The Speakeasy offers independent and expert advice, free of charge. We can help with a range of issues including debt, housing and welfare benefits. Our drop-in advice clinics are open to anyone living or working in Cardiff.
On a crisp May morning we set off from The Beacon Centre in East Cardiff. Thirteen riders determined to complete a 255 mile route around Wales to help celebrate 25 years of the Speakeasy. We cycled some of the most beautiful roads in Wales; along rivers and canals, beside lakes and reservoirs, over hills and mountains. But we also passed through some of the most deprived communities, where unemployment is rife, deprivation is evident and hope is all but lost.
Our aim was to raise £5,000 to help continue our work in communities such as these.
The Speakeasy has a long-standing connection to the communities of East Cardiff, so there was no place better to start our journey than The Beacon Centre in St Mellons.
Cycling out across the flats towards Duffryn, we made our way through Newport and on to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal path. The miles ticked gently by under grey skies as we rolled towards our lunch stop at Abergavenny. Varying approaches to nutrition soon became apparent with most of the group carb-loading with chips and beans from Oasis Snack Bar, while our fearless Centre Director filled up on a bag of pain au chocolat and a jumbo pack of cocktail sausages.
After being lulled into a false sense of security by the morning route, we were brought back to earth with a thud as we climbed out of Abergavenny and along the Welsh-English border to Llanthony Priory. With more than 40 miles of the 55 under our belts we celebrated with some craft ales in the cellar bar and felt pretty smug about our progress.
We weren't feeling quite so smug a few miles later when we realised there was a sting in the tail of our first day. Gospel Pass - the highest mountain pass in Wales. With an average gradient of 5% for 5 miles and maxing out at 23.1% there were some wobbly legs by the time we reached the top at 1,801ft above sea level.
Thankfully, what goes up must come down and as we dropped down into Hay-on-Wye we hit speeds of more than 30mph in a race to Racquety Farm. All that was left was to pitch our tents, shrug off our aches and pains with an impromptu yoga session and make our way to nearest pub to fuel up for Day 2.
Day 2 will be known as the day David Rees made an emergency tyre repair.
With an empty cereal bar wrapper.
We followed the River Wye, taking us from the Anglo-Welsh border across the mountainous heart of Wales and out to the coast. A sunny start helped to warm up our legs as we traced our way along the valley floor to Builth Wells before climbing towards the Elan Valley Visitor Centre for some much needed lunch.
After filling up on jacket potatoes we made our way through the stunning Elan Valley. We passed Caban-coch, Garreg-ddu, Pennygarreg and Cronfa Ddwr Craig Goch reservoirs before climbing the steep switch-backs from the valley floor.
Once the biggest hill of the day was dealt with (from Cwmystwyth to The Arch), we sped through Devil's Bridge and on into the rugged wilderness beyond Ponterwyd. It was here that David's rear tyre finally gave up after being nursed for several hilly miles.
Stranded 10 miles from home and with a two-inch gash in his tyre, David scoffed down a cereal bar and used the empty wrapper to fashion a temporary fix - genius!
Back under way, we began our long descent to the coast only to be enveloped by a thick sea fog, leaving us with just a few meters of visibility as we lost 300m of elevation in 4 miles, hitting speeds of 30mph.
Thankfully, we all made it unscathed to the YHA at Borth and tucked into huge portions of fish and chips.
After the exertions of Day 2, we were all looking forward to 'a nice short day'. Unfortunately, we hadn't reckoned on some pretty nasty climbs which made Day 3 just as tough.
The first challenge was getting from Borth to Aberystwyth. Although just a few miles away, the combination of a very steep hill and a coastal path that definitely wasn't suitable for bikes meant that it took us more than an hour to get to the promenade. Thankfully, coffee, cake and ice cream soon lifted our spirits and gave us the energy to push on towards our lunch stop at Y Talbot, Tregaron.
Heading on through Llandewi-Brefi, the last few miles packed in some short, sharp climbs which felt even steeper to tired legs. Thankfully, a warm welcome awaited us at Cwm Camping.
A small, family-run site in a sheltered cwm with great facilities and incredibly accommodating owners (they even let us charge bike computers, phones and cameras in their kitchen!). To top it all off, dinner was delivered to our tents; delicious home cooked meals to top our dwindling energy reserves.
Another glorious morning greeted us as we packed down our tents for the last time. We reluctantly left the hospitality of Cwm Camping behind, spurred on by the thought of cold beers in the Speakeasy fridge back in Cardiff.
By now our legs and lungs were well accustomed to the shock of long, steep hills first thing after breakfast, which was a good thing as we wound our way from Llandeilo to Glanaman. Whether it was the promise of sausage sandwiches or just the nearness of home, we made record time to Aberdare for lunch and joined the Taff Trail soon after.
With no danger of getting lost we followed the Trail downhill towards the coast; through Pontypridd, Nantgarw and Tongwynlais. Familiar roads greeted us as we emerged from Bute Park and made our way through Cathays before finally reaching the finish line at the Speakeasy.
Hugs and high-fives with friends and family, storytelling washed down with ice-cold beer and dreams (or nightmares) of our next adventure...
This event would not have happened without Rachel, Laura and the trusty Kangoo. From packing all our kit with devastating efficiency, to brewing tea and coffee on demand, going in search of replacement tyres and generally answering all our annoying demands with grace and patience.
We love you!