Chew Valley Cycling Club

Despite being an area of outstanding natural beauty, with a large population living in historic villages dating back to the Domesday Book and basically being a bit of a mecca for almost every weekend cyclist who lives in Bristol, Keynsham, Somerset and Bath, the one thing that the Chew Valley lacked was a cycling club.

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The Chew Valley – home of dairy cows and now, a welcoming cycling club

I’ve been a member of Bristol South Cycling Club for years, enjoying their events and races in the Chew Valley. However I rarely attend their weekend club rides or social nights as these are all held in the distant lands of “the big city over the hill”. As a result I always felt that I missed out on a lot of the social aspect and camaraderie of being a club member. After meeting a few other Chew Valley cyclists who were struggling with the same problem we decided to start our own club.

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The Hunters Lodge – home of myths and legends

The club’s formation meeting was held at The Hunters Lodge, a lonely and slightly derelict-looking pub out in the middle of the Mendip Hills. The inside is magical: it’s like stepping into a time machine to a 1950’s pub. The place must have drifted through decades with the decor becoming increasingly dated and unfashionable. Fortunately the long-standing owners were clearly playing the long-game, knowing that one day it would just ooze vintage style! Either that or they just didn’t care. Anyway, not only does it work but there are several amusing myths surrounding the place. I’ve heard that the Kray Twins used it as a hideout, that tunnels beneath the pub lead to secret government bunkers and that if the owner catches you using a mobile phone he will either confiscate it or throw you out. Hence the lack of photos to verify the myth. I hope one day there will be a plaque outside stating “Chew Valley Cycling Club was formed here in 2016”.

By the start of 2017 we’d formed a nucleus of new members, were holding regular club rides and had ordered kit. We played around with a few kit designs with everything looking like it had been designed by an idiot using ClipArt … basically because it had. So in the end we called in the experts and asked cycling kit supplier Milltag to design and make our kit. Probably one of our best decisions.

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For posterity this needs to be recorded – the cow peering out the rear pocket is class

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Milltag nailed it

The club has continued to grow which has been really enjoyable for everyone involved. We are affiliated with both British Cycling and Cycling Time Trials which has allowed several of our members to compete in road races, criteriums and time trials this year. However, the majority of our members currently just participate in the weekend club rides for the social and sporting aspect of riding in a group.

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Club rides leave from The Crown, West Harptree at 8am every Sunday morning

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Supporting a local race

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CVCC TT flight mode

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Bath Sportive

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Beer & bikes – killer combo

We recently held our first AGM (at The Hunters obviously) which was a great way to get feedback from our members and find out what everyone wanted from the club. Fortunately people mostly wanted more of the same, with the addition of beginner / introductory weekend rides for slower or new riders. So this is something we’re hoping to roll out soon. Oh yeah, and they wanted cycling caps, presumably for de rigeur cycling cafe stops!

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Give the people what they want – caps coming soon …

 

Bikepacking to Brecon Beacons

I’ve just returned from a two day saddlebag tour of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A friend and I took a couple of days off work for a self-guided cycling mini-break. It was fairly impromptu and with minimal planning. Unfortunately, the Audax Gods were clearly unimpressed by our slapdash approach to long-distance cycling and punished us with biblical downpours on Day 1. Any final hope of receiving retribution must have been dashed by the comment as we set off that “it never actually rains all day”. It did.

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Sheep and rain kept us company

We set off very early on Monday morning in a futile attempt to beat the rains. We took the most direct route to the Severn River crossing via Bristol. This meant fighting our way through rush hour, but despite the heavy rain and traffic it still felt quite liberating to be heading away from it all.

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Severn Bridge crossing – bit of a crosswind 

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I’d opted for my steel frame with pannier rack and bar bag. Mike went new school with his carbon bike and roll-bags attached with velcro and straps. There seems to be a movement towards the latter and I can understand the reasoning – you only need one bike and you can ride a lighter bike. However, if you’ve got a steely then this type of ride is the perfect excuse to rig it up in full tourer mode.

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Old school mapping 

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Drying room at the hostel 

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Pro Audax evening footwear 

Arriving at the hostel after 80+ miles in the rain was a great feeling. We immediately hung up our sodden kit, had hot showers and put on our sandals. Socks and flip-flops or bare-foot and birkenstocks? It’s always difficult to completely nail the audax haute couture style so I like to think we covered all bases between us. The 1970’s carpet definitely added to the effect.

We had a beer, ate a hearty dinner and were both in bed by about 8pm. Not exactly rock n roll.

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We set off early the next morning and headed right up into the Brecon Beacons. The scenery was spectacular and made us wish we’d gone for 3 days to allow a full day of Brecon touring in the middle. We followed the River Usk down to Abergavenny with the sun in our faces and a strong wind on our backs. Combined with the long descent it felt like just rewards after the tough previous day.

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Classic gag

The conversation was free-flowing all day. It’s one of the pleasures of long distance cycling in remote parts – you can ride side-by-side at a relaxed pace and talk. And when the conversation dried up, the more immature member of the group resorted to childish pranks.

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Fortunately the locals saw the funny side and joined in

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In the end we covered 170 miles and around 10,000ft of climbing over the two days. It was one of those epic adventures that you wish you could do more often and will remember forever. Great times.