of the FNRttC.
We depart the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay at midnight, meeting 11:30 pm. [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Our exit from Cardiff is business-like but effective - it is not long until we turn off the A48 at Bonvilston into quiet swoopy lanes. In the likely event that we are blessed with one of our traditional tailwinds, this will iron out the undulations all the way to Llantwit Major, where we regroup in whispers in the centre of town. From there we join the Dimlands Road, which (on a clear night) offers tantalizing glimpses of the moon on the Bristol Channel. We stay close to the water as far as our halfway tea-sandwiches-and-cake stop in Ogmore-by-Sea.
When we leave Ogmore, refreshed, there is just half an hour until sunrise. We spend this wending our way gently upwards through Merthyr Mawr and Laleston to the lower end of a ridge called Cefn Cribwr. This affords us some stunning dawn glimpses of the threatened Port Talbot steelworks, inspiration for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
As we reach Port Talbot, we take a loop up-valley, to show off a little of the local landscape and avoid the worst excesses of highways engineers. There is a short but sharp climb that will be testing on tired legs or macho gears, but there's no shame in walking it. We take a breather at the top and enjoy a fast wide descent into Neath. We take a quiet back route into Swansea, with views over Crymlyn Bog (home of the notorious Great Raft Spider - lingering is not recommended).
A short stretch of urban ordinariness, and then we meet the sea again, for perhaps the finest five-mile finish in the Fridays' calendar, around the great sweep of Swansea Bay to the pier at Mumbles for breakfast.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
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If this is your first FNRttC of the year, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
, and before you do the ride you will need to confirm that you have read [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
A note on trains:
There are plenty of them, but Great Western (who run one train an hour between Swansea and Paddington) have recently introduced new bike restrictions, meaning that (officially) reservations on their high-speed trains are mandatory. I won't start ranting about this here, but it means that if you are coming a long way for the ride, especially from London, Reading, Swindon, Bristol etc, a bike reservation is essential, even on an otherwise flexible ticket. In practice staff are a little more flexible, so on shorter journeys (certainly between Swansea and Newport) you will usually be allowed on if there is unreserved space and you smile at the train manager. However the additional constraints do mean that if you are not booked on a train you should consider a few different trains and travel options, and not put all your eggs in one basket by counting on get the last possible train to the start or the earliest possible one home. The restrictions do not apply to Arriva Trains Wales, or to other First trains in Wales - these have less bike space, but are generally more flexible and accommodating.