Event Review

REVIEW: The Bala Devil

by Stuart Wilkinson

GB Flag

The B4391 descent into Ffestiniog is thrilling, especially at the top where the road hugs the contours of the mountainside, just a stone parapet keeping you away from a near vertical drop to the ravine and waterfalls hundreds of feet below. The descending just keeps on coming, as we paid out all of the 460m/~1500ft in our accounts down to sea level. With wide grins after the fairground ride down, we coasted along the estuary into the village of Talsarnau and the first feed stop. 

Two apologetic chaps had done all they could to set up, but as the caretaker hadn't appeared to open up the school, there was nothing to drink, and no loos. Being male I wasn't too bothered by the latter, but with just one empty bottle the former was a big issue for my ride plan. On the plus side there was a nice selection of snacks laid on by the caterers, and friendly staff. Lucky for me the caretaker's car pulled up as we were polishing off a couple of new potatoes and welsh cakes, and I was able to fill up with water in the school kitchen.


Rather than continuing along the coast road past Harlech, the route dived off to the left and straight up the particularly nasty Moel Goedog. It was unfamiliar to me, and one of those where you come out of the trees thinking that you are nearly there, only to see a long ribbon of asphalt draped up the steep hillside ahead. Four of us ground slowly up the gradient averaging 15% to a gate at the top where I stopped to be the attendant for the others. To be fair, the sea views were great and a glass-half-full sort of rider might have said it was well worth the detour, but we were too bothered with catching our breath back to stop and stare. 

On the descent down the other side to Llanbedr I noticed my left thumb was stinging a bit in the wind. Looking down I was shocked to see a congealing mess of blood over my fingers, and drops up my arm. I had somehow sliced open the end of my thumb when opening/closing the gate at the top, but I didn't even notice at the time. It was one of those spectacular but superficial wounds, so I was good to go, and trailed behind Julian on the way back down to the coast road. We pushed ahead quite hard in a two-up formation down the rolling coast road to Barmouth, where we looked in vain for an open pharmacy to get some wipes and steri-strips.

With the sea finally behind us, we slackened off the pace for a short rest going up the Mawdach estuary - memorable to me for family bike rides along the trail across the water when the kids were young. At Penmaenpool, we clattered across the boards of the wooden toll bridge, waving at the collector at the toll booth - sportive riders' tolls were prepaid.  

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 87.8%