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Avon Cycleway 130 Brevet Populair

Our first calendar Brevet Populaire together on solo bikes; not to mention R’s furthest yet. How the day unfolded. The trials and tribulations. Dealing with the extremely hot weather by getting wet. Thanks Audax Club Bristol & well done R!

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……

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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.

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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.

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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……

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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.

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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.

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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.