Steven and myself have always joked that it would be fun to ride to Bespoked Handbuilt bike show in Bristol to display the bikes we’ve just ridden, but never quite got round to it. However, when the discussion came up again this year I thought it worth doing, incorporating some valuable TCR training at the same time.
It also helped that Fraser (my riding partner for the race) was up for the adventure and after some discussion we figured (due to work and family time restraints) we’d give ourselves 48 hours to make the 400-mile trip. This would require leaving Edinburgh around 5pm on the Wednesday before the show, aiming to arrive at 5pm on Friday, in time for close of the first day at 7pm.
Heading south on Wednesday evening, it was a beautiful, cold ride through the Scottish Borders with the sun low in the sky – and the cold increased with the long decent into Moffat as the sun dropped behind the hills. We stopped at Moffat chip shop for a warming fish tea and planned to ride to the border and find bivi spot for the night. At the chippy we encountered the first of various random conversations about the trip and it was a pleasure to chat to Harry (now retired) who had been involved with the development of Gates Carbon Belt Drive for bicycles. A pure coincidence if ever there was one and he enjoyed finding out about our Rohloff Belt Drive bikes.
On approaching Gretna around 11pm we found a farm track off the main road and picked a spot next to a stone dyke wall. As the sky was clear with a heavy dampness in the air and a more sheltered spot in trees would have been preferred, but we’d have to put up with the nearby rumble of the M5 and railway goods wagons instead.
A frosty 5am start next day saw a brief breakfast stop at Gretna 24 hour services followed by a dash for Carlisle and Penrith through increasing morning traffic. Traffic thinned out on the climb over Shap and was followed by a stop at Morrisons in Kendal for more food and drink. The plan for the day was to reach Fraser’s brother in Northwich (just south of Warrington) and there were still a few miles on the clock to go. Another refuel was had at a Waitrose just south of Preston and we arrived in Northwich at dusk feeling tired, but not completely in pieces.
Fed and showered in combination with a comfortable sleep courtesy of Neil and Rachel, we were back on the A49 again by 5:30am, following the old roman roads across Cheshire. At bang on 9am we reached the outskirts of Shrewsbury and stopped for breakfast. A McDonalds breakfast… Not the most appetising, but full of calories and saved some time by avoiding Shrewsbury centre.
From Shrewsbury we headed up and over the Shropshire hills, towards Leominster and Gloucester and we could at last bare some flesh with the rising temperature. It had been dry and sunny since we started, but the air was cold and it was frustrating to be wrapped up in such good weather.
As we neared Gloucester, time was marching on and we knew we’d not make the show by 5pm. A decision was to be made, so we decided to abandon the ride early and catch a train at Gloucester. This would mean cutting the journey short by around 40 miles, but end up arriving nearer 5:30 instead of 7:30. It was disappointing to call the day short, but the route along the A38 was not looking particularly inviting either with Friday rush hour traffic building.
45 minutes on the train gave time to regain composure and it was good to arrive at Bespoked in Brunel’s old station feeling in good shape. Euan kindly offered to grab us a beer as we placed the bikes on the stand and gave us time to catch up with the rest of the team about the and their journey south. The evening was rounded off with a opening night party with food and beer laid on by Chris King (yup, the man of the expensive shiny stuff) at the most hospitable Mud Dock – although Fraser and myself decided to give in gracefully and headed to bed around 10pm.
In summary, it was good to see how training progressed over the winter and it was a confidence booster completing three days back-to-back with two days of around 12 and 14 hours in the saddle. The Stoaters were fast and comfortable and the other kit worked well too, including electrics for navigation and communication. However, I did experience an annoying glitch with my Garmin 810 crashing for no apparent reason which will need to be resolved. Some minor adjustments to riding position will be needed too and it was a great opportunity to have long days to reveal these and other niggles sooner rather than later.
Bikes – Shand Stoater
Frame bags – Wildcat Gear; Ocelot, Mountain Lion, Lioness and Tiger
Dynamo and lights – Supernova hub dynamo, Supernova E3 and Cinq 5 Plug III USB charger