A birthday surprise – perfect weather on Exmoor in September

For my birthday I gave myself the gift of zero responsibilities. This was mostly a gift from my wife who took care of business for the day while I skived off and went cycling. It wasn’t very “bikevcar”, but I decided to drive down to Exmoor for a long afternoon of cycling.

Glorious Exmoor

Glorious Exmoor

My previous cycling trips to Exmoor have been ‘sportives’, i.e. organised, mass-participation events. Today’s ride was the antithesis of a sportive – no early start because I do not like waking up early at the weekend, no other people because how can you enjoy the peaceful beauty of a national park when you’re surrounded by other cyclists, and no restrictions on my distance or route which was ideal as I hate being told what to do. It was perfect.

I parked the car at a place called Watchet, mostly because the name made me laugh but also because I’d had enough of driving. And then got on my bike and climbed straight up into the moors. The roads around Exmoor can be bonkers-steep – a 20% gradient seems fairly standard for these parts. At one point I almost fell off when the road ramped up so suddenly that I was caught with my hands relaxed on the tops of the bars and didn’t have time to switch to the hoods so that I could stand up. Clearly my concentration and bike handling skills still need some work.

Up up and away

Up up and … then round the corner and up some more

There were a few notable climbs that I’d wanted to find (Dunkery Beacon and the Porlock Toll Road) but other than that I had no aim. Just a photocopy of a road map to avoid getting lost and jersey pockets stuffed full of food to keep me going.


The moors

The moors

In the end I managed 70 miles and around 6,500 feet of climbing. But it was just one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time. Exmoor in September in crisp, beautiful sun. A glorious 5 hours on the bike followed by a pint of ale in a classic English pub garden beside a river. For a man who loves to moan,  it’s fairly epic when I have a day with nothing to moan about!


The White Horse Inn, Washford – post ride beer in a pub garden beside the river


Frothy pint of ale – perfect day

One way traffic

Family BikeVCar went on holiday to Wales this week. Pembrokeshire to be exact. Coming from the outskirts of Wells in Somerset, most of our journey was accompanied by the sounds of our toddler daughter’s mantra: “Not goin’ Welz … goin’ Way-Uls”

"Where's my bike?"

“Where’s my bike?”

Whilst there’s been a significant drop in my cycling mileage over the last 2 years (and let’s not even mention the significant increase in car miles …. nor my very recent acquisition of a new “family car”), there has however been an enjoyable last few weeks watching a new cyclist arrive on the scene.

Look out cat!

Look out cat!

This has resulted in needing to make space in the shed for a new bike – obviously it was some superfluous gardening equipment that met the chop. I’ll gladly have a jungle for a back garden if it means I can still get out and cycle at the weekends.

New addition to the bike shed

New little addition to the shed, threaded through the Merckx 

I set up the little bike and stabilisers on my flat workshop floor. It was a textbook novice-Dad manoeuvre: as soon as she encountered some uneven ground the rear wheel spun in the air like she was riding a turbo trainer. Before I’d had a real chance to contemplate the possibility of setting up the bike as an indoor trainer during the coming winter months, she started shouting to come and rescue her. Initiative test number 1 – go fix it yourself:

Making a few minor adjustments

Making a few minor adjustments to some incompetent Dadsmanship 

Anyway, holidays are a time to try new things. So Mum had time to relax. Little Miss showed off on a trike . . .

Holiday bicycle

“I go this way” 

. . . and I found some time to squeeze in a few decent length rides. With beautiful weather, the coast of Pembrokeshire to explore and a toddler who requires an afternoon nap, I had a brainwave: one-way cycling. If we went out as a family for the morning I rode home. And if we were going out for the afternoon I set off after lunch and met them there.

Exploring the Welsh countryside

Exploring the Welsh countryside: castles, hills, sheep and more hills 

Even compared to Somerset and Southwest England, the roads were quiet. And the idea of one-way riding allowed me to squeeze in 100 miles of cycling over a weeklong family holiday without being too selfish.

Seaside towns - the beautiful views are just about worth the effort

Seaside towns – beautiful descents, tough escapes 

The coastal roads were stunning. Although the hills and the winds made for some challenging cycling too. I took the steel frame bike so that I could attach the baby seat for local rides. This added an extra element to the challenge. But, after all – it was a holiday so I mostly ignored my average speeds and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and the change of scenery.

We lucked out with the weather

We certainly lucked-out with the weather 

“Avon Cycleway” 100 mile loop

I decided late last night to ride the Avon Cycleway loop around Bristol today. Like some of the best and worst ideas I’ve had, this one was discovered somewhere near the bottom of a bottle of wine.


Sunny and windy on the Avon Cycleway today


The sun slowly broke through the clouds 

I woke this morning without too much of a fuzzy head, ate breakfast twice before then preparing my bike. I had a completely free day to myself as well as a personal point to prove after my only other 100 mile ride this year resulted in being painfully towed and finally dropped by my fitter and faster mate.

With my jersey pockets and stomach stuffed full of food I set off at around 9am heading towards Bath along narrow country lanes. The Avon Cycleway is an 85 mile loop around Bristol along quiet lanes and bike paths. Looking back this was one of the first long rides featured on this blog almost four years ago.

One of the problems on long rides in unknown territories is refuelling. Especially on a Sunday with most shops shut. I ended up barricading my bike between two signs outside a little shop and checking on it several times. The thought of it being stolen miles from home was a hassle I could do without.

Finger crossed it'll be here when I come back

Finger crossed it’ll be here when I come back

Having successfully navigated around 70 miles of twists and turns, I got lost at the exact same point as last time. Somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle of Avonmouth the signs just seem to disappear. Fortunately I could see the looming Avon Bridge and headed in the right direction. As with all 100 milers the final 20 miles were fairly tough, but the warm breeze of a welcome tailwind helped me home. I was just around the corner from home when I realised I was going to finish up on 96 or 97 miles. Putting fatigue aside I took a small detour to hit the magic 100.

The indignity of being robbed twice by a seagull

This weekend we went for a family cycle ride on the newly opened “Two Tunnels Greenway” from the city of Bath. It’s a 13 mile, largely traffic-free route along a disused railway line. The first of the two tunnels was a short couple of hundred metres; the second was almost a mile and great fun to all ride along shouting and hearing the echoes.


“Maaaaaaaaaaa-meeeeeeeeee …. me, me, me, me” 

We probably should have come equipped with a light and a bell, but it was a last-minute idea and these days just getting out of the house with a toddler is a major achievement so we didn’t dwell on it too much.

Into the tunnel

Into the tunnel

Disused station platform

Disused station platform



Canal path

Canal path

Pit-stop for raisins

Pit-stop for raisins

We ended up stopping a couple of times for food and wees and other toddler-driven demands, but generally she’s a good little passenger and enjoys the ride. However, by the amount of food she consumed on the ride you’d think she was the one doing the pedalling.

By the time we returned to Bath, the two actual cyclists were starving to we headed to a  cafe for some lunch. The little passenger was in relatively good spirits and was even happier when her hot-dog was brought out for lunch. Unfortunately she let her guard down and to the shock of the whole cafe a seagull swooped down and stole off with her sausage.

Who took my sausage?

“Bu-bye sausage!”

I felt like I ought to man-up and take control of the situation and moved us to what I felt was a more sheltered table beneath the awning. I competently moved our food to the new table, then went back for our belongings. At this point another seagull seized the opportunity and launched an attack on my wife’s sandwich making off with most of it. This was now getting a bit embarrassing and also providing too much entertainment to everyone else. I considered cutting our losses and just tucking into my burger but in the end I moved us insides away from the audience and gained enough sympathy from a waitress to have our stolen dishes re-prepared.

As a countrysider coming into the city for the day, I’d been keeping a diligent eye on our bikes and had somehow managed to have our food stolen from right under my nose. Ah, the indignity. At least we had a good ride.

Tandem cycling in the USA

We’re currently on holiday in Maryland, USA visiting my wife’s family. We last visited two years ago, back in the long-forgotten pre-baby era when we could do whatever we wanted. Looking back that free time was clearly wasted on me because all I ever seemed to do was cycle.

This holiday we had a couple of blissful days to ourselves – leaving the little one with her grandma we headed off to the beach. Unimaginatively I steered us towards a bike hire shop at the earliest opportunity.

Tandem beach cruiser

Tandem beach cruiser

Neither of us had ridden a tandem before and it turned out to be great fun. It was easy to talk to each other and being permanently hitched together removes any potential competitiveness of cycling with another person. In theory a tandem ought to be more efficient than a regular bicycle, but that relies on both people pedalling. If, say, the person on the back was sometimes just letting their feet be turned by the pedals then a tandem could in fact be very hard work for the person on the front. Fortunately American beachfronts aren’t short on refreshment opportunities for hard-worked cyclists.


When the going gets tough, the tough get compensated with ice cream

One of the trickier aspects of tandem cycling was turning. The person on the rear can’t always see the twists and turns ahead but needs to participate to some extent in leaning on sharper bends. The other tricky aspect is starting and stopping. All of this requires a bit of communication but we seemed to get the hang of things and be motoring along quite well.

My other cycling this holiday has been using Pete’s arsenal of bikes in his basement. I took a single-speed out a couple of times but it mostly ended up being a reminder of how fit I used to be when we last visited. Riding up hills on a single-speed is tough work, and I quickly swapped for a bike with gears.


Getting out for some road cycling 

My cycling season has finally begun

If you want to ride your bike on a regular basis, don’t have a child, start your own business or embark on a home refurbishment project. And especially don’t do them all at the same time. Only an idiot would do that. Anyway, this particular idiot has finally complete the refurb project and so took the opportunity to go for a long ride today. 70 miles to be precise. Continuing the theme of biting off more than I can chew, I’ve signed up to do a 100 mile sportive in a couple of weeks time with an old mate so thought I’d better condition my bum to endless hours on a saddle. I’m generally not so interested in sportives these days, but they can be a good reason to meet old cycling friends who live in different parts of the country so thought I’d sign up. This will be the first time I’ve ridden 100 miles in about 2 years so I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I was putting my bike back in the shed with my toddler daughter when she spotted the bike she’ll hopefully be learning to ride on one day. She seemed pretty keen to have a go but couldn’t reach the pedals yet. I think I’ve still got a few months before I need to fit the stabilisers.


She seemed very adroit at eating a biscuit while sat on the bike – a key still for long distance cycling! 

Return of the Baby Chariot

The weather this past week has been glorious and seemed a perfect opportunity to attach the child seat to my bike and take our young lamb out for her first chariot ride of the year. She’s changed a lot since I last took her out, probably 6 months ago. Mostly she’s learned the word “no” and knows how to stubbornly use it. So it was with slight trepidation that I got us ready.

Sit in here? On the back of that bike?  ... "NO!"

Sit in here? On the back of that bike? … Ha ha … “NO!”

Anyway, despite a few initial complaints about the shoulder straps and the helmet, as soon as we were on our way she started happily chatting away. “Daddy bike … me bike …”


“As long as you don’t strap my feet in, we’ve got a deal.” 

The big difference from last year is the talking. She was chatting away as we rode. Actually that’s a lie, the big difference from last year is her weight. She’s well over 30lbs now so I avoided any hilly roads! Today’s mission was to find some “baby sheeps”.


We rode a couple of miles from home before taking a sheep and water break 

Mummy sheep and baby sheep

“Mummy sheep and baby sheep”

It was then time to head back home and I made the same mistake for approximately the millionth time. Asking her a question that really should have been a command. It goes something like, “Ok, shall we get back on the bike?” Answer “No.”


“Ok, well do you want to walk the 2 miles home?”

As well as dribbling on my water bottle, we’d also shared a banana while we stopped. In theory it’s nice to get her to eat outside the house as it usually avoids any cleaning up. However, rather than eat her piece she firmly gripped it the whole way home before immediately dropping it on the kitchen floor. If this is a game then I’m definitely points down.


She celebrated her victory by painting her face in “noghurt”