This trip was more of a challenge for us to see if we could do it, as the route was tough – more than 425km long and 5,300m climbs – all with around 35kg of luggage on our trusted mountain bikes.
A few days before we left it was touch and go if we would be okay or not. Mels knee isn’t right and the hospital still have no idea what is wrong with it. They said exercise is okay and cycling is okay so, err, this trip should be fine! However we had little time to practice and a week before we did a challenging ride and Mels knee went black and was sore. So really was 50/50 if we’d be able to go. However we decided to give it a go but just go slow and steady and if we need to come back by train them so be it. At least we’ll try.
The journey began at 630am which is a stupid time but we needed to get to Westbury station for our train with a bit of contingency in case if punctures. Fortunately no problems and we made it and got the direct train to Penzance. Thanks to the stroppy station worker who refused to give us time to tie our bikes in meaning they were on the floor by the time we got there. Fortunately no damage.
The train journey was simple enough and once we escaped, the ride to our first campsite was short and sweet and hilly. No doubt a word we’ll use a lot! After pitching we decided to head to lands end with unladen bikes to make it a bit easier, have a look round and took a photo, then headed back for tea. Overnight we had very heavy rain and wind so barely slept. But the new tent stayed dry and grounded and by the time we got up the wind had dried it off.
The first real days riding of 38 miles (minus the 5 from lands end we did the previous night) took us to just outside Truro. The weather forecast was heavy rain but luckily we had just a sprinkling and a strong tail wind. A nice pretty ride along the coast and inland through farmland. Very hilly and a really tough ride. The lack of training showed but we made it. Scared for following days… Though now, technically, we’ve had a days worth of training!
Day 2 is one of the toughest days on our schedule. So fortunately we had a good nights sleep and were fresh to go. Apart from our legs that were heavy. The second days riding was 44 miles to a campsite just past Looe. This was a very tough and hilly ride which showed as we left at 10 and didn’t set up camp till 1830! This did include tea in Looe though but shows how the hills just slow us down. The 35+kg or so of baggage is just too much for the hills. That said we have cycled them all and not walled at all so really pleased with that. The steepness of the hills show as I burnt or a set of brake pads! Fortunately I had a spate but then had to hunt out a shop for more spares. Good old OSMAnd application on the phone! The ride was reasonably pretty and required two ferry crossings which were fine.
Then d-day arrived which was about a 37 mile ride to Princetown at the top of Dartmoor. Blimey. This was a tough ride, lots of hills, and another ferry crossing into Plymouth which gave us a scare as it was signed as pedestrian only – but fortunately a quick google showed bikes were ok. The climb up Dartmoor was made a bit easier for Mel as we were overtaken by a stag do group of guys in drag – but just g strings and all sorts of kinky gear – and one with his nuts hanging out!
Weather has been kind which as Dartmoor could have been bleak, but we are very glad luck was on our side. We stayed at the plume of feathers campsite which was basic but the food was lovely-one of the best pies I’ve had for a long time. A real pie and not a stew with lid. Massive portion so we slept very well.The downhill from Dartmoor was easier than the way up but the days ride was hardly flat. Got a new max bike speed of 39.1mph which was a bit scary when laden and shaking oops but I needed the speed for the next hill which sadly vanished far too quickly.
We used the cycle way from Exeter to Exmouth which was reasonably nice apart from the weekend riders wobbling around or kids or dogs lose and almost causing accidents. Grrrr. But we made Exmouth in one piece and to a new premier inn which is actually rather good. Gave us a nice bath and opportunity to find and fix a puncture in one of our mattresses. And gave us a nice day of rest ready take for the final push home.
Our rest day was just that, pretty dull, short walk, and a few movies.
Technically, the ride from Exmouth to Ilminster is the toughest ride of the trip – the furthest and the biggest climes – so around 1,000m climb and 46 miles – so we were really pleased our legs had a day of rest. The weather forecast was heavy rain, but apart from a quick drizzle we were again very lucky. The route dropped down to some seaside resorts, like Sidmouth and Seaton, which meant large drops down and massive climbs out. But at least we were able to have a nice seaside drink and lunch in Axminster where we had lunch just as a downpour came, and once finished the sun was back out! Phew!
The Travel lodge in Ilminster was a bit average and a pain to get to, but it served a purpose.
The penultimate day was a 38 mile ride to Castle Cary – and on paper it wasn’t supposed to be a tough ride. However, it was tougher than it looked! By the time we got to the campsite we were knackered! I think the previous day wiped us out. The final day used a lot of cycleways, and ultimately dropped onto the canal near Bath – our home turf, so we just belted home.
Bit of a boring trip report, as all we did was cycle and eat, and barely had time to enjoy the views. That said, we did enjoy the views and the challenge, and the entire journey – despite it being tough. We also enjoyed the chocolates and sweets that sustained us!