Waking up on the third and final day confirmed what the forecast had predicted – Rain. Fortunately my bike-tarp setup and my bivi bag had combined to keep me completely dry and snug overnight. Of course now we had the need to pack up and ride back to the car and keeping dry from here on in was not going to be an option at all.
At least when you know ‘getting wet’ is inevitable you can just embrace it and get on with the day; and so we did. The tarp at this point came in very handy as it allowed us to leave it spread out on the grass and pack things away underneath it, keeping sleeping bags and other items dry while we got sorted. This left the next requirement on the agenda to be breakfast, unfortunately I hadn’t considered how including a Sunday this year would affect things and not much was open in Ivybridge at 9 AM on Sunday morning.
Next year the trip may have to go back to three mid-week days I think. Certainly I won’t include a Sunday again! Anyway we always do our best with whatever’s available so a combination of Tesco Metro, the Petrol Station across the road and huddling under an archway brought us fruit, baked goods, coffee and shelter. And of course supplies for the day ahead. Knowing ahead of time that the forecast for the final day was rain, I had prepped a plan B route for the third day. A more direct, easier option that would take in roads instead of bridleways and allow us to get back to the car in good time. It also became a bit of a relief route as one of us was flagging a bit by now after two tough days of riding.
So we rode up the minor roads from Ivybridge to South Brent, Buckfastleigh and then Ashburton. This covered about half of the distance with no significant climbs and no incident while also allowing the rain to peater out. So from Ashburton we headed back into the National Park again to pick up a few more hills and where possible add in a few additional byways or bridleways. It was a shame that we hadn’t been able to ride the full ‘Day 3’ route; because from what I could tell of my planning this was a day that would have picked up some of the best mountain biking East Dartmoor had to offer. Including some of the better trails around Lustleigh. Ah well, you can’t have it all your own way, always. It’s always best to be grateful for what you have done than focus on what you didn’t.
And we did manage to fit in some off-road sections including trail of the day, which was a thin sliver of singletrack that shimmied it’s way down a hillside. The rain had made the loose rock surface even more sketchy than it would have been in the dry and flying down there at speed was certainly the thrill of the day too. The memorable moment of the day, for me, came when whizzing down the trail, tyres skipping off the wet rocks, a gorse bush on my left grabbed my left arm. Within fractions of a second I was lying on the trail on my back with my bike on top of me!
Fortunately with no harm done. So after letting out the customary ‘arrggghh’ that lets the next rider know not to ride over you, I took a moment, got back up and got back on. Things didn’t seem quite right for the rest of the descent and I put that down to post-falloff nerves but by the time the land leveled out again I had realised that it was more likely due to the jaunty angle of my handlebars. So one quick straighten later and things were back on track.
The rest of the afternoon’s riding went pretty much to plan; no more ‘offs’ and no real getting lost. Just one missed turn while whizzing down what seemed like an almost continuous hill near to Christow, which left us with an extra uphill to conquer before we reached the car again. The rain stayed away until we had packed up and got on the road driving home which was also good. In the end Day 3 was a little bit of a anti-climax, being rainy and mostly on road, which was unfortunate but overall the trip was again a definite success and next year another trip across another national park is most certainly on the cards. Hmm, 2016 Brecon Beacons?