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.

Lovely route, great company

4.0 rating
1st February 2020
Review of Air Mail 200

My first Audax and thoroughly enjoyed it. A lovely route and very well organised. A nice balance of climbing vs flat. Nice cafes and the weather was dry all day, a bonus!

Simon F

Didn’t know I had it in me

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

I started the ride with my brother who was going the loop from Castle Carey. He arrived in Bristol with 40 miles in his leg as and looked knackered. I had only cycled over from Bath. By Devizes Nick was feeling rotten and called it a day so I went off into the night on my own.
I whizzed round and kept myself sane with numbers and flapjack. The route was fantastic and over before I knew it. Will definitely ride again.

Richard H

goats goof

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

The Goat’s Goof aka The Giant’s Tooth
The Giants Tooth
Everyone knows the legend surrounding the ‘Giant’s Tooth’, right? What, no? Ok, below is the legend in full, as cited on some site on the Internet:
The Legend
Bica was a Giant who lived in a cave in Llangrannog with his slave who’s name was Lochtyn. The Villagers were having a fete and Bica wanted to look smart for the occasion so he ordered Lochtyn to clean his shoes the night before and prepare his breakfast for the morning. Lochtyn did so and once he had achieved a good shine, left the shoes in the opening of the cave for Bica to put on the following morning along with the fish he had caught for his breakfast.
Dawn broke and seagulls appeared on the shore and around the entrance of Bica’s cave. News spread fast amongst the gulls of a free meal of fish at the caves entrance and squabbles broke out with feathers flying and talons ripping. This kafuffle woke Bica and at the same time the gulls flew off. Bica got dressed ready for breakfast and his day out amongst the villagers, so he went out to put on his shoes but saw that they were covered in scratches and his breakfast was gone. He summoned Lochtyn thinking that he had not done his job and was so angry that he ordered Lochtyn to live a life of solitary on an island North of the cave. (that island now bares the name of Ynys Lochtyn, translated into English means Lochtyn’s Island) Bica was not going to let this happening spoil his day so he headed up the hill to the village fete.
By now he was feeling very hungry and on a nearby hill he spotted berries growing, so he bent over to take a bite but as he did so he bit into the hard rock that they were growing from. With this he let out a loud yell of pain and rushed back to the beach to rinse his mouth in the rivers water. As he stumbled around in pain suddenly out dropped his tooth onto the beach. (Carreg Bica is known today as The Giants Tooth) Bica never did make it to the fete that day and never saw Lochtyn again.
Some crazy Audax Event Organiser, named Will, decided to base this legend around a cycling event he named, wait for it … The Giant’s Tooth. This event was 500k+ and had around 8,000m of climbing. Will is well known for ‘Will’s Hills’. Hmm.
What follows is my re-telling of the legend. Basically, my story of cycling Will’s event. I’ve named this story ‘The Goats Goof’.
The event started at Felix Road Adventure Playground where around 40 cyclists all met up. I didn’t know any of the cyclists at the start of this event. It was easy to spot Will though – he was ensuring we were all fed and watered. Will’s curried rice was delicious. After being suitably fuelled up, we all left together at 9 o’clock, heading into the dark night.
Groups formed almost straight away and cycled faster than I was really comfortable with, however, was pleased with the tow when I could tag on the end. The group I was part of consisted of 6 cyclists in all but myself and another girl kept dropping off the back and then catching up. This catch up, get dropped scenario repeated itself over and over. When me or the ‘other girl’ were dropped, we didn’t cycle together as we were dropped at different times – it was like we were playing cat and mouse with the group. When in the group, cycling was fast and it allowed me to chat with all the group members. I was asking people where they were from and most in this group were from London. It was interesting knowing if people had made plans or had strategies for this event. The ‘other girl’ commented that she could go without sleep for 36 hours and I kinda stole that fact and used it as a mantra for myself. I had taken a bivvy with me because I feared I might not finish the event and thought perhaps it was a bit ambitious for me. This stage took us over the Severn Bridge and past Llanath Court (psychiatric Hospital) that I had visited before on occasions with work related business. After 62k we had reached the first control, a McDonalds in Llanfoist.
I spent little time at the control wishing to push on at my slower pace and wait for others to chase or tag along with should they cycle pass. This was a good plan as the group I was cycling with earlier caught me up and I cycled with them once again at their crazy pace. The ‘other girl’ was in this group again too and just like earlier we kept getting dropped and then catching up again. The cat and mouse phenomena repeated itself. We encountered a little rain during this 100k+ stage but nothing too major. My knees were starting to niggle a little too but surprisingly no saddle sore. The next control was in Pensarn and was another McDonalds.
Some of the group, notably a couple from London, took a sleep at this control and I believe they both scratched. Like before, I ate relatively quickly and set off soon after finishing my food. It felt great to brush my teeth at this control (the little things really help). I cycled most of this stage alone and felt pretty good in myself as I knew I was relatively near the front so to speak. My spirits felt high and I felt comfortable. Then the rain started to fall and heavy it became. I still felt relatively great and was enjoying this experience. So pleased that I felt ‘on form’ despite cycling little over recent months. It was great to see the night turn into day, though I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see a sunrise. The rain got heavier and heavier and I didn’t much care as it was a ‘warm wet’. A certain descent came and I zoomed down at great speed, maybe 50-60 kph and then crash, bang, wallop! I came off my bike at the bottom of this hill as I was trying to turn a corner. Ouch! I must have slid about 30 feet on my side – the bike went in the opposite direction. I picked myself up almost straight away and was worried the bike would be written off. Thankfully my bike was ok, just the brake levers took some damage and both left and right were bent inwards. I bent the levers back and right worked just fine, left was just a little more resistant when pressing the lever. I was not so ok and had cut my hand and blood was pouring from my elbow, hip, backside, knee and foot (all on the right side) but nothing broken. Sadly my gore-tex jacket was ripped to shreds (bye bye lobster jacket). My Rapha jersey was ripped too (thank goodness they have a free repair service) along with my arm warmer and tights. My right shoe also suffered and the ratchet system went awol (was weird cycling with one tight shoe and one loose shoe). My Carradice bag also suffered and a hole now sits on the one pocket. My helmet also got bashed and had some damage and the light (newly purchased) was broken into bits all over the road (was able to put it back together but the batteries could not be found). Wowser, what a menace fall! Reality check – I was ok, bike was ok. Picked myself and continued on my way cycling just a tad slower. Not long after this fall, the ‘other girl’ from earlier had caught me. It was nice to chat just for a while and take my focus off this fall. I spotted an open bakery with cycles parked outside and decided to use this as my control in Fishguard. Had now cycled 225k and was at the furthest point out.
Grin
Not so bad after a clean up
Folk in the bakery appeared quite alarmed when I walked in. I got chatting to the couple of cyclists in there and the one fellow was keen to take my pic as he liked ‘gory stuff’. Some customers in the shop helped me find the bathroom and I was able to clean up a little. Was nice to chill out here for a spell and eat a delicious full English breakfast. The ‘other girl’ rocked up here too and joined our small group for breakfast. Some conversation suggested I quit here and get a train back to Bristol. I figured I was half way (which I really wasn’t, just felt like it because I was at the furthest point out) and expressed how awesome I would feel if I were just to complete this event. My stubbornness would not let me quit.
I left the control on my own and cycled along the coast which was just so beautiful. The sea was all kind of different coloured blues and God’s creation just amazed me more and more. The roads were like a roller coaster and would constantly go up and down. After so long, a chap called Lee had caught me up and we chatted for a while. It’s always nice hearing the stories of others who had cycled the same events as I, and Lee had cycled PBP and the Transatlantic Way. I lost Lee and sped onto the next (un-official) control, ‘Steve’s House’.
Steve was a friend of Will’s and had very kindly offered to provide us cyclists with a cup of tea. The top of his drive had a park tools ‘thing’ with an AUK sign written on it and info leading us to his house. Steve’s house was huge, it was a farm house but looked like a mansion to me. Some cyclists were leaving Steve’s as I was entering and commented ‘you’re in for a treat here’. The cyclists were not wrong! Steve’s wife (?) made me a lovely bacon bap, his kids (?) brought me a cup of tea and Steve made sure I took away some delicious cake when I left too. Steve was kind enough to remove the bottles from my bike and fill them up again for me. Nice one Steve, real generosity. Steve’s bathroom was the size of my house. Lee rocked up not long after me and shortly after him, the ‘other girl’ rocked up too. Steve was interested in knowing who every cyclist was when they entered his house and would text Will letting him know we had arrived and were safe. When the ‘other girl’ entered, she introduced herself as Emily. (Light bulb moment!). I asked her surname and of course it was ‘Chappell’, wow, I had been following her blog for years and it only just clicked who she was (a member of the ‘Adventure Syndicate’, a cycle courier who ‘took on the world’).
Left Steve’s house and had cycled about 242k at this point. The route followed the coast and I was awarded with many spectacular views. At 260k I stopped in Gwbert to answer a question at an ‘information’ control. Emily Chappell whizzed past me here and I never saw her again on this ride. The voices in my head were telling me how cool it was to reach the half-way point before her (not because I am competitive in the slightest) and provided me with a hope that I would finish this event.
Gwbert
Cycled much of the next stretch on my own again and was really enjoying this experience. I’m not really a fan of hills, yet was enjoying these climbs. I think the high-light of this event came when I was able to spot the Giants Tooth. So beautiful.
The Goats Goof
Stopped at local pub here in Llangrannog and feasted on an overly expensive fish-finger sarnie. Wow, I had cycled 280k by now and was starting to feel a little tired. I write little notes on adventures such as this to help remind me of happenings – I must have been tired, I was not able to decipher my own writing.
My head space re-calls little of the section between LLangrannog and Tregaron. I do remember big hills and was surprised to not see any signs stating beware of the Tragaron mountain toads. At the Tregaron checkpoint, I had cycled 325k. A local shop was used for the control and I ate a most lovely tuna baguette. Being so tired, I figured I would just close my eyes for 10 minutes whilst camped out on a bench. I didn’t actually sleep but awoke to a female voice asking if they could park their bike next to mine as they closed their eyes for a spell on an adjacent bench.
Tregaron
This voice belonged to Anisa. After a short break on the benches we left the control together and like earlier sections with Emily, we kinda cycled in a cat and mouse fashion. At some point, Lee from earlier joined us both and we then cycled as 3 ‘mouse-keteers’ all the way to the very finish. I got to know a whole bunch about Anisa and Lee and consider them both ‘cycling greats’. Anisa had cycled huge events like the Trans Continental Race (and I think was 2nd female to finish). Lee was runner-up Audax points champion last season and hopes to win this season. I could not believe I was cycling such an X rated event alongside all these cycling greats. Emily, Anisa and Lee were all great individuals and very humble too. It was great hearing their stories, sharing their wisdom and laughing and singing with them at times too. Lee, Anisa and I cycled until the day turned into night and we passed through MOD ranges before reaching a pub in Senny Bridge at the 384k mark.
As a group of three we cycled hours together and would sing songs, talk much nonsense and share stories to keep us all going. At times we would push our bikes up the seriously big hills and at other times we would speed down ring-twitching descents. We went up and over the Devil’s stair case and up and over his elbow. Up and down, repeat, repeat. At 422k we found another McDonalds and Lee was keen to close his eyes for a spell and I believe he actually dropped off. I closed my eyes too, but only for a few mins. Some drunken lardy guy banged the window, hurled abuse at us and told us to leave. We didn’t feel threatened but felt that was our cue to leave all the same. In fact, I’m not sure if this was the McDonalds at Pontypool at the 456k mark? Either way, we stopped at both McDonalds. I was definitely whacked mentally and physically by now regardless.
The last section was tough and I essentially tagged along, gritting my teeth at times to keep up. Anisa and Lee were great company and helped while away the hours. It was interesting seeing the dark turn into day and this time around we saw a sunrise! It felt great to cross over the Severn bridge in daylight and assured the finish was nearing. Leaving Wales and being back in England felt good – nearly home. Back into Bristol, located St Marks Road and used the ATM for our final control proof. Woo Hoo! We had completed the Giants Tooth!
Anisa, Doo and Lee
What an awesome event. I truly loved it. 516k and over 8,000m of climbing. Great company – big thanks guys. My first ever 500k event completed. Pleased as punch!
The Giants Tooth, 516k, 8.25 AAA points
Will, the organiser, lived just around the corner so we posted our brevet cards through his door. I tapped his door too and cool as boots, he answered. We were able to tell him how awesome this inaugural event was. Will’s hills. Will’s hills….
Anisa, Lee and I finished this event in just over 35 hours (time limit was 35:50 I think; I’m led to believe that less than half who started, finished?). A very tough event, with an interesting distance especially as it started at night and the ensuing sleep deprivation that followed. A truly x rated event, no designated sleep stops, fierce head wind and heavy downpour on the way out plus a spill. Oh, and Will’s hills. Oh, and Will’s hills..

Doo

Moonshine!

4.0 rating
1st February 2020

Moonrakers & Sunseekers 300 (2019)
This weekend saw me complete the ‘Moonrakers & Sunseekers’ 300k audax. This was a great event and only the second time it has ran. This was my second audax on my new bike ‘Rainbow Dash’.
The start was in Bristol, in a rather funky bicycle cafe shop called the ‘Camber.cc cafe’ located at ‘Business as Usual’ business unit. Lots of cyclists all met here to fraternise, get ready and eventually set off. I think something crazy like 130 people entered. The place was full, but I’m not sure 130 left.
It was dark when we all left. It would be – it was 10 o’clock at night. The weather was probably best described as drizzly – raining at times and not at others. The roads were flooded here and there but no real problem as I took due care. The first section reminded me of cycling PBP, as there were plenty of red tail-lights to be seen. Heading out through Bath, I passed through Devizes and cycled past ‘The Crammer’ to stop at the ‘Moonrakers’ pub. All the while I had been cycling under a waning gibbous moon.
The Crammer is the town’s pond and it’s famous for a local legend. This legend has been dubbed ‘the Moonrakers’ and goes something like this: A group of Wiltshire smugglers heard that the Excise Men were heading into Town. The quick thinking smugglers knew that they had to hide the contraband barrels of brandy they were carrying and decided to roll them into the Crammer. After the Excise Men had passed through Town, the smugglers recovered the barrels by using rakes. The Excise Men were some-what suspicious and returned to Town to take a second look. They saw the smugglers with rakes and questioned what was going on. Smartly, one smuggler pointed to the reflection of the moon in the water and said they were trying to rake the cheese from out of the water. Oh how the Excise Men laughed, thinking how stupid the Devizes folk were. The smugglers laughed loudest being the folk that had the last laugh – their quick thinking had stopped them being caught. Wiltshire people to this day are known as ‘Moonrakers’. I felt like a honorary Moonraker cycling this event.
Leaving Moonrakers I sped on to the next control which was only 30k away. This section felt super zoomy. I saw lots of interesting wildlife which included at least 2 owls and a mouse. A motorist pulled alongside me at one point and gave me a ‘fair play’ once he realised I was planning to cycle all night. I’m sure I passed signs for Stonehenge and coincidentally, I’m sure the control was at Solstice Park. I opted for a MaccyD at the control which is my usual audax staple diet.
Didn’t take so long to reach the next (information) control. Wow, I wasn’t far from the Jurassic Coast. Memories about my summer holidays and family came flooding into my head. My head filled with further memories once I finally reached the Sea Scout hut in Poole. Poole has presented me with much adventure – it was here that I first lost my front teeth following a cycle accident aged 16. More recently I had cycled here with Ron (on a SIKA event) and experienced the same menace of cycling through sand covering the promenade. The Scout Hut was a fresh memory – I had never been there before. The Scout Hut was great – I was able to dry my socks on the radiator and was treated to a breakfast of baked potato and beans.
Leaving the Scout Hut and it was still dark. I wanted to send SJ a photo and say something like ‘at the sea-side at last’. Oh well, should SJ read this post, the above photo is for her (this was a previous occasion when I visited the Jurassic Coast). Ha!
The stretch after breakfast felt long – probably because it was quite a distance to the next control. The sun I was seeking finally came out though which was nice. I took an unofficial stop about half-way between the controls. Lots of lanes were cycled before I reached the official control in Podimore.
The return leg was definitely more hilly and certainly more pretty (this may have been because I could now see). Pretty lanes were cycled and beautiful villages passed including the chocolate box village of Milton Abbas. I passed the magnificent Abbey and headed on into the Dorset Hills. Hard to believe how many wonderful places this route passed through including Somerset and Glastonbury Tor.
Glastonbury Tor
Much of the folk around Glastonbury were dressed as if they had just attended the festival. I must have smelled like I had been there too! More lanes, ascents and descents took me across The Levels and to Axbridge.
Moonrakers and Sunseekers, 310k
The route reminded me of the ‘Cycle for Uganda’ event that I had completed this year with Chris Hodge and Ben Adams et al. This was because I again cycled the Strawberry Line railway path. This path went through the end of The Mendips passing orchards to stop at the Strawberry Line Cafe. My bike was absolutely covered in muck and goo by this point as the railway path was off-road and very wet and muddy. The cafe was located on a rail platform and they provided me with a much needed breakfast of the Full English type. Delicious.
The final leg was only about 30k and returned back to Bristol. I passed through Cheddar at one point and wondered if that’s where cheese was made and my thoughts shifted to raking cheese and The Crammer. Once again my head was filled with many memories of my past as I had been to Bristol on several occasions before and even studied ‘Bio-Medical Sciences’ there, back in the day. The suspension bridge was always a pleasure to see. And so was Felix Road adventure playground – the arrivee!
Top event! Nice one Will (organiser). Pleased to report that there was plenty of (Will’s) hills and plenty of thrills. Bonus too – no spills!

Doo

Long and lovely

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

A fantastic start down onto the coast before hills galore across the south west peninsula. Fantastic brevet points along the way. Nighttime across Salisbury plain before turning and working your way back along the rolling cotswolds terrain

Mike T

My first audax

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

I completed this as my first 200km Audax in 2019.
Although the day started off cold and wet it quickly brightened up when we descended into Wells. Wells market was a great first stop with plenty of hot drinks and cake to stock up on before heading south to Stourhead and the delightful Alfred’s tower climb.
The halfway point at Yeovil Railway Centre was a welcome sight and the light lunch went down quickly. The next few miles were spent wondering what Batcombe climb would behold for us……. we were not disappointed!
The pub at Kilmington was well needed, a half and a couple of packets of crisps later and we had a slow crawl back to Whitchurch (and a slow walk up the last hill).

Chris H

Multiple years, 2017 onwards

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

Right up there in my favorites list. Every control is well chosen, particularly like the one in Wells as it coincides with market day.Really good sights start to finish with some tasty hills 🙂 A very good day out.

Richard T

Chalk n Cheese winter miles

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

An excellent route , second time I’ve done it. Will really comes up trumps with great knowledge of the best roads to use, best cafe stops and a real sense of adventure. A real mix of very friendly riders – and not intimidating for the less experienced either.
Highly recommended, fun and cheap for what you get

richard S

Great route and organisation

4.0 rating
1st February 2020

Nice start point and initial bike path to Bath. Make sure you have decent lights! Then some nice climbing. The route is great and the Chalke and Wylye valleys and then Cheddar Gorge are magnificent.

Huw T

Not for the meek!

5.0 rating
1st February 2020

Well thought out route. Found it quite tough though, due to the lack of miles during the year. Slept too long on the first night, which didn’t help..
Controls well thought out and information before the ride was very helpful.
On finishing the ride, a full day late, Will kindly offered a coffee and a slice.
May do it again!

Zuber I