Swansea Gower bike ride write-up

So, it was Sunday morning, the day of the annual Gower bike ride. I throw all my stuff and uni in the car and drive to the start at St Helen’s cricket ground on Swansea Bay. I wanted an early start so I’m there at 8am. The car park is full of cyclists putting their bikes together, and I get the usual hushed stares as I shoulder my backpack and wheel my uni to the registration stand inside the ground.
“Ah, you must be the unicyclist!” says the lady at registration.
“What gave me away?” I ask, holding my uni in my hand.
There are around fifty people at the start, a lot less than I remember from previous years. I guess more people have decided to start at a later time. The cut-off for the start is 10am.
There is an official photographer at the start and his eyes boggle when he sees me. I think he’s a bit bored of all the usual groups he’s snapping. A quick photo and it’s time to go. There are two routes to the ride. One of 16 miles and one of 29 miles. I’m still undecided about which one I’ll do. I’ll decide when the routes split.
Even before I start I get about a dozen comments.
“You’re not going to do it on that, are you?”
“You must be mad!”
“Good luck!”
I take them all good-naturedly. I’m in a good mood and it’s a lovely sunny morning.
Right then, time to start.
I roll out of the cricket ground onto the main road. The first few miles will go through the roads of Swansea city centre. The roads aren’t closed, but it’s a quiet Sunday morning with not much traffic. There are marshals positioned every few hundred yards, and they all give me positive comments and smiles.
After three miles, the slow ascent out of Swansea begins. The gradient is quite gradual but constant, and leads to my first big challenge; Carmarthen Hill.
It’s about half a mile long, and is one of those hills that gets steeper as it goes on.
I grin at the marshal at the bottom of the hill.
“This’ll be a laugh.” I say out loud, and I put my head down in a determined manner.
I try and keep a slow and steady pace, but I tire rapidly and before long sweat is dripping off my nose. Passers-by and dog walkers stop to watch me. I’m pretty sure I’m the first unicyclist to have a crack at this hill. At about three quarters of the way up I decide I need a break, so I stop to lean against a lamppost. I don’t dismount, but just stay there for thirty seconds to get my breath back
After my break, I crack on and tackle the steeper final part. I’m wheezing like an asthma sufferer but I finally feel the pedalling easier as I reach the top.
There’s a cyclist at the summit watching me.
“You get 12 out of 10 for effort mate!”
I gasp a “Thanks!” and collapse on a grass bank to recouperate. That was hard work.
Five minutes later and I’m ready to set off again.
I keep riding out of Swansea, regularly getting passed by groups of riders, all of who pass comments. I get a lot of “Cool!” and “Awesome!” and a few “I’m having trouble on two wheels!”
More smiles from marshals and policemen and policewomen, and after five miles I’m out of the town and into the countryside, riding on quiet roads.
After seven miles, I reach the point where the route splits. I can go straight on for the longer route or head left for the short route which will take me through the Clyne Valley (Semach the Monkey knows this route).
I’m getting a bit tired. I’ve been riding for just under an hour and I’m soaked with perspiration.
Easy route it is then.
I stop for a break at the split and the marshal and paramedics come over to see the nutter on one wheel. They ask all the usual questions and seems quite amazed when I tell them about the muni that I ride around the Clyne Valley.
I set of again with a group of three cyclists. One of them (a pretty girl) asks me about the uni.
“Well it’s something diff… ACK HHKK! KCCHHHK!!” I say as I swallow a fly.
I can tell she’s impressed as she rides away from me.
The Clyne Valley used to be an old railway line, and the council have taken the line up and laid a tarmac path. It’s a very pretty ride, though the forest to the coast. I’m heading back for Swansea now.
All the serious cyclists have gone on the long route, so now I get passed by a lot of families and younger riders. “Cool!” seems to be the word of the day.
I pass the Railway Inn and the small lake. Even though the path is ever so slightly downhill, my legs are feeling tired and empty. I stop for another break and give myself a blood/sugar test. Being a diabetic I have to be careful on these long rides, and I always make sure my rucksack is loaded up with bottles of Lucozade and power bars. My sugar level is 7.8, which is OK.
A large family go by and I wave and greet each one of them.
“Hello!” “Alright?” “How’s it going?” “Nice day for it.” “Argh!”
The last comment is because I have bent the nail of my little finger all the way back trying to put my glove back on. The kid stares at me like I’m some sort of weirdo. It’s turning out to not be a good day for talking to strangers.
I wearily remount and ride the last part of the valley path.
A few minutes later and I break cover of the trees and emerge on the sunny Swansea coast. I have to cross the road and the marshal at the traffic lights tells me it’s only another mile to go. I’m glad, because my arse is starting to feel numb.
The last mile along the coast would be pleasant if I wasn’t so knackered. My t-shirt (my MRIS one) is drenched with sweat, but the breeze is quite pleasant.
I see the cricket ground in the distance and realise there are only a few hundred yards to go. I pass groups of organisers and officials who all applaud and cheer as I go past. The closer I get, the more people there are. Eventually I ride through large gates into the ground where the official finish line is. The first guy to see me starts clapping and yelling straight away. Everyone turns around to see what he’s clapping at. There must be a few hundred people there. The applause grows like a wave and there’s yelling and cheering too. Everyone stops what they are doing to clap the nutter home.
I’m absolutely shattered, but I feel like a hero.
I stop a yard over the line and am given a goodie bag and a medal.
I hear a lot of “I don’t believe it!” and similar phrases.
I get waylaid by another official photographer who snaps me tired and sweaty, leaning on my uni.
So that was my first officially organised road ride.
I don’t have one of those fancy cycle computers, but my stats for the day were 16 miles in two hours on my Nimbus 24”. You do the math, I’m too tired.
Maybe next year I’ll do the 29 mile route if I can get my hands on a 29” ride. It’ll be a lot easier and quicker.

Ah, yes, I remember that well. There’s lots of The Gower that I was expecting to be fairly flat and easy… I guess we both know how hilly it is now!

16 miles on a 24"? And you wonder why people were calling you a nutter???

Seriously though, that’s pretty good going. And a good write up too.


Blue that’s some serious distance there on the ol 24. And a time I’d be happy with riding on my 29er. 8mph overall average is very good considering you stopped once or twice, that puts your moving average at a blistering pace for a 24 inch muni. Good work there sir and thanks for the write up.

I managed to find some photos of the finish online.
Notice the bold fashion statement I’m making with the t-shirt.

That’s amazing on the 24". Sounds about time you were getting a bigger uni.


Thanks for the nice write-up!

Excellent write up Blue! Very droll sense of humour. Had me laughing all the way :smiley: Especially as I am riding the same route this year for the first time.

Great writeup, “Into the Blue”! Sounds like a fun ride.