Penylan hill, the name sounds quaint and pretty, even generating images of gently rolling grassy landscapes with flowers, wooden benches and twisty pathways. Only Penylan hill, North Cardiff is anything but gentle!
When I joined Nick Bennett on her training ride to Cardiff along with quite a few others from our cycling group, I had no idea how challenging it was going to be. After all, Cardiff is quite flat in comparison to the bumpy landscapes of Monmouthshire isn’t it?
After meeting at the Velodrome in Newport, we headed to Cardiff via Tredegar park, up the long hill (which seems to be getting easier each time I ride it) into Marshfield and on through Rhymney. Before I knew it we were on the edge of Roath recreation fields waiting for the second group of cyclists who got caught in an unfortunate cycle of traffic lights and were a way back from us.
While waiting, I realised I’d actually cycled from one city to another, Ok it’s not far from Newport to Cardiff and something loads of people do every day, but it’s one of those little goals that sounds quite impressive when you look back over the short time I’ve been cycling and what I’ve achieved.
I’ve been riding ‘clipped-in’ now for around six weeks and incident free too, but this impressive (well for me it is) run of unclipping luck was about to come to a spectacular end in one of the more busy areas of Roath too. On approaching the mini roundabout at the bottom of Roath lake I twisted my left foot to release the shoe from the peddle, nothing happened, I twisted again, still nothing. And by now I was almost stationary, so in desperation, I tried twisting the right foot too, yes you’ve guessed it nothing happened and I was stuck fixed to my bike and barely moving. “I’m going, I’m going, I’m goi…” I exclaimed to the girls that surrounded me, they all turned to see where I was exactly going, only to see me crash onto the pavement in spectacular fashion. Irony perhaps, but as soon as you hit the tarmac the shoes instantly release from the pedals.
Apart from a bruised and skinned knee there was no physical damage, but my pride was somewhat dented, to fall off your bike at a mini roundabout where five busy roads meet, and with an already packed bus stop close by, plus the builders working on the properties that overlook the junction, there was no hope of my unconventional way of getting off a bike going unnoticed. I can still hear the claps and cheers now!!
Our lunch break was at Pedal Power in the middle of Bute Park Cardiff. Pedal Power is an amazing cycle hire charity that aims to get everybody enjoying the benefits of cycling. They have a wide variety of specialised bikes and trikes available to hire and also have qualified trainers and assessors to help anyone who wants to cycle. They also serve amazing refreshments in their cafe too.
The sun was shining and I was hoping that the route back was going to take in the sights of Cardiff bay and the coastline, but Nick had other ideas and we headed north out of Cardiff through Pontprennau and Old St Mellons. This was where I learned all about Penylan hill.
I will use the term ‘learned all about’ as Penylan hill is about as subtle as a flying mallet! As I rounded the corner of Penylan lane, Penylan hill was there, staring me in the face and it went up, up and up. My heart sank and that dreaded pitted feeling in my stomach appeared at about the time I uttered those awful words “there’s no way I will be able to get up there”. My knee was by now stinging like a ‘good-un’ and had obviously ‘stuck’ to the lining of my cycling trousers, I was feeling beaten before I’d even reached the bottom of the bloody big hill. The concern that my very basic bike with only 14 gears would never make it to the top was obviously written all over my face as I had a stern talking too from Nick.
“The only way you will get up Penylan hill is to do it slowly, really slowly, don’t panic and zig-zag if you have too”. Nicks sharp words that were on an infinite loop in my ears as I approached the bottom of the ascent. I felt sick as I tucked my bike in behind Nicks on the desolate lane with the hope that if I followed her up I’d not be quite so inclined to panic and pedal too fast and burn out before I’d reached the summit.
This worked for a while, but Nicks bike has more gears than me, and I knew if I didn’t go a bit faster I was going to run out of gears and fail.
I did run out of gears three-quarters of the way up, I was zig-zagging across the lane and wondered just how much slower I could go before hitting the deck for the second time in one day. So I stood up and pedalled, and while it’s far from efficient energy wise it worked on this occasion, it got me to the top. I had done it, my legs were on fire and my lungs were all but ready to burst and I hate to think what my heart rate was but I had made it!
I made it to the top of Penylan Hill (without stopping too!!)