Or, 'Caerphilly to Pontypridd.'
Ah, that oil. In truth, there was some: motor engine oil, WD40 and 'bike oil'. Certain that NCN4 would wend its way past a better stopped establishment, I passed on all of them, conscious I probably had enough for another 100km, and fairly certain that we would be unable to remove the top from the 'bike oil' in any case, since none of us had scissors nor a knife. Clearly, a mistake.
Still, the first 3km or so were rather good, once we escaped the suburbs and started on the bike paths along what mostly looked like railway lines. Looking at Jon's chain, however, it became apparent that some lubrication, even ass cream, would be useful: after saying 'hello' to possibly the only cyclist we saw all week (on a De Rosa), Jon's Veloce sprang apart, with a significant crack. First thoughts: how far back to the shop that sold the 'bike oil'; would they
even have a chain. Then, I remembered that Dr Doug had a chain breaking tool, and in the time Jon decided to get a train, a repair was on the way, thanks to the magic chain link I had the foresight to bring (along with deodorant, toothpaste and some soap, unlike 66.66% of the Trois V). Soon, we were off, picking our way between the NCR4 signs and the GPS purple line. It all took about a quarter of the time of the previous day's puncture.
The route at this point was perhaps the most pleasant of the trip: a disused railway line, with all the pleasant grading that implies; some sun; and a fine combination of tree-lined paths, the occasional testing steep, but short hill and the fun of trying not to a) crash into the many gates and anti-motorbike defences and b) not slipping on the mud, gravel, or other non-roadie-friendly surfaces. Trois V began to speculate on the necessity of outfitting themselves with a fleet of CX machines, or at least 28mm tyres with knobs on them. It also gave Jon the chance to try out the non-patented TroisV Handlebar Mounted Camera, without fear of the camera drowning.
At this point, we had a brush with bureaucracy. An immigration official, disguised as a Sustrans survey person, stood guarding a gate. We wondered if he had any oil (No! Another clue that he wasn't as Sustrans as he claimed to be; he was also driving a petrol-driven machine, that wasn't a Volvo or Subaru). He wondered about Doug.
Were we on our way to work? Did we come this way often? Had we saved money by cycling along a muddy ex-railway track and staying in guest houses (No!) Where and whence were we from/to? And then the kicker: are you a EU resident, or a migrant. And what's your address?
Aha! So, the whole scheme of a national cycle network is all about catching pesky foreigners, coming over here and using our oddly designed, overly winding and poorly surfaced cycle routes. Doug, if you get a knock on the door at 3 A.M., don't answer it.
Making our escape, we continued to enjoy the path, at which point it deserted the countryside, made its way through some parks, rugby pitches and increasingly urban terrain. We were in Pontypridd.
This was challenging for two reasons. 1) GPS and NCR4 sign alignment; 2) the end of the ex-railway line, or, rather, the beginnings of a massive hill.
A little looping around and backtracking sorted out 1), leaving us facing 2). Doug and I pulled away, with me making Alpine comparisons, which may or may not have driven Doug to pull away from me, leading the way up the mighty Welsh peak.
All this was leading to The Split.