Bristol is a hilly city, it has lots of hills, in fact the steepest road in the UK is in Bristol. So, logically, to cycle or riding a bicycle around Bristol is hard work, or that was what I thought when we moved to Bristol; thus buying a bicycle was not a priority. However, to my surprise, there are lots of people cycling around the city, using it as a means of daily transport as well as leisure cycling within the inner city as well as around Bristol. More and more cycle routes were created to encourage people into cycling, especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic situation.
About 3 years ago I was intrigued to take up cycling again as a means of transport locally, plus having exercise at the same time. Growing up I was never a big cyclist, I guess it makes sense that I didn’t push myself to get a bicycle straight away after we arrived in UK. Not until my very kind neighbour gave me her mountain bike as an exchange for looking after her dog when she was away on holiday. That kicked me into being more adventurous with my exploration ideas, though I understand that riding a bike together with normal vehicle traffic means another level of cycling skill.
Not long after I was given my bicycle 😉 , Bristol had a cycling event, where I could try out my ‘new’ bike on the road. From then on I braved myself to cycle further… on proper cycle routes off-course. At the same time, I also learned there are lots routes designated for recreational bike rides around Bristol and other surrounding villages, towns, and even other cities.
Me, cycling again for the first time for more than 40 years ago
Having not being able to gallivant around the world (which I haven’t done for more than 2 years now), my interest now is more of traveling locally within UK. However, since early this year, even traveling within the UK was banned because of lockdown. So one has to be creative; to travel doesn’t mean you need to go abroad, or stay overnight somewhere. A day trip is good enough!
Sustrans is the non profit organisation who claim that they are the custodians of the National Cycle Network; using old railway paths and tow paths along canals and sometimes less traveled roads, the network of traffic-free paths is now UK-wide and for everyone, connecting cities, towns and countryside, loved by the communities they serve. I think this is a wonderful facility for cyclists and pedestrians.
There are plenty of cycling routes that connect Bristol with its surrounding areas, and unlike cycling within the city of Bristol which have a lot of hills and up and down routes, once we are outside of Bristol, mostly the travel was flat, especially when the route is using an old railway track or towpath along a canal.
Bristol – Pill
I had been cycling to the surrounding towns of Bristol on and off now and the most regular one was Bristol to Pill, a little fishing town at the mouth of River Avon, west from Bristol. It’s not too far, only 6.5 miles or total 13 miles visa versa. Starting point should be the Millenium Square, by the Ibis Hotel, and within 5 minutes cycling we are sort of in the Bristol country side, with lots of interesting views.
The route was following NCN 3, a little bit of 33 and then all the way with RCN 41 along the River Avon to Pill. This track is only max. 3 meters wide, sometimes they have an off road surface, but most of the time they are tarmac, if not covered with compacted gravel. Its not really an off road trail, one can bike with a normal hybrid type of bicycle, but I wouldn’t suggest to ride with your nice city Brompton bike.
“Better by Bike” is another nonprofit organisation in South West England that teaches you how to improve your road skills and understand what to do and the etiquette on the open road for cyclists. It has a lot of cycling routes and trails around Bristol that you can follow; however, the above map is my routine route which is not on their set route.