PBP 2015: touring back with ACB talking about LEL the idea of Bristol Glasgow Bristol was born.
Back home I set about its backbone. Fettling ensued, then a test ride et voilà, one Big Gert Brevet!
WHEN: +iCalSun 22nd August 2021 05:00 - 00:30 Sun 29th August 2021
WHERE:Bristol Cathedral College Green Bristol, BS1 5UY
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This RM event is internationally recognised by Les Randonneurs Mondiaux and run in accordance with their regulations.
The route is mandatory meaning it must be followed in full from start to finish; if you leave the route for food, accommodation etc you must return to the route as soon as possible, small variations to use adjacent cycling infrastructure where available is allowed.
You have effectively 7 days of cycling to complete the route to qualify for the 16 distance points. If you would like the experience but not worried about the distance points then the Big Gert Brevet is spread over 10 days; it still qualifies for the AAA points, and if you’re audaciously audacious and have a crack on a fixed wheel bike the distance points will be valid for the fixed wheel challenge. If you enter either the randonneur or the brevet populaire event you may swap to the other up to a week before the event.
DIY variations of the route/dates are not permitted.
X-rated – in its purest form for this iteration; no sleep facilities, few dedicated controls, no bag drops!
Just you, a route, the open road, views galore and #wills_hills.
Self sufficiency is key!
Mandatory route – the route must be followed in its entirety for validation to be awarded. A GPX of your ride will need to be submitted. Secret controls may be placed.
Staggered start times and groups – depending on any restrictions in place either may be undertaken. If there is a group of you please add those you want to ride with when booking; this should also be editable through your profile link after booking. Start times and groups will not be tiered for this event.
Terrain – for those unfamiliar with British hills be warned, they are not long Alpine affairs. More than likely you will end up walking a few of those included in this route.
Geography – there are places in remote and exposed locations. Be prepared with food provisions and clothing.
Various surfaces involved but primarily road including minor lanes, B roads, urban areas, the odd A road. Surfaces include forest tracks, peak trails, cobbled moor roads, shared paths, old railway lines as well as the usual potholed British roads…
Off Road Sections
To route check I used 25mm Continental Gatorskins to show that it can be done on a road bike. I freely admit I walked parts of the off road sections. The following difficulty levels reflect my experience; if I was doing this route as an entrant I would have gone for larger tyres for comfort, even if there was no off road!
Chester Millenium Greenway, Runcorn & Preston shared paths – metalled.
Difficulty: V. Easy.
Cam High Road – total unmetalled 14km – up is easier than down – time wise it was equal as to if it was one long climb.
Difficulty: Easy to begin, Hard to finish.
Good grade gravel to begin on the climb. I needed to walk the 2 steeper sections as I was unable to maintain traction with the rear wheel.
The top is interrupted with some beautiful tarmac as you are given unbridled panoramic views.
The literal highpoint of the ride and the descent sees larger stones on the path and rockbed in places. I descended most on the bike but having to shuffle from side to side to get the right line, utilising the sheep tracks on the grass and one leg counterbalancing in places.
The Crackpot Descent – unmetalled 1km.
Larger stones and rockbed on the steep upper and lower section which were walked. Mid section used grass edges.
Hexham shared path – metalled other than dismount for level crossing.
Difficulty: V. Easy.
Kielder Forest – North Haul Road – total unmetalled 10km.
Easy transition predominantly on well consolidated forest track, few looser section. Broken tarmac towards end. Average speed with no walking.
Galloway Forest – Southern Uplands Way becoming NCN7 – unmetalled 16km.
Difficulty: Easy, Medium on steeper descents.
Good grade gravel and consolidated. Looser on the ups and downs. Average speed, only walked on the final steep ascent up to the car park.
Glasgow – Linn Park & Glasgow Green – metalled.
Difficulty: V. Easy.
Glasgow exit – various roadside shared paths – metalled – from ~897-907km.
Difficulty: V. Easy.
Depending on time of day/traffic levels these shared paths may be more favourable especially where long term road upgrades are being undertaken leaving East Kilbride.
NCN 74 – heading south adjacent to M74 – metalled from ~939-987km.
Difficulty: V. Easy to Hard.
In places new road side segregated shared paths are a gem. The old road surface however…. keep some super glue handy for your fillings; in places the main carriage way is a better choice or can be equally as bad, road traffic extremely low. Hard because the surface can be energy sapping even though predominantly descending. The route diverts briefly for some respite.
Carlisle – Kingmoor Nature Reserves – unmetalled 2km.
Good consolidated surface.
Forest of Bowland – Hornby Road/Salter Fell Road – unmetalled 12km – beginning easier than end – time wise it was equal as to if it was one long climb.
Difficulty: Easy to begin, Medium to end with the odd Hard spot.
Good grade gravel and consolidated to begin on the climb and top, walked a couple of short steeper parts where traction lost.
Surface changes to larger looser stones with rockbed, tricky and required walking in places.
Finally surface becomes a course sand in the ruts so the right line was needed making use of grass edges where possible.
Finally becomes patchy concrete/tarmac before rejoining the road.
Rooley Moor – Cotton Famine Road – unmetalled 6km – large proportion Victorian cobbles/sett stones.
Difficulty: Easy on the cobbles, Medium on the sett stones/gravel, Hard on the ascent.
The beginning of the ascent is ok with large loose stones and sett stones.
There is then a definite hundred metres or so of hike a bike at the final steepest part with exposed rockbed.
Cobbles are easier at speed, planing over the bumps.
Sett stones can be bumpier than the gravel.
Grass sheep tracks to the side are easy.
Occasionally had to shuffle from one side to the other where looser stone present.
Walked a couple of short descent sections where rockbed again exposed.
Luzley Road – 1km unmetalled – ~1317km.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium.
Cobbles are easy as is the final bit of gravel.
Short 20m descent with exposed rockbed needed walking.
Stratford-upon-Avon Greenway – unmetalled 8km.
Good consolidated surface.
Cotswolds Byway – unmetalled 2.5km – ~1552km.
Good grade gravel and consolidated to begin becoming grass track on descent. Good pace maintained. Bit rock by final gate.
Cotswold Bridleway – unmetalled 1km – ~1563km.
Wooded path to begin followed by field edge. Other than removing some wheat from the wheel a good pace maintained.
Bristol to Bath Railway Path + Yate Extension – total unmetalled 2km.
Difficulty: Easy then V. Easy.
Good consolidated surface for first 2km becoming metalled.
Depart Bristol via The Downs to the Severn Bridge and into Wales. Take the path less travelled over the tops of hills all the way to the edge of Snowdonia, Clocaenog Forest and the Clwydian Hills. Back into England and pass through Chester. Cross the Mersey via the Silver Jubilee Bridge. Into Preston and out to the heart of the Forest of Bowland where the routes makes its first cross of the return. Traverse the Yorkshire Dales crossing the glorious but brutal Pennines to Barnard Castle; some old Roman Roads and tracks are involved, Ribblehead Viaduct viewed (if you want you can make a slight detour to pass under). North Pennines ensue, cross Hadrian’s Wall after Hexham before into Kielder Forest. Go the other side of Kielder Water to the Castle. Scotland! Cut west through Dumfries to Clatteringshaws Loch, Loch Dee & Troon in Galloway Forest. Turn north once again through Ayrshire and into Glasgow.
Now back south you go. Over the Southern Uplands to Gretna and back into England. To the west of the Lake District then straight (up) over Harknott (to walk) and Wrynose Pass. Back to the Forest of Bowland for a bit of Roman. Steal up the Nick of Pendle. Moor tops; some cobbled with turbines sweeping. Slither round the north eastern edge of Manchester and up Snake Pass into the Peaks for a bit of Hope. It is just out of reach but channel it as you descend the valley, for a bit before jumping back into the Peaks for a tart taste? Then Derby and a respite to Stratford on Avon exiting on a peaceful old railway path. The Cotswolds are ahead. Yep, you guessed it, up and over, with a few more downs and ups before finally dropping back to Bristol on another old railway path.
I intend to get some caps and a jersey made, these will probably be available post event as I’m run off my feet at the mo. If I do get jerseys they will be numbered, the order in which anyone finishes will be your number, for life, and will go on the Wall of
ShFame; regardless of randonneur, brevet populaire pace or out of time, or the allotted start time Don’t bother racing for #1, #2 or #3 though; #1 is me, #2 Vilas Silverton and #3 is held for a good friend who has made 2 attempts so far so I hope one day there is a 3rd time lucky.
Any bags/kit to remain in Bristol can be left at mine the evening before the event.
I will be doing a write up of the route check shortly so watch the blog or check back here. My 1st attempt is a review below.
Type & Validation
- The route is advisory - you just have to visit the controls and gain proof of passage within time limits where specified; there may be parts that you'd like to take a different route and that is entirely up to you; the time limits for the controls don't change!
- Validation: Instant - you get to take your validated brevet card home straight away at the end of the event.
What others think.
Test Ride 2017
Late April I set off, nerves tightly bundled, would I be able to do it? I hadn’t done any training apart from regular riding. I’d given myself targets for each day, packed several kilos of malt loaf, said bye to the family and was off!
Into Wales, on roads less travelled on audaxes, finding desolate hill tops quickly and constantly.The top of Hirnant Pass after Llyn Efyrnwy was welcomed as I knew the descent was a long one! Night drawing in as I scaled Bwlch Penbarras of the Clywdian Hills before skulking into Chester just before midnight to find a comfortable spot to sleep.
Up at the crack I’m off to Runcorn having to navigate (throw bike over a fence) roadworks. The result being the Jubilee Bridge is now open to bikes, buses and local traffic only so you’ll get to enjoy it a bit more. Weave through old industrial towns to Preston and to the Forest of Bowland. Nothing too taxing, a good mind easer as you question “WTF am I doing?”. Pennines: stunning, brutal, glorious, you’ll be raising that “WTF?” question again until you are spat out the other side. Hexham onto Kielder was done in the dark, it was a cold dark tonight. I crossed the border in the early hours and hunkered down for the night.
Glorious weather again I set off down the valley before more hills as I sped east to west across the bottom of Scotland to Galloway Forest and some forest tracks from Clatteringshaws to Glentrool. Desolation score off the chart! Heading north over the Southern Uplands I’m in Ayrshire; rolling countryside, hills deceptive. Descending into Glasgow at midnight, AirBnB tonight!
Up early, MDs for breakfast, head south again, all downhill from here. I followed the old road tracking the M74, the surface was diabolical; new route will be through Strathaven, more countryside and hopefully a better surface.
Back into England after Gretna, Carlisle then over the western edge of the Lakes where the hills began again. I was at ease with them now; over a 1000km done, I was almost home! Hardknott to walk was spectacular. I set near the top overlooking the Roman Fort, Eskdale and out to the Irish Sea as the sun sank. In the gloom Wrynose wa ticked off and I sped to Windermere and indulged in a last minute AirBnB.
Such a good sleep, wandered into town at 9am and sat in a cafe on the corner for a proper full english and proper coffee as I watched the world go by. At this point all my anxiety had gone. I’d figured out my ‘metric’ and calculated I had loads of time in hand. An hour later I picked my bike up and headed off. Crossed the Forest of Bowland the other way. Navigated old mill towns north east of Manchester. Slithered up Snake Pass, watched by some bemused coppers, in the fading light. The top, the highest point of this version, not yours – The Cam High Road steals it by an extra 75metres, before descending to Derby. 24hr MDs at midnight.
I’d keep going after coffee, and more coffee. Silently through the night, everything still, now the early morning. A Juniper tree on the outskirts of Stratford upon Avon made an excellent home for a few hours shut eye; its drooping boughs keeping the breeze at bay.
On a high down low, no hills to be seen. Cross the Vale of Evesham. The Cotswolds rise up in their quaint irrelevance to what has been before. But they still pack a punch by this point. Who cares? At the other end is Bristol. Dropping off the escarpment, still an hour away the emotions rose. Had I really just done that?
I had and I’ve never look at a ride the same again. Anything is achievable once you tell your brain to “shut up!”