Or, for those who know me, perhaps it was exactly as expected?!
If you read the 'ride prep blog' then you've got a rough idea of all the bits and pieces that I took. The astute amongst you will note further on that the neat and tidy seat-pack system was replaced with a cumbersome and slightly heavy rack. Not Ti. Not even skinny steel, but a big lump of aluminium, plastic, and paint.
Why, you may ask, did I choose the rack? It was because I took too much stuff. Far too much stuff... read on for the full ride report and to hear me moan about how I took too much stuff...
I made the concious decision to swap the 8l seatpack for a 13l drybag strapped to a rack.. this was mainly because I was fretting where to keep my spare gloves (didn't use them) , or where to store my book (ME...A BOOK...didn't read it..), and where to keep the solar charger (didn't work).
I'd also opted for the Alpkit Fuel pod, which was actually brilliant for keeping the camera and snacks to hand.
With everything all strapped up and affixed to the bike, my svelte Ti beauty was now coming in at a portly 40lb (18.14kg)! That's about 18lb (8.16kg) worth of luggage and contents - actually quite a small amount given that in reading up about cycle touring and the like, a lot of web bloggers were fretting about the reaching 30kg limit of just their rear racks. I suppose, however, if you were heading further away from civilisation (up North, for example) then you'd need to carry more food, locks, immunisations etc etc..
(speaking of locks, I picked up a really tiny and quick to use cable lock from South Downs Bikes, similar to this - yes, someone with a pair of pliers will be able to snip through in seconds, but the ability to lock the bike up when nipping into a shop/loo, and not have someone simply ride the thing away, was great. It's very lightweight too - I'd thoroughly recommend it!)
This would put me in good stead for a busy afternoon of sitting on a train for five hours...
When the time had come, I had a quick check for phone, purse, and train tickets, then kissed the wife and child goodbye and cycled to the station...
The final train had the bike carriage separate to the passenger compartment, right at the rear of the train. This was 'unnerving' for 2 reasons
- I was really thirsty and hungry and had left my bottles and snacks on the bike.
- I'd also left my Exposure Joystick, Garmin 800, and Carbon pump on the bike.
My first night's sleepover was planned in a wooded area a few miles out of Plymouth; Cann Woods:
My route from the station took me over the river, along some neat gravel paths, and through Saltram Park.
It was whilst cycling through here with my headtorch scanning the surrounding area that shone light on a really cool looking structure! I had no idea what it was, but it looked pretty spectacular for a bivi spot, and had a cracking view over the river Plym.
I strung the tarp up (fairly loosely) between some scaffold that seemed to be holding the thing upright, settled the airbed down, and heated up some water to cook my tea - cous cous and chicken tika!
(You'll note cous cous is a big feature of my camping meals - lightweight and easy to cook - winner..)
I had a good breakfast of a cuppa-porridge with banana, and some coffee. The plan for the breakfasts was always to heat the water in my Ti mug, and use half for coffee in a plastic cup (crappy instant coffee, I'm embarrassed to say) and use the remainder in the mug with a porridge sachet. I'd previously used the instant porridges that come in a plastic pot, but why carry a pot mostly full of air, when a small sachet will suffice! Great little things, and will get more when they are on offer.
The riding started at about 8am, heading North out of Saltram park and joining the route 2 at Chaddlewood. The first part was continuing on the gravel tracks through the park, then it was road road road...
Not cold as such, just a bit damp and 'meh'...
The signs for the NCN Route 2, as well as the Garmin 800, were keeping me on track.
I carried on past South Brent and then turned South towards Dartington and Totnes. So far I was about 20 miles in and the bike was handling fine;nothing had fallen off so far!
There was a nice little section here specifically for the NCN route - taking me away from the (lightly filled) roads.
It's signed as a footpath, but IS actually part of the cycle route (there's NCN2 signs along it..)
Imagine my surprise when I cycled past here...! (for reference; I'm married to "Miss Parkdean Torquay 2004 (ish)"
I knew this day would be quite hilly compared to the last leg of the journey, but me and the Tripster were managing just fine! My game plan for rides like this is to "keep eating like a pig, drinking like a camel, and wee when you need to". I was sticking to my plan a treat, with numerous filling up and emptying off stops along the way.
Coming up by Teignmouth there were some great views of the water, and crossing the river was really pretty too!
Looking at the elevation profile on the GPS I knew that it was going to be flat as the route traversed along the mouth of the River Exe (aptly named, Exmouth...), so I happily gave a boost of energy climbing up and over and through Dawlish.
...however, as you can see from this picture taken at Woodbury Common, I'd got there in pretty good time. Hmmm..
called an urgent meeting and decided to simply plod on and see how far I got until the sun set!
[Actually, I'll be honest (as probably no-one's listening...). As daft as it may sound, and bearing in mind I had only been away from home for 23.5 hours (I got the 1430 train yesterday) - I was getting homesick!! It's funny because cycling is one of those great activities that you can really push yourself on, getting hot, sweaty, and tired, but actually, for the most part, it's not really 'that hard' in the sense that anyone can do it and to ride a bike is a fairly basic process.
What this affords, particularly if you're out on your own, is a lot of thinking time.
I originally thought that I would be 'mr cool and chilled out' and be all trendy and sit and read a book whilst chewing a blade of grass and looking all sophisticated in a cafe with my cycling cap on...but actually I just realised that whilst I love riding my bike (which I really do), the thought of being away from home, ON MY OWN, with no crazy little boy to play with (I'm talking about my son, BTW...weirdos) or wife to chat to, was actually getting to me.
I missed my family.
I'll reiterate - I'd been away for less than a day and my task was complete - I'd 'found myself' and realised how much I appreciate my family (yeah, lame...).
So now I had a new challenge..to get home ASAP! This I could do!!!
A little bit of mental maths (or if you're American - maths. Just because you're American, you still need an 'S') I realised that if I pedalled 'loads' today, and even more 'loads' tomorrow, I could get home late on Tuesday, rather than late on Wednesday!
Rather than go by mileage, I'd simply ride as far as I could before the sun came down.
Bonkers I know, but hey ho let's go....]
So I carried on out of the woods near Woodbury common, and on towards Otterton and Sidmouth.
Here's the profile on the GPS - I'm grateful I'm approaching it from 'left to right'!
Coming out of Sidmouth there was a rather nasty climb..however, just before that there was a small ford crossing with a sign "no bicycles". Immediately I saw this as an invitation to challenge, and consulted with a trio of octogenarians taking the footbridge across. They all thought it would be a laugh for me to cross it, and one even offered to take photos (after I asked him). I briefly instructed him how to use a simple digital camera ("This screen shows what you are taking a photo of. This button takes the photo" etc etc).
Here are the results...
Anyway, after thanking him for his first efforts and showing him again, here are the results.
Not the drink, the place.
It was pretty cool having ridden here from Plymouth, and I remembered some of the lanes we'd driven down years before, passing almost familiar pubs!
Once I'd dropped right down to Seaton sea front, I thought I may as well re-live the experience and I got fish and chips from the chippie we'd used before!
I was still feeling strong, so plodded on!
The hills from Seaton through Colyford to Axminster weren't too bad, but then there was a giant of a climb out of Axminster up towards 'Raymond's hill'. Raymond - I despise you and your hill....
The villages were getting more 'Dorset' now, the roads were narrowing more consistently, and the sun seemed to be coming down..
As luck would have it, just before Bridport, I saw a gate with a sign saying "Dotter Reservoir" - a water company plot of land, with a raised 'mound' (with I imagine, water in it?) and a small concrete building I could hide behind - perfect!
I lifted the bike over, climbed the fence, and settled in for the evening..disaster had struck, in that my solar charger had eeked very little energy from the lame sun, so none of my gizmos could be charged... i'd be stuck without my GPS, so decided to make 'first contact' with some locals. Thankfully, with me explaining "hi, I'm cycling from Plymouth to Worthing, and am sleeping rough over there, could you charge my GPS and smartphone please" they were all too obliging!
It was fun waking at 3am hungry, but some pork pies, and cold fish and chips soon had me back to sleep.
I realised the concrete building at the reservoir also had a built in kitchen..
At just past 8am I headed off again.
I was also looking forward to today as I knew that once I'd climbed up and over Hardy's monument, it was pretty much downhill today!! (2600m climbing in 100 miles yesterday, just over 1000m climbing in 150 miles today says a lot).
The route through Bridport and the Bredy's (little and long) were very pleasant (a word that really can describe Dorset to a tea!). From Bridport to Hardy's was about 20ish miles.
I giggled at the cock building..(this wasn't a high brow trip)
It was on this stretch of road I realised that the puncture I'd had the day previous had caused the tyre to seat really badly - it was like riding an egg and the more I thought about it the more the 'bump' was accentuated!
Thankfully I knew there was a bike shop in Dorchester that hopefully had some GT85 and a pump I could use to reseat the tyre!
At the top, by the monument, I snapped a few photos and had a few snacks before heading off safe in the knowledge that truly there were no more significant hills from here!
Although not 'technical and challenging', as you've seen a fair few of the miles on this trip were away from the tarmac, and best suited to a touring/gravel bike rather than a speed obsessed road-chariot.
I took a slight deviation as planned to pop into Dorchester Cycles for a chat to the mechanic, and for a quick spray of lube round my rim (fnar fnar) in order to seat my rubber properly (fnar fnar fnar...)
Carrying on from Dorch I sped through Moreton, refuelled at a garage in Wool, and carried on into the Purbecks.
As the paths through the heath were tight packed and fairly straight, I could pop onto the drops and speed my way through at about 18mph!
However, I forgot how long the road was (not that long, but not short. You know...) and by the time I'd sprinted to try to get the ferry, I was met with this:
After crossing the Ferryman's palm with gold (a pound) I'd battled the seas to make it out alive the other side.
The sun was out, the wind was behind me, and the seafront prom was beckoning me to blast along it.
At one point (read - "all points") I may have been exceeding the 10mph speed limit imposed on cyclists.
Once you enter the New Forest, there's a nice mix of straight flat roads, and straight gravel paths.
It's actually about 25 miles from entering the forest until you get to the Hythe Ferry - granted they aren't hard miles as the place is as flat as a cow pat, but I picked up another puncture and was starting to get a twinge of achilles tendinitis in the left heel again!
For those of you who've ever been on the pier, you'll laugh at the number of health and safety signs/statements/threats all the way along the thing! It's a wonder I made it to the end alive (though that may be due to my adherence to said signs perhaps?)
Skinny ol' me and my laden bike had little to offer in terms of counter balance, and we 'angled' our way across..
I was amazed at this section, as I was riding through some beautiful countryside, with stunning healthland and wetland views, and all the while only being a stone's throw from a major South Coast city! This is the sort of thing I love about trips by bike - you get to see parts of the country you would NEVER see in a journey by car!
Ferry number 4 was a fairly big one - it was nice to see plenty of cyclists dressed in suits/lycra etc all using it :-)
Actually, I'd got to the tiny ferry spit at about 1820, and rang the mobile number given there to 'call the ferry', only to be told he'd come across at ten to the hour..pants...
The sun was setting and it was getting a bit chilly just stood out on the water, exposed to the elements..
It's an old Specialized full sus bike with a slightly HeathRobinson- esque front wheel drive recumbent conversion... The chap was telling me about the need to flip the forks to alter the rake etc, otherwise it handles too sluggishly (or too twitchily - I can't remember!)
Both cyclists jumped off at the foot of Hayling island (is it an Island?) and the recumbent man bid me farewell..
The bike lights were on, and after cruising up the final gravel section of the route (the disused Hayling railway line) I snapped a few pictures of the view across the water...
Actually, just outside Havant I stopped at a service station and dropped about 8 quid on sweets, snacks, and milkshake - enough fuel to have me blasting my way back home along the 'old A27', through Chichester, along some pitch black country roads, across the swing bridge at Littlehampton, along the seafront, and to pop through the front door at about 2130!!
Well - hopefully you can tell that despite my emotional moment on day one, I had a ruddy great time!
When I updated on Facebook that I'd be coming home a day early, it was met was met with a mix of "I thought you'd do that" to questions of why was I simply not relaxing and taking it easy?
Well, I kind of knew I struggle to simply relax, and as I'd said the prospect of simply 'hanging about' and waiting for the day to end all by myself was a bit much for me!!
I really loved the long distances covered, and the bike was such a pleasure to ride all the way without any real issue or hassle (I really should write up a little review of the Tripster..).
The second day was the longest distance I'd covered in one go (150 miles) and TBH I felt like I could have kept going. At no point over the 2 days had I really 'worn myself out' - yes, there were a few steep hills that I puffed up, but my intention was to be able to simply keep going and I managed this by constantly grazing on food all the way, keeping well hydrated (actually, on day 2 I didn't pee until the just before the Sandbanks ferry!), and staying well within the anaerobic threshold. I don't have a HR monitor or anything to 'check' this - I'm just aware if I'm pushing it a bit too hard and tell myself to simply 'back off' the pedals a touch!
"Could this be done on a road bike"
Hmm..well those who've seen Road bike party will know that you can do pretty much most types of riding on any bike. However.... in reality there are tonnes of gravel/mud/off road sections over the route, covering many miles, and in reality I think you'd need to swap over slick tyres for something with a bit of grip to them (Cyclocross tyres..). Stick those on your bike and you're good to go!
Well, Having ridden the route and knowing 'what's in store'...I'd really like to have a go at doing it all in one stint! 250 miles door to door!
For this, though, I'd obviously be carrying less stuff, but would need to have my 'power delivery' sorted by means of a dynamo hub perhaps??
It's on the list....