The Mach Loop in north Wales is used to hosting the top pilots of the RAF on low flying training, Vern Pitt find out how it fares on two wheels.
As my back wheel skitters across the tarmac on some gravel following some over enthusiastic braking I think to myself, “There aren’t many ways in which I’m like Tom Cruise, but we do both do all our own stunts.”
The diminutive Hollywood star is front and centre of Cycling Weekly’s mind because we’ve come to this western part of Snowdonia in search of a little Maverick inspiration. The release of a long-awaited sequel to the 80s classic movie Top Gun is due in cinemas in just a few months, and while we can’t get in on the fighter jet action ourselves we thought we might come as close as possible on a bike, here in Wales.
The roads we’re riding sit at the bottom of three valleys that form the Mach Loop, it’s one of only a few places in the world that you can see planes from above while still having your feet firmly on the ground (the other is Star Wars canyon in the California but sadly CW’s production budget vetoed that). The RAF use this area for low-level flight training and fighter jets and other aircraft can regularly be seen carving through the valleys here.
Feeling the need for speed, we thought we’d see if the roads held the same appeal.
It’s with that in mind that I roll out of Machynlleth on a misty morning and head straight into the lanes. Riding north up the valley the road slowly climbs a bit so I’m looking down on the mist as it clings to the River Dyfi. The gentle undulations are the perfect way to warm up the jets.
As I gently climb we come to the turning into the forest. The trees engulf me and it’s here I start to gain a little altitude. Gently at first before it dips down again bringing me to the bottom of the climb proper, the fearsome Cwmllecoediog. The road pulls up at what feels like vertical straight from the off there’s no finding your rhythm on a climb like this it’s mostly trying not to blow to bits keeping yourself just on the edge of the danger zone until you know it’s safe to dive in.
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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, world championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the middle east. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.
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