I picked up a lot of bumf last week, at Bristol’s Biggest Bike Ride and the Bike and Walk to Work Breakfast, including a Sustrans map of South Gloucestershire. Before looking at this map, I hadn’t realised just how close the Severn Bridge is to where I live, so I was suddenly struck by a strange thought: “For this weekend’s training ride for the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge ride, why don’t I try riding to Cardiff?”
At the beginning of the week, this idea seemed somewhat ludicrous, especially given my usual tendency to get lost when trying new routes. However, I was planning to acquire a smartphone by the weekend, so I should at least have GPS to help me out of any sticky situations I was likely to get into. That in itself was a trial, as it always takes me ages to make a decision, but after days of careful consideration, I eventually settled on the HTC Desire, which is what most people had been telling me right from the beginning. That turned up on Friday, but I had the quite common problem of not being able to use the Android Market due to sync problems with my Google account, so I was stuck with plain Google maps until I got that sorted out.
I was still trying to sort out my sync problem on Saturday morning, to no avail, so spent some considerable time working out my route and writing it down. This all meant that I left the house at least an hour later than planned, but at least I managed to set off before 10am. All went well until I got to the Cribbs Causeway/M5 junction, where the cycle path signage led me on a small diversion in almost the opposite direction. After about half a mile, my growing disquiet finally made me check my location on the phone, which indeed showed my error, and made me very glad of my purchase, however painful it had been thus far.
When the bridge finally became visible in the distance, I started to get quite excited about the prospect of crossing it, though this was tempered somewhat by the possibility of strong winds forcing me to walk or turn back. A few miles (and consultations with the GPS) later, I arrived at the bridge, and the wind turned out to fairly low – nothing to worry about. The bridge crossing itself was a nice ride, but almost completely devoid of other cyclists. I didn’t see anyone on the side I was riding on, and only one person on the other side.
A couple of hours after leaving my house, I had arrived in Wales, but was still less than halfway to my destination. I stopped for lunch after another hour, by which time I was getting quite exhausted. I regained some of my energy while eating (sat on a handy garden wall), but I was still pretty knackered. The second half of the ride was therefore much slower than the first, and the rest breaks (and map checks) more frequent. I also had to give up on the idea of riding to Cardiff, as I wouldn’t have got there before dark and complete exhaustion. Instead, I headed for the backup railway station at Newport.
I eventually reached the plan B destination about 5.5 hours after leaving my house in the morning, having ridden 36 miles, my longest ever single ride. At Newport station, an American tourist saw me waiting on the platform with my unicycle and ride-promoting sign, and got me to pose for a photo. After chatting about the coast to coast ride, he gave me a donation. You don’t have to meet me in person to donate, though; you can visit my sponsorship page at your leisure. Go on, it’s for a good cause.
After so long in the saddle, I was somewhat disheartened to find that the journey back to Bristol Parkway only takes 20 minutes on the train. That’s about 16 times faster than I managed, but of course, the train takes a slightly more direct route, and doesn’t need 5 or 6 rest stops, or indeed any at all. Also, I still had another 3.5 miles to ride to get home from the station, but at least it was almost all downhill. However, I did get talking to someone else about the ride at Parkway station, and he later made a donation via JustGiving.
Almost as soon as I got home, I managed to get access to the Android Market on my phone, so I can get accurate measurements for future training rides, and I should be able to report progress on the Coast to Coast ride on a daily basis.
Training this week: 111 miles. Total training so far: 1048 miles. I still want to ride to Cardiff. Maybe if I can start early enough next time, I’ll manage it.