With my bike packed, new rack and all, we left Reading thinking we would make it 78 miles to Bath. I mean we had already had days where we have rode over 100 miles in a day, so 78 should be no problem. Well we were wrong.
Just a little tid-bit of information for everyone planning a cycle trip around the UK, give yourself plenty of extra time because you will not be able to cover the same amount of distance you have been able to in other countries. The weather is unpredictable, the roads are not the most bike friendly (nor are the drivers), and the Sustrans cycle paths, which are amazing don't get me wrong, consist of a lot of dirt paths that when it rains, which is very often, turn into muddy rivers. It is going to take you longer (around double the time) for you to get from Point A to Point B on a bike.
All that being said you should really go to the UK and cycle!
I think we had been riding for about an hour and a half when I looked at the GPS and saw that we had only gone about 7 miles. Sure the scenery was gorgeous, but there was no way we would make it to Bath at this pace, especially because with daylight savings it gets dark out at 4pm.
Already having booked a couple beds in a hostel in Bath, we opted to ride for a few more hours and catch a train for the remaining distance. We arrived at Newbury train station got our tickets and immediately began laughing. In order to get to Bath we would have to take a train back to Reading, and then transfer trains to get to Bath. So once again we found ourselves on our way to Reading. At least we got some riding in for the day and got to see some of beautiful English countryside.
A few hours later we made it to the city of Bath. The city is stunning, old Georgian architecture, Roman baths made with the city's natural not springs, and a canal running through the middle of it all. The only thing standing in between us and our hostel was a mile and a half climb up a hill with an 11% grade. Woohoo! After sitting on the train for awhile our legs were loving it...
Barely making it up the hill, we made it to the "youth hostel" only to be greeted by a couple families, and a lot of people that were well over the age of 60. Not sure they should have called this place a youth hostel, but hey we had a roof over our heads and some interesting conversations.
Pouring over the map, looking at the distances we would need to cover in the next few days in order to get to Fishguard, Whales to take the ferry, I realized that riding out the rest of England would mean less than a week of riding in Ireland. Coming into the trip Ireland was the country I was probably most excited to cycle in, and selfishly not wanting to sacrifice my time in Ireland for more riding in England we made the decision to take yet another train. So that morning we rode 25 miles to Bristol on the Bath to Bristol cycle network (the best stretch of cycle path we had encountered in England) and booked a train to Fishguard.
On that short ride we had two very interesting encounters. The first came when a cyclist decked out in some nice gear on a beautiful Felt rode bike came up next to me. My dad having a Felt bike as well, I looked over at him and asked how he liked his bike. This was the start of a 15 minute ride with this cyclist who was so stoked on the stories I was telling him about our trip that he didn't mind the slower pace and he thanked me for making his morning commute a lot more interesting. Right as he was about to leave he told me he just so happens to work for the biggest cycling magazine in the UK and that he would love to run a story about us in the next issue. Small world huh? Then as we neared the Bristol train station we were deciding on which bridge to take across when this older gentleman rocking red pants, a suit jacket, and a pretty rad commuter bike pulled up next to us and pointed us in the right direction. Riding the few hundred meters with us to make sure we didn't get lost, we told him briefly about our trip and what we were doing. He immediately began firing off questions on what we thought of cycling in England and what we thought of the cycle paths we had ridden on. After introducing ourselves and shaking his hand, he casually tells us he is the elected mayor of Bristol, that he "runs the place", and is responsible for Sustrans cycle network being out into place. Sure enough when we exchanged information and looked at his business card it said mayor of Bristol. It was one of our shortest days of riding, but we met two people that are hugely responsible for the cycling push that is taking place in the UK.
We eventually made it to Fishguard, had an incredible stay at the Backpackers Lodge with our new friend Steve, and the next day we would be off to Ireland.
Our last ferry ride, our last country, our last leg of the trip. Not sure how the weather is going to be, but either way we are stoked for what is to come in Ireland.