A ‘microadventure’ is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding (thanks to British adventurer Alastair Humphreys for that definition). We like a bicycle adventure at Bikmo, and it’s a bonus when it doesn’t mean taking a holiday – so one dark wintery Tuesday work night we (me and Dave) grabbed a couple of Bikmo Courtesy Bromptons and some camping gear, and headed out to the wild wild west.. Wales.
The train out
Laptops were shut at Bikmo HQ at 4pm, and we jumped on the 16:27 train to Bangor – an hour and a bit on a slow train along the north Wales coastline. It was a busy train, so we were forced to do a ‘Corbyn’ and sit in the vestibule. This would’ve been a big problem with full size bikes – but this was a Brompton microadventure so we were dodged any hassle.
When it’s light, there’s some good views along this train line, but through the quickly descending darkness, we only got the odd shiver inducing glimpse of the Irish Sea and lights of the many caravan parks dotted along this coastline, and retirees tuning into Antiques Roadshow.
Ride to camp
After lighting ourselves up at Bangor station, and clipping on our well-loaded C-bags, we rode out of town to the east and picked up the Lon Las Ogwen route. This fantastic old railway path follows the River Cegin for 11 miles from Porth Penrhyn up into the mountains to Llyn Ogwen. The cutting takes you through mature woodlands and old slate workings. Sadly, being mid-January, it was too dark to see anything except what was lit by our bike lights, otherwise we would have got some awesome views of the Snowdonia mountains and the 3000ft high imposing valley sides.
The trail was bumpy, but well within the limits of what a Brompton can handle. We did have to be on the look out for rocks and pot-holes as the small wheels make them bigger obstacles – and more threatening when you manage to forget the spare inner tubes, which we had!
The Bromptons handled the single and doubletrack trails really well. We did quite quickly find the limit of traction with the small contact area of the tough Shwalbe Marathon tyres but, once this was in check, we could pretty much throw anything at the little foldable workhorses.
So whilst of course the route would have been faster and more comfortable on a big bike, we were pleasantly surprised by how stiff and forgiving they behaved, given the terrain. They were well up to the job.
We did struggle on the steep sections as the 3 speeds, soft ground and heavy load made it nearly impossible to stay on the saddle, but that was to be expected.
The wild camp
We’d planned to set up camp at the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite – a small hill farm at the base of the Tryfan peak. This was a perfect position at the top of the valley, perched ready for a quick roll down the valley trail in the morning.
Unfortunately, their strict no fires policy put us back on the bikes, and we rode on down the valley a little to camp wild instead – a camp without a fire is not a camp!
We pitched the tent on a patch of soft long grass in some woodland next to the Afon Llugwy stream, and got ‘tea’ on the go – a starter of Wayfarer’s Meatballs and Pasta (3 out of 10) followed by a Wayfarer’s Vegetable Curry (4 out of 10) drank out of camping cups. Next time, it will be tastier homemade food and we’ll remember the Sporks to avoid mouth scalding.
With tea down the hatch, it was time to get the fire going. This is easier said than done in mid-winter, in wet Wales. The wood was too wet for anything spectacular, but we got a ‘microfire’ going – just enough for a bit of campfire chat and a dram of whisky before hitting the bags.
The morning commute
It was a 6:30am start – my usual alarm time, but the only usual thing about this commute, which took us down the valley on a nice doubletrack, with the sun giving us some light for the first time. It didn’t feel like we were on our way to the office.
The track ended and joined the A6 at Capel Curig for the last 5 or 6 miles into Betwys-y-Coed. The smooth tarmac felt good after the arm tingling descent and the roads were pretty car-free in this part of Wales, even at this time in the morning.
Betwys-y-Coed marked the end of our Brompton microadventure, finished off by a decent breakfast at the Alpine Coffee Shop. Then, it was back on the train to Chester, just in time to freshen up, grab a coffee, and join the morning meet with the Bikmo team.
I’m a big fan of the microadventure idea and, although I’m lucky to have Wales on my doorstep, I think everyone can make their own using what’s around. At this time of year, you don’t get to see much and the night is a bit chilly, but that makes in even more of an adventure in a way.
As for the Bromptons – as they say themselves, they are ‘Made for Cities’, and this is where you get the most benefit from the folding bike. That said, it’s a shame that most will never see anything except tarmac, station concourse and train floors, because they are capable of so much more. And, if your microadventure involves a busy train journey, then they are the perfect companion.
It’s worth saying that if you’re riding a Brompton, you will need to pick your route a bit more carefully, as the terrain is a limiting factor, although there are many modifications and upgrades available to shuffle these limits up a little. There were only a few stretches that were difficult to ride, but I can imagine it getting miserable if there were miles of highly technical trails.
We’ll definitely be microadventuring again soon, and would recommend you give it a go. If you get into it and want to drop the ‘micro’, take a look at what other people are getting up to on Brompton ‘Journeys’, or visit our friends at Pannier for inspiration on British adventure cycling.
Oh, and if you want to ride with peace-of-mind, check out Brompton Commuter Cover – the cycle insurance designed for Brompton riders. New owners get 14 days free cover, and all Brompton riders get up to 25% of cover because Bikmo negotiated a special deal with underwriters, Hiscox.