Chapter Seven – Day 4

Newbury to Caerphilly

I spent the night cycling up steep hills, fighting against the flow of rivers of treacle with legs made out of sponge and woke to the incessant beep of my alarm and the sonorous drone of the troll’s snores.  He was flat out on his back on the pillow by the side of my head, arms flung loosely to either side and tongue lolling out the side of his gaping mouth.  His head was resting in a widening stain of drool.

Poking him in the stomach I told him to get up.

“Leave it out!  I’m knackered!”

“That will be because you were up all night whispering despair and failure in my ear!” I accused.

“Rubbish!” he snapped, looking furtive enough for me to know I was right.  “It was all those bumpy canal paths yesterday.  There will be even more of them today, not to mention all those hills.  It’s been tough enough on the flat; how are you going to deal with hills?  And it’s further!  I reckon it would be better to go home.  After I’ve had a nice nap.”  He rolled over and was soon snoring again.

Gritting my teeth I went through my morning routine as quietly as possible, thinking that perhaps I could sneak off and leave the troll behind.

As I eased out of the door to my room I couldn’t help but think that the bloody troll was right though.  Today was going to be nearly 20 miles longer than my daily average so far.  Even at the pace I had been managing on the flat (10 mph) it was going to be nearly a 12 hour day and I might be slower yet with hills.  Hanging on the walls going down the open staircase were two commemorative rowing oars from Oxford University accompanied by pictures of the rowers in action, helping to remind me just how unfit I felt on this particular trip.

Frowning I glanced at my shoulder to see the troll grinning at me.  “What?  I didn’t want to miss breakfast did I?”

He had good judgement.  It was a fine breakfast and I did not particularly want to move from the table.  It was far easier on the legs to sit on a chair than on a saddle, not to mention the backside.  But the sun was shining and, by the looks of the tops of the trees in the garden, it appeared that the wind had shifted to the east.  I might be in for a tailwind.

I finally dragged myself up and out, onto my bike by 07:45, nearly an hour after I had tried to sneak off and ditch the troll.  But I was an hour ahead of the day before.

The main confusing thing about having no map on the Garmin is, when you stop the ‘map’ does not necessarily stay pointing in the right direction.  Therefore, when I started I headed off the wrong way.  Tick it took a hundred metres or so for me to realise I was moving away from the pink line at which point I promptly U turned and rode back past the B&B.  Thankfully no one was watching.

It was with some trepidation that I approached a bridge over the canal, willing the route to continue along the lane rather than steer onto the towpath.  Thankfully it did and I happily traded the rough dirt track of yesterday for the first small Tick climb of the day.  Having said that, at the top of the first rise I gave myself an excuse to stop by taking a picture of an enormous haystack.  It truly was massive: for scale, my bike can just be made out, leaning at the base on the left hand side.  On my Land’s End to John O’Groats trips I had moaned about the modern trend of plastic coating hay bales, ruining the landscape and was pleased to see a more traditional stack. But I also needed to get some good mileage in early and standing around taking pictures of haystacks after the first mile wasn’t going to help that.

Enormous Haystack

The next few miles settled into a steady rhythm of Tick rolling up and down some fairly gentle hills, which I hoped would get my legs used to the idea of slopes before the main hills hit later in the day.   I was given a helping hand by the strong tailwind every Tick time the hedgerows dipped down.  It was a shame that I wasn’t back in Suffolk.  I would be flying!

About 8 miles into the day I cycled through Clench and spent the next few miles desperately hoping to come across a sign to Tick Clench Bottom, but it was not to be.

I stopped at a shop in Pewsey to top Tick up my cereal bar supply which had dropped considerably after having to eat a whole wodge of them for dinner the night Tick before, not having found a shop before stopping.  My average speed was up to 13 mph for the first 11 miles so the tarmac and the tailwind were definitely helping, despite the Tick rolling hills.

Trying to keep my early advantage going I pressed on. As I did I began to notice that I had a habit of changing Tick down gears every time I rounded a corner, even when my speed and the turn did not warrant it.  When I thought about it I realised I had been doing it all trip and decided it must be because I am so used to turning corners and finding a Tick steep hill before me in my native Devon that changing down has become an instinctive reaction.  It was funny that I have never noticed it before.  Maybe my brain was just frazzled and wandering Tick aimlessly.

I finally re-joined the Kennet and Avon Canal at 23 Tick miles, just before Devizes.  Until that point I had maintained an average over Tick 13 mph and just hoped that the canal path was good and didn’t eat into my advantage Tick much.

[By now that tick is probably becoming irri-Tick-ating.  Almost constant but irregular, making it impossible to get used to its rhythm and block tick out.  Fortunately it has only been going on since page 76.  For me it had persisted since page 12.]

The canal path was good quality and my hopes rose.  The canal led all the way into Bath and if the quality held I would make good Tick time.

“Pah!  It will be like all the other canal paths: it will start well and then disappear.  You’ll be bumping across a field within a mile!” grumbled the troll.  He’d been uncharacteristically quiet for the first 23 miles.

“You’re just sulking because things are going so well,” I pointed out.

“For now.  That tick is getting worse.  Something is going to seize and we’ll have to get the train home,” replied the troll.  “There’s bound to be a station in Bath,” he added, syrup dripping from his tongue.

Caen Locks Google Earth

The troll was wrong about the path.  After a mile it was still looking good and even hit a massive downhill.  That’s right, a downhill on a canal.  That of course meant a lot of locks; 29 to be precise.  They came in three groups and were known as the Caen Hill Locks.  The first 6 from Devizes were fairly well spread with a gentle slope.  The last 7 were similar but the middle 16 formed an awesome straight flight with very little space between locks.  The word ‘awesome’ is very much overused these days but this really did leave me in awe, so is appropriate.  The amount of work involved must have been phenomenal.  It’s not just the digging of the locks themselves but also the sideways extended pounds, used to store the water needed to operate them.  These can clearly be seen on the aerial satellite shot from Google Maps.  A vast amount of work, and all done by hand, it being completed in 1819.

Caen Hill Locks

But, the troll was right about the tick: it was getting worse.  When I stopped to gawk at the flight of locks I tested the bottom bracket and the wheels again.  The bottom bracket was fine but there seemed to be a large amount of sideways play in the back wheel.  I had bought some cheap light-ish weight wheel not long before the trip.  The reason they were cheap is that the weight had been saved in the hubs. They were crap and certainly not designed for use on dirt tracks.  I had wrecked the back hub.  I had tested it about the same time the day before and there had been very little give.  To have deteriorated so rapidly was a worry.   It could go at any moment and the next chance of finding a bike shop was probably in Bath, which was still…

“26 miles away!” cackled the troll.  “You’ll never make it.  That wheel is shot!  It’s a good thing you made such good time, coz it’s going to take the rest of the day to walk to Bath!”

Setting off again I prayed that the track would remain good and the wheel would hold Tick out.

A dodgy hub would certainly explain the randomness of the Tick.  All sorts of things could set it off and in any combination.  No wonder I had been finding Tick it difficult to track it down, especially with the play in the wheel only now being obvious.

Thankfully, the path remained good for the most part although the troll constantly Tick whispered in my ear that the wheel was getting worse.  In facTick he became more and more insistent the closer we came to Bath but I was counting off the miles knowing that each one covered meant 15 minutes less walking Tick if the hub went.

[I’m sure that is quite enough of the tick by now.  It might even be grating enough to spoil the book.  It is certainly annoying, destroying the flow of tick things.  I’ll stop it now and allow the adventure to contickue.]

I couldn’t believe my luck when the route crossed a bridge over the canal in Bradford on Avon and right before my eyes was a bike shop.  Not only a bike shop but one that had a large sign outside boasting of ‘Spares and Repairs’.

Entering the shop I approached the bloke behind the counter, who was slouched over the counter flicking through a cycling magazine.  I told him my tale of riding across the country, where I had been and where I had to go, and pointed out the problem with my hub, asking if he could fit a new back wheel.

“Yeh, no problem, I can fit a new back wheel.”

“Great!  I don’t suppose you can do it right now can you, only I’ve got another 80 miles to cycle today.”

“I can’t do it today.”

Glancing around the empty shop and eyeing the magazine he was still flicking through I bit my lip and said, “Could I borrow a chain whip then?  I could do the job myself if you just want to sell me the wheel, I can see you’re busy.”

“I don’t have a wheel.  I’ll have to order one.  But they deliver fast.  It will only be a couple of days.  Might even get here tomorrow.”

“!”  I wondered if he had been listening at all.  “I’ve got to be in Caerphilly tonight and by the end of tomorrow I have to be at St David’s.”

“Oh.  You should have said.  Go on to Bath.  Loads of bike shops there.  Try John’s, that’s the best.”

Ignoring the cackling of the troll I grumbled some thanks and headed back to the canal path hoping the wheel would hold out for another 10 miles.

A couple of Tick [sorry, that was just habit] miles later the track felt like it had entered a washing machine, plunging down and twisting one way and then rising and twisting the other as it went under the Avon Cliff viaduct to cross to the opposite bank before crossing the viaduct itself over the River Avon.  The note I stopped to make at the time simply said, ‘Whirly, whirly round and round.’  There was no mention of the impressiveness of the viaduct or the work that must have been involved in constructing it.  Not a word about the strange sensation of being on a bridge carrying water over a river and how weird that felt.  No.  My note was short because there was little time for contemplation: the troll was hammering on my helmet and pointing to the sign for the Avon Cliff Railway Station.

“Look!  Railway!  Right there!!  All you have to do is stroll in and buy a ticket and you could be home this afternoon.  That wheel’s going to go any moment and if it doesn’t then the bag will; I’m sure it has dropped an inch.  Anyway, let’s face it, you’re knackered: totally unfit and not up to this trip.  It’s been easy so far.  When it starts to go up and down a lot you’re legs are going to turn to jelly.  Just get on a train.  Forget the saddle.  Sit in a nice comfy seat and watch the miles whizz by.” My eyes were fixed on the station sign.  It was tempting.  “And I could have a nap.”

Scowling I dragged my gaze from the sign and glowered at the troll.  “It’s all about you isn’t it!  If you would just shut up and leave me alone for 5 minutes you could have a bloody nap!  Bugger off!”

I pushed unduly hard on the pedals for the next couple of miles but eased off thinking that the extra stress on the wheel hub might cause it to collapse.  Maybe that was the trolls plan?  Cunning.

The path remained good all the way into Bath, where it ejected me at Sydney Gardens.  I stopped and dug out the tablet in the hopes of finding a Wi-Fi hotspot so I could search for a bike shop.  I scooted about a bit but had no joy so decided to follow the route into the town centre where I was more likely to find a signal.

Cycling along Great Pulteney Street I crossed the Pulteney Bridge, famous for having shops on the bridge itself, much like the original London Bridge.  In fact, it is very easy not to realise you are on a bridge at all until you look at it from the side as you can see in the two photographs.

 Pulteney Bridge Road

Putney Bridge

Whilst I was stopped to take the pictures I tried to get a Wi-Fi signal again but failed. I tried asking several different pedestrians but they were all tourists, standing around gawping and taking photos; no use at all.  The route headed off in the direction of the river but I decided to leave it and head further into the town centre.  I tried asking for direction a couple more times with no luck so went into a sports shop and asked there.  They recommended John’s Bike Shop and gave me directions.  With two recommendations it had to be the right choice.

So it proved.  They had a new wheel fitted within 40 minutes and gave me a 10% discount, which was appreciated.  I had a look at their bag systems whilst I was waiting but the repair I had made was holding well so figured I shouldn’t shell out another £100 or so.  They directed me back towards Route 4 and I headed off.  I had lost all the time I had made with my good start but there was a big weight lifted from my shoulders: no more stress that I was going to become stranded – and no tick!

The trouble was I seemed to have lost satellite signal because I wasn’t moving along my pink line, although it wasn’t immediately obvious with no map.  I couldn’t find any signs for Route 4 so followed the path by the river which seemed the most likely.  The moment I hit the rougher track the tick returned.  Clearly it wasn’t the rear wheel hub causing it after all.  It definitely needed changing anyway but it would have been nice to be rid of the tick as a bonus.

At one point I became completely lost and ended up bumping over the river frontage of a local pub. I’m not sure the wedding reception guests were that impressed.  On reaching a dead end I clambered over a fence into the carpark rather than cycle back the way I had come.

When I found the river ‘path’ again I was pretty sure that I was no longer on Route 4 because there was no path and the field I was traversing was perhaps the roughest I had encountered.  I’m not sure I would have fancied it on a mountain bike let alone my road bike but at least it was dry; it would have been a nightmare in the wet.  It carried on for miles, or it felt like miles, and there were numerous fences that I had to stop at and lift the bike over.  There was no way this could have been a bike path.  The path between Bath and Bristol was reputed to be excellent.

Suddenly the route on my screen jumped.  The Garmin must have sorted out its satellite link.  It confirmed that I wasn’t on the route, it was off to my right, the other side of the river and then a bit.  Much later, at home, I loaded my actual track and discovered I hadn’t been following the Bristol and Bath Railway Path that I was supposed to be on for several miles.  In fact the side of the river I was cycling along didn’t even have a footpath.  Little wonder it was rough.

Eventually I came to another pub and exited through their carpark to a narrow country lane.  I followed the lane, which seemed to be on a converging course with the route.  Within a couple of hundred metres the lane crossed over the route on a bridge.  Below me was an excellent, wide, brilliantly surface cycle path that I could have been following all the way from Bath.  Fortunately I could see that the lane turned alongside the path and soon I was able to join.  Bliss!

Canal Path ClosedAbout 100 m later I met a barrier.  The path was closed!  Worse, there was no diversion.  Without a map I wasn’t sure what to do.

“You’re cursed on this ride.  You should have spent the money for that wheel on a train ticket home.  You could be sat on a comfy seat watching the miles between ‘God knows where we are now’ and home whizzing by the window.  He he!”

I had little choice but to continue backtrack and continue along the lane I had just joined the path from.  It seemed to be heading in the same direction as the path so hopefully it would re-join beyond the closure.

Unfortunately, the lane turned away from the pink line indicating the cycle path quite soon.  And then it ended.  There was, however, a footpath continuing onward.  With little option I decided to continue in the hopes of hitting another lane soon, it couldn’t be any worse than the paths I had been following along the river.  The kissing gate at the start was tight and I was forced to lift the bike over my head and shuffle through, then continued on across a field.   A couple of kissing gates later I hit the river.  On the other side I could see a road with traffic heading in the right direction but there was no way over the river.  The path continued along the bank but was now looping back completely the wrong way.  I continued on in the hopes of finding a pedestrian bridge or some way to cross the river.  The path was becoming overgrown and soon I was forced to walk, hoisting my bike over the various kissing gates on the way.  Not only was it slow but my arms and shoulders were starting to feel the strain.

Of course this was all a pure delight to the troll.  He kept telling me to go back.  “You’re not even on the bike now.  You’re on a ramble in the wrong direction!  He he!  Go back now.  Every minute you go on will be another minute you have to spend again when you finally listen to me and give up.  In fact, why not back up all the way to Bath and get the train.  Choo choo!”

He made some good points but the path was curving round in a circle: I could see the pink line getting closer again.  Sure enough, a few minutes and a couple more kissing gates later I returned to the lane, back near the bridge over the cycle path.  I had walked 2 miles and lifted my bike over gods knew how many kissing gates to make no progress at all.

Clearly I was in a dead end here so I followed the lane in the opposite direction, which appeared to take me even further from the pink line.  Half a mile up a steep hill later I came to the A4 which was heading in the same general direction as the pink line.  It was busy but had a cycle path on the pavement.  It was fairly slow going because there were numerous junctions that I had to negotiate on the cycle path but after a mile, just before the road became a dual carriageway, I picked up a diversion sign and decided to follow that.  I’m not sure why.  It didn’t say what the diversion was for but I guess I had had enough of the busy road.  I continued to follow the diversions because they were heading in the right direction and 2½ miles later I was turning back onto the cycle path, just beyond the closure.  It appeared I had been following the diversions for the closure but I couldn’t understand why there had been no signs from the beginning.  It was just crazy to only start signing halfway through the diversion.  Of course that was because my head was tired and not thinking things through.  Had I remembered that I had only just joined the proper path just before it was closed I might have realised that cyclist were probably diverted off the path some time before the actual barrier.  I just happen upon the diversion halfway through.

Path Closed Actual trackAt home I checked my actual track against the proper route.  The proper route is shown as a black dotted line on the map, my actual track as a solid line.

The path, now that I had located it, was excellent and worthy of its reputation.

“Hah, troll!  We’re only 9 miles to from Bristol and on this sort of path we’ll be there in no time.  Then it’s just a hop across on the Severn Bridge and some stuff in Wales.”  I was a bit vague on the route once I reached Wales.

The troll scowled at me and huffed.  I grinned at its disgruntlement, worrying a couple of pedestrians as they hurried by on the opposite side of the path, giving me as wide a berth as possible.

I pedalled away much lighter of heart.  I had got through another adversity and I would soon have completed my trek across England.  Only Wales to go!

“You do know you have only covered 3 miles of your actual route in the last hours don’t you,” pointed out the troll.

“So?”

“So, you have only travelled 57 miles since the start.  It’s now 14:10 so you have been 6 hours and 20.  Your average speed has dropped to 9 mph.”  The troll is annoyingly good at mental arithmetic.

“And?” I dared to ask.

“With another 60 miles to go it is going to take you nearly 7 more hours.  You won’t be finished until after 9 pm.”  His grin was ridiculously broad.

“Ah, but I lost loads of time having the new wheel fitted and walking along that footpath.  My average speed without those incidents would be much higher.  I can easily make up some time.”

His grin narrowed and puckered to a scowl, “Yeah, well, perhaps you’ll lose a lot more time.  You could get lost or get a puncture.  Maybe two.  And that bag is bound to go again some when.”  He sneered at me and added, “And don’t forget all those hills to come, chum!”

He might have had a point about the hills.  I had been climbing for about a mile since crossing the River Avon on the diversion and now on the railway path the route continued upwards.  It wasn’t too steep, being an old railway line but continued for a total of 5 miles as it picked it’s was around the south eastern outskirts of Bristol.  It can be seen as the first main uphill on elevation profile b at the end of the chapter.  You can also see the reward: a continuous 4½ mile descent on a traffic free path right into the heart of Bristol.  All the way down I couldn’t help thinking how glad I was that I wasn’t going the other way.

At the bottom I was routed through Castle Park, across Queen Square and then via a cycle path to exit on St Augustine’s Parade.  Opposite me was the Bristol Hippodrome, which I had last visited a few years ago when me eldest two boys had been in their Thomas the Tank Engine phase, to see the stage show of the same name.

The happy memories were soon washed from my mind with the pain of clawing my way up some very steep streets, through Bristol University and onward, up and down steep hills through Clifton and Henbury, eventually escaping to flatter land at Easter Compton, the other side of Bristol, close to the River Severn.  Aside from the busy roads near the Hippodrome and the University, the route through Bristol was relatively quiet, utilising traffic free where possible, but it was gruelling: 8 miles of very steep hills that had my legs screaming.

Things were not helped by finding that my bottom few gears were slipping.  It was the first time I had been forced to use them since the wheel change in Bath and it seemed that the gears had not been adjusted properly.  I had to stop several times to tweak them but still couldn’t get them perfect.  This precipitated an argument with the troll, involving trains, and where to stick them and made for tense cycling in the bottom two gears, which continued to slip occasionally, especially under heavy load.  [For those of a technical bent, I later discovered that this was because a spacer ring had not been inserted behind the cassette.  Once I inserted one, back at home, all was well.]

As I had discovered on my Land’s End to John O’Groats cycles, there are many cycle paths through the industrial sprawl that lies on the banks of the Severn between Avonmouth and the old Severn Bridge at Aust.  These are much safer than the roads which carry a high proportion of heavy lorries.  They are also flat, which was a huge relief to my legs.  They were really beginning to feel the effect of 350 miles of cycling.

As the pain began to ease from my muscles, my mind started doing its normal job of erasing it from my memory.  Within a couple of miles I was left feeling that the day had been like a cheeky child: irksome but generally good.  BUT I KNOW that I had been swearing out loud at times whilst my gears slipped up those steep Bristol streets.  I suppose every regular cyclist must possess this ability of the mind, to smooth over the jagged memories, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

I greeted the Severn Bridge like an old friend, having cycled over it three times before, once on my first end to end from John O’Groats down to Land’s End and twice on an organised event run by Audax [a long distance cycling organisation].  On my first crossing I had faced a massive headwind.  Today the wind was in the same direction but I was heading the other way.  The experience was much more exhilarating with the tailwind.

Severn Bridge

Crossing a suspension bridge in a car gives you no real impression of how steep they can be.  They actually represent a fair hill, as shown on elevation profile b at the end of the chapter.  The bridge is the small spike about halfway, just before the really big spike.

That really big spike was the climb from the bridge up the broad cycle path counter flowing the A466 past Chepstow.  Wales was hilly and showing its form right from the bridge but fortunately, after a few more, much shorter but steeper hills, the route levelled out again.

Before it did I cruised gently downhill with the wind behind me past a vast field with russet brown cows standing up to their knees in buttercups.  The whole field was aglow with golden yellow, made all the more radiant by the late afternoon sun.  I should have stopped for a photo but with the clock ticking and the troll’s warning of a late arrival ringing in my ears I found myself unwilling to apply the brakes and lose all my momentum.  By the time I had convinced myself it was worth the stop the field was gone, now a mere memory of brightness, highlighting my fatigue.

The flat, when I came to it, was the A48.  It wasn’t particularly busy but my concentration was not of the highest order so I stuck to the cycle path on the pavement.  Within a mile the route turned onto a residential road through Caerwent and then continued along miles of small lanes, zig zagging generally westward towards Newport.  Most of the lanes were tiny, and there was nothing warranting a line down the middle until I started the approach to Newport, some 12 miles later.  Here things became more industrialised but the roads were still very quiet, possibly because it was now 19:00 and everyone had gone home for the day.

Crossing the River Usk I spotted a strange Meccano like construction further down the river.  There was a tall grid work tower on either bank and a similar grid work span stretching between the two, but very high up.  From a distance I could not see any bridge lower down, where cars or trains would be able to cross.  I wondered whether it predated the road bridge I was on and was meant for pedestrians, giving workers access to the docks and other industrial areas but being high enough to allow shipping to pass underneath.

Fortunately the route headed in the right direction and I soon found out.  It was the Newport Transporter Bridge, which I later learnt was very rare.  Depending on which source you trust there were only about 20/two dozen transporter bridges ever built worldwide and this was one of the last 8/12 that remain in use.  The concept of a transporter bridge is to keep the river clear for shipping by utilising a small section of moveable road.  Cars drive onto the road segment, which is suspended from the upper span by wires, and then the whole is moved to the other side.

Newport Transporter Bridge

The signs indicated that my initial thoughts were partly right in that pedestrians could, and in fact still can, climb the towers to walk across the upper span.  Despite my fear of heights I wished I could have had a go, probably induced by the fact that it wasn’t open.

Not that I would have been able to afford the time anyway: it was now 19:10 and I still had 17 miles to cycle.

After about 3 more miles of flat, the road started to climb and then really pitched upwards for a steep climb through Bassaleg.  Although none of the others were so long, there followed a succession of short sharp hills, all on tiny quiet lanes, for the next 8 miles.

Fighting the bike along those lanes, I had been counting down the miles to the end, knowing that I was nearly there.  When I reached 115 miles, the expected total for the day, the troll started a whispering campaign.  “You should be there by now.  It’s getting late.  How much further is there.  Could be miles.  Up and down, up and down.  Your legs won’t make it.  You’re going to be completely drained for tomorrow.  That’s even further!  And hillier.  Worse than these little pimples.  You should be there by now.  It’s getting late…”

Before long I cracked and found the first excuse I could to stop.  It was a poor excuse, a quarry, which in my nagged and abused mind I decided was very Welsh.

Quarry

Grabbing the troll by the scruff of his neck I shoved him deep into my saddlebag and pressed on through the jagged lanes. Whilst they were a delight to the eye they were a torment to the body, and I was grateful to reach a cycle path signed for Caerphilly.  I barely heard the muffled curses that it was still 4 miles away. The gradient was much more manageable, being less severe and more constant and I really enjoyed those last 4 miles into Caerphilly.  Well, the last 3½ miles, the final ½ mile was a stiff climb to the B&B, which appeared to be halfway up Caerphilly Mountain. The climb was probably not helped by my stopping at Caerphilly Castle just before it, allowing my muscles to cool down too much.

Caerphilly Castle

Needless to say, I was grateful to reach the B&B.  My off route exploits between Bath and Bristol had added 11 miles to the day and I finished on 126 miles.  On the positive side, I had managed that in 12½ hours, so averaged 10 mph, even with time lost walking along a footpath and getting a new wheel.  Hopefully, if I could avoid similar incidents tomorrow, the 137 miles might not be too bad.

The room in the B&B was weird though.  It had the feel of a box/storage room about it but at the same time had an enormous ensuite wet room.  I had never used one before.  It was very swanky, especially compare to the room adjoining it, but it just felt a little strange spraying water all over the floor.

The box room feel didn’t bother me.  I was happy to collapse on the bed, Skype, blog and crash.  The indications from the blog post are that I was getting very tired.  I managed to confuse my exploits after Bath, along the non-existent river path, with the condition of the canal path before Bath and only wrote one paragraph about the 60 miles between Bristol and the end, nearly half of the day:

A day of contrasts.  The first 17 miles were fast on flat lanes with a strong tail wind.  The rest of the way to Bath was mainly on canal paths, which is normally good news but the path was very poor in places.  In fact in places there was no path, just field.  At times I thought I must have lost the cycle route but then signs would appear showing I was on route.

My back wheel was developing a considerable sideways wobble.  The canal paths and rough track had completely trashed the cones.  I stopped at a bike shop but they had no suitable wheels but directed me to a shop in Bath.  It took a bit of effort to find it, not having a map on my sat nav and all the people in the city seeming to be tourists but when I did they were able to fit a new back wheel there and then.

The whole exploit took about 45 minutes out of the day though so I pressed on towards Bristol.  Unfortunately the path was closed about 4 miles out of bath.  With no diversion.  I tried to follow as close to the pink line as possible and ended up on a footpath.  I then hit a river which turned me around in a circle.  Two miles on a footpath with 11 kissing gates involving having to lift the bike over head height, to get back to where I started.

I eventually found the other end of the closed path but it had cost me in time and distance: an extra 6 miles and another hour lost.

The path into Bristol was excellent.  The path through was hard to follow.  The path out had a couple of really stiff hills where I discovered my gears did not work after the wheel change.  More time lost trying to fix, still not quite right.

The rest of the day was spent chasing the clock.  Highlights were crossing the Severn Bridge, fast lanes in Wales with tailwind and the Newport Transporter Bridge.  Lows were very steep hills and blown legs.  Total distance was 11 miles more than expected at 126.  Not looking forward to the hills and even longer distance tomorrow.

Day 4 Statistics

Distance:
126 miles
Av speed:
12.3 mph
Time cycling:
9:24
Time overall:
12:34
Av heart rate:
136 bpm
Calories burnt:
5,802
Total ascent:
1404 m
Max speed:
33.5 mph

Day 4a Elevation Profile

Day 4a Elevation Profile

Note: This profile covers the distance from my B&B near Newbury to Bath.  The big descent is at Caen Hill Locks.

Day 4b Elevation Profile

Day 4b Elevation Profile
Note:  This profile covers the distance from Bath to my B&B at Caerphilly.  The first big V is the descent into and subsequent climb out of Bristol.  The peak in the middle is the climb out of Chepstow and the next major spike is the climb after Newport.

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