Take a moment, lean on a wall, feel the sun on your face, and breathe. Welcome to Bristol!.
Bedminster is still sleeping. This southern district of the city is a quirky neighbourhood with an eclectic mix that boasts wardens, vets and artists as some of it’s residents. As we roll down from the house, it isn’t long before we pass the arty-graffiti on the high street. Just like the locals, there’s a surprise behind every piece: big eyes adorn the butchers shop; a giant cat peers on the side of a house; whilst on a low-rise garden wall, a dragon rests its whole length: neck, tummy, and tail. The marvellous curry house we ate in last night still has it’s 70’s Indian pop stars, painted on the walls, smiling at us.
The girls lead us out. Knowing the city well, they navigate us over the foot bridges, up the university hill and into the country. It starts spitting and I hesitate, being unfamiliar with the route, I have to put my faith in our Bristol Belles. As we leave the centre, it soon starts to climb and we find ourselves on a steep road flanked with overhanging trees. It goes on for a bit and it’s wonderful.
The satisfaction of doing some decent riding over dark and dreary winter base-miles is incomparable. We reach the top of the hill, breathing more heavily and smile. It’s just the start, but the rain has vanished and we see a long-rolling decent that looks like fun. Before I can put my bidon back in its cage, the girls are away. Beck disappears on the drops, with Debbie swooping close behind her.
As we reach the junction we make a left. Moments later we enter one of many neighbouring towns and villages just waking up to the weekend. The newsagents are opening; people are walking their dogs; and there are builders busy fixing once leaking rooftops.
We pedal westwards in search of the coast and the promise of quality fish and chips! As I look down, I notice the wheels are free from buzz, free from squeaky mudguards, and the tarmac runs smooth. What a difference this all makes. The girls, still ahead, are showing me no charity. I pick up and give chase.
As we near the sea, the roads both widen and rise up to meet us. Our glasses turn another shade as the sun reaches it’s zenith, and we make our destination. A tourist stops to talk and the gulls above us hover. We balance on our bikes, as we look for information on a gate as to whether we can ride up the pier. Unfortunately, the promenade is closed to cyclists and with our clunky shoes we choose against the walk, but really, it’s because we’re hungry.
Across the way, there is a restaurant with locals and several groups of cyclists tucking in. We don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s the nearest thing and we soon make our orders. The food quickly goes down well. We pause a moment to sit in the sun and catch up on life. Beck says she’s thinking of racing and invites us to watch the races the following day. More cycling to look forward to and none of it my idea. Terrific!
We take the obligatory picture. The sea behind us and the union flag waving in the background. It’s like a regular British holiday, just with jerseys instead of vests, cycling caps rather than a hanky on our heads.
Before we head back home, we make tracks for the Clifton Suspension Bridge. We can see it from the girls neighbourhood and it looks amazing as it overlooks the colourful period-houses. From the approach we take, there is a great ride in; a whoopee kind of drop that delivers you right up to the bridge. As we turn back home, we enter the local park and there are more people riding their bicycles.
We ride into the city and the area is buzzing. There’s a match on today, and the familiar red, black and white kit is everywhere! Just like Bristol City Football Club, the Baroudeurs share the same colours. Fans look in astonishment as we roll through recognising the similarities. Children start waving, grown-ups smiling, and you can feel that today, people are together. As we navigate the smaller streets, the crowds of fans give way and wish us well on our ride.
There’s a final climb back to the house and we’re home. Sarah and our staffy – Maisy-Moo are there to greet us. After a shower and a bit of a nap, we agree it’s time for another good meal. Tomorrow is race day!
We go to cheer Helen on. We opt for our bikes instead of the car to make the journey to the race course and it’s a beautiful ride in. It turns out to be a proper track, steeped in racing history. Although, not strictly confined to cycling, the cafe within the centre, proudly displays pictures of vintage motorcycling races. The leather caps and goggles; the big black bikes and roaring engines, and even side-cars come alive through the picture frames.
Outside, there are dozens of cyclists warming up in the car park. It’s so large, I’m actually mistaken in thinking they’re on the race track already. However, the real track is huge! Families line the fence to watch their mothers, fathers, and siblings do battle on the tarmac.
Helen goes for her first race. The laps look long and hard. There are times we lose sight of them as they reach the far banks. After a few good chases, we encourage her to sit back a bit. She’s doing too much work up front and everyone else is just happy to ride her slipstream. After a valiant effort, she comes in 6th! Lots of guts and a great result, Helen embarrassingly smiles as we cheer her.
Celebrations are dashed as the heavens open up and the rains return. It comes down hard. Thankfully, Debbie chose to drive down and we all jump into the car. Helen, on the other hand has opted to ride home with her team. Now that’s racing for you. Very Barouderus!