Biking to Barnstaple, Bude and back!

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 )