Winter warming: snow-filled hammock and a new, haughty bike.

This was my 7th Dyfi Winter Warm Up and it was the first year since 2011 that snow has fallen for the event. The weekend was more manic than usual due to my birthday celebrations on Saturday, which were very brief and swiftly followed by an afternoon train to Wales.

I had a new bike with me too. Over December, I built up a Sonder Transmitter out of available components and some new purchases.

It has replaced the Mukluk which I sold in October 2016. I had been thinking about it since the summer, when I had used it last. I found myself riding it less frequently, in part due to the lack of trips away. Local conditions are very tame and a cyclocross bike is more than adequate. More prominent however, I found the wide Q-factor to be problematic for my hips after a long day of cycling. Something which I believe with time may become more of a problem and consequently, a notable reason why I have also reduced my weekly commuting mileage.

The Sonder appealed to me for a number of reasons. It will allow the use of plus sized tyres (27.5 x 3.0), which will provide a degree of pneumatic cushioning without the rolling resistance associated with 26×4.0+ rubber. This has an additional advantage in that it uses a more traditional 68-73mm sized chainset and thus, narrower Q-factor. The cost of the frame and additional purchases fell within my budget (dictated by the funds generated from the sale of the Mukluk). Something novel to me, it also permits the use of a suspension fork, which coupled with its slack head angle I hoped would alleviate much of the hand and wrist pains that I have been experiencing. Most importantly however, it is available in matte black. Other than for suspended comfort, the bike has lived up to expectations. I have yet to get the fork set up to my liking and I am running 2.2 Hans Dampf tyres (a very good deal was presented). In time I would like to fit a more voluminous set of tyres and swap out the ESI foam grips for something larger in diameter. The chunkier versions should hopefully be better suited to my xxl hands.

I got to Machynlleth by mid evening. It was already dark and the cold air was blanketing the hills. I went to a favourite bivvy spot, which is away from cars and the town but not so sheltered from the weather. The open forest canopy is excellent for looking up at the stars from a hammock and it is a marked improvement over where I slept for the 2016 WW.

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I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag and down jacket, dare I say warmer than I would be back home in my bed. My hammock set up consists of the following:

  • Grand Trunk Double hammock.
  • Klymit air matress
  • Mountain Equipment Xero 550
  • Alpkit hunka bivvy bag
  • Montane pertex quantum down hoodie
  • Long Jonathans and wooly socks/hat/gloves

I had a comfortable and consistent nights sleep. The Saturday had been dry and the evening was also predicted to be rain-free. If anything,the Met office had issued warning that a cold spell was likely. Much to my surprise and pleasure, I woke before twilight to find that I was covered in snow. It was a breathtakingly fresh experience.

I love cold weather. Specifically, I look forward to winter camping and cycling. My hands and feet are very susceptible to perniosis. It is a very bitter sweet experience.

I have always believed that the capacity of any bicycle to perform a task is limited by a cyclists capabilities, moreso than the design of the bicycle itself. An intentional emphasis on what a person can do rather than what you think a bicycle will not achieve. Specialist tools are available for set applications but I have also experienced some exceptional defeats by very talented cyclists on very basic bikes. I think that the Sonder is a very capable bicycle but being very new to its form, I have found it more difficult to climb with, relative to more familiar geometries. Neither was I surprised to discover that it seats you safely behind the bars whilst you storm downhill. I am not as strong as I could be for this time of year and so I took my time and savoured the scenes and trails that I had been looking forward too.

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At one point I unfortunately entered a rocky corner too quickly and was sent over the bars. The smooth pike fork is ever so encouraging and I had got a little over zealous. My legs have been a bit on the sore side today but I am more peeved by the front wheel that got pringled in the crash. Live and learn.

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I got to the end of my second lap and called it quits, limping back to the Corris Craft Centre to clean up and get back to the station for my train home. I forgot to pick up some reading material so found myself questioning the provenance of bananas and shrimps into a post-race sugary snack. In my searching I came across some information about historical conflict between banana growers and shrimp farmers in South America. (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1006649804394). I shall be investigating further…

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