OK, so you’re going for a ride. How far? How fast? Your call, but to some extent out of your hands. Blame the weather, the hills, your lack of training. But how direct? Just A to B? Round trip? Stopping off on the way, stopping as little as possible, stopping to smell the roses? Here’s a little tale about joining two points by the least efficient way I could find.
RIDE ALL THE ROADS!
Directions? Or invitations?
It depends on why you’re riding. Dropping a letter off at the postbox? Shopping? Or out for the day? Your agenda, your goals and your motivation will all be different, so your choice of route, and riding style will follow. Yup, I commute to work by the most direct route possible, as it’s not cycling for fun as such (though I far prefer cycling to walking.) But even when I’m touring I’m going to set my route depending on what I want to see in a day, how hard a day’s ride I want or can manage, what the terrain is like, and where I plan to sleep that night. It could be forced upon me if the nearest hostel or B&B is 60 miles away by the most direct (A-road) route – in which case I’d probably have to limit what I want to see en route, and not hang about too much. But once in a while, and in fact the more often the better, it really pays to be able to take the least direct route between where you are and where you want to get to. Welcome to the world of exploring by bike.
Allerford, just east of Porlock – and just off the beaten track.
In February-March 2012 I took a week riding around the West Country, hugging the coast as far as possible from North Somerset to mid-Cornwall and, as is common for my cycle trips, trying to discover something of the area I was cycling through rather than just ticking off the roads I’d covered and occasionally noting a view or two as I passed by. I was starting in Exmoor, so this was obviously somewhere to investigate further, but I’d never cycled in Devon before and some of the Cornish fishing villages were also on my ‘to do’ list. I also wanted to check out a few hill climbs en route, and visit a few other spots that I’d passed through but not had the chance to stop and visit with enough time in hand to do them justice. So much for the ‘holiday’! But where other folks come back from their Mediterranean Sun-and-sand break fatter, poorer, sunburnt and hungover, I couldn’t spend a week on a beach all day and in a bar all night – I go and explore somewhere, breathe clean air, learn about a place, and come back leaner, fitter, tanned and refreshed, and with a cameraful of photos, a bunch of postcards and a memory bank full of the places I’ve visited. I’ve covered a pretty impressive amount of the UK this way over the years. But never mind the acreage of the UK I’ve seen, the chance to do so on minor roads, with time to see sights that the A-roads you’d choose by car would never reveal, is really what makes trips and tours like mine special.
Doone country.. The Oare Valley
More about my Exmoor to Truro ride… (next page)