Thursday, 31 December 2009

Bastard Hills of North Bristol Entry Forms

Entry forms for the hill ride are now up online. It's free for Bristol Cycling Campaign members, £1 otherwise. If you join the BCyC in January, we will subtract £1 from the membership fee.

  1. Here is the form: please print and fill in in advance, if you can, as it will save on paperwork on the day.
  2. If you aren't a member, bring a pound, preferably exact change. Money will go to the cycling campaign to support our campaign to make Bristol a better place to cycle.
  3. The ride leaves at 10:30 am sharp. Get there early if you need to fill in forms, pay, etc. Then do some stretching before the tour of Montpelier opens up the day.
  4. We also plan to hit a cafe in the city centre. Bring some spare change for that too.
  5. And we finish by the Water Tower Cafe on the Downs: if you want to finish off with some food or drink there, bring some more money. Otherwise, you are free to go home -it should be a downhill for nearly everyone.

Having checked out the whole route, it's steep. This is not a speed event, it's a "will my inner quad muscles survive" event. Anyone who has ever toured Cornwall or North Devon will know the feeling.

Ten days to go: not too late to get some training in by picking a hill in Cliftonwood or Kingsdown and doing it 6-8 times in a row!

See you on the Sunday!

Montague and Marlborough Hills

Before the infamous Dove Street redevelopment, Montague Hill would have carried on all the way to the top of Kingsdown -today there is a bit of it at both ends. Just a bit though.

Here at the bottom, we can go up it and take the first left, which brings us to the base of Marlborough Hill

This is probably the toughest climb in the area. A One in Four gradient, sustained for at least forty metres of up. It's one way, but on weekdays cars ignoring the no-entry signs are still a bit of an issue. On a Sunday it should be quiet, with no sound but the suffering of cyclists. There will be suffering, that we know.

Where to go at the top? A left turn leads to Horfield Road, which drops you down to the bottom of -wait for it- St Michael's Hill.

Ninetree Hill

This is Ninetree Hill, or Nine-Tree Hill, depending on your spelling. Steep, sustained. And today, covered in ice.

In these conditions, walking holding on to the bike is the only tactic that makes sense. We really hope that it is not so icy on January 10, as this will be one of the uphills: all the way from the bottom to the top.

It's not as long as you think, only about 20-25 metres of uphill. It can be ridden non-stop by most people. What is nice about it as an uphill is the complete lack of passing cars, especially on the final section. With only a bike exit at the top, nobody is going to overtake you then pull straight in.

Check it out on a weekday morning: it's busy with pedestrians as well a cyclists, especially schoolkids walking up to Cotham School.

For our ride: up to the top then, after a bit of flat, down Dove Street to Dighton Street. Leading to another uphill. A worse one

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Technical Kingsdown

These hills aren't going to be part of our ride, as in the great 1960s redevelopment of the city, they took away the bottom half and put some fences in.

Somerset street is still there, and quite nice in the ice, as the cobbles drain well; only the gaps between them are icy.

Spring Hill, this hill calls out to the mountain bikers. Once you get past the fencing and Dove Street, there is a very steep and long flight of steps down to Kings Square. Were someone to organise an official MTB Downhill Event in the city, this would be the place. Space at the side to watch, a good finish location, and a lot of altitude to be lost, by turning it into motion.

The fabled Mountain Biker Boxing Day "Steps of Bristol" ride may have done this hill; we lack the specifics. It is nice to think they did.

Nugent Hill -the uphill

Good cycling route, as it has little through traffic, especially now that they added a physical build-out to back up the no-entry sign.

The road was closed with the ice; looks OK now.

For the Bastard Hills of North Bristol ride, the plan is to go partway up then cut left, descending down to the start of Ninetree hill. The alternative option would be up to the top, turn right to get to Cotham Brow, then descend Cotham Brow a bit before looping back towards 9-tree. That would add more suffering, but it would also add a right turn onto Cotham Brow, then another one off it.

We're trying to avoid both right turns -they make it trickier to manage a group of cyclists- and the main roads. The goal here is to have fun exploring the hills of Bristol, and it's less fun when you have a bus or a minicab driving six inches behind you getting impatient with the group. Here, by skimping on a bit of Nugent Hill, we avoid lots of traffic for only a bit of lost climbing. And that we will catch up on elsewhere.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

St Andrews Road Summit

Coming up from Richmond Road, this is surprisingly hard work.

We plan to do that, then loop round and descend St Andrews Road, that being the end of the Montpelier hill section. There are a few more that could be done, but you have to pace yourself for what is to come
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Monday, 28 December 2009

View from the top

This isn't on the itinerary for the Bastard Hills Ride, but it was checked out anyway for completeness.

What a lovely view on a winter afternoon. To appreciate it properly: climb up from the harbour first.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Granby Hill

Probably do this one as a downhill, walk over the footbridge to the far side of the A4 portway, en route to Bridge Valley Road

Steep. Visibility OK until this junction here. Cars pulling in from the Portway have to be moving fairly fast or something hits them from behind; they don't always expect cars to be coming down the hill as they turn in.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Clifton Vale

Committing Corner at the top, used to be pretty hairy at night before bike lights got decent.

Now the lighting has got better, but there are cars on both sides of the road, so it's trickier to get past things coming in the other direction.

Plan: downhill

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Its good for the constitution

Coming up from the left: Constitution Hill: 1 in 6 and long.

the right hand fork: Clifton Wood Road brings you out of Clifton Wood, on something steeper.

Which are the options here?
1) Constution Hill
2) Clifton Wood Road
3) Both?

To find out, meet at Picton Square Montpelier, 10:30 am, January 10, 2010.

Monday, 14 December 2009

St Michael's Hill - it's a bit of a bastard

Here is one of the climbs in the planned Bastard Hills of North Bristol event: St Michael's Hill.

Rest assured, it's a bastard.

If you haven't done it yet, get out and do it five or six times in a row. Turn round where it levels, off, by the zebra crossing, and descend.

It's a good descent too. This is the road someone was skiing down in February.
The current plan is to do it both directions, somehow.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Bastard Hills of North Bristol

Constitution. Brooks. Marlborough.St Michael's, Nine-Tree. A few words, words with no meaning, no emotion. But add "Hill" to the end of them and something happens. They get a meaning, they come with emotions. Pain, yes, but what else? Fear? Excitement? Anticipation.

A lot of people laugh at the idea of Bristol being a cycling city because of the hills. Why cycle there? It's all hilly!

We say the hills are what make it fun. Copenhagen? Flat. Amsterdam? Flat. London? Mostly flat. Bristol: hilly. Hills that give you a feeling of accomplishment when you get up them, hills that let you glide down them. The only time they aren't so much fun is on a windy evening, when you have to work to pedal down a hill into the rain, a descent you "earned" in the opposite direction in the morning. That is always a bit demoralizing.

It's time to come out and enjoy those hills. January 10, 2010 will be the inaugural Bristol Cycling Campaign's "Bastard Hills of North Bristol" ride. It's going to start in Montpelier, warm up there -Brooks Hill, perhaps, before crossing over to Kingsdown, and so tick off Nine-Tree Hill, Marlborough Hill, St Michael's Hill, one or two others.

Then we'll descend right from the top of St Michael's Hill down to the city centre, try to grab a snack, then it's up Park Street.

Why Park Street? It's the way to Cliftonwood, of course -and the hills there, starting with the one in six gradient climb that is Constitution Hill, and exploring a few more between the harbour and Clifton. Finally: up Bridge Valley Road to finish at the Downs, at the watertower. From there: every way home is downhill.

If you don't like your hills, this is not the ride for you. But if you do like your roads sloping, if you want to go up something steep, turn and go down something equally steep, this will be a fun day going up and down what is known to geologists as the Clifton/Kingsdown escarpment.

  1. It's not a race. We'll regroup at the top of each hill, and aim to enjoy it.
  2. Fix your bike up. Brakes and low gears. Or low "gear", if your bike is singlespeed.
  3. Work on your hills. One or two. This won't be a distance ride, but you will be working hard for half the ride. Unless you are a fixie rider, in which case you are going to be working hard all the way.
  4. Avoid putting on weight over Christmas. You can't improve your power output in a few weeks, but you can at least avoid making you power to weight ratio worse by going for the extra helpings of brandy butter with your Christmas pudding.
  5. Make sure your Bristol Cycling Campaign membership is up to date. The new CTC ride insurance is strict about the number of non-members allowed, and this is going to be a busy ride. You can always join on the day, just turn up early.

Because the ride is all in town, it isn't going to be that committing. You can push your bike up -and you won't be alone if you do. If you decide partway through that you'd rather pootle home on the flat, just tell the ride leaders before you back off. Of course, we'd rather you continued to the end, to say "I did it!"

If this event turns out well, we will try and make it an annual event. Also, we could plan another ride, later in the year, where you can enjoy other words that go well with "Hill": Windmill, Rownham, Dundry, along with Vale Street, Totterdown. Yes, South Bristol has its Bastard Hills too.

The Bastard Hills of North Bristol ride begins at 10:30 am from Picton Square/The Thali Cafe Montpelier, on Sunday January 10, 2010.

Start preparing now!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Why cycle round Bristol?

You can drive round the city, if you like sitting in traffic jams, and paying lots for the privilege. If you commute between S. Gloucester and the city centre, you are paying 40 pounds a month or more in fuel alone. Leave the car at home for a month, and that is now saved money.

You could get a bus, but if you have to rely on FirstBus for your bus service, well, you are paying enough to afford a new bicycle ever year.

You can walk, if you live close to where you are going. But it is slow -because you are going at walking pace. On a bike, you can nip out to the shops, buy fresh bread for breakfast and be home almost before the kettle's finished boiling.

You could get a train -these are fast and can have predictable journey times. Funnily enough, bike and train go together very well for longer distances, but in Bristol, there isn't enough of a suburban train system for it to be that useful. Some people do mix train and bike for their commutes, and very happy they are too.

If you commute by car, that thirty to sixty minutes of every day spent sitting in a traffic jam, or sitting at the lights staring at the cars from the other half of the junction that are now blocking the no-blocking part of the junction you cannot enter yourself is a waste of time and money. And it is not exercise, so you need to find a different time of day to get fit, or get used to being unfit and unhealthy. Once you get to work -or to be precise, get near work, you have to start circling round the "secret" roads you've learned about, where there may just be somewhere to park if you are patient enough. Then there is the ten to fifteen minute walk from the parking space to your place at work. And if that secret parking space you have found is not quite legal -it's blocking a dropped kerb, partially blocking a driveway, on a wide piece of pavement- you are left wondering if today you get a ticket -or worse, a towing.

If you have to do the school-run, you are not merely driving your children round the city, getting them used to sitting in traffic jams as a start to the day, you are doing at what is the worst possible time to drive across Bristol. Because every other parent driving their kids to school is also trying to cross the city to arrive slightly before the school day starts, usually 8:45 or 9 am. When you get to the school, you are left trying to find somewhere to park that hasn't been occupied by other parents, then rush the kids in to the playground, casting an eye back to see if today is the one day per term when the traffic wardens issue tickets outside the school. Then it is out of the playground, and into the commute to work. As this is at exactly the same time as every other parent driver in the city is trying to get home or to work, the traffic jam you are now in is even worse than the one to school

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Welcome to Bristol by Bicycle!

Welcome to the Bristol by Bicycle blog, bristolbybike for short.

It aims to be an ongoing blog/feed of cycling events in the city, including work-in-progress content of a new guide to cycling in the city that is being put together by the Bristol Cycling Campaign.

Not: politics -go to Bristol Blogger or Green Bristol Blog
Not: satire or criticism of car drivers: go to Bristol Traffic
Not: photos of cyclists in the city -go to Bristol Cycling Chic

This is advice, and upbeat pro-cycling articles. Usually.