Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Dartmoor Hail Ride

A long-since arranged weekend staying with family in Somerset happily coincided with a later-planned Combe Raiders ride on Dartmoor.  Still trying to build up a bit of bike fitness and always keen to explore new places (my only other visit to Dartmoor was on the way back from Cornwall and consisted mostly of Devonshire Cream Teas and a short stroll), I was looking forward to what promised to be a full day of riding.

When we turned up at the meeting point it transpired that the leader of the ride had some sort of horse-related emergency at home and wouldn't be making it along.  As I was the one that had found the gpx of the route described in a local guide book, Muggins Me ended up leading the ride.  It worked out reasonable well - with aonly three or four quickly corrected misdirections; no eight kilometre detour this time, as on the last CR ride.  It was a little difficult to set a good pace on the only singlespeed in the group - as there are really only two speeds with such a bike: walk & whatever-the-legs-are-capable-of-at-that-instant.  With a lot of decent climbs I think everyone walked more than they should have with gears as I was quick to get off & push when 32:16 just became a waste of energy with diminishing returns.

Enough of that, we had a thirty-two kilometre loop to look forward to as the sunshine & cloud quickly alternated on what was not too cold a morning.   We started off with a big gravel track descent before following a river upstream briefly and then being hit with a big climb out of the valley.  Things flattened out a bit as we had our longest stretch of country roads.  As the seal ended it was time for the first of many well-earned snack stops - most of which were taken hidden behind big stone walls.

Still smiling at the first stop in the relative dry.
Through a monster puddle, a brief coats on or coats off stop, through a farm yard and it was straight into the second proper big climb of the day.  This one was past some old open mine shafts - which I'm guessing were for tin way back when.  As we were starting to get towards moorland proper this climb was not on such a firm surface and strangely as we got near the top the grass got wetter and wetter - as did our feet.

There was another great big stone wall to hide from the wind behind as we ate again - this time almost mobbed by rather inquisitive sheep ("heard of chickens?" - sorry small NZ in-joke).
The view opened up a bit over to where we started from.
On to some more moor-like terrain.
The sun is sort of out - for now.
With a fun, but sodden downhill we were at our furtherest point and after I ummed & ahhed a bit of where the trail actually went and my rear wheel fell out of its stays (QR bent, I may have over tensioned my chain a bit) we found the sweetest bit of singletrack that we had encountered up to that point.  Which was just as well as that little bit (more than forty-five minutes) wasn't in the book - but was on the trail I had found online.

As we climbed up to Grimspound the clouds rolled in and then all of a sudden the temperature dropped and the hail slowly started.  Up on the ridge it really started pelting us and it was amusing (for me at least, as I was sufficiently protected) to hear yelps of pain as various riders' ears were struck with the little balls of ice.  Due to it not being too cold, it was quite good fun riding through a hail storm.

The ridge top was a lot longer than we were hoping.
With the hail returning we hid under some trees for more food - with no leaves on, the trees weren't all that much use for shelter.

Just before Hound Tor, we stopped in the relative calm at the Hound of the Basket Meals food van for welcome hot chocolates and tea.  The hail started again as we rode up to Hound Tor and most of us had at least one part of our extremities that were proper cold - for me it was my feet from all the walking across wet ground.  Dropping off the back there was a nice technical (considering the not-quite-peak-state-of-alertness most of us were in) descent before the climb back to a short section of road.

Half the group took a shortcut back to the cars as they were keen to get back for the rugby - I was quite happy that the other half had enough left for the last four kilometres of the route.  The first part of that was very singlespeed friendly terrain - somehow I was still at the front and I enjoyed using up some of the energy I'd held in reserve through a nice reasonably-flowing quick bit of trail before we plunged down to the river and then back up to the car.  By then I'd well warmed up again, but pleased of course to get the wet clothes off & put dry ones on.

That was a great introduction to the so-called wilds of Dartmoor and there wasn't a part of that wet, not too cold overall ride when I wasn't enjoying myself.

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