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 )
DRONEWe 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 by 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.
WARM SHOWERSWe 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!
WILD SWIMMINGWe 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.
WILD CAMPINGWe 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.
HILLSNo 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)
@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!
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)
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
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
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
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?
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 price guide
- £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).
Used bike price guideOn 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.
- £250 used 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.
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.
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.