Unicycling to Wales and Back (21/09/06)

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The Bristol Juggling Convention is held on a hillside overlooking the Severn Estuary. Both Severn Bridges are clearly visible, making the cyclepath across the old bridge a tempting target for unicyclists.

A few years ago three of us decided to ride to Wales, not knowing that the bridge crossed a peninsula before making landfall in Wales. With one of our number knackered, and another desperate to get back for show rehearsals, we turned back once we were over land and only discovered later that we hadn't actually made it to Wales. So this year, when I heard early in the week about a planned ride to Wales on the Thursday, I wanted to go along. It also seemed like a good opportunity to try out the Big Apple tyre that I had just fitted to my Muni.

We arranged to meet at 11:00 at my tent. Five of us set off at about 11:20, heading North-West along the footpath that runs for about a mile from the site to the Tockington road. Turning right, we headed through Tockington and Olveston until we picked up the NCN Routes 4 & 41 signs for the Severn Bridge. In Olveston we found a road covered in conkers, one of which caused Dave to UPD.

The last mile to the bridge was along the B4461 - not the most pleasant road to ride along. The only vehicle that I felt passed dangerously close was a Carlsberg lorry. Carlsberg, probably the worst drivers in the world.

We debated whether to stop at the services to allow Darren (the only one of our number without a Camelbak) to get a drink, but decided instead to stop on the way back. So, after a short break while Dave recovered from a dramatic UPD, we continued over the bridge.

It's always windy across the Severn Bridge, so Dave sensibly stopped to remove his hat. Unfortunately he did so just a few seconds too late, as his hat was carried over the railings to the sound of expletives. I then took my cap off and tucked it into my Camelbak.

At the English end of the bridge there is a sign, alongside the cyclepath, saying "Welcome to England". We had hoped to find something similar at the Welsh end to pose under, but in a demonstration of the stereotypical Welsh antipathy towards the English there was none. Shortly after leaving the bridge Plumsie spotted a sign on the far side of the motorway. I then rode another few hundred yards and spotted a sign on the A466 exit of the roundabout at the top of the motorway slip road. This was shortly after a "Cyclists Dismount" sign on the same post as an NCN sign and alongside a set of barriers. The Welsh must be as crap at cyclepath design as the English.

So, we crossed two roads and got our photo to prove that we'd made it to Wales.

The return journey was into the wind, making it much harder to leave Wales than it had been to enter. But leave we did, stopping for a snack and drinks at the service station on the English side of the bridge.

By this time Dave and Clare were flagging, with Clare talking about calling a taxi. But we carried on, reaching Olveston during the school run. The others had planned to stop at the pub in Olveston for the afternoon and evening, staying for dinner. I chose to press on back to the convention to spend time with my family. (It turned out that the pub was shut, and the other riders left Olveston soon after I did).

I missed a turning by The Swan in Tockington, but only rode a couple of hundred yards out of my way (thinking "this doesn't look right") before spotting the convention on my right, knowing that it should be on my left. I turned round and rode the rest of the way back to the convention without further mishap. Well, I say rode, I actually walked most of that last mile uphill back along the footpath.

I finished the ride with my computer reading 14.10 miles, but with the knowledge that it wasn't calibrated for the new tyre. After recalibrating the computer, the corrected reading was about 14.4 miles. The Big Apple tyre was lurvely on tarmac, combining with the KH Velo saddle and my 125mm cranks to make the Muni the most comfortable unicycle that I had ever ridden. It wasn't so good on the off-road bits, where I missed the Gazzaloddi that I had just removed.

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