Monday, March 4, 2013

Exmoor ride - a three year late return

With February completely devoid of blog posts, it would easy to say that not much really happened.  No travelling & no mountain-biking due to the persistently wet weather & soaking trails in the Forest.  As it turned out, it was just as well I planned very little as all of a sudden I ended up moving house (other end of the village with more living space, bike storage in the garage, fewer flatmates and a lot more conducive to sleep - a slightly longer ride to work, but that's good) and then my car comprehensively failed its annual inspection and I had to find another in a hurry (unfortunately using money I was setting aside for a new bike & bikepacking gear).

So with March rolling around, I was all too pleased to get away to Somerset and a ride on Exmoor.  It having been much too long since my last visit on a memorably bleak, wet & freezing New Year rideI was pleased to be back in one of England's smallest national parks.  My first ride here was on vacation in 2008 when I left Mum at her cousin's & hightailed it down to Taunton for the first of many visits.

Apparently it was a warmer weekend back at home, but it definitely wasn't in Somerset - grey skies and the mercury just breaking freezing made for extra layers at the start of the ride, as it happens they stayed on the whole way around.  With the brakes still squealing like a stuck pig on my 1x9, I was single-speeding again - generally not so bad, but there were a few hills that I had to walk part of the way up.  The eight kilometre detour on the road after a missed turning didn't particularly help.  The ride proper was mostly bridleways, crossing fields and a little bit of singletrack and linking road - a good mix with ample variation.
The furtherest part of the 8 km detour.
Considering there were only four of us, we astonishingly managed to extend three hours of riding (37 km) in to a six and a half hour outing!  There were four punctures - I found mine just after Richard had finished fixing the first of his three, a coffee stop (sausage roll for me), and a delightful lunch at a guesthouse - the local corned beef, large slabs of delicious Exmoor blue cheese, ales and pickled shallots made for quite the ploughman's lunch.  Additionally, we had the dining room to ourselves so the banter and broad put-on West Country accents could keep flowing without disturbing those in the village there to look at the carpets of recently blooming snowdrops.
John heading off to take photos
Richard fixing his first flat under the watchful eye of a large & menacing flock - menacing if you've seen Black Sheep, that is.
D trying to make a poor choice of photo location more interesting than it was.
The only advantage of being out so long was that the day eventually cleared.
Not having been offroad for seven weeks I was pleased with how my legs stood up to the punishment that 32:16 hands out after a few hills and a long day in the saddle.  Strangely, up one particularly steep grunt of a climb my chain slipped off as I stood on the pedals (bashed my knee good & proper on the crown of my fork) - I shall have to shorten the chain by a couple of links and bring the eccentric bottom bracket back around a long way. I'm looking forward to Dartmoor with the same friends & a few others in a fortnight's time.

Back to John & Anna's for the night - entertaining the twins (three year old Esther & Lydia), a good film, an excuse to cook wonderfully unhealthy French toast & bacon for Sunday breakfast and best of all teaching the girls to ride a pedal bike. Such delight & excitement manifesting itself on faces - & that was just John & Anna! By the time we were all worn out, as well as riding unaided in lines of varying straightness - there was also proper steering and braking action going on. Much fun had by all - even me who was just running up & down the sidewalk/footpath entertaining the alternating bike-less child. A great return to weekends of going places & doing things - just as well, because that's the first of eleven (at least) in a row.

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