Day five (26 July) Bridgwater to Monmouth
After the rugged landscape of Cornwall and Devon, the ride from our camp site turned into a pleasant ride across reasonably flat land. The first part took in what was probably once marsh land since one of the places was called Mark Causeway and there were drainage channels alongside one of the roads. After passing Cross on the A38, I joint the Strawberry Line (Cycle Route 26) for a slight downhill almost straight run into Yatton. The Strawberry Line followed the line of a disused railway and included a tunnel and to stations, It was fun racing past the stations where the train would have once run, I had intended to follow cycle route 41 / 410 from Yatton to the Avonhead bridge. Missing a sign meant I did a short detour near the beginning and then a closed part of the track pushed me back to a reasonably busy B road. The roads and tracks where extremely dusty especially around the port area near Bristol. I tried to use the cycle routes when I found them but sometimes this meant cutting the grasses and bushes on other side of the path with the front wheels. One portion of the route, I ignored simply because it was gravel single track (almost walking track). The Severn Bridge (the older bridge had a good wide cycle path across the Severn to Chepstow. I found shade in Chepstow and stopped for lunch knowing that all that remained for the ride was a little over 15 miles up the Wye Valley to Monmouth.
The road up the Wye Valley was fairly easy and very picturesque. I stopped briefly in Tinturn to take photos of the Abbey and village but it was a pleasant ride through trees that caste shade across the road reducing the heat of the day.
I had started at 7:30am so it was nice to arrive at the camp site in Monmouth by 3 pm and then to be able to walk into the town centre to do some exploration. A pleasant change after two days of evening completions.
Day six (27 July) Monmouth to Montford Bridge (Shrewsbury)
Again we made the early start (7:30am) but today's riding followed some very busy roads. I followed the A40 out of Monmouth and then headed across on the A4137 across to the A49. I could have taken some previous roads but the profile told me that there were some serious climbs the earlier options and with the distance that I wanted to cover, I really didn't want an early grind or tricky descents. This day was planned as the longest ride although now it was less than the distance that I rode from Okehampton to Bridgwater.
I detoured into Ludlow looking for a tree covered park to eat my lunch but although I found a picturesque river complete with bridge, weirs, and old mill, I found no suitable park. It was probably just as well as Marilyn meet me just after Ludlow as I took a breather on the side of the A49 under one of the few suitable trees. By my lunch break, I had travelled almost two thirds of the total journey so again I knew that there was little pressure for the afternoon ride to Montford Bridge just to the west of Shrewsbury.
The biggest problem with following a major A road is the volume of traffic. The A49 through this area is the major road north with the M5 and then M6 motorways being almost 20 miles east. The result was that I was often passed by large trucks and queues of cars. This left me covered in road dust by the time that I reached Shrewsbury.
The trike is now performing well although the slightly shorter chain seems to be impacting the chain ring gear change. However, I decided that I really wasn't using anything other than the smallest chain ring. It gave me the hill climbing gear and a gear in which I could cruise on the flat. It also gave me an adequate gear for the down hills were I could hold speeds of around 35 km/hr. The middle chain ring gives me a range that allows me to climb at around 10 km/hr through to around 50 km/hr on down hills. The usual flat cruising gear in the middle chain ring are the second and third lowest gears where on the smaller chain ring, they tend to be more in the middle range. All I was doing was restricting some of my down hill speed to either down hill drift speed of around 35 km/hr. Since this isn't a race and I really want the energy for the next day's riding, I decided this was adequate. Also on this section, there were few places where the hills were steep enough to exceed that speed.
The journey distances and ride times to this point are:
- Lands End to Newquay: 90kms in 5 hours 42 minutes 20 sec at an average speed of 16.6 km/hr.
- Newquay to Okehampton: 105.7kms in 7 hours 49 minutes 58 seconds at an average speed of 13.4 km/hr.
- Okehampton to Bridgwater: 124kms in 8 hours 2 minutes 43 seconds at an average speed of 15.4 km/hr.
- Bridgwater to Monmouth: 111.1kms in 6 hours 16 minutes 46 seconds at an average speed of 17.7 km/hr.
- Monmouth to Montford Bridge: 123.2kms in 7 hours 2 minutes 22 seconds at an average speed of 17.5 km/hr.
The difference in average speed primarily relates to the nature of the terrain. The much flatter roads from Tiverton through to here have greatly improved the average speed although negotiating towns and cities and navigating also have an impact.
What would I recommend to others who might want to attempt these types of journeys. So far:
- Make sure that you follow clearly identifiable roads (i.e. A or B roads that are well likely to be well signposted) or ensure you know the towns along the route that are likely to appear on road signs. It is likely that you are going to travel through areas where you have no idea of where things are and stopping all the time to consult maps hinders covering the required distance.
- Don't rely on road signs to tell you how much further to the next town. Even on some major routes, the mileage is seldom reported. I found this particularly frustrating on the road from Tiverton to Taunton.
- Carry good maps that clearly show the expected standard of the road. Don't rely on GPS or other navigation devices. Make sure you know your intended route well preferably on the map that you will carry with you. Preferably, you don't want to consult these when riding but if you think you are lost then being able to identify where you are and changes in routes means these maps are invaluable.
- Carry a tool kit that will allow you to fix most things that could go wrong on the road. This includes spare chain links as well as the normal puncture repair kits.
The trike always attracts attention so I have found it good as a way of starting a discussion on a broad range of issues. People always like to see others taking on challenges although I feel a little frustrated that most seem to think you would only do something like this if you are raising money for a charity. I am not supporting a charity but when people ask, I will promote monetary and economic reform.
There are also other solo riders exploring the country in a Lands End to John O'Groats ride often exploring paths or going places that they want to see along the way. Take the time to support each other and to tell stories about where you have been and why.