On And On – conquering an off-road ultra-race

When I first came across the description of the Mountains of The Merfynion (MOTM), my heart raced with excitement. It was a single-stage, unsupported ultra-endurance event spanning over 16,000 meters of elevation gain and a 900-kilometer-long route. The prospect of cycling through the breathtaking Welsh fields and mountains was exhilarating.

The race was aptly described as a "beautiful yet tortuous obstacle course to be tackled by bike," but this description only fueled my enthusiasm. I have always been drawn to adventurous endeavours, and I had been contemplating delving into the grittier side of cycling for some time already. The decision in my head was clear: I was in.

on and on

The only hurdle standing between me and participation in this race was the lack of a gravel bike, coupled with my "limited," or more honestly, "non-existent," gravel riding experience. However, I've never let such obstacles deter me in the past, so why not give it a shot? The incorrigible optimist in me prevailed.

I started to look and ask around for a bike, and then with the help of some friends from London cycling community (@molokocycling), I came across the ON AND ON Gravel Bike. I was lucky enough to be able to test that bike during my MOTM preparation, and believe me or not…it was a crush. A crush with the bike but also with off-road cycling. I was using every spare hour to test the bike on diverse terrains, and my eagerness to prove myself in off-road racing grew stronger. Little did I know that this newfound love would soon face its ultimate test.

The race started strong for me but soon took an unexpected turn due to a series of unexpected flat tires. As luck would have it, I could not find a replacement tube fitting my tires at any bike shop, wasting more precious time and pushing me further down the rankings. Frustration loomed large, and thoughts of quitting crossed my mind for the first time. However, I resolved not to succumb to these doubts and decided to press on. As I continued cycling through the night without rest, I passed a few riders - my racing spirit was slowly but surely rekindled. Thus, many more challenges lay ahead. The second day began with a breathtaking sunrise, infusing me with new energy for the hours ahead.

Photo credit @bicycle_factory


The route led me through remote landscapes, featuring challenging hike-a-bike segments and awe-inspiring views. I encountered a few obstacles, such as running out of water or empty GPS devices, but I handled them all with resilience. The night ahead was supposed to provide some much-needed sleep, but I couldn't find a spare room, and the cold weather made sleeping outdoors impossible. Consequently, I rode through a second sleepless night just to keep warm—a decision that exacted a toll in the days to come.

In the following days, the route continued to test my limits, taking me through every imaginable surface and presenting relentless challenges. From single-track sections to grueling hikes, hours of traversing high grass, mud baths, rocky ascents, river crossings, and forest tracks. The route was often virtually indiscernible. From time to time, the trail led through terrain so rugged that even hiking it without a bike would have been a formidable task. Undoubtedly beautiful, yet equally demanding to conquer. Be sure I had my fair share of tumbles and found myself submerged in mud a few times. Even at times when the route took me to the asphalt section, it managed to be so steep that riding was often very painful or not possible. On the other hand, the beauty of Welsh landscapes was often leaving me simply speechless.

As you can imagine, my body was screaming for rest: an upset stomach, sore and chapped lips, mud-soaked feet, and achy knees were my constant companions. I was pushing my limits. And it wasn't just a physical battle, but a mental one too. This journey was a constant struggle against self-doubt, pain, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion. Tears were shed, thoughts of quitting were firm. Discomfort was a constant companion. However, there were also moments of pure bliss: breathtaking views, mesmerizing sunsets and sunrises, the flow of riding, the empowering feeling of self-accomplishment, inner strength, and the moments of clarity, what is all that for. It was an incredible journey of self-discovery and growth—one that tested the limits but also revealed resilience. This is what ultra-cycling is about, I guess? Brutal and beautiful at once.

Photo credit @bicycle_factory


In summary, the race lasted around 105 hours, with only 3.5 to 4 hours of sleep. The pace was slow due to relentless climbs and impassable sections, just as the organizers had promised. Only 9 out of 16 riders managed to finish the race, a testament to the grueling nature of the route. I am immensely proud to be among those who completed the race and even more so to be the first woman to do so, considering the challenges and the experienced off-road ultra-cyclist I was up against. Last but certainly not least, I am grateful for the priceless experiences this race has bestowed upon me.


Time taken: 105 h 33 min

Distance travelled: 906 km,85

Average speed: 8.59 km/h 80% moving 20% resting

Distance daily average. 205,69 km

Position: 8th place general, 1st place women. 

More information on the Mountains of Merfynion.

Read Next - One Ring To Rule Them All >

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published