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Looking back on this strange summer, the long balmy days suddenly feel a lifetime ago. Making the best of a pretty rubbish situation led us to some gorgeous spots on home turf this year, mostly only reachable thanks to being firmly in the saddle – sometimes for a few too many hours! Our favourite adventure was a trip to Bude, our longest ride ever with the best weather we could have hoped for. This was a bit of a trial by fire for our newly loved-up duo of Bristol Bicycles (the boy finally took the plunge and invested in a partner for my already well spun Expedition). As expected, the bikes were flipping brilliant: 250 miles and not a peep from either of them, although a fair amount of sighs and groans from me at the sight of some of those hills! Bristol to Bude is not a route for any lovers of flat cycling.
Now, before you get some idea of us being more competent than we actually are, let’s get some bits straight. We actually cheated at the start and got the train to Taunton; stopped halfway for a sleep and mega feed at Barnstaple; and at a little village, Twitchen, on the way back. We probably ate about twice as many bags of Haribo as were necessary on day one and only got to grips with drip feeding the glucose tabs on the final leg of the journey home. It’s an art, we discovered.
Arriving for our first night in Bude after two days of solid cycling was the biggest buzz. It’s hard to describe the feeling of arriving somewhere by bike. It’s a mix of endorphins, relief, excitement (mostly for all the food you’re about to inhale to satisfy the cycling appetite!) and the simple satisfaction of having reached your destination independently. We’d made up for the lack of easy journey by treating ourselves to a pre-pitched canvas bell tent a mile or so from the coast. This was the best decision ever. I’m definitely not knocking the usual camping situation of the awesome Red Fox Cycling rides to Boomtown and Shambala – those were sorely missed this year – but arriving knowing we could almost instantly lie down, on a mattress was a bit dreamy.
With the bikes resting up in the tent with us, the beach not far away and the sun streaming in through the canvas, we definitely made the most of not needing to cycle for a few days. If you’re near Bude, you’ve got to make a trip to Boscastle for stunning scenic walks and waterfalls. You will also find pebbled beaches galore and pasties the size of your forearm in Bude itself, not to mention massive waves to catch at Crooklets beach.
Cycling back to Bristol felt like a slow motion version of the end of a movie – there’s this weird sense of nostalgia that hits when you suddenly realise your adventure is coming to an end. We soaked up every last bit of sunshine over the final two days in the saddle, pausing to genuinely admire the views, not just as an excuse for a sugar boost!
Exmoor boasts not only some savage climbs, but also vistas out onto what looks like never-ending open space. Tailing an Exmoor pony and her foal for over a mile, not wanting to speed past and spook them, was one of those moments that makes you just sit back and feel totally blessed. The discord between that and the frantic city scene is quite striking. It makes you almost want to up sticks and escape the city for good – until you get back to Bristol and remember the incredible green spaces we have here too, the strength of community and opportunities to explore, learn, create and support within this vibrant city.
Bristol to Bude was a beautiful ride – one we could not have done without the most reliable of bicycles. Taking a little bit of Bristol’s sense of adventure with us wherever we go, I’m looking forward to our next excuse to get out on two wheels for a couple of hundred miles, wherever they may take us!
Written by Ella Foreman ( @runningdancingella )
This year Kate and Dave took two of our full spec touring bikes across the country. They decided that, with 2020 being a bit of a write-off and all previous travel plans ruined, they would make the most of this mess and do something new. After a bit of persuasion from our mutual friends In Tandem (Oli and Ruth) a deal was struck and they left to cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats. Here is a run down of their favorite photos and stories.
We met Julie, a wonderful Canadian PhD student, on our trip whilst crossing the Forth Bridge, and she stayed with us for a few days whilst we explored the east coast of Scotland and beyond. We wild camped next to the Sow of Atholl, an immense hill rising out of the mist near the Pass of Drumochter, which is the highest point of the railway network in the UK. Camping in tall grass, we cooked salmon and rice, and drank beers as the sun set behind the ominous hills. Bleary eyed in the morning, Dave realised whilst packing up that his drone was missing. Uh-oh. This photo is of Dave calling the cafe we stopped at the day before. We talked about the last place we had seen it, which was 30 miles back in Perth. Ruth and Oli had stayed back in Perth to recover from an injury, and immediately sprang into action, calling B&Bs and cafes we had visited, and Ruth even got a lift from her B&B owner to go to the last known location on a layby deep in the forest back along our route, but to no avail. Enter Peter, a railway worker, who happened to be working that day on The Pass of Drumochter. He noticed a small grey bag near the railway, near the flattened grass left by some wild campers the night before. He saw a drone inside, and posted on his local Facebook group about finding the owner. Someone on the group used to live in Perth, and noticed Oli’s post looking for a drone, and you can guess the rest. We had just finished our second day of cycling after losing it, 65 miles north in Inverness, when Oli called Dave to tell him the good news. We were put in touch with Peter, and asked him where he lived so we could arrange a pickup/postage. He lived in…Inverness, a mile away from where we were sitting in our B&B! We went to go and see Dave’s new favourite person that evening, handing Peter a box of chocolates and a case of beer, and were dumbstruck for the rest of the evening, holding an item we had resigned ourselves to losing forever! It goes to show the power of social media in connecting people, and just how kind strangers really are.
We were lucky enough to be the guests of several Warm Showers hosts, which is a network of cyclists around the world that want to pay back the incredible hospitality they have received on biking trips in the past. COVID meant that we were only able to camp in their gardens and eat separately, however the warmth and generosity we were shown throughout the trip was amazing. One couple who hosted us on the border of Scotland had cycled “Wall to Wall” – Hadrian’s Wall to The Great Wall of China – several years ago, and then returned on a container ship, sailing back across the whole world with their bikes in the cargo hold. They were in their fifties when they embarked on this amazing journey over the course of a year, and the lasting impression of everywhere they went was the depth of hospitality and generosity they received on their trip. Their way of paying it forward was to host us, cooking a huge carb-heavy meal to refill our fuel tanks, doing some bike maintenance with us, and telling amazing stories in the garden before bed of their travels. Staying with people like this was the perfect way to re-energise and keep our spirits up, and we will pay it forward too, when things are a bit more normal!
We went wild swimming several times during this trip, usually a bracing early morning swim to wake us up before setting off for the day. Whilst the average time for doing LEJOG hovers around two weeks, we wanted this to be an adventure off the bikes as well as on them, so we decided to spread it out over a month, to allow us to take in the sights and stop as we pleased. We are so happy that we chose this way of exploring the country, as it gave us plenty of time to choose the more scenic (and usually more hilly!) routes across places like Dartmoor, the Lake District and the Shropshire hills; as well as more time to park up and explore beautiful hidden gems on foot.
We did a combination of camping, B&Bs and friends/family hosting us throughout this trip, and the wild camping produced the most exciting and the most stressful moments. Dave is not a natural camper, so he took a little persuasion when deciding to spend the night on the shores of lochs or by the sea in Scotland. Wild camping gives you an incredible sense of freedom and self-sufficiency, and the views that you get when you unzip your tent in a truly wild spot make all of the hassle worth it! This photo is from our camping spot on Skerray Bay, at the very top of the country, where we had to hoist our laden bikes across a pebble beach, then up a sandy ridge, and down to our very own private beach. We thought we were alone, save for the single fishing boat chugging along that evening, until the other residents of that beach descended – the dreaded midges. Both of us had a full head net and tons of repellent, but the little buggers shrugged all that off and we got covered in bites – Dave had several biting his eyelids! That was a tough evening, and as we stripped off in the tent and watched an army of slugs climb up the inner membrane of our flysheet, Dave vowed never to wild camp in Scotland again.
No imagery can accurately convey the steep and relentless relief of Cornwall and Devon. Widely regarded as the hardest part of the trip (not least because your fitness hasn’t caught up with your optimism), it was both a physical and a mental challenge for us. Just as we thought we had reached the top of a hill there would be a turn, and another brutal climb awaited us – and, as most of the routes we took had tall hedgerows, we weren’t even treated to a view for our efforts. We each had very different cadences for these hills – Dave was slow and steady, consistently pedalling at the lowest gears, whilst Kate was a sprinter, pushing herself hard for a minute and then stopping to catch her breath. Amazingly, we were always moving at the same pace, getting to the tops of these hills at the same time. People always ask us how hard it must have been, and perhaps we have a rose-tinted view of what that week was like (we certainly got our arguing out of the way before Ruth & Oli joined us in Bristol!), but we say that LEJOG was an amazing experience that was not overshadowed by intense physical exertion – the pace we chose was leisurely, but we would recommend this trip to anyone who can comfortably ride a bike for an afternoon.
Written by Kate and Dave (@kavetrip)
Summer holidays… wide-open beaches… beating sun… ice cream… factor 50. I didn’t get any of this, but that’s what you get for bike touring in September. Over the last few years I’ve been on some sort of cycling holiday with my dad, it’s become something of a Dibble tradition. After the lock-down and the closing of any travel corridors, we were left with no option but to ride in the UK. The location had to be flat and easy going with plenty of pit stops (a small Holland if you like).
We landed in Norfolk: somewhere I knew very little about but, with the prospect of a week out on the bike, I didn’t care where we went. We planned the trip for around 5 fairly easy days, with manageable mileage.
Before we get into the day-to-day, let’s talk bikes. I’ve finally committed to my Bristol Bicycle, and I love it. It’s not stock, but mechanically it’s not far off. Built up as a party pace touring bike with fat tyre capabilities, it became my go-to bike for relaxed rides, errands and shopping. My dad was on his trusty Temple Cycles adventure disc, with some big changes. Out with the classic drop bars with bar-end shifters and cable discs; in with the flat bars and hydraulics. In the week leading up to the ride I switched the old set up with some shiny new Velo Orange Crazy bars, a modern take on butterfly touring bars. He managed the trip with minimal back pain or hand issues, something which were a common occurrence with the drops. Dad had the standard full Ortlieb touring rig: rear double panniers, and a handlebar bag. I went for a lighter classic setup: Carradice super C saddlebag and front basket with Carradice bag sitting inside with bits and bobs fixed to the basket. Also, a little Restrap stem bag attached to the rear of the basket for those mid ride snacks.
We left the warmth of home on Thursday night to stay in a friend’s very nice air BnB just outside Ely. On Friday morning the ride started in much the same vein as the rest of the trip: we left the cosy accommodation, rode one mile up the road, and tucked into a full (veggie) English breakfast. This was not a trip from which we would come back two stone lighter and match fit; it’s a holiday after all, and coffee stops and guilt-free eating are what cycle touring is all about. The first section of the day took us through flat back roads which slowly meandered their way through Thetford and into Thetford Forest. Once at the forest we had to turn on the charm to secure two coffees and cheesy chips thirteen minutes before the cafe was officially open. After chomping through the chips we were ready to get ‘Rad’ in the woods. We had made good time and were probably now halfway through the day’s ride. The next section of the route took us on forest tracks and bridleways, a fun excursion from the long sections of road. With my 42mm supple tyres I floated over the bumps and sand that covered the forest. A mix of upright riding position and off-road riding never fails to bring a smile to my face. We then rejoined the road and slowly ambled our way to Norwich.
By the time we were heading to the hotel it was dark and wet, so that warm, welcoming bed couldn’t come quickly enough. We stuffed our faces with Indian food, had multiple warm showers and, after a night’s sleep, we were ready to hit the road again. This time our planned route would take us to the coast, first to Cromer and then along the seafront towards Sheringham. Day two was wet from the word go, and about 10 miles in we were already sitting under cover drinking tea and escaping the rain. We decided to take an ever-so-slightly shorter route along the start of the Marriott’s Way. The begining of the route consisted of a long section of single track alongside a miniature steam train line. This might have been the best part of the trip: muddy tracks, loose autumnal leaves, and laden-down touring bikes are a recipe for fun. I love how my bike floated across the uneven ground with its upright position keeping me planted throughout.
Once off this track and over a few more lumps and bumps, we cruised down into Cromer. Cromer can probably be best described as fine, not terrible, but also not top of my list. Think Weston-super-Mare with less mud. After a short tea break it was back onto the bikes and a quick nip down the coast to our hostel.
Hostel living… can’t say I don’t live a life of luxury! The bed was a bed and the shower was warm, that’s about all we needed after a wet day on the bikes. After forgetting to bring shower gel we were forced to use the tools we had and take apart the soap dispenser. “We found it like that,” was what we told the receptionist, while I slowly hid the multi tool.
The previous day’s off-road jaunt gave us our first mechanical. After a full brake clean and reset we realised that the pad had somehow completely worn away on my dad’s brand new disc brakes, impressive work for flat Norfolk! We are putting it down to a small fault with the the manufacturing – no pad or residue was left, and it looked as if the whole pad had fallen away from the metal plate. Luckily a very friendly man in Wells-next-the-sea had a spare set of pads left over from that season’s hire bikes!
The ride into Wells-next-the-sea was one of my favorite sections of the route, the sweeping lanes and rollercoasteresqe hills were a nice change from pancake-flat roads. The blue sky was just poking through (the first and last we would see of it on this trip). The rest of the day was much the same as the days before: food stops, photo opportunities and slowly pottering through country lanes. We were taking a beating from the heavens as the day grew shorter, so the warm and welcoming accommodation was even sweeter. The room for the night was above a pub, and there’s nothing better than a pint and hot meal after a day of wet and windy riding. One disappointing lasagna and a catch-up on the Giro Italia later and I was sound asleep.
Day four… you guessed it, was slow. We had decided to go for a slightly longer day and get back a bit ahead of schedule. We loved the trip, but another day of being rained on and getting cold didn’t sound like much fun. We had to cover 50+ miles to get from the Norfolk coast back down to where the car was parked in a village just outside Ely. The route took us past Big Liz’s house in Sandringham, into Kings Lynn, and then to our first pit stop in Downham Market for tomato soup from a greasy spoon. Once refreshed and re-energised, we had to slog across the flat levels near Ely and back into Chippenham. About 8 miles from the finish our route took us across an old farm track and through a thick grassed bank. Although this was really fun and felt like we were channeling our inner rough stuff fellowship. being so close to the end and against nasty crosswinds felt like a slight kick in the teeth.
Four days of cycling were over; a slightly different experience compared to previous trips on the continent, but no less enjoyable. The novelty of using accommodation rather than camping was something that might stay on some (NOT ALL!!) future rides. Not having to put up tents or find places to stay in the wet is always a plus. The bike was a dream! I had one puncture, but other than that it kept me comfy and smiling all week. I can see me and my new Bristol Bicycle embarking on many trips in the future. It’s already replacing the car for small trips. Back to normal life now… Oh well! I’ll be back out on the bike in no time.
I’m always in awe of those who chew through big miles or battle across continents. Ultra-distance and Audax have made a bit of comeback lately, and I fancied a challenge for myself. The Trans Devon is a multi-checkpoint, self-sufficient ride (not a race) across… well you guessed it, Devon; the perfect stepping stone to bigger things but definitely enough of a challenge to push me out of my comfort zone.
The ride starts and ends at Rockets and Rascals in Plymouth, the first checkpoint being Lynmouth (for the geography nerds out there, you’re right, that’s on the other side of the county). Then over to Dunkeswell, up onto Dartmoor for Princetown and back into Plymouth. You create the route but you have to hit all the checkpoints, get your brevet card stamped, and not use any A roads. My route ended up being 205 miles (330km) long with 20,000 feet of climbing (my body stills hurts just writing those stats).
The ride had been postponed because of the current situation and, as lockdown lifted and the rules were eased, it was pushed back to the August bank holiday weekend. Unsupported long-distance rides naturally lend themselves to social distancing and I’m glad it went ahead; with everything else shutting down for the year, it was great to have an event to look forward to. This did mean fewer people took part and there was almost no fanfare at the beginning, but all this added to the fun and personal feel of such an event.
5 pm on Friday rolled by, I had stowed my tracker in my handlebar bag and downed the last dregs of coffee. It was time to start moving. I was a mix of excitement and nerves… all right I was mainly nervous, but once I got going that all slipped into nothing and the constant rhythm of the pedalling soon took over. Riding through the night came with a certain level of apprehension but, with quiet roads and Dartmoor sunsets, I soon forgot about the beasts lurking in the bushes. If you don’t remember Friday 28 August 2020… it rained… a lot. The first leg of the trip was met by frequent rain showers and cold crisp air. This was made worse by poor route planning that took in a Dartmoor bridleway where I had to wade through a shin-high bog (or river). Knowing I had hours of riding ahead and no chance of drying off couldn’t dampen my spirits. Once back onto the Granite Way, I was flying into Okehampton.
Okehampton’s late-night pizza takeaway was the first of many guilt-free pit-stops. After munching down some chips and a doing a quick check on everyone’s spot tracker, I realised I had managed to acquire a flat rear tyre – not something I wanted this close to the start. After fixing it and having a brief chat with another rider, I was back out onto my bike and into the cold dark night. Ten minutes out of Okehampton, yet again the tyre gods had it in for me. I hadn’t managed to find the culprit for the last flat and had just put it down to a pinch or a rock. Under the power of my head torch and with closer inspection I spotted a small piece of flint poking through the tread. This time I was joined by another rider called Tom (tracker 10, I believe) and it’s amazing how just having a brief chat with someone can take your mind off the annoyance of yet another flat tyre in the rain. Tom sped off into the night (and by the looks of things, he never stopped as he finished in around 16 hours! Chapeau!). I was left to gather my kit and get going again. Shortly afterwards, I was joined by the chap I had met in Okehampton ( If you are reading this, sorry I forgot your name!!) and we rode for a bit before our routes no longer went the same way, maybe I’d see him later on maybe not… that’s the beauty of this style of riding.
Hills, hills, hills, and then up and over Exmoor… the first leg took its toll. But the sweeping descent into Lynmouth with my dynamo leading the way kept me awake for those final few kms. After getting my brevet card stamped I spent a while in a warm toilet block sheltering from the wind and stuffing myself with vegan jerky and samosas (middle class to the bitter end). Braving the cold once more to find my bivvy spot for the night led me to a little lay-by on the way back up and out of Lynmouth.
Three hours’ sleep… that’s enough, right? Well, that’s all I got, so I hoped it would be. In bed at 3 and back on the bike around 6, waking in between to find that a new slug friend had joined me in my bivvy bag, In an attempt to get that final bit of rest I decided to not disturb the fella but just roll my sleeping bag down a bit and get 20 more winks. Climbing out of Lynmouth in the morning was amazing; the sun was coming up over Exmoor, and I could finally soak in the views that I had missed the night before. This went some way to make up of the disgustingly steep and long hills I was bumbling over. Once over Exmoor I sailed into Dulverton for breakfast. I’m not sure what locals thought of a grubby cyclist who’d just slept in a bush stuffing his face with a full English, extra toast, two coffees, and one custard tart for now and one to go. I enjoyed it though, and that’s all I cared about.
With breakfast done and 106 miles behind me, I was set for a big day ahead on the bike. The next checkpoint was Dunkeswell airfield. Perhaps the “easiest” section of the route, the next 30 miles or so were undulating hills with very little respite. Just when you get into your stride, you turn a corner to see yet another short 20% incline. Fuelled by coffee and a sense of adventure, I was cruising through the lanes. Dunkeswell was situated at the top of yet another hill, but was a welcome place marker as to how much riding I had left. Card stamped, third coffee and custard tart smashed, it was time to shoot off for the final stretch.
I had called the last section of the ride “final push” on my GPS, this lulled me into a false sense of security. 70 miles suddenly didn’t feel like a final push, and I was annoyed with the past me who though I would find that amusing. The next leg took me down and around Exeter, then back up onto Dartmoor, over the top to Princetown and on the final stretch back to Plymouth. On the first section I was flying, wind blowing, birds calling, all the clichés. Somewhere outside Exeter, things took a turn for the worse. Flat number three struck. I’m still proud of my decision to fix the puncture rather than replacing the tube. I had only one tube left, and knew that if I had to fix that closer to the end I would be too tired and grumpy to get the job done. So, with a repaired inner and a beaten-up tyre, I set off back up into the hills in search of Dartmoor ponies. What amounted to a bit of a slog up onto Dartmoor soon became my favourite section of the ride. I was cruising over its consistent ups and downs, transfixed by the golden hour with the sun setting around me. At times like these, I would use music to distract myself in an attempt to keep the legs spinning. I opted for Jack Johnson’s Curious George Soundtrack, It’s a banger, give it a listen!
Once in Princetown, it was all downhill from there… literally all downhill. I had spotted it on my Wahoo earlier that morning so couldn’t wait for the final section. By this point, the tin foil I had taken from my food wrapping and put around my toes in some attempt to keep them warm in the morning had fallen further down my feet. Although I would normally stop to sort out this kind of issue, I was determined to get this ride done with, so I just pushed through for the last 20 miles. A solid pace back into Plymouth meant I was done in no time. Obviously, I got lost trying to find the café, but that happens almost every time I have to use my GPS in a city.
I finished just in time to get my final stamp and a free beer (well, “free” beer: I had to cycle 200 miles to get it, so it came at some cost). I chatted with the other riders who had also made it in that day, Lots of questions over my route planning, so that’s something to look into next time! Everyone seemed equally exhausted and elated. I believe I was the last of the bunch to get in Saturday and many other people had (wisely) chosen to stay out for another night of adventure and make it in the next day. With my card stamped and tracker handed back, the only thing to do now was ride five miles back to my parents’ camper van (with a Big M stop on route of course) and collapse on the sofa for some well-earned rest.
Would I do it again? If you had asked me that during the 3rd puncture and the endless hills I would have sworn back at you. Now… Yes, yes of course! I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the next big adventure, so if you have any recommendations, please do fire them over. Bit of time off the bike now to help recover, but I’m determined to not let bad weather and the ever-pressing threat of winter get in the way of more long rides.
Beep beep… beep beep: the alarm went off nice and early last Sunday. After a busy week of work, it was finally time to head out on the bike. 7:30am rolled through and I was out the door and heading into Bristol to meet up with David and Kate of @katedavetrip, as well as Oli and Ruth from @intandemmemories.
David and Kate had approached Bristol Bicycles for a bit of help when planning their LEJOG (Land’s End to John o’Groats) trip. Of course we were more than happy to oblige, and hearing good words about them from Oli and Ruth ( who previously cycled halfway around the world on their Bristol Bicycles) we struck a deal to sponsor the trip.
This was day seven for the guys, and the route took us from Bristol’s best coffee spot, ka:fei, up the River Severn ending in Gloucester, taking in country lanes, canal towpaths, and the odd “hill”, on what was a relatively flat day. This was much to the delight of Kate and Dave who had already come through Devon and Cornwall (possibly the most challenging section of the tour).
I had set out to ride with Kate, Dave, Oli, Ruth, and their friend Louie for the day, and join a short leg of their much longer journey. Oli, Ruth, and Louie had also joined from Bristol with all but Louie undertaking the whole rest of the trip; Louie is planning to peel off at Manchester, which in itself is a big effort, especially when you take into account the boneshaker bike he’s chosen ( if it works it works – you do you!).
The rest of the group were all on Bristol Bicycle touring models. Ruth’s and Oli’s had been to Bangkok, but were still going strong with original kickstands and even a bag of unused spare spokes. Kate and Dave were showing off their flashy new up-to-date touring bikes with hydraulic disc brakes, dynamo lighting and full rack setup. I had been informed that they were almost fault-free since they had set out. A bit of minor gear adjustment and double-wrapped bar tape and these bikes aren’t going to hold them back from any adventure. I’d often find one of the group staring longingly at their bikes as the bond between rider and bike grew day by day, tour by tour.
Even on a small section of the ride we met people along the way that wanted to share their own LEJOG stories or local tips: most notably a couple just outside Berkeley who took us to a local cafe called Perfect Blend, highly recommended… seeing all the cyclists there you might already know it.
Heading out of Berkeley a little bit heavier from a coffee and lunch, we (or rather I) had the first mechanical mishap. My oh-so-supple tyres had come back to bite me, sure enough, the front was flat. A quick change of tube and I thought I had it… Nope: pop went my pump as I stared down at what now amounted to a couple of metal tubes and a few valves. My pump had given up and, with no luck putting it back together, I had to plead with local cyclists to see if I could find someone better equipped than I was. Sure enough, we got it back up and running and the trip continued. With a little top-up 20 minutes later as we met up with Oli and his old faithful pump from India, I was set for the rest of the trip.
The rest of the day was much the same: a steady progress along sweeping country lanes and gravel canal paths fuelled by a potent mix of jelly babies, cashew nuts and coffee. The social aspect of the day meant we ate through the miles and I didn’t think too much about the distance. Whether it was Dave’s plan to become the Elon Musk of bug farming or Oli waxing lyrical about F1, the chat is all part of the experience. This was far being from everyone’s first rodeo with Ruth and Oli and their epic around the world trip, or Louie and his forays touring in Japan, I felt like a mere mortal hearing about the trips these guys have done. Nonetheless, with cycling stories being shared and snacks handed out, we quickly caught up with our destination.
My arrival in Gloucester that evening was greeted by yet another puncture, which put the final nail in the coffin of any remaining ideas about cycling home that night; so I shacked up with the rest of them in their hotel, and enjoyed a well-deserved meal from a local Thai restaurant. The next day it was a bright and early start and farewell to the group. They left me to funnel my breakfast in and make a dash to the local bike shop. Cheers Eastgate Cycles for sorting me out!
The ride home was a bit quicker, but no more enjoyable. It followed a nasty section of the A38 that quickly became closed swooping A roads, that led me straight back into Bristol for lunch. Even a small weekend out on the bike felt like a mini holiday. The bug is back ,and within a few hours of being home I was already planning my next adventure. Thanks to the gang for having me along and good luck with the rest of the trip!
The collection of an old man or a 21-year-old lad?
I think you can tell a lot about a man from his bike collection, and in my case, you can certainly tell I’m a middle-class boy with very few overheads… or an old man that’s got overly excited about his retirement.
With all this time at home, I thought I would run you through the collection and get nerdy for a little bit. I wish I could say “ oh yeah I just have the one bike for everything really”… but I don’t, I’ve probably got too many bikes for very little reason. So here we go…
The commuter: ‘Bromhilda’ (Brompton B75)
I’ll come clean guys: I drive. OK, I know it’s bad but I live out in the sticks and it is my only option. The Brompton, however, has meant I don’t go anywhere without a bike. It lives in the boot and means I can cut the miles down and cycle lots of my journeys. Also, my car (a very sexy 1 litre Kia Picanto) is only small and a folded Brompton is about all I can fit in it.
Not much more to say on this one, it’s got three gears. The brakes work and it gets me from A to B with a smile on my face. When I purchased Bromhilda I was told I may be the youngest person in Bristol to own one… it’s not a huge accolade but I’ll take it. The few bits of personalisation have been a lovely leather saddle from Ruperts in London, front and rear mudguards, new brake levers and a huge front bag to carry cameras and my laptop in (also often beer) on the way home.
The mountain bike: Genesis Latitude
After saying I don’t need a mountain bike I can just ride my drop bar bike around the Mendips, I quickly ate my words after purchasing a home build Genesis latitude a few months back. It became a new love and I feel like I’m 50 years late to the mountain bike party. Living at the foot of the Mendip hills, within minutes I can be in the woods and bombing around local singletrack, fire roads and sweating it up to trig points. Obviously, this one is having a bit of a rest at the moment with the lockdown. No getting “Rad” for me at the moment.
The bike itself I bought second hand from a “home mechanic”… and its a beaut. A steel genesis hardtail frame and a selection of Shimano parts. Nobby Nic tyres to shred the local trails and 150mm Rock Shox Sector forks to take up every bump. I’m no downhiller, nor am I going to be hitting the biggest jumps (or many of the small ones for that matter), so a full sus would be lost on me. Looking forward to strapping some bags on this one when the lockdown is over and getting lost in the woods for a weekend.
The racing whippet: Trek Domane
Forget “steel is real”… carbon is light! And it’s fast! (I take that back, I love steel really!). When the sun comes out so does the Trek. I never fully believed that light bikes made much difference and I’m not the smallest chap so I could do with losing the weight myself, not the bike. Yet… this one makes it feel like you’re gliding up hills (rather than the retrospective chugging I normally do).
Nothing too unusual on this one really, it’s 10spd Tiagra all round and comes in at around 8-9kg, so light enough for me. It’s not a super sporty geometry and comes under Trek’s “endurance” range, meaning I can go on long summer rides and still feel comfy. It currently lives between the Mendip climbs and the turbo trainer. It’s fair to say it’s getting a lot of use through the lockdown. It will be due a full strip down and a new set of summer tyres when this all blows over I think (28mm of course, the fatter the better)
Old faithful: Brother Kepler Disc
The bike of many faces. My beloved Kepler disc has done me well, from French tours to all-day gravel rides (both detailed in my previous blog posts). This is not far off being my dream bike really; a possible groupset change to swap the 105 road gearing for something a bit more versatile and it will be complete.
This bike has been on our social media and my blogs a fair bit and it constantly changes its guises from full tour mode to gravel grinder and currently long-distance mile smasher. With its new set of 32mm smooth Gravel King tyres, new 100 lux dynamo light, brooks cambium c15 saddle and Restrap frame bag it’s set up for a summer of long rides (fingers crossed) and the trans-Devon ride (more info on the turbo trainer blog).
So there we go, the tour of my collection! I know what you’re thinking: NO BRISTOL BIKE!!! As yet I’ve not needed a Bristol bike, but with the creation of our new Randonneur model (details to follow shortly) I’ve got plans in the pipeline. Sticking true to my style something gravelly, a little bit classic but a lot of fun. Keep your eyes peeled for that blog!
Whose collection do you want to see next? Jase the E-bike man? Colin and his new child-friendly Bristol Bicycle? Or perhaps you want to go straight to the top and see what oddball gems Jake is hiding away and perhaps what inspired the first-ever Bristol Bicycle?
This post is designed to give genuinely helpful advice, wherever you buy a bike. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to get more people cycling, so this is not a sales pitch to persuade you to buy a bike from Bristol Bicycles! It is simply impartial advice on both new and used bikes, no matter where you choose to buy yours.
For normal everyday cycling, commuting, city riding, and even light cycle touring we recommend hybrid bikes. They are an ideal balance between the ruggedness of a mountain bike and the efficiency of a road bike. As long as it’s of reasonable quality, a hybrid is a very good all-rounder thanks to the wide range of gears, good brakes and ability to carry luggage.
There are various different flavours of hybrid available: some are lighter and faster but maybe less practical (sometimes called flat-bar road bikes or fitness bikes), some are heavier with fatter tyres and suspension forks (trekking bikes), some are based on mountain bike dimensions but are fitted with slick tyres for road use (urban mountain bikes or comfort bikes).
How much to spend?
Once you’ve decided roughly what type of bike would suit you, the price is generally a pretty good indication of whether you’re getting a model of suitable quality or not.
Nowadays most big manufacturers offer many different categories of bike, so it’s not really possible to say “Brand A make good bikes” or “Brand B are low quality”: in truth both offer everything from very cheap to very expensive models. See the price guide below for advice on how much to spend on a bike that will best suit your purposes.
But first a warning: please, please, please do not buy a bike from a supermarket, mail order website, or department store for £99.99 or £149.99 or even £199.99. It will be heavy and uncomfortable, will start rusting in a few months, and if used regularly many parts will be broken and dangerous after only a year or two. At this price, your money is much better spent on a good second-hand bike. Don’t just take our word for it, see e.g. http://www.whycycle.co.uk, http://bicycleshapedobject.wordpress.com or http://tinyurl.com/actbso2
New hybrid bike
£400 new bike: Decent commuter and hybrid bikes start at this price, but avoid extras like suspension or disc brakes: far better to get an honest, no-frills bike with basic but good components. We suggest you should not spend less than £400 on a new bike (plus the cost of any accessories). Anything cheaper is likely to be a false economy because soon you’ll end up spending more on repairs.
£600 new bike: Spending around £600 on a new hybrid bike usually means the components and specification will be better than on a £400 model. This can make the bike lighter or nicer to ride, or it can mean upgrades like good quality disc brakes. The higher price can also help to ensure the bike lasts longer, for example because of stronger wheels and hubs, better bearings, or puncture-resistant tyres.
£600+ new bike: Don’t assume that more expensive always means more reliable: for example, above say £800 or £900 some hybrids will be lighter and faster, but possibly more fragile, more expensive to repair, and more of a theft-risk than e.g. a £500 model. (If, on the other hand, you’re buying a new mountain bike, tourer or road bike we recommend you should not spend less than £600; anything cheaper is likely a false economy because you’ll spend more on servicing or upgrades. But for hybrid bikes, above a certain threshold a higher price can actually mean less longevity and practicality).
If you are buying a new bike for commuting purposes, see our “5 questions to ask” blog post for some tips on what to look out for, and what questions to ask the retailer.
Used bike price guide
On a budget of less than £400, we suggest buying a reconditioned bike instead. But beware buying stolen, worn out or damaged used bikes – avoid private sellers unless you really know what to look our for, and buy from a reputable shop or charity project.
£100 used bike: If you’re on a very tight budget, around £100 might buy a basic bike from a bike recycling project – and could easily prove more reliable and cost-effective than spending £100 on a brand new mail order or supermarket bike! But if used daily, plan on having to upgrade within a year or two.
£150 used bike: Bike recycling projects and some used bike shops offer serviced or reconditioned bikes for this price – typically older hybrid bikes or very basic mountain bikes. In this price bracket, the bikes may have quite some wear-and-tear, but could offer a few years of use if well maintained.
£250used bike: this price should buy a fully reconditioned hybrid bike from a reputable bike recycling project or used bike shop, that was £400 or £500 when new. A bike of this type would probably be ideal for regular commuting, with only normal maintenance required.
What if I don’t want a hybrid bike?
Hybrid bikes really do suit most people, most of the time. The only potential practical disadvantages of a hybrid are: wheel rims which wear out in a few years or a few thousand miles (unless you have disc brakes), a chain which wears more quickly than on a Dutch bike (see our “Lifetime cost of bike ownership” blog), and the inability to fit a chaincase. But in a hilly city like Bristol the low weight and wide range of gears mean a hybrid is ideal, even with these potential drawbacks.
But sometimes a hybrid just won’t fit the bill. What if you have very limited storage space, need more off-road ability, or just want a speed machine without worrying about luggage or mudguards?
Alternatives to a hybrid bike include:
Mountain bikes: normally heavier and slower on-road, but if fitted with slick tyres and no suspension many can be as used as a hybrid. Some mountain bikes do not have the option to fit mudguards or luggage racks. Can also be more expensive to maintain.
Folding bikes: easier to store in small places and ideal for taking on the train, but more expensive than an equivalent non-folding bike, and able to carry less luggage. Fewer gears, and the small wheels and tyres will wear out more quickly with frequent use.
Touring/gravel/adventure bikes: more expensive than a hybrid, but just as versatile and practical; good if you prefer drop handlebars.
Road bikes/racers: lighter and quicker, but often with limited options for mudguards and luggage racks, and generally not as comfortable or practical for everyday city riding in traffic, wet weather, bumpy roads etc. Can also be more expensive to maintain.
Dutch/City bikes: normally already equipped with mudguards, rack, lights & chainguard, Dutch bikes are even more practical than a hybrid. They can also be very reliable and long-lived thanks to their hub brakes and gears, and full chaincase. But Dutch bikes are normally very heavy, have a smaller range of gears, and are pricier to buy.
I’m sure many of you like myself winced at the idea of spending the foreseeable future locked up inside. I’ve never been one to sit still for long, I lose focus on video games, have to be in the right mood to read a book and can’t stand day time TV. When the lockdown reared its ugly face it seemed that my worst nightmare had come true.
Luckily I had recently acquired an indoor turbo trainer. For some it’s the worst thing in the world, the idea of sweating indoors for the sake of spinning your legs just doesn’t appeal… well, I would normally agree and to some extent, I still do. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Earlier in the year, I had booked a place on the Trans Devon, a 300ish km ride across the south of the UK. The ride is set up much like the longer ultra-endurance events such as the Transcontinental but at a much more accessible distance for those seeking a mini weekend adventure. With checkpoints dotted across Devon (hence the 300ish) you have to match them up and get your brevet card stamped, much like the popular Audax discipline. To me, this seemed to be a gentle way into a summer of big miles and wide smiles.
This is where the turbo trainer comes into play: 300km is not to be sniffed at and I quickly realised I would need to do some training to be in with a chance of completing this event. The indoor trainer has meant I can do fast structured rides and fit them in with day-to-day life. This means an hour or so on weekday evenings paired with longer rides over the weekend. With lockdown it has become a much more indoor affair and the turbo trainer has become a vital part of the daily routine.
I’ll be honest: I’ve grown to love it. Even just an hour can burn enough energy to tie me over, also it keeps me from feeling lazy… or tricks me into thinking I’m not lazy, it’s one or the other. A smart turbo trainer allows you to use apps such as ZWIFT, that way I have something to look at on the screen and at least pretend I’m outside. (It really does amaze me what they can make Smart these days… I saw a smart toothbrush the other day, what makes it smart? Do I need an app for my dental hygiene?)
If I’m riding my turbo most days then I can quickly rack up the miles and before you know it you’ve done 100 miles a week without leaving your house… what’s not to love? I get bored pretty easily (I shaved my head within 24 hours of lockdown!) so I hate to think what would have happened if I didn’t have my turbo trainer. Do you guys use turbo trainers? Let us know what you think of them. They cant replace outdoor cycling but mine has been a great asset for my physical and mental health during these strange times. And if you also use a turbo trainer and ZWIFT, who’s up for a group ride?
It’s all too easy to get swept up in a busy life in the city. Bristol is vibrant, exciting and full of opportunities. Cycling around our parks and green spaces, meeting people who are doing great things to improve them in their free time leaves me feeling pretty grateful. Whatever unfolds, being able to use my Expedition to visit and support those doing positive work feels like a blessing.
These past few weeks, miles have averaged anything from 15 to 30 per day, often leaving my Expedition wet, my legs tired and pannier rack weighed down. But the rides keep me smiling. Visiting some of our amazing spaces; Ashton Court, Greville Smyth, Montpelier Park and Blaise Estate has reminded me of the beauty we are surrounded by and the people who make our communities strong. I couldn’t get around without such a solid set of wheels.
Given the current situation, these wheels are more important than ever as I try to support local people who might need things collecting or dropping off if they’re staying inside. This weekend, we made a conscious effort to cycle for pleasure, something I rarely get to do these days. A visit from two of the siblings meant a good excuse for a daytrip – so we descended on Jake and the team first thing Saturday morning to collect three more Bristol Bicycles. We decided to take a leisurely spin along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, 13.5 miles of traffic free fun whilst the media spun itself in circles. The escapism of being both alone and in good company whilst cycling has never been more valuable.
The ride took us on a day long adventure of drinking coffee, eating biscuits and remembering how much fun having a big family is. It also reminded me how important spending time outdoors with said family is. Big thanks to Jake and co. for giving us the chance to revert to our teenage sibling silliness. We’re inspired to get together for more rides out in the open countryside once we’ve all gotten through this strange time and used it remember to look out for, love and laugh with one another again.
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