150 + 11 = 100!

Some of you may have remembered reading that on Day 7 of LEJOG we attempted to ride from my Aunt’s back to Bristol in one hit, bagging R’s first 150km Brevet Populaire and another badge.

Well we just fell short as the prelude had been hills through Cornwall & Devon on preceding days and not to mention the 2hr jumpathon on the trampoline before our depart. At about 140km R said he was really tired (it was close to midnight) so I called it a day, we rode 3km more to the main road and waited for Mummy to pick us up. During the wait R had a second wind and I believe could have easily finished.

Since then R has regularly asked me when he could try again. So last weekend with the amazing (scary if you think about it) weather we’ve been having I checked the weather guesscast and it was more of the same this weekend; the end of March. So…

I said “how about next?”

R said “ok.”

I dropped in “if we do another 11km it’ll make it 100 miles!”

He said “ok then.”

It was on!!

Saturday 30th March

I’m round to pick R up from Mummy’s at 08:00. R is still gobbling food and tucks into one of his brunch sandwiches. I have a coffee and pick and pack a few items of clothing for the day. There was a morning mist and it was chilly but you could see it would burn off pretty quickly.

30 minutes later we are out the door.

In the run up R had talked about a ride finishing off with pizza at the White Hart in Cheddar then back up The Gorge. This would have given us a lot of time on the flat which I don’t think is conducive for an easy first longer ride. Instead I sorted a route with about the same amount of climbing that went straight into The Cotswolds then enjoyed the rolling flattish countryside of the top of the Thames Valley before dropping down to The Severn for the final stint; much more opportunity for freewheeling and the wind would be behind us on the first and final leg as it was forecast to swing in the afternoon.

First leg: Bristol to Blunsdon

So first things first we head out of the city on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, fork left and head north west to Pucklechurch and on. R knows this route and was easily up Coxgrove Hill and Hinton Hill. The cloudy mist dissipates and in a few moments we’re in the sun, still a little chilly though.

1/5th of the way and we’re on The Fosse Way

Sandwiches devoured as we approach Malmesbury. I know of a surprise so we stop briefly much to R’s delight.

Little & Large!

We spot another teeny 🔺 shortly after, I’ve never seen that one it must have been buried under the road surface which has recently been redone. We grab some more sandwiches from a shop; R devours those as well, I have my breakfast. Then onwards. Layers removed we enjoy the sun and flash our club colours. Another hour and a bit and we’re at Swindon & Cricklade Railway’s Blunsdon Station and the Whistlestop Cafe. I take the opportunity to chat with Anne the manager about my upcoming events; I have 3 that’ll be using the cafe as a control.

As we eat our grub a steam train trundles by being driven by a member of the public as they do experience days.

2/5ths of the way, train driving experience day.

R leaves his chips for me, he wants the cake; Victoria Sponge one of his favourites.

Second leg: Blunsdon to Black Shed

Back west we head. A gentle headwind and a slow ascent back to the edge of The Cotswolds. Through Minety. R logs this village for later exploration having spotted a teeny triangle of teeny 🔺s!

It’s glorious. R keeps telling me he’s loving it. A friend recently asked me if I was pushy. I don’t think I am. I egg R on but would never force him to do something he didn’t want to do or something I didn’t think he was capable of. The pushiest bit is getting him out the door, soon as he is everything changes no matter what the weather; though he did say on the ride he prefers the sunshine. Who doesn’t?

Serious selfie.

I turn round and R has stopped and is half on the verge. I hear a “Grrrr!” Uh oh. But no, R begins, catches up and starts laughing. He’d just ridden into a drainage gully. His own anger at himself was quickly replaced with amusement; another small achievement.

3/5ths done nearing the setting sun.

Soon, in the late afternoon we’re approaching what is colloquially known as “The valley that time forgot” (see header photo). A hidden gem before a short climb up to Kingscote.

Leaving the valley that time forgot.

Then we are descending Frocester Hill. R rode up this on our Forest of Dean & Cotswolds cycle camping trip a year and a half ago (I’ll write that up too when I get the chance). Going down is a lot easier. A tanker is behind us patiently waiting, but then again we leave it behind on the corners!

Into the Severn Valley. R is constantly recognising places from other rides, one being Paul’s recent Jack and Grace which we did in January, the other Pete’s Skirting the Cotswolds back in September shortly after LEJOG; both 100km Brevet Populaires by Audax Club Bristol organisers.

Final stop is The Black Shed. This cafe was recently refurbed (rebuilt I think) and stays open late on a Saturday as a bar. Curry for me. Sausages & chips for R; only they did chicken nuggets, realised the mistake as they served and then brought out some sausages too, extra fuel for the tank!

Chicken in a basket, ready for the last bit.

Final Leg: Black Shed to Bed

Just after 19:00 we set off on the last 40km. The sun has set quick and the chill is back in the air. Layers are back on as are lights.

The wind is gentle on our backs again and R is flying. Then we hit the edge of Thornbury. 143km passed, a new biggest bike ride from R. He turns to me, has a little wobble and says “I should be in bed.”

It’s 20:30, not the latest or longest R has been out cycling, but he rightly points out last time it was summer and the days were longer and the clocks forward (which happens tonight). I hadn’t factored that in, the circadian rhythm. The street lights of Thornbury pick him up, I ask if he wants to carry on or we try and get a lift. “No, I’m going to finish it!”

We chat away as I keep his mind occupied, something to focus on other than the letterbox of light just ahead of us as we leave the lights of Thornbury behind to pick up The Old Gloucester Road (not A38).

He asks “can we go for a ride next Saturday?”

“I’ve got my event on.”

“Awww 🙁 how about Sunday?”

“OK.”

“A normal ride though Daddy, about 60-80km.”

😀 – I’m not the one doing the pushing!

After a little climb there is another wobble. “Are you all right R?” “Sleepy Daddy, my arm feels all weak.” I tell R that I think of Maths things to help me stay alert. He says “that’s funny Daddy I was thinking of my Maths homework.”

We’ve just passed 150km, the main goal for the day. It isn’t far now, the glow of Bristol is nearing and R says the street lights will help. Sucking my wheel is out so I put my hand on his shoulder, steady him, and provide a little extra motive force. We move like ice skaters gliding around the potholes and rough surfaces. 5km to go to the beginning of the street lights.

A car waits behind us even though it has ample chance to pass on the straights. R is chatting away to me as I keep an eye on him. Lots of blinking. I ask if he can still see okay or if his eyes have begun to wander. He says he’s fine. The car behind turns off and gives a little toot.

A few minutes later and we’re at the first edge of Bristol. Street lights, R picks up the pace. Almost there. No street lights again but R doesn’t need my hand any more and is flying off the front.

Knowing we were near has given him a boost. Street lights again now till the end. We cross the ring road, easily sailing along and mainly downhill. A quick stop at Tesco for Mother’s Day provisions then a 5 minute hop to home.

All done having ridden a Ton!

100 miles, the Imperial Century, in 13h40m. A 150km Brevet Populaire badge in the waiting. What a star, I tell R I didn’t do my first 100 miles till in my 30s, he smiles!

Bikes away and we’re up stairs. We have a Rock & Limpet cuddle. Changed and teeth done I tuck him up. He’s asleep in 5, me in 10…

…love him!

Avon Cycleway 130 Brevet Populair

It’s Friday, it’s an inset day for R, we begin the day with the usual stuff like making road templates that match Lego ones so we can paint the floor with a big city layout. We then poke our heads in the fridge and decide what we’re going to need for tomorrow’s ride.

  • Left over pasta ✔
  • Egg mayo sandwiches – need eggs
  • Dates ❌
  • Snack bars ✔✔✔

So we head off, on our bikes of course, and stock up along with a few other household essentials. On return egg mayo is made ready for the morning.

Play date in the afternoon. A few of the bars disappear, a den is made and bunnies arranged. Then the changing of the guard occurs. I do a little further planning whilst R and friend head off in the heat to the park with mummy.

Saturday’s event, being an Audax, is open to interpretation; that being there are nominated controls/checkpoints that must be visited but even though there is a suggested route it is advisory. This would be R’s biggest solo to date so I shave off a few kms here and there (mainly near the start) and chose the odd ‘faster’ section avoiding bumpier lanes. Nothing drastic, just something to give R a better chance especially with the lumpy section around Pensford. Happy with it I send the route to my phone.

Saturday morning we’re up early. Coffee and toast for me. Pasta and pesto for R. Make sandwiches and pack bag. Water bottles filled. Bikes loaded onto van and we head off to Cleeve Rugby Club for the start of The Avon Cycleway 130km organised by Rob Baird of Audax Club Bristol (ACB); a resurrected event circumnavigating Bristol on NCN Route 410. We arrive a little earlier than everyone else but Bairdy is there to hand us our cards which I swap for the ACB finish stamp.

There’s a steady breeze from the NE which stays with us all day, a headwind to start. Light cloud cover cools the way so rain jackets are on; we must have acclimatised to this heatwave as at any other time we’d have been roasting! Deviating through Chipping Sodbury we stop for 2nd breakfast. Across open commons into the headwind collecting the info answer at Horton we turn west for the leg through Wetmoor Wood, Wickwar & Thornbury. Tailwind now and the clouds are burning off. R eats another sandwich on the go and inhales a snack bar, rain jackets stowed and we cruise along Route 410.

With our early start and deviation the first few riders pass at Wickwar. Shortly after Thornbury Mark rolls along side. R hops on the front and Mark & I suck his wheel. We discuss upcoming events for next season now I can organise up to 600km. Mark, like me, likes hills! We all roll into the Littleton upon Severn village hall control together. R gets his card stamped by Luke & Steve, has some jelly sweets from inside the hall; the only non chocolate item, R doesn’t do chocolate, a parents’ dream. Then tucks into another sandwich as I have a strong (decaf) coffee……

Up until now the ride, whilst fantastic, hasn’t scored high on R’s 🔺 tally. After crossing the M5 Avonmouth bridge to Pill things begin to change. R has an eye for triangular manhole covers and can spot them from a mile off or lurking out of sight.

Several hexagons were also spotted which is a bonus. The lane from Portbury to Clevedon is usually quiet but today we were plagued by cars. Perhaps as the M5 on the hillside above us was slithering at a snail’s pace. Drivers would passively agressively edge past in their quest to reach their destination, usually to meet another driver coming the other way. Stop start it was till they conceded our pace was actually quicker, ‘aggressiveness’ subsided and they passively towed the line. Scarlett’s in Clevedon was quickly approaching. R needed refuelling and had been popping dates for the past hour. One hill to the seafront left to contend with. And an angry driver! Beeping, passing, then stopping immediately in front of us. Tirade about highway code, single file, dangerous etc. I explained I was an NSI cycle instructor and knew all about correct road position and my decision to ride 2 abreast with my son at that point, also that he should go and check the HC he scanned 40yrs ago to pass his licence; giving him permission to drive a vehicle on the highway…..

The eyes of a cornered animal glared at me as his lips began to curl. I suggested he move on as he was obstructing the road and putting us in danger. Off he shot only to slam his brakes on again. Half a dozen cars were now queued up behind beeping horns, a local resident was marching over. The angry driver reluctantly accepted defeat and sped off. The rest of the day was driver contention free.

In general during my time riding with R, teaching him the best riding position etc motorists have been extremely accommodating. There have been occasions where a car of youths has screamed past shouting encouragement from an open window whilst giving loads of space. It is few and far between that any issues arise; usually in the sticks where a driver really can’t comprehend why I would be protecting my son’s space when it would be unsafe for a vehicle to pass as another approaches.

We arrive at Scarlett’s. R gets to do the stamping of some cards aided by the 2 flamingoes: Telbert & Jon.

Lunch is ordered. I hear screams from outside and see R chasing Daniel round with an inflatable flamingo. Flamingoes are invading our space. I challenge any one of you to go a day without spotting one!

It’s gone 2.30 by now and it is hot. R wants to go to the beach and DNF (did not finish). I suggest we come another time with mummy. “Not in the van. Mummy needs to do some training for our cycle camping” pipes R. Many long distance cyclists not only have to fight the physical aspect of the ride but also the mental; I certainly do. I break down what is ahead for R:

  • 50km to go – a medium ride at any other time and about 20km further than just getting home
  • One long big hill and one steep one, with several others of inbetween status
  • 🔺s
  • Marmite crisps

Ultimately it’s R’s choice to finish the route or head home. I have confidence in my boy. Home is the same way as the route so I apply another layer of suncream and we say good bye to the 2 flamingoes and ACB president Paul. Everyone else has now left with just one still to make it to the control. We hit the headwind again heading over Kenn Moor so I gently apply a hand until we are sheltered by hedges. We get to the junction; onwards to home or right for the route, I explain the long hill is not far away. R spots another 🔺 and one in the distance. The decision is made!

Soon we have climbed Brockley Coombe and are weaving our way through lanes to and beyond Chew Lake where the second info is. It is really hot.

R enjoys a good squirt of water. We soak in the ford at Chew Stoke as 🔺s galore unfold in front of us. 106km done, R surpasses his biggest solo ride to date. He is very proud of himself. I’m very proud of him too!

Under Pensford viaduct we pass [see header image]. The next section is probably the toughest with a few short sharp climbs in succession. We stop at Publow church by the Chew to use their tap to fill up our bottles. A water fight ensues and we are both dripping, laughing and a lot cooler! The final climb ramps up round a corner. The first time I rode it I got off and walked. R just kept on going, it’s got to be his gear ratio of course……

A lovely downhill follows to Saltford, the Mecca of 🔺s….

….and final control The Bird in Hand. A favourite of ours as they always have a supply of Marmite crisps; R ate my packet too! A quick stop and chat to Reg & Brian whereupon the final rider Nigel on his recumbent also arrives. We train it altogether along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path back to the Arrivée.

All in all a great day. Thanks to Bairdy and all my fellow ACB members for making it a wonderful memory. R is proud of himself and I exude the stuff amazed at what the limpet can achieve. R ranks the ride as ‘good’ as after a slow start we finished on exactly 1🔺/km. 134 in total. ‘Good’ in R terms is excellent.

On arriving home R nails dinner and we put the tent up in the garden. We make the decision that he can stay up late and we’ll all go watch the new railway bridge span at Stapleton Road station being manoeuvred into place at 10pm. On arrival we’re told it’d be more like 11 so mummy went home and we stayed.

By midnight they were running late and the day had caught up with R as it had with me. I bimbled home with R on shoulders then slumped into the tent together, sparko in seconds.