Since first visiting the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol a few years back the thought of riding to (and maybe from) the show has been floating around my head. I finally got around to it this year. One reason was that my friend Jo did a framebuilding course (that link is part one, the rest of it can be found on road.cc if you want to read the full story) and did a pinky swear with Downland Cycles that he would ride his bike to Bespoked, so it could go on their stand. This seemed as good an opportunity to ride there as any. Second reason was that it then transpired that road.cc needed Jo to report on the show and someone to take photos. All sorted then. Well, not quite. The frame built at Downland Cycles was still at the sprayers. A back-up plan was hatched, there was another frame being built by Reilly Cycleworks that would be ready. Just. [See the film]
Big ride day. Friends of Jo live “just the other side of Salisbury” which sounded feasible in a day, around 100 miles. Actually, they live near Warminster which is a bit further than “just” the other side. When the shortest line was plotted between Brighton and there the first day’s riding worked out at around 115 miles. The line drawn was roughly through Petworth, Petersfield, Winchester, and Salisbury but without actually going through any of those places. I think that Jo was secretly happy that the fixie frame was still at the sprayers as it meant he could ride the bike with gears. The route wasn’t too hilly, gently undulating across West Sussex, Hampshire, and Wiltshire. Navigation for the first half of the ride was relatively simple – keep the South Downs and the sun on our left. We missed a couple of turns so wiggled about more than we needed, but the sun was shining and we made decent progress. After a short alpine like climb out of Petersfield we dropped onto the A272 for a few timetrial-esque miles and stopped for a pub lunch. After lunch we managed to go the wrong way, or I managed to send us the wrong way, which I should have realised when we ended up in the middle of a town I knew we didn’t go through, but then shortly after noticed my shadow was on the left of me – “Hang on, we’re heading in the wrong direction”. Once back on route we managed to find some bridleways, after turning off a main road that was no fun. A quick glance at the gps app on my phone and it looked like there was a network of lanes that would get us to where we wanted to be. The lanes got narrower and more farm track like and then over the brow of a hill we could see a gravel track extending into the distance. It went from gravel track to grass track to mud and puddles. Jo’s 40mm gravel tyres suddenly came into their own as my 28mm slicks became less useful. Overall it only lasted a few miles which turned out to be some of the nicest of the day. It’s always worth getting a little lost to find gems like this. Crossing the border into Wilstshire we traversed Salisbury Plain past Porton Down and various MOD installations, the spire of Salisbury Catherdral pointing into the sky down to our left. A couple of lumpy climbs made us use all the gears, the 110 miles ridden so far started to bite. Finally we found our way into the Wylye Valley for the final 10 miles of the day. The road along the valley was lovely, all gentle sweeps and rises, but every little gradient made itself felt, and every opportunity to freewheel was utilised. One hundred and twenty eight miles and 11 hours after leaving the south coast we made it to our destination, in time for fish and chips, ale and a couple of whiskies.
Before the off we nip down the A36 to a transport caff for a fry up. Marginal gains, obviously. It’s a shorter day today, just 45 miles, and a bit greyer and damper. From Warminster we get our heads down along the main road to Trowbridge where we pick up the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath into Bath. After a quick tea stop in the centre of Bath we go round in circles for a bit trying to find our way out to the Bristol & Bath Railway Path because the canal towpath is closed throughout the city. The cyclepath leads us slap bang into the middle of Bristol and we quickly find our way to Brunel’s Old Station for Bespoked.
After a very nice breakfast at Hart’s Bakery* we spend the rest of the day at Bespoked. [I’ll add a link to the road.cc report and photos when it’s online]
Then we went to the pub.
*Pork and black pudding sausage roll, cheese & roast mushroom sourdough toastie, custard tart. Three courses! We missed a meal the day before and woke up quite big ride hungry still. I can heartily recommend Hart’s if you find yourself in Bristol.
Riding the full 160 miles home was discussed and a route plotted all the way home, but with various bail points near train stations. On the day it was decided that aiming for between 80-100 miles would be most sensible, and then jump on a train. Immediately leaving the hotel car park I noticed the tell tale wibble of a broken spoke in the front wheel. Oh well, just as well I’ve got disc brakes. Snapped spoke wrapped around the one next to it we find found our way back to the railway path into Bath, for breakfast at a cafe recommended by Andrew from The Bicycle Academy. Two veggie breakfasts are ordered, but one with bacon added and one with sausage. From Bath we picked up the Kennet & Avon Canal all the way to Devizes. Again, Jo’s tyres came to the fore, but it being a sunny Sunday the towpath was quite busy, and our speed was fairly pedestrian at times. After lunch next to the canal in Devizes, we rejoined tarmac and headed south-east across the southern edge of the North Wessex Downs, the Alton Barnes White Horse visible on the slope of Milk Hill. We rolled gently across the landscape into Hampshire and down the Bourne Valley towards Overton, where we decided enough was enough for the day and hopped on a train home via London.