On Saturday 4th July, my colleague Dave and I took part in Darkmoor, a semi-organised ride across Dartmoor over night. The ride began at Captain Jaspers on Plymouth Barbican at 9pm, and headed North across the moor to Okehampton, before heading back to the Barbican via Moretonhampstead, totalling around 90 miles. The date was chosen as it was the Saturday closest to a full moon during the summer, giving a greater chance of clear skies allowing the moon to illuminate the roads.
Having participated in half of the event last year starting in Okehampton, we knew the route was hilly with a few tough climbs along the way. In the lead up to the event I had been planning on using my road bike, however as I hadn’t yet tested it on the road for comfort, I decided to play it safe and stick to riding my trusted 29er! Sure, it was heavier and draggier, but it’s all good training right?!
Our plan was to take a steady ride up to Okehampton with the rest of the riders, before upping the pace on the way back, adding in a couple laps of Burrator to make the distance up to 100 miles. Setting off with the group, we headed through Saltram and up the Plym Valley, sticking to NCN Route 27. Riding towards the front of the group, I saw a significant number of lights behind when I turned to check, and so assumed the group were still together. However when we arrived in Clearbrook, only myself, Dave and a chap called Ian were together.
We decided to stop and wait for the others, who caught us up about 10 minutes later. After a discussion with the other riders, myself, Dave and Ian decided we would head off on our own at a faster pace in an attempt to keep warm!
We continued to ride along the Drake’s Trail into Tavistock, before a long road climb to head towards Lydford. From there, we joined the Granite Way, just as the moon began to rise and illuminate the way, before dropping into Okehampton at midnight.
We stopped for a short break before heading through Okehampton’s somewhat-lively town and down to Moretonhampstead. After getting the worst of the climbs out of the way, the remainder of the route back across the moor was fast and rolling.
It was at this stage things began to get interesting! With a welcome tailwind pushing us along in excess of 40mph, we suddenly came across dense fog, presenting us with a white wall in which we were riding towards as our lights reflected straight back at us. Visibility became incredibly poor, and then we came across the hundreds of sheep that had chosen to sleep IN the road! After a lot of sudden braking, we continued across the moor with caution, although riding at speed with such limited visibility and dodging the sheep was somewhat thrilling!
After passing through Princetown we dropped into Burrator where we completed a couple of steady laps adding about 8 miles to the ride. Ian decided to leave us at this point, as he had quite a way to ride home and made more sense to ride from Burrator than to head all the way back to Plymouth first. Myself and Dave rejoined the planned route and continued back to Yelverton and towards Lee Moor, before dropping back into Plympton and completing the final leg of the journey back into Plymouth.
We arrived back at the Barbican at 4:30am, which was just in time to see the sunrise over Sutton Harbour. Captain Jaspers opened at 5am, meaning we could refuel with much needed coffee and food before heading home for some much needed sleep!
Including the ride to and from the Barbican, my total mileage for the night was 105mi with 7000ft of climbing, and we managed to maintain an average speed of just over 15mph, which I was happy with considering I was on a mountain bike. The ride was also a great opportunity to test out my new Exposure MaXx-D front light, which provided plenty of illumination even on the lower-output battery-conserving mode I was using. Stay tuned for a review of the light soon.
A big thank you to William for organising the event, and also to Dave and Ian for the company on the ride. For anyone interested in participating next year, keep an eye out for updates at www.darkmoor.co.uk.