Land's End to Bristol
Teacakers rode 220 miles in 19 ¼ hours with the help of
two (brilliant) support drivers and a van... then they
went to bed. Well earned!
Despite a bout of ‘flu and a
hastily re-arranged plan relying all too much on the railway network and Cornish
holiday season traffic, midnight on Friday saw 11 riders & a supporting van roll
away from Lands End bound for Bristol.
Winter commuting on quiet lanes can’t prepare you for setting off with
unfamiliar riding companions on unknown roads when you ought to be asleep.
Curiously there was no concept of travelling, the surrounding countryside all
but invisible - your awareness somehow limited to the riders in front and
shadows cast by following lights.
Penzance came and went with the obligatory commentary from late night revellers.
The fast dual-carriageway section to Redruth concluded safely with the few cars
encountered giving us a wide berth. Feed stop #1 established an excellent
pattern that continued throughout the ride. Susie and Howard found a spacious
lay-by and spread out our shared boxes allowing efficient collection of food,
alteration of clothing and refilling of bottles.
On our way again we dropped into Newquay, a town vibrant with stag weekends and
hen parties. A navigational oversight resulted in a ride the wrong way up a
one-way street, an occurrence observed with a flicker of interest by the police
officers awaiting the inevitable drunken fighting. Mark made the most of our
brush with humanity and obtained a slice of pizza from some young ladies
steering a wayward course to their hotel.
Away from streetlights we relaxed again into an easy rhythm, halted temporarily
for a puncture repair and made a wrong turn resulting in a manoeuvre reminiscent
of a cyclocross event as we carried our bikes up an embankment to reach the
correct road. The resultant confusion required a couple of ‘phone calls and a
switch in food stop location. While waiting for us, Howard and Susie were
surprised to see a police dog handler and even more surprised when a gentleman
appeared, evidently fresh from wading through water and covered in blood,
claiming to have been thrown out by his girlfriend. It was with no small sense
of relief that we headed off into the night again with the promise of easier
route finding and dawn not far away.
For a while it seemed that every time you blinked the sky was brighter when your
eyes opened. The terrain, as we became more aware of it, was somehow uninspiring
with the unfulfilled suggestion of the sea to the left and the open expanse of
Bodmin Moor to the right.
Riding in daylight now, wet roads hinting at earlier rain. Somehow the air
appeared cooler as dawn progressed and this, combined with moisture in the air,
made us feel decidedly chilly. Apart from Fi and Tris teaching each other songs
the mood was quiet as we turned inland on increasingly busy roads. A food stop
next to a toilet in Holsworthy brought both welcome relief and 100 miles. We
found rest and comfort wherever possible, laying for naps between puddles in the
The lengthy break saw us depart with some energy restored and some banter in the
bunch as we enjoyed some beautiful riding through wooded valleys with winding
climbs and entertaining descents. One drop into a valley saw Mark increase his
absolute speed record to something approaching 55mph, useful considering the
sharp rise that followed. More flowing downhill riding on damp roads led to
Great Torrington where a disused and derelict factory offered pause for thought.
The sun by now was making a welcome appearance adding some depth to the grey
skies and much needed warmth. Susie and Howard decided on a scenic food stop
halfway down a hill. A few dramatic U-turns were rewarded with a great view over
Exmoor. Our route continued, skirting the southern edge of the National Park
before climbing impressively onto the Quantock Hills. This climb saw the only
significant split in the group during the whole ride, with a couple of us
forming a groupetto safe in the knowledge that a food and rest stop awaited us
at the summit. More napping, this time on gravel and topping up of caffeine
levels saw us roll away towards Bridgewater and the final run for Bristol.
More navigational entertainment on the Somerset Levels saw us criss-cross the M5
motorway before gaining the A38 and settling in to tackle the climb over the
Mendip Hills. The final rise to Bristol Airport provided the energetic with an
opportunity to increase their pace before local knowledge allowed a traffic free
passage through Aston Court to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the end of our
11 riders, 2 (brilliant) support drivers, 1 van, 220 miles, 19 ¼ hours, 2
beers, 1curry... and bed.