Tarquin's cycling pages

13 November 2005 - Taff Trail to Pontypridd

WhereTaff Trail to Pontypridd
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date13 November 2005
Duration4 hours 50 minutes
Distance18 miles (~29 km)
WeatherSunshine, but cold
Trail conditionsWet ground, but not bad
Anonymous Unknown Apollo Heat
Josie Wilton-Jones 3 Spokey Joe Topp Trailer (baby trailer)
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 25 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

We had been living in Norway for half a year, and had not been able to take bikes with us. We could have hired them, but had taken to doing walks instead. Now back in UK, it was time to remember to do some exercise, and go cycling.

Josie had got a bit too big for her bike seat, and to be honest, I was fed up of having to use the Apollo Terra because it would not fit on my GT LTS 2000 (TWJ). Not only does the Terra feel like riding a brick compared with the luxury of the LTS 2000, but the baby seat also makes the bike overbalance as soon as you stop. So we had bought the Spokey Joe Topp Trailer (baby trailer), which has a neat little attachment that is able to attach to the suspension of the LTS 2000. I catch my foot on the attachment avery now and then, but it is far better than the bike seat.

This was our first chance to take out the new bike trailer, to see how well it behaved, where it would have problems, etc. We had already used it to take Josie to nursery, and I had taken her for a short ride through the Forest Farm part of the Taff Trail. I had discovered that it is alarmingly unstable when it has no passenger to hold it down, and had managed to flip it upside down while moving just 5 MPH because the wheel hit a three inch deep hole in the road. A day of driving around to find some tough rubber glue, and patching all the damage to the PVC, and it was ready for use again. For future reference, you want urethane shoe repair glue, and you can get it from good outdoor activity shops.

The Taff Trail is a little on the boring side for me, but it a good place to learn about how it feels to use a trailer, so we took the usual hill (urgh) to reach to main Taff Trail route. The first thing is the hurdle, designed to make sure that only bikes follow the route. Unfortunately, that means that it is difficult to get the trailer over it. I had tried this before on my own, and I had managed, but it is extremely awkward. With two people it is a lot easier, but I am not impressed at all with the hurdles.

When you have a trailer, something is immediately noticeable. Everyone has to stop, get out of your way, and ooh and aah at it. Drivers are polite, other cyclists are envious, and all the dog walkers make a point of keeping their dogs our of your way. It can be very useful though. You are a lot wider than normal, you cannot turn very sharply, you are a lot less manoeuvrable, and you cannot stop very quickly. In theory, you are also only allowed to move at 10 MPH max, which is actually quite comfortable most of the time, but you will occasionally find yourself doing 15 MPH on downhills.

See pictureSee pictureAfter another hurdle, then the longer road and pavement section between Tongwynlais and Taffs Well, we reached the beginnings of the old railway sections. The hurdles here are annoying. There too many, and it really breaks your rhythm. At least on a bike, you can get your pedals right, and if you are lucky, you can get through without dismounting. But the trailer made this impossible, so each hurdle meant stopping and dismounting, then lifting the trailer over while someone else held the bike to stop it falling. The idea is that if you cannot fit through the gap, you stand your bike on its back wheel, and swivel it around the metal. The trailer cannot move like that, and it cannot stand on its end. It is also too wide to fit under the loops. I hate these hurdles.

See pictureSee pictureThen at last the longer section of trail. It's a long uphill, but very gentle, and towing is no problem at all. On the way back, this part is only just enough to freewheel properly, and is very enjoyable.

See pictureSee pictureI took to following a pair of buttocks, on a female-friendly saddle. We passed some horses who were taking the bridleway alongside the path. I was a little envious, as I prefer the bridleway route. It has more technical riding that my suspension loves. But sadly, the trailer has no suspension, so I stuck to the tarmac.

See pictureSee pictureWe were moving fairly slowly, mostly due to the constant stop-start, enforced by the hurdles. It was lunch time, so we stopped for a picnic, and for some picture taking.

See pictureYou know, you can tell when you see a caver. They are drawn to anything that represents a tunnel. Especially if you cannot see the end. Mmmm.

See pictureI do not know how to say this with the appropriate level of sincere infuriation, but council; You suck! This is pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. It is bad enough that you force cyclists to dismount and do a ballet with their bikes in order to get past these stupid things, but getting the trailer past them has two options: 1. dismantle the trailer, 2. lift the trailer over them. I don't particularly care about your reasons for putting this there. I really don't. It is a bad solution to a non-problem. To be honest, I don't care if a few trail bikes come along here. These bloody hurdles do no good to anyone. The fact that you have a gate that I could use, but you lock it is even more ridiculous. Maybe you should try getting on a bike, and actually using the cycle path yourself. You cycle past these for a few days. Cycle through Pontypridd along the cycle route. I challenge you. Then when you have done that, take a child in a trailer with you.

See pictureSee pictureSorry about that, all non-council members. Anyway, I handed over control until we reached the next set of annoying hurdles - in hindsight, this might have been a little too long - seems I still have more stamina. The trail runs level here, in a beautifully secluded railway cutting.

See pictureSee pictureThis part of the trail has some lovely views down the valley towards Cardiff. After a miriad of more hurdles, complete with appropriate expressions of irritation directed at the creators of the hurdles, we got through the strewn glass around Rhydyfelin. We turned around and headed back, with Josie falling asleep in the trailer. It doesn't look particularly comfortable to me, but it is a thousand times better than her flopping out of the side of a bike seat.

See pictureSee pictureIt was getting late. Not that it was late, but it is almost winter. I love this light - if only it could stay like this for longer. Reminds me of the midnight sun in the North of Norway. I will have to go back there one day ... and take my bike.

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