The penultimate week’s training for the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge ride started off slow, as I was convalescing after last week’s injury. No riding for the first two days, to give my knee a chance to get better, and quite a bit less than my 15 mile per day target for the rest of the week. I did get a good ride at the weekend though, and finally made a very belated start on getting some mass-media publicity for the ride.
I set out on Wednesday morning with great trepidation, having taken some preventative Ibuprofen, and only doing my normal 2.5 mile commuting route. However, while my knee still felt quite dodgy for walking, it was surprisingly pain-free for riding. Nevertheless, I stuck to the short route for the ride home, just to make sure. Since at least some of the damage had been caused by playing hockey last week (or rather, falling off while playing hockey), I decided not to play for the last two weeks before the Coast to Coast ride. I did turn up to referee the games though, so I did at least manage to ride more than old pre-training commute, albeit only by 1.5 miles. I certainly need the ref practice – I missed several fouls and dithered too much over most of the rest. I’ll try to pay more attention next week.
I spent half an hour striking silly poses with my unicycle at lunchtime on Thursday, for the Bristol Evening Post photographer, and in the evening I finally got round to fitting a new tyre. While repairing a puncture a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my tyre was in pretty bad shape, so bought a new one. However, I didn’t realise that it actually had large holes in it, which you can see here. Click the image to see how big the holes really are – those threads are actually the inner wall of the tyre. That puncture really was a blessing in disguise; the old tyre probably would have exploded during the Coast to Coast ride had I not changed it, and the new one feels much more solid when pumped up properly.
The story in the paper showed up on Saturday, and while they didn’t use any of the more avant-garde poses, the one they did pick was a lot more impressive than I was expecting.
My weekend ride was with the Bristol Cycling Campaign. This was the Fountains of Bristol ride, a tour of old drinking fountains around Bristol, billed as 15 miles and suitable for beginners, which I figured would mean that I wouldn’t get left behind too much due to having less wheels than everyone else. However, it wasn’t long enough on its own for a weekend ride, and didn’t start until 10:30, so I set off a couple of hours early for a 15 mile pre-ride, in order to make up the distance required for training. Of course, it turned out to be more like 17 miles, so I had to ring up the ride leader to ask them to wait for me at the start. While I was certainly racing against the clock, I don’t think I really managed 30mph like the GPS trail says. This may have been one of the sections I had to hand-edit because I forgot to re-enable GPS after convserving the battery during a rest stop. In reality it was probably more like 9 or 10mph.They said they’d wait ten minutes before heading out for the first fountain, which was almost enough time for me to get to the start of the ride, but I arrived only just in time to see the pack going in the opposite direction on the other side of the river. I raced after them, but couldn’t quite keep track of which way they were going. When I arrived at St Mary Redcliffe, I couldn’t see any other cyclists and wasn’t sure exactly where the first stop was. After ringing Martin again, i realised that I’d actually arrived before everyone else, and had ridden right past the fountain without noticing it. After a full circuit of the church, I finally found the group at the first fountain, which like most of the others on the ride is not currently working. The next fountain was very close by, in Somerset Square. This one doesn’t work any more either, but is still quite imposing. The next stop was one of the large sculpture fountains on the Bristol-Bath Railway Path. This one does work, as you can see from the image. I’ve ridden past this sculpture almost every day for the last few months, and hadn’t realised that it was a fountain until last week, when I saw some people using it.
We then continued up the Railway Path to Fishponds, but didn’t stop at the big sculpture there – although it’s a giant fish poking out of the ground, it’s not a drinking fountain. Our destination was actually the park in Fishponds from where my bike was stolen many years ago. This was quite a long stop, with everyone trying to get a good picture of the statue through the arch of the fountain.
Up to this point, I’d been easily able to keep up with the two-wheelers, as there hadn’t been any significant descents. However, the next bit of riding had a very long downhill section, down Manor Road and Blackberry Hill, and pretty soon everyone else had overtaken me and disappeared out of sight. A couple did wait at the entrance to the cycle path under the M32 though, so I didn’t permanently lose track of them. The big climb in front of the Dower House also slowed most of the riders down enough to allow me to overtake them.
I managed to keep up with them into Lockleaze, where the descents started to become more prevalent, but I was soon at the back again. There were just enough climbs to keep them within shouting distance until we reached our next stop, on Horfield Common. This is another relatively well disguised fountain, which I had previously thought was merely an overelaborate lamppost. Of course, that’s all it is now, as this fountain is not currently working.
From there we rode mostly downhill (with me at the back often wondering whether I was going the right way) into Westbury for our lunch stop at Coffee#1. I can recommend the luxury scones, which have a thick slab of whipped cream in the centre – there was probably more cream than scone in the one I had. The panini were pretty good, too.
After this marvellous repast, we headed off to Druid’s Hill, to see a rather fancy fountain commemorating Victoria’s diamond jubilee. We had a bit of trouble finding it, as although it’s easy to spot, if you look for it at the wrong corner like we did, you can’t see it at all. This fountain is also out of action, but there was an empty beer can in the trough, so it looks like some people are still using it for refreshment.
Having made quite a long descent to get this far, it was now time to climb again, and this time I lost sight of the rest of the group because they were behind me, which made a nice, if brief, change. While I was busy charging ahead up the hill, some people in the group stumbled across a few tenners in the road, which they generously gave me as donations for the Coast to Coast ride. This took us to the highest point of the day; the fountain under the water tower on the Downs. A short ride from there took us to Blackboy Hill, where we found another fancily enclosed fountain. Like most of the others, this one doesn’t work anymore either, but at least netting has been put into the gables, to prevent birds from perching there and fouling the troughs.
We stopped at a couple more fountains in Cotham and Redland, both of which appear to have been locked behind bars or cages at some point in the past. While both are now free of such restraints, neither of them are working, despite the one in Redland having been restored quite recently. There were a few plums on branches hanging over the wall above the Redland fountain, but not within reach. One daring member of the group did manage to pick a couple by climbing up his bike, though. Not much further on, we stopped at St Andrews churchyard (which no longer has a church, but still lots of gravestones), to see the fountain standing (or leaning) against the fence. After gawping at that for a while, we rode along Birdcage Walk to the other end of the churchyard to stop and gawp at the flat ground where the church used to be.
After a nice jaunt through Clifton, we arrived back at the edge of the Downs, for my final fountain stop. There were still a few more for the others to see, and there are many more in and around Bristol, but it was already a couple of hours later than I thought I’d be getting home, and I reckoned I’d already ridden about 30 miles, so this seemed like a good point at which to depart. My legs were also starting to get pretty sore. Whether it was the break in training due to my knee injury, the stop/start nature of the day’s ride, or just the length of time we’d been out, I soon found that it was getting too painful to ride anymore, and I had to walk the last mile and a half. Still, it was otherwise a very nice day, and I did manage to get 35 miles of riding in. Thanks very much to Martin Tweddell for organising and leading the ride.
Training this week: 64 miles. Total training so far: 1640 miles. I’ve finally passed my 1600 mile training target, with only one week of training to go (actually, one day as I write this). Please consider sponsoring me for the Coast to Coast ride, which is what all this training is in aid of.