Cyclists on a quest to create ‘Britain’s Best Bike Ride’ say Bristol is well worth the detour despite needing more infrastructure. Hannah Reynolds and John Walsh wanted to find the most extraordinary way to get from one end of the country to the other on two wheels, and Bristol was the only English city to make it on their map.
Their new book Britain’s Best Bike Ride documents the ultimate thousand-mile cycling adventure from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, and Bristol is featured in the eighth stage of the cycle. The premise of the book is to “show the quiet roads, picturesque villages and dramatic landscapes that make the experience memorable” rather than taking the most direct route from A to B.
Most of the route is “green and pleasant” but Bristol, as well as Edinburgh, also feature along the journey. Hannah said: “If you want to see some beautiful places then cycling is a lovely way to cross an urban area.
Read more: Thousands attend demo calling for safer cycling in Bristol
“Bristol is a significant crossing point in the country, historically it always has been. You can do the route from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’Groats in Scotland in 840 miles however this route is just the fastest route and doesn’t focus on the best places, with the best views. We wanted our route to be beautiful, to really be the best.
“Our ethos is not about how quickly we can get there but about going from destination to destination seeing stunning things along the way, and we also wanted to include Bristol because of it’s reputation of being a cycling city. That’s why we decided to make our route 1,000 miles instead of the shorter 840 miles. We want to show the best of Britain.”
The illustrated book was published on October 6 and is now available to buy. The description states: “You’ll discover stunning beaches and wild ponies on your way along the quiet wild-flower-edged lanes of Cornwall and Devon, follow the meandering River Wye in Wales, wind your way through a post-industrial landscape of canals and mill chimneys in the North West, before moving on to the epic climbs and grand vistas of Scotland.”
The book has as a whole section about Bristol, and an excerpt describes it as “one of England’s most underrated and bypassed cities”. It continues: “Its innovative suspension bridge was a wonder of its day, and the open parkland of the Downs allows space for leisure. Crossing the River Severn into Wales takes you to the ancient castle of Chepstow, followed by a gentle saunter down to the River Wye to the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey.”
Reflecting on some of her Bristol highlights, Hannah said: “I really enjoy cycling through the Downs on Ladies Mile and stopping for a coffee and cake at The Down’s Cafe, it’s always got a great atmosphere and it’s lovely to see so many families, runners and cyclists enjoying the space.”
Overviewing the route, she added: “We don’t go through the centre of Bristol, instead we arrive through Ashton Court, cross the Clifton Suspension and then head through the downs on Ladies Mile. Using the park and the Downs allows us to enjoy the open space surrounding Bristol and of course cross the iconic bridge. It is a simple route for navigation but does allow riders to turn off and go into the heart of Bristol if they want to explore more.
“Bristol and Edinburgh are the only two cities that we actually go through, Bristol being the only English city. The whole idea of it being Britain’s Best Bike Ride is to include the most beautiful, unique and places and Bristol has had huge impact on travel and travellers that it just feels right to go there.
“Also we really wanted to include Wales as we didn’t just want our trip to miss it out. You need bridges to make a journey link up and Bristol certainly has some memorable bridges.” The thrilling journey that crosses the Severn Bridge is detailed in the book: “Riding across the bridge is a bracing experience – as a mere cyclist you feel insignificant compared to the biting southwesterly wind, and the reverberations of the bridge give you a feeling or vulnerability that vehicle drivers do not experience.”
Seasoned Bristol cyclists are often calling for better infrastructure despite the city’s status as a ‘cycling city’, and Hannah said after doing her own research they decided to avoid some areas as a result. She said: “There are some good routes in the centre of Bristol and the Bristol-Bath [railway] path is wonderful, but Bristol could really benefit from more protected infrastructure throughout the city.
“This is one of the reasons we kept the route to the west of the city centre.” This month thousands of people have signed a petition demanding better provision for cyclists in the city, more segregated cycle lanes and a proper city-wide plan to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure.
For those naturally daunted by the idea of a 1,000 mile bike ride, Hannah and John have created a variety of itineraries for people of all fitness levels. Even if you’ve never biked before, this could be your chance to see some of the most beautiful places in Britain.
The three itineraries are ‘The Explorer’, which takes three weeks and allows time to explore and stop off for afternoon tea, food, drinks and really take your time. Next up it’s the most popular route ‘The Classic’, lasting takes two weeks with around 80 miles of cycling a day. Finally there is ‘The Challenge’, lasting just 10 days and involving 100 miles a day.
If you want to get involved then Hannah and John are using the hashtag #lejog1000 on social media, which isn’t French despite the acronym – LE stands for Land’s End and JOG is for John o’Groats, with 1000 representing the 1000 miles it takes to get from one destination to the other.
Where in Bristol would you recommend for a bike ride? Let us know in the comments below.
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