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A long overdue bike ride

Living in the center of Bristol I get around on foot, by bike and by car. Doing a bit of everything I see hostility from each group towards the others; in such a busy environment there’ll always be conflict (especially when the roads in the center of town are constantly being dug up, diverting at least one group into the regular territory of the other). I feel like cyclists get the worst deal: They’re not welcomed onto pavements by pedestrians, and they’re not welcomed onto roads by drivers, so on the many roads and routes where there isn’t a cycle path then it’s not much fun being on a bike. So for me, when I think bike, I think getting from A to B as quickly as possible in order to get out of harms way.

Steph’s been keen for a while for us to go for a good bike ride on a weekend, but as we’re away a lot, and with it not being so high on my agenda, it’s slipped for quite a while. But on a mild and dry early September morning when we had a rare free day, we seized the moment and headed out of Bristol along the old railway line to Bath.

Getting to the start of the route for most will involve a bit of going through town and/or along roads, which isn’t great, but once you’re on the path it’s wonderful- not a car in sight for miles! The route starts in Newtown Park in St Phillips and 15 miles later will deposit you in Bath. The path does have plenty of pedestrians on, but here more than anywhere I’ve seen before, there was a level of courtesy and respect between the two groups which I’ve not experienced before- maybe it was because everyone was out to enjoy themselves, rather than rushing to work, preoccupied and with headphones on.

The surface for the whole route is pretty bloomin’ good and you don’t need suspension or big squishy tires to soak up bad roads. It’s also a pretty easy route in terms of hills; there’s a mild gradient along parts, but nothing which’ll take the wind out of you too much, and none are more than a few hundred meters.

Once you get past the Morrisons in Fishponds (about 2 miles into the journey) things start getting surprisingly scenic and by the time you pass the half way mark you’re well into stunning countryside territory.

A surprise find for us was the Avon Valley Railway, which we didn’t stop at, but could have done easily (https://www.avonvalleyrailway.org/).

There’s not a lot of pubs on the direct route; the Bird In Hand in Saltford is the only one we saw just off the path (it’s about two thirds of the way along the route). But I suspect there’s plenty more options not too far from the path if you wanted to break up your journey more. The Boathouse pub at the Newbridge Park & Ride just outside Bath is in a stunning riverside position with great views and surprisingly good food (so many places in prime stops don’t make any effort with food or decor, knowing that people will come to them just for the location- the Cottage Pub by Bristol’s Underfall Yard and the White Lion by the Clifton Suspension Bridge overlooking the gorge spring to mind). There’s plenty of good places you could stop for a picnic if you were well prepared enough.

The journey took us around two and a half hours to Bath, with lots of stops and a very slow pace taking it all in. The journey back was nearer one and a half hours, with no stops but still a fairly slow speed. After four hours in the saddle our bums were tender, but that aside it was a much nicer day than I’d anticipated and there were a few revelations along the way which made it well worth while. You could always cycle there and get the train back to Bristol if you didn’t fancy such a long ride.

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