We were Strava stalking one day and we came across something which made our heart literally stop! The elevation graph alone literally made us, well you know the rest! We got in touch with the creator Mark Harding to get the lowdown on Exmoor, the sibling of Dartmoor. Now we have toured a bit of Dartmoor and that was hard enough. Exmoor though looks quite horrific in terms of gradient but 'omg', are you rewarded with some stunning views of our British coastline?! The weather at the moment might be turning but we are putting this on our 2019 ride list for sure, whether we survive is another matter! Mark tells us more but be warned, it's a little more than 200km...!

 

It always seems to happen I plan a ride when the sun is shining and on the day the weather turns sour! I had ridden Exmoor a few times including the famous Exmoor Beast Sportive but wanted something a bit more challenging. I tried to avoid some of the main roads which can be a drag especially when the wind is strong so I tried to include as many lanes as possible.

 

Starting from Bridgwater on the southern edge of the Quantocks on Dancing Hill the climbing started pretty much from the off. Straight in to tight twisty country lanes. I followed the route past the Pines Cafe - ideal for a breakfast - and towards Over Stowey and the first tasty climb of the day The rectory Wood Climb (strava segment name) quite a steep ascent on to the top of Crowcombe where stunning views are to behold across to Wales and Exmoor. Any locals will know what comes next the descent to Crowcombe village is extremely fast and on a slightly wet morning very sketchy. A couple of run off areas make you realise just how steep it is.

 

Across the A358 and I continued descending towards Stogumber and Monksilver the terrain carried on up and down a taster of things to come. I was looking forward to Dulverton to stock up and top up my bottles but didn't quite realise just how much hard work this ride would be the ups are long and relentless and the downs are damp steep and covered in leaves and mud so if you get the chance to ride this in good dry weather do it! I stopped for a photo of the magnificent Wimbleball Lake before riding over the bridge. After a very steep descent to Dulverton I grabbed a coffee and some breakfast. There's a few small cafes dotted around the small village all well recommended and a small shop to stock up because the next stop is Lynmouth 70km away over the moors.

 

Onwards and upwards I rode towards Hawkridge and the southwesterly side of the moors the lanes tightening and twisting as I enjoyed the views across mid Devon and S.Molton and the numerous wind turbines on the horizon. The elevation up near the trig point of Setta Barrow is 481 metres (according to strava) pretty high up. The climbs were getting longer and longer and the desents were faster and faster but eventually I started seeing signs for Simonsbath which lifted my spirits only slightly because I knew what was to come the long rising road over the remote top and down the amazing windy road down in to Lynmouth being careful to avoid the rocks and cliffs overhanging the road. If your still feeling hungry there's a lovely little cafe called the Lyndale Tearooms with an amazing selection of home cooked food but you are spoilt for choice for cafes in this lovely village.

Back on the bike and immediately in front of you is Countisbury Hill with a 25% start easing off slightly before climbing high with stunning views across the North Devon coast and the Bristol Channel. I was very pleased at this point the relentless headwind I had been battling through was now a tailwind. Happy! My climbing style by now was granny ring and a slow plod up these hills any power I had was gone but my fighting spirit was still there!! The road now was minor ups and downs towards Dunkery Beacon and after another dirt trail ( another one!) I was heading towards Exmoors highest point but the road followed around Beacon dropping down with more amazing vistas. I wish I took so many more photos but another day. After a lot of descending I eventually came to a right hander which put me on the Luccombe climb to Dunkery which is one of Exmoors toughest climbs. I'm amazed I ride it every time my legs screaming at me it is one tough climb.After a short stint on the B3224 past Wheddon Cross (last chance for supplys at the shop) I was back in the lanes through Luxborough, Road water and some really beautiful roads but also some dodgy lanes with some walking because it was that rough with dirt and overgrown hedges but I didn't care I was on the home stretch. Although one last kick in the teeth is Cothelstone Hill but its the bottom bit which is the killer so once past its only an Enmore descent and then home.

 

All in all this is one tough route only for experienced riders but you will be rewarded with stunning (have I used that word?!) views and amazing climbs!

Mark Harding

 https://www.strava.com/routes/15759968 

 

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