After bailing on Todd before the last night ride I was quite excited for the Bristol to Exmouth night ride. We had all trains booked, nothing left to fate (but the ambiguous ride directions) and even allowed ourselves a few hours in Bristol to check the place out.
The great weather for a Saturday afternoon pushed the whole city outside so it was tough to find a pub with outdoor seating for dinner but after doing a few laps of the nicer areas of Bristol we found a pub that happened to serve a great burger. Being a relaxed ride, it'd be rude not to have a drink too.
After dinner we headed down to the pub where the ride started to take a look at all the flouro-yellow jacket wearing old men who have been riding fold up bikes and recumbents since before we were born. I think some of the t-shirts we saw were also from before we were born. Social bike rides really do attract a weird crowd. 20 minutes after making ourselves comfortable in the beer garden we noticed a man climb out of a hammock he had set up in the trees, fold it up into the 60kg worth of luggage he had attached to his bike and get ready for the ride. A few hours earlier we met 2 girls who had just ridden to Paris and they had less luggage than this guy. If he wasn't riding around the world then I'm not interested. Finally, it was time to get started.
We waited for the biggest group to depart and hung on to the back of them. Surely they're locals and have experience in deciphering these hieroglyphic directions. First roundabout: 25 dudes asking which way we turn. At least it was all light hearted and pretty funny. Todd and I got into a nice rhythm with a big pack until we got out of Bristol and then jumped between packs depending on how we felt. This continued nicely for a few hours and while sitting in, possibly the largest pack of the night, Todd's drink bottle cage fell off his bike with a clang! We stopped to pick it up and lost the pack but this was the fun part- in the middle of nowhere with some strange directions we made our own way.
I think the highlight of the night was the first stop at around 102kms in Cheddar Gorge. We knew there would be a nice downhill leading into this but didn't realise there would be sweeping bends on smooth roads. We flew down there as fast as we could but were limited by a few over-cautious riders. For the rest of the night there were ebbs and flows of energy, excitement and disdain over the terrain, and a mix of interesting and strange people to chat to. My mega powerful light from Exposure was incredible and on a mixture of settings it ran all night.
After one last food stop at sunrise, the roll into Exmouth was nice but very quiet and with such a crap finishing point it was almost an anti-climax. I think Todd and I were quite happy with ourselves but too tired to consider it!
The train home was like a kindergarten in the Wonka Factory but a bottle of water and a beer preceded us both passing out. Back in London we were a little more jovial and had a few celebratory drinks at a quiet pub in the sunshine before canning it all and crashing out early.
I'd definitely recommend the ride to anyone, despite a 200km night. Take plenty of food, take some friends, take your time and you'll love it.