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Photograph of crossroads signpost on Exmoor
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Exe Ascent – sounds like fun.

So, Steve the Postie had mentioned some time ago that there was a charity bike ride leaving Tiverton Rugby Club, and heading up to Exmoor, the “Exe Ascent”. Two routes were available – 25 miles and 50 miles. A few of us thought “why not, it’s for a worthy cause (Devon Air Ambulance) let’s go for the 50 miles.”

Cometh the hour and from our 20-odd members there were only 3 of us who ultimately decided to enter! Steve, myself and Francis, (who had done a 200km Audax the day before – with 12 THOUSAND feet of climbing!!!!!) Personally, I wouldn’t even be contemplating getting out of bed, let alone getting on a bike after that!

The beginning.

Steve the Postie met me at the Village Hall at 7.15am, (I know!!!), and we set off to ride the 7 miles or so to the start. On the way, we were saying how nice the weather was and how we might regret layering-up to keep warm! Ho ho ho!! How wrong can one be??!! Anyway, we met Francis, (who sensibly had driven in), had our safety briefing and set off just before 8am. The website for the ride stated, “a couple of short sharp climbs, and a generally flat ride.” Legal action may be taken against the author of these lies!!!!

Our outward journey took in the rutted tarmac of the Huntsham valley road, where the vibration damping on my bike was woefully inadequate. We got ahead of the main pack, and were joined by what can only be described as a ‘hedge-monkey’. This bloke had a Specialised Allez from 1996, held together with decades of mud, straw, leaves, small dead creatures, etc. His kit looked like he stole it from a scarecrow on his way to the start, and he was chatty. Now call me a miserable old sod, but when I’m wheezing and groaning along I don’t really want to make small talk. Especially with someone I don’t know. Particularly with Worzel Gummidge lookey-likeys (ask your parents kids!). Being a bit of a bright spark I slowed down and hung back, until Smokey Joe caught up with Steve the Postie and chatted to him for about 8 miles. Job done!

Onward towards Exmoor.

Passing through Bampton, we then went up the first of the two advertised climbs to Exebridge, henceforth into Dulverton – the gateway to Exmoor. Or, more appropriately, the cattle grid to Exmoor. Coming out of Dulverton there is a 2.5 mile climb to cattle grid number 1 near Tarr Steps. Steve the Postie and Francis both merrily whizzed up the hill and 15 minutes later I joined them! At this point the view is beautiful and the weather was holding out for us.

We skittered around a few Exmoor lanes until we came to a hairy descent into Winsford, ahead of the second advertised climb. This time it was a grinding 3-miler after negotiating a ford in the village itself. Steve the Postie and Francis whizzed up, etc. etc. etc. (you get the picture). At the highest point, the view again was stunning and the weather was being kind.

Conditions change!

Twelve seconds later the conditions turned bad. Hailstones, sleet, high winds and driving rain. I couldn’t believe it. And we were barely half way round! At this point I decided I really, really wanted to do the 25-mile route. Damn! Needless to say, the ride back to Tiverton was hellish. Exmoor is truly a beautiful place to ride a bike. When the sun is shining. And it’s dry. In the conditions we had, I actually contemplated getting the Air Ambulance out and recouping some of my charity donation!!! After the 9th unadvertised climb, my will was sapped, and I crept back to Tiverton sniffling like a small girl who’s had her pigtails pulled.

Back to the future.

Upon arrival at Tiverton there was lashings of hot tea, and oodles of lovely cake – very Famous Five!! We sat there, dripping, eating cake, congratulating ourselves on a job well done. Then the realisation dawned that Steve the Postie and I still had to ride home. Fu Fiddlesticks, I thought!! Suffice to say the skies had saved the very worst for my tired, aching body on the way home. It pis poured down. I was wishing I’d worn a wetsuit!!!

Thanking Steve for roping me into the ride, I shook him warmly by the throat! I collapsed in the bath and stayed there for about two hours, while my testicles gradually ventured back from their hiding place! Two days later we had a recovery ride, (is there such a thing?!), and my bloody shoes were STILL wet.

Conclusions.

So, in summary two things struck me; It’s good to complete these rides and there is a definite sense of accomplishment, as well as contributing to a magnificent charity. The second thing is I have now done 5 or 6 of these things, and it’s always with Steve the Postie and Fran, who are built like Gypsy’s Whippets, and are far too fast!! So, now I’m on a recruitment drive to get some friendly slow cyclists to accompany me. If you are overweight, you ride a Raleigh Grifter, or preferably a Penny Farthing, and ideally you are asthmatic, please email me – I think we could have fun cycling together!!!

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