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A Pleasant Visit to South Wales                                             Ralph again, I'm afraid.         Back to Rides in 1994

As September drew to a close, I was still keen to have another crack at an RRA tricycle record.  There were two that I was still interested in.  A southerly wind would have meant an attack on David Duffield's London to York.  The alternative was a west wind for Dave Pitt's Cardiff to London.

As things turned out, there seemed to be an opportunity for Cardiff to London on 28th September.

This was not an easy day for me, as my car was being serviced, and I had an important meeting at work.  However, I got around these obstacles as best I could, and we set off in Audrey Hughes' car at about 9:15 am.  John Bridgeman completed our team.

Audrey seemed quite relaxed about my tricycle being strapped to her car's roof - much more relaxed than I was, anyway. 

We made a brief stop at the motorway services near the Severn Bridge.  After an inspection of the exit point for the cycle track, we drove across the bridge (£3.40 !!) and checked the other end.  Happily, everything appeared to be simple.  This was in stark contrast to the hideous mess which I had seen a few years earlier when I had first considered this ride.

We arrived in Cardiff at about 12:30, giving me 30 minutes to prepare myself for the 1 pm start.

The car was illegally parked, but there was no problem, as we were only staying for a short time, and weren't leaving it unattended.

No problem, except for the traffic warden who strolled across the road.  You had to laugh at Audrey's opening excuse that we were only unloading, and not really parked at all ... I'm sure these guys have heard them all, many times over.  Fortunately he was more interested in what we were doing than with our lack of a parking voucher.

As I was attempting to get organised, he chatted to Audrey and John.  He asked whether I was in the Guinness Book of Records, and was most surprised when I said that I was!

As we moved to the start point he followed us, and took photographs using Audrey's and John's cameras.  At 15 seconds to go, a tourist strolled up to Audrey to ask what was going on.

Why couldn't I get any peace?

The exit of Cardiff was difficult, but uneventful.  I climbed Rumney hill, which lowered my average speed somewhat.  The descent gave me a chance to regain my losses, and at the first check, I was on schedule.

Traffic was a bit of a nuisance in Newport, but there were no serious holdups.

On the run-up to Chepstow, Pauline Strong was on the roadside, offering encouragement.  She was waiting on what appeared to be a short hill.  Unfortunately, her selected viewing point might be referred to as the lower slopes.  A difficult mile later, the Chepstow roundabout materialised, and I was a minute behind schedule.

The gentle descent towards the Severn Bridge was almost exclusively on a rough surface, which didn't seem adequate compensation for the efforts made on the uphill side.

At the bridge, I had no trouble getting onto the cycle path.  I had a slight problem passing some bridge maintenance workers who were blocking the route with their van.  In addition, I almost collided with an oncoming cyclist who didn't seem to be looking ahead!

At the English end, there was an exciting chicane to negotiate.  Presumably the decision to almost block the route with "roadworks" equipment was based on the fact that a bicyclist only needs a gap of a foot to get through.

I was soon on minor roads, through Olveston and Tockington.  The sting in the tail of this section is a sharp climb where you rise 50 metres in about 500 metres of riding.  I was down to 6 mph at the steepest bit.  At least I didn't stop and walk.

Eventually I reached the top, and as I joined the A38, Eric Wilkinson gave me a shout.

I was 3 minutes down at this stage, and was not optimistic.  The weather forecast was for the wind to drop as I moved east.  This really meant that I had to be comfortably ahead of schedule by the halfway point.

Quickly leaving the A38, I was through Iron Acton and approaching Yate. 

There was this roundabout ahead.  I knew that I had to turn right, staying on a "B" road, to join the A432.  The right exit from this roundabout was signed towards an Industrial Estate. What should I do?

After considerable hesitation, I took this road, but was ready for problems.  As it happened, I was on the right track, but at the same time was most unimpressed.

I then, brilliantly, went off course.  Not that this was a major problem, but I took the scenic route through Chipping Sodbury, rather than the bypass.

Audrey and John, who had been held up by traffic, managed to get ahead of me at this point, although they didn't realise it at the time.

I climbed onto the Cotswolds at Old Sodbury, and was surprised to see the car neatly parked at the top.  I shouted that I would abandon at Chippenham.  I think they agreed, although their response was encouraging.

I rode through Acton Turville and past Castle Combe racing circuit, and joined the A420 towards Chippenham.  By this time I was just "going through the motions", to learn the route.

I ploughed through myriads of school children as I entered Chippenham.  As I passed my check point, I was 9 minutes down, and abandonment was obviously the next move.

I rode on until the car next caught up with me, and I indicated to them that I wanted to stop.

At the next layby, I stopped.  Ron Diplock, who had been waiting there for some time, was uncertain whether I was carrying on or not.  However, I convinced him by telephoning the RRA secretary to announce that I was getting in the car.

We stood around for a while, before loading everything up and returning home.

In part this drive reminded me of the time when I had abandoned a "London to Bath and back" in 1990.  Audrey had had to drive us home along A4 on that occasion.

At home, when I was tidying everything away, the phone rang.  Someone was enquiring about progress on the record attempt.  After I explained that I was the rider, and had abandoned, I asked who I was talking to.  Much to my dumb staggerment, the caller said "I'm the traffic warden from Cardiff".


My view on the ride is to think of it as a learning experience.  I have now ridden the whole course under "racing" conditions.  I know better the weather I need to get this record, and the form I need to have.

I'll be back.



October 1994

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