Autumn is a good time to think about cycling from a different perspective and try something new. Urban riding is probably not at the top of your cycling wish list but with radical changes to city transport there are some great destinations to try.
We took a trip west to one of the UK’s foremost cycling cities - Bristol - and discovered how much it has to offer cyclists making it a great place for a two-wheeled weekend city break. It is packed with traffic free cycle paths and even has a full-on mountain bike trail centre right in the city.
Perhaps the best-known ride into Bristol is from Bath on the Railway path, an entirely traffic free 13-mile route which can either be ridden out and back or return on the train. There is also the River Avon trail that goes out of the city to Hanham Lock on the Kennet & Avon canal where you could carry on to Bradford-upon-Avon.
My Bristol biking companion was racing driver Sarah Bennett-Baggs (pictured above) who is currently training for a Rajasthan mountain bike adventure in December, so we did a loop from her home in Abbots Leigh. We both rode cyclo cross bikes as off-road tyres are probably best for mixed terrain trails and are equally at home on tarmac. Urban style is definitely street cloths but as a concession to comfort we both wore cycling shorts as underwear.
We picked up the undulating trail at Pill which follows the River Avon into the city under the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s a mildly challenging trail thanks to the mix of mud and hard-pack but the views of the gorge and riverside coming into Ashton are superb.
Crossing the Avon over the cycling-only Ashton Ave Bridge we hit the road on Spike Island and made our way past the back of the SS Great Britain to stop for a well earned beer at Wapping Wharf. We locked the bikes and wandered around the trendy bars and food shops in this reclaimed docks area. It would have made a great lunch stop but we had other plans and crossed the river again and headed up to the wonderful St Nicholas Market (pictured below) where there is a fantastic covered street food arcade.
Suitably stuffed we headed back through the city centre, climbing up Park Street past the impressive Bristol University building and on up the hill into the urban village of Clifton. If you like Edwardian architecture then you’ll love Clifton, with its tall stylish buildings and myriad of shops, bars and restaurants.
The point of all this climbing was to cross the Avon for the last time by way of the amazing Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s a truly surreal experience to cross 250 feet above the river below but just pick your time as the bridge is shared with traffic.
There are so many ways to enjoy the sights of Bristol by bike but using the traffic free trails to connect to the city is a great way to get into the fun of urban riding.