I’m back to riding a lot after the Christmas break, and it feels great! My experimentation with the cyclocross season ended well, and I’m hooked for life on that sport. It left me confused on fitness and motivation levels though. By the beginning of December I’d lost the sharp speed I needed for cross season, and had no motivation for longer rides. I tried a couple times to get back into it with some two hour jaunts in the rain, but I wasn’t feeling it. I had to walk away for a while.
Reading over some old blog posts, I realised I had felt pretty similar at the same time last year, and the cure had been a really good rest. With the new year ticking around, the rain relenting, and renewed vigour, I finally had all the pieces in place to ride properly. No more motivational speeches to myself, no more ‘why am I doing this?’ in the back on my mind, finally I was riding because that’s what I wanted to do. I’m happiest when I’m riding. Just ask anyone who knows me how grumpy I am when I haven’t had any exercise!
This week I had the pleasure of a riding companion. Rob (/) is an Exmoor local who has ridden more miles around here than almost anyone else. I’m excellent at the off-road topography, but his knowledge of every road name, every connector, and the gradient profile of each climb was excellent. After I contacted him out the blue, he planned a long route on Saturday, and we headed off for a full day. I knew I was in trouble when he turned up on a road bike. The silent whoosh of his tyres along the road amplified the buzz coming off of mine. I’d told him I wanted a hard ride though, and that’s what we both got.
We headed up and away from the coast towards the high ridge separating Exmoor from the rest of Devon; the boundary between rough moorland and the productive and fertile farmland to the south. We managed to find the clouds and mist, even on a relatively clear day. The view south, which can stretch over 50 miles, was shorter today but still wonderful to look over the rolling green hills. We dipped down into Dulverton, a market town on the southern end of the National Park, then climbed back up within sight of the coast. From there down to Porlock is an undulating descent through well kept farmland and pretty little villages. This area in the summer is prime tourist land, and it was a relief to see many more horses and cyclists than cars. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that many cyclists out on Exmoor as I did today.
I’m sure Rob had intentionally included the longest climb on the Moor on our first ride. I wasn’t perturbed though; it’s a beautiful road, winding through a couple hidden valleys before skirting around Dunkery beacon. After a month of non stop rain, I couldn’t help but enjoy the uninterrupted views across the Bristol channel, even as far as Wales.
From there it was a fast ride west, back towards Lynton and Combe Martin. Rob’s road tyres came in useful for both of us; for him it meant cruising along at 18 mph, for me it meant unashamed wheel-sucking and enjoying the draft. I hate riding alone.
I’d aimed for four hours on the bike, but realistically knew it was going to be further. After parting ways with Rob in Barbrook, I ate my Emergency chocolate rations (few people know this, but I rarely ride without chocolate in my pocket!) and rolled home to Combe Martin. I felt really good. Refreshed. I was expecting to be completely worked over, but I felt the opposite. Sometimes what you need is exactly what you think you don’t need.
Lovely weekend on Exmoor!