Jonathan Cox
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The trials of trails and racing the train

Jonathan Cox
Posted by
25 Apr 2014

We spent the week before Easter on holiday in mid-Wales with Tessa’s mum but were determined to continue our training. We were blessed with fantastic weather but not everything was quite so perfect.

Not knowing the area well I swiftly plotted a route on one of the plethora of route-planning websites. Sunday morning and we crept out of the apartment into a cool but promising morning. After a few miles on a rolling and well-surfaced main road we turned off and almost instantly the world went vertical. A steep incline (over 20%) on a narrow tarmac trail followed by a sharp bend obscuring the view of what lay beyond.  

We were committed now and in any case we had hardly done enough mileage to justify returning for breakfast. Up and up we went until – disaster!  We crested what looked like the last ridge and with the promise of a downhill to home in front of us we were faced by a trio of locked gates marked “Private”. It was not all bad, we were greeted by a fabulously friendly and loudly purring ginger cat. This was sufficient reward for Tessa at least, and we carefully headed back down to the main road returning home.

We were faced with a different conundrum a couple of days later - a steam train ride versus the need for more training. The Rheidol steam railway from Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge is ideally placed, the journey of 12 miles taking 1hr including stops. Intriguingly the road distance from end to end is also 12 miles with both routes facing significant climbing. What else but the classic “race the train”.  

It was another glorious morning and we drove into the station car park and unloaded the tandem to curious stares from the gathering passengers. Being somewhat pessimistic about our climbing ability we decided that a “win” would mean reaching Devils Bridge in 1.5hrs. Exactly 30 mins before the train departed we exited the car park and headed off. 

Navigating uncertainly out of town we seemed to have found the right road – all we had to do now was press on and grind our way up this apparently unending hill. After 8 miles, with no signs of the train we pulled into a layby and checked the map. To our consternation we had missed a turn and were pedalling up the wrong valley. To her credit Tessa was very sanguine – we spotted a road ahead that took us “over the top” and across to Devils Bridge. Well, we did finally arrive at the terminus – 15 miles at an average speed of 12 mph – so we had beaten the train after all even with the extra mileage thanks to those spare minutes at the beginning.

All I can say is that I am very grateful that the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research team have researched the London to Paris route thoroughly and will be there to guide us along the way! 

Thankfully our fundraising has not faced similar “wrong-turns” and is coming along steadily. If you would like to help, which would be wonderful, then please do make a donation - every penny will go towards helping people affected by blood cancer.



Glad to hear the training's going well, Jonathan - I certainly enjoy the updates and will sponsor you in due course! You'll have to let me know how you get on as I'm seriously tempted to do this next year!