How to prepare for the Trans Wales



The rain is hammering down on Bristol’s streets, and so it is fitting that I am thinking about the Trans Wales today. Only a few weeks to go before we load up bikes and kit for another week of mind-laundry in the Welsh mountains.

The Trans Wales was the brain child of Mike Wilkens and is one of the UK’s only truly epic stage races. Seven days of exhilarating riding through tough terrain, taking in wild parts of Wales where sheep fear to tread. OK, maybe not sheep, but certainly the English!


Transwales 4


The race starts on August 14th from Builth Wells, the heart of Welsh mountain biking and home to John Lloyd, who designs the course. Having raced the TW every year since 2006 I can smell the deep heat and coffee in the camp on the first morning as if I was already there. Breakfast will be noisy, excited chatter echoing round the large white event marquee. Mike will be rushing around with his fixed grin, answering riders’ questions as he rushes off to sort out the feed stations, the sandwiches, the water, the prizes. Bleary eyed party goers will get up late, regret that fourth beer, pack up their tents and kit and line up with hundreds of riders from all over the world, all examining each other’s bikes, shaking their heads at super-light tyres, wondering how long day one will  take. Everyone doubting their own fitness, sharing horror stories, butterflies churning up nervous stomachs.

Each year I am contacted by at least one person asking how best to prepare for the Trans Wales. How to train, what to take, what bike to ride? My answer is generally the same – don’t panic, but ride as much as you can and go with the primary aim of having fun. You can only have fun, of course, if you aren’t suffering too much, so selecting the right kit and preserving your body by training enough is certainly essential.




These are my top tips for maximum Trans Wales enjoyment:

1.      Waterproof your body, your bike and your soul. It will rain (it’s Wales and that’s what Wales does best) so make sure your cables are sealed, your brake pads are sintered, your Goretex shorts are packed and you are prepared to get soggy. The rain won’t detract from your enjoyment one little bit as long as you haven’t relied on skimpy shorts and flipflops as your post-ride outfit and you aren’t expecting your pimpy white carbon hardtail to stay clean!

2.      Recover properly. Eat enough during the day so you don’t finish the stage starving, then have a For Goodness Shakes! recovery shake (other varieties are available but their chocolate one is to die for). Then have a sensible-sized meal and a good sleep. You can tell who’s not eating properly because by day 3 they take on a skinny, shivering look and stop smiling.

3.      Ride a bike designed for maximum fun. Put the carbon hardtail back on the rack and take the full susser instead. Ideally you want to ride something lightish but with enough bounce that you can afford to make a few tired errors and still stay upright - and critically, protect your bum and your back from aching. You don’t want to have to stand up to pedal for seven days so 'Bring Out The Bounce'.

4.      Take as many changes of bike kit as you can get away with. There’s nothing nicer than fresh kit and nothing more unpleasant than feeling the soggy, gritty scratch of sweaty used gear in the morning. Beg, borrow and steal kit to wear each day. That includes socks and gloves.

5.      Train enough. That doesn’t mean train ridiculously hard, just means train enough so you don’t blow on day one and are still smiling seven days later. My recommendation would be to ride every day, even if just for an hour, and make sure you get lots of off road miles in. People who are road-bike fit still get injured because they aren’t used to the jarring you get when you point your bike down a rocky welsh descent and let the brakes go.




Fox womens gloves

Clean gloves each day are essential!


The Trans Wales can best be described as a 'seven day party by bike'. Imagine going to a party where you know that you’ll have something in common with everyone there – where you make automatic friends, where you share an awesome holiday with awesome people, meet riders from all over the world, share stories, experiences and ride some of the UK’s most stunning and often secret trails with your mates... that’s the Trans Wales.

TransWales 6




I haven’t mentioned the racing. Primarily, for me, it’s a holiday, but there is a racing element. There are 4-5 ‘special stages’ throughout the event which are timed. The main event is not a race because we aren’t allowed to race on bridleways in Wales, so there is a cut off time but that’s all. To spice things up, there are special stages which are time trials and the speed kings and queens are celebrated in the podium presentation each night, which generally involves a lot of heckling, harassment and good humour.

Trans Wales 2010 will be my fifth Trans Event (which includes one Trans Rockies and the Trans Wales emigrated to Scotland for a year) and I look forward to reporting back to Bike Envy each day as the dramas unfold.

Written by Fiona Spotswood


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