Reviews

… of the Great Western Randonnées’ landscape. Each ride has a more concise collection on their page; grouped by ‘event’ if appropriate: the distance variations, perms, slightly hAAArder ones, etc.

Looking for a gravel bike now

Rated 5 out of 5
10th May 2022

Fantastic route with low traffic volumes, beautiful scenery and quirky features. I hated the gravel to begin with but then just embraced it and now I want more! Difficult experience to beat

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Mark

Great Gravel Ride

Rated 5 out of 5
9th May 2022

What an amazing route, well done! We had a great day, a few accidental detours and one much needed late lunch. Awesome mixture of on and off road. Thank you for taking the time to plotting this route – Fantastic!

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Mel

Great mix of terrain & a few classic Wills hills

Rated 5 out of 5
9th May 2022

Just the right balance of terrain and good on/off road splits, normal back lane bias for GWR rides with pretty car free route all round. Introduced to some “right on the doorstep” gravel and trails that will defo use again. Bishop Cleeve & Sudeley climbs are right on par for “Wills hills” and wont disappoint.

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Mike

Seriously difficult, but well worth the pain

Rated 5 out of 5
9th May 2022

This is a brutally difficult ride, as the 10,000m of ascent suggests, with long steep climbs (and descents), sometimes on poor road surfaces. But, wow, the suffering is worth it – a stunningly good route, with amazing scenery and fabulous views. Easily both the best route, and the hardest ride, of any 600 I’ve done. Although advertised as X-rated, Will had arranged early-opening cafe’s, and a late-opening half-way night control at the Y Pengwern hotel which had a dedicated Audax function room and bedrooms – although I rode through to the Toad Hall bunkhouse at 400k for a few hours sleep. Will had even arranged glorious May weather – warm and sunny, and mild through the night. Poor weather would make this even harder!

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Martin

Great mixed surface tour of the Wye Valley

Rated 4 out of 5
9th May 2022

Lovely route with a mix of road, railway paths and fire roads. And some devilish #wills_hills to boot.
We rode on an exceptional hot spring day, but I’ve ridden parts of this route following a period of rain and it’s mostly fast draining all weather-terrain.

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Peter

2018 Test ride.

Rated 5 out of 5
6th May 2022

I have ridden this in just under 40hrs (I was aiming for a BRM time) with 5hrs30 ‘sleep’ in an open bus shelter; disturbed by a lovely Welshman wanting me to look at the stars, have a chat and inspect my bike at 3am.
The views are stunning. The hills relentless once they get going and gratuitous; just as much a test to mental fortitude as physical fitness. Beautiful in it’s remoteness and avoiding the main roads after an early morning dash through Gloucester.
I’m not the fastest up hills but I can do them over and over. I found the hardest part between Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and the top of the Old Horseshoe Pass (a slight jiggle has been made missing the first of this set of hills). There are a few other notable climbs for steepness such as the Burway up to the top of Long Mynd and a short section of Llanbedr Hill. This is not an exhaustive list. Also there are less steep but long climbs that you can achieve a good pace up. Being a BR event enables the minimum speed to be lower and the total distance to count to complete it in time. Do you accept this devilishly elegant challenge?
The organiser.

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Will

Brutal and wonderful

Rated 5 out of 5
15th April 2022

This was my first 400 and I suppose I could not have picked a harder one. Incredible route, combined with great dry weather but brutal temperatures over night.. The guys at the last checkpoint were life savers, so although I missed my qualifying time by 35 mins there is no way I would have completed it without their support…Will I do it again, not sure, but I know I can’t do the 600…

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Gideon

Fabulous but brutal

Rated 5 out of 5
10th April 2022

Even without the sub-zero night temperatures, the Exe Barnstaple Branch is easily the hardest 400 I’ve done. But also the best 400 route: fabulous scenery & views (mostly accessible only by brutal climbs), the Exe railway path (which gives the event its name) is stunning, two great cafe controls early on, Winsham a perfect final night control. The 4am start time works really well with sunrise over the Somerset Levels, and the best views all seen in daylight. Expect a full-value ride in more ways than one! Thanks and well done Will and helpers Chris H & Jeremy at Winsham.

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Martin

Wow, now THAT is a ride!

Rated 5 out of 5
15th March 2022

The Bill Easton Connection will forever stay with me in many ways, the wills hills for sure, all 16,000+ft of them along with the epic views and headwind, crosswind and strength of the wind on the Jurassic Coastline. The cycling community truly came together when sadly coming across a fellow Audax rider who had been involved in an accident, a hit and run! I want to personally thank the Audax guys who helped in shocking conditions and in such a terrible scene, they all know who they are! Also, many thanks to Mr & Mrs Nick Helps who stopped in his car and got rider into back seat for warmth waiting for ambulance and police. I’d not normally share something so shocking or sad but it goes to show the humanity and community spirit that comes together in a moment of need! An essential piece of kit for ALL Audax riders should be a Thermal Space Blanket, ultra light but an amazing piece of kit when needed, I’d hoped I never needed to use mine along with a fellow rider. Despite the awful accident the ride and organisation of the event was amazing, I’ve never enjoyed a bowl of Dahl & Rice so much at the finish. Thanks to Will & team yet again for making this 300 so memorable and a speedy recovery to our fellow friend and rider. Safe Rides everyone.

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Jason

Response from Pedalution

Thanks Jason & hoping the rider makes a full and speedy recovery.
I carry 2 space blankets and recommend other too.

A Proper Ride

Rated 5 out of 5
13th March 2022

That was a proper ride. Relentless hills, headwinds all the way to Portland and then a stonking crosswind over the monster Dorset Hill through Maiden Newton and Cerne Abbas and a couple of hours of rain at the end.
I just about kept my promise to keep it steady to Portland so that I still had some matches to burn on the way back. I didn’t stop at the village stores in Charlton Horethorne but found a petrol station in Bishop’s Caundle that sold me a nice coffee and a flapjack. Roads were wet and muddy from overnight rain, but the scenery was fantastic. The winds started to pick up for the descent into Dorchester, but the Rodwell Trail was a brilliant way through Weymouth. Verne Hill Road was precipitous. The cafe in Portland only had outside service from a hatch, there was a queue and I didn’t fancy getting cold in a wind where anything not nailed down was going to blow away, so rode inland and found a Codfather chippy in Weston, which was more sheltered.
I’d forgotten how hilly the coast road to Burton Bradstock is. I knew about Abbotsbury, its one of those hills that etches itself into the psyche, but the other lumps were harder than I expected. Its probably because I’ve done them (a) fresher and (b) in warmer weather.
Then the route headed inland – into darkest Wessex Territory, with the massive climb of Spyway to join the hardest bit of the Hard Boiled route at Maiden Newton. The crosswinds were fierce, keen to put me in the ditch, the 40mph descents required more concentration than usual. Arrived at the cafe in Cerne Abbas at 4.10pm, it closed at 4, but the look on my face convinced the staff of my desperate need for tea.
Fortified, I tackled the remaining crosswind section to Milton Abbas in fine fettle and was pushed up the long drag to Bulbarrow, where darkness began to take over. It was fully dark by the time I got to Gold Hill. I would have been overtaken by the boy in the Hovis Advert but I kept upright. Having a cafe open was a godsend, although I was getting really weary and struggled to eat my omelette.
The first half of the night section was great, pushed along by the wind, making good time. Riding past Longleat House in the dark was epic. Then I misread my Garmin and ended up doing an involuntary circuit of Longleat, adding a couple of miles before getting to a point where I thought “this hill looks familiar”. It was. Hill 23/26 was ridden twice. So be it. I was getting empty, but a Spar shop was still open in Frome, and I was able to get a couple of bottles of milkshake, one to overcome the impending bonk and one for later.
The two tunnels were brilliant, far better than labouring over the hill, but then we had the gratuitous ascent of Lansdown Hill. It was raining properly, water running down the road, but I was determined to get up this last challenge. Glaciers have been known to move faster. I misread the Garmin again and found my way onto the A420. The Garmin spend ages trying to send me down blind alleys and so I got almost to the inner ring road, check my iPhone and found my way the last half mile back to the Felix Road Adventure Playground.
I’ve only once taken longer over a 300, the Cambrian 3C when I started at 11.30pm in Carmarthen (and got lost on my own permanent), but it was worth it. Thanks Will and crew for organising. Am going to see how I feel over the next couple of days before committing to the Exe Barnstaple Branch. I need to get my head around the 4am start and probable 6am finish.

Avatar for Colin
Colin