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Two day ride-Reading to Chepstow

10 Aug 2021
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Our aim was for my son to experience a two day ride for the first time and to try his new touring bike on a slightly challenging route to iron out any issues with the bike and to determine what the bike was capable of. 

We decided on the route as it was one I have done before all be it on a hybrid with 26" wheels and knobbly tyres, this trip we are both on road bikes with 700C x28C tyres (one bike with Armadillo and one with Schwalbe Marathon tyres) the route uses the NCN 4 and the Kennet and Avon Canal tow path.

The photos give a good idea of the type of surfaces we encountered. Both bikes struggled on the wet grass and mud, and we both had several low speed falls due to wheels slipping out. In retrospect we felt some of the tracks (mud and grass) would have been really difficult if the weather had been any wetter. I did a lot of research prior to revisiting this route, some sections look possible on  bikes but I believe they are only possible safely on mountain bikes. We found the canal tow path far too slippery in the sections which the NCN route 4 moves away from (for good reason). In dry conditions some of these sections are passible on a road bike but it compromised our average speed to between 5-7 mph. Saying this we did manage some of them but decided due to the heavy thunder storms we were riding in and the loaded up bikes we headed more for the local roads on the NCN4 route.

We split our route into a 50 mile first day and 70 mile second day mainly due to the type of surface we were riding on. Day 2 was easier as from Devizes to Bath the canal path is much better although there are some roots causing uneven paths again causing slower progress. Saying that its such a pretty route it was nice not rushing through too quickly.

Route summary-

Reading to Newbury - some muddy and grass paths but these are short sections.

Newbury to Hungerford -bumpy canal path, muddy best follow the NCN4.

Hungerford to Devizes- follow the NCN4 -pleasant B roads, bit exposed in places if weather is bad.

Devizes to Bath- easier canal path most of way.

Bath to Bristol- good tarmac off road cycleway along route of old railway.

Bristol to Chepstow -good route via NCN 41 and back on 4 -Avon mouth gorge can be done either south of river (off road type path) or north side on cycle path. -Stay north if very wet as south side floods.

In summary -Yes the route is ok for road bikes but good tyres and care essential particularly in bad weather.

We had great two days.


Mon 2 Oct 2023, 12:18

I've just completed the London to Bristol on Sustrans NCN4 over three days and it was a fab ride.  First day was Thames Path, then picked up this Kennet & Avon canal path route between Reading and Bath and then the Bristol & Bath railway path through to Bristol Temple Meads station.   I used a hybrid bike and it was fine although I was at the end of September when we hadn't had too much rain so although there were a couple of slippery places it was ok for me - but I can see how you would be better off with a mountain bike in the wetter muddier months.  And wider tyres would of course be more comfortable on the gravel bumpy parts of the towpath but not so quick on the tarmac.  

Mark's post and pictures above do give a good idea to the reader of the types of surfaces.  A lot of rough gravel paths, the stretch between Devizes and Bradford on Avon is quite uneven and pot-holey and therefore loads of muddy puddles as we had some rain overnight.    Between Reading and Newbury it was quite a narrow path with lots of nettles so I wished I had worn long trousers!   I stayed true to NCN4 so went off every now and again onto country lanes which were lovely.  The Caen Hill locks at Devizes and the aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas are stunning feats of engineering.   Scenery along the whole way was simply fabulous.  Would definitely recommend this ride its really super.   Pubs and tea shops along the way for refreshments, as well, of course as towns - Staines, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Bath, Bristol.