Cycling Centurion – The Avon Cycleway

This Saturday I completed the full circuit of the Avon Cycleway – an 85 mile loop around Bristol. Including the 10 miles each way to reach the cycleway (and about five miles getting lost around Avonmouth) I rode my first 100 miles. My total distance on the day was 109 miles which required plenty of grit, determination and … flapjacks.

I rode the route anti-clockwise, heading down the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and up into the Cotswolds. I encountered plenty of tractors, hikers and horse riders along the mostly car-free route – other than the odd bug flying into my mouth it was a pleasant start to the journey (conscious of my limited nutritional supplies I obviously chewed and swallowed the bugs for the extra protein).

From the Cotswolds the route heads West towards Wales and I caught a few brief glimpses of the Severn Bridge, before heading South towards Avonmouth. To add to the difficulty of the ride I encountered a road closure where I climbed two barbed wire fences and headed across a field with the bike. I then found myself cycling off-road for a mile which wasn’t too steady on a road bike with thin tyres. And soon after, the signage along the route disappeared leaving me lost on an industrial estate. Using my iPhone I managed to navigate myself to the cycle path on the M5 road bridge at Avonmouth which took me up and over Bristol Harbour.

From here I was back on familiar ground for the Southern section of the Avon Cycleway. At this point I had cycled 60 miles and knew I had about another 50 to go. I had set off with 2 x one-litre water bottles on the bike, 2 x 0.5 litre water bottles in my jersey, 2 x flapjacks, 1 x chocolate brownie, 5 x energy gels and 2 x cereal bars in the back pocket of my jersey. I had looked like a bit of a camel with a huge hump on my back, however after 60 miles my hump had depleted so I stopped in Clevedon to restock. Two giant flapjacks, a Mars Bar and a bottle of Lucozade later I was back on my way.

The Southern section of the cycleway is quite hilly and somewhere around the 90 mile mark I struggled my way up one too many hills and totally ran out of steam. For the most part, my average speed had been 16mph, but for the next 5 miles I was unable to ride quicker than 11mph on the flat. I decided to stop and rest … and take this photo to document my worn out face!

Following this stop I clumsily mounted the bike and got the pedals going again for the last few miles. The climb back up Park Street amongst the Saturday shoppers was a notable struggle but I made it home all in one piece 8 hours after setting off. I felt wrecked and confused and only just managed to stop myself from putting my cycle jersey in the bin, thinking that it was the washing machine! After a big plate of pasta and then laying on the sofa I headed down the pub to swap stories with our cycling neighbours. I made sure we stood at the bar as I felt a bit too tender to take a seat …

This took my weekly cycling total to 174 miles … 4 miles further than I drove in the car. A small victory.

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