When I started training for this ride, I spent most of my time riding the small roads – country lanes with little to no traffic. At some stage, the group I went riding with went to Evesham along the A46. This is a large dual carriage way, with loads of traffic. We rode about 30 miles on the verge, and I discovered two things – one is that it’s a noisy, unpleasant experience. The other is that it makes the ride easy – what hills there are are smoothed out to be easily negotiated. I did a few more rides along this road, and each time I appreciated the ease of riding a bit more, and noticed the noise a bit less.
Today, though, after 100 miles of riding on the A30, I’d had enough. It was fast, and quick, and by and large, smooth, but as we headed out of Okehampton on a B-road, the silence, and the view, and atmosphere of being back out in the countryside was overwhelming. At last, I relaxed and really enjoyed the last 30 miles. And the Devon countryside is absolutely stunning. There’s a section of the A3072 heading towards Crediton where you’re on the top of a ridge – with views for miles on both sides of the road. Sorry, Cornwall – you may have the beaches and the coastline, but you’re trumped on the sheer beauty of the Devonshire countryside.
I was slightly biased towards Devon right from the start, though. From Bodmin onwards, there’s a series of hills – nothing too drastic, but enough to make you feel as though Cornwall is trying to prevent you from leaving. Then you see a “Welcome to Devon” sign, and there are miles and miles of slow rolling downhills. Lovely. Later, though, there was a hill that we jokingly referred to as “the never ending hill” leading up to Okehampton. That joke came back to bite us later, though. Around 8 miles outside of Tiverton, a hill starts. It lasts for exactly 2 miles, and it’s steep. I’d always been a bit proud of the fact that I’d never needed to go down to my lowest gear. No longer can I make that claim – I spent most of those two miles in that gear. I was absolutely finished at the top. But around four miles of downhill sorted that out ok. There was one sweet moment, coming in to Bickleigh, where the speed limit changes from 40 to 30, and I had to slow down to comply.
Dan and I managed to get through in around 4 hours 40 minutes, but the others weren’t so lucky – in between problems with chains slipping, and kerbs being in the wrong place, an eventful day was had, resulting in them coming in about 90 minutes later.
Oh yes, here’s the map.