Afterword - Home from Home - CycleBlaze


This was one of those rides like Oxford-Cambridge - two places I've lived in or near and had long connections with - that sooner or later I was just inevitably going to attempt. 

I suspect that I'll do it again before long - I love visiting my old stomping grounds (and indeed family) around Totnes, and it's a beautiful ride. Having said that, this was very much the scenic route - the whole thing could be shortened significantly by avoiding the moor and going directly to Plymouth. It still would be a very big ask (for my poor legs) to do it in a single day, but that would make it a fairly relaxed two days. The other nice option is that route would essentially parallel the mainline railways, and there are stations in both Totnes and Hayle. - and in this part of the world it's pretty trivial to bung the bike on the train [if they're not on strike].

Alternatively, there's definitely interesting possibilities for making it a wilder route still - visiting Bodmin moor, or working my way up to the north coast, which I'm less familiar with beyond Padstow. The degree to which this even this semi-beast course wrecked me would suggest that this would be quite an undertaking though.

The bike (despite my appalling maintenance) held up perfectly - as usual, I didn't need to even adjust anything. The weather was surprisingly kind to me - I was not exceptionally overjoyed at having to set up the tent in the pouring rain, but to get clear (indeed, sunny) weather on Dartmoor and for basically the whole second day was an unexpected bonus. My dodgy back didn't give me any problems - it has become something of an annoyance over the winter and can bloody hurt (it has stopped me walking properly at times) - but weirdly actually feels better when I cycle. It also behaved itself while lying on the sleeping matt in the tent, which was not by any means guaranteed. Backs are deeply silly - I've been assured it'll heal of its own accord, so I restrict myself to taking ibuprofen and trying (not entirely successfully) not to put on too much Christmas weight that I'm not burning off due to less walking. 

The distances involved may have been pretty modest - but the length of the days, and mostly the climbs - were pretty epic, much bigger even than some serious touring days in places like the Czech Republic. For those in any doubt: Devon and Cornwall are hilly, and some of those hills are crazily steep. They might not look like much* or go above a couple of hundred meters, but all those climbs add up. An 1000m day would be an average over a whole day in hilly country; even on some of my bigger climbing days in Austria - crossing mountain passes - I "only" wracked up 1,500m or so. So to complete a 1,500m day following a >2,000m day, loaded camping gear ... all I can say, is I'm glad I'm still up to it. A total of 3,750m climbing - three times higher than any mountain in the UK - over two days is no joke!

Naturally, my speed continues to decrease - most (land) mammals could now outrun me as I struggle to get an average much above 12kph. I have abundant excuses this time, especially on the first day where there was quite a bit of offroading and tackling the moor. I was generally pretty glad I gave this a go - although I'm also curious to see how fun the full-barrel descent from the moor on the Tavistock road would be like. Needless to say, I won't be trying any of these moor routes in bad weather.

My fancy new sports watch (a Garmin Fenix 6) does a good job measuring heart rate and health stats, and provides an estimate of calorie burn which is much, much more believable than those looking only at speed and duration. 3,700 calories for the first day might sound silly, but if you had seen me by the end it might look more believable (and for comparison, the standard calorie calculators put it at >7500 for this day - more than double! - which is fantastical). To have apparently burnt 6,300 calories in two days is pretty funny though (believe me, I have made up for it since).

Places I'd like to visit and explore more in future:

  • South East Cornwall. It's a bit out the way, pretty and intriguing
  • Got to find more off-road routes over the moors, Bodmin as well as Dartmoor and Exmoor. Strictly for summer weather though.
  • Central inland Cornwall has some gems of roads, and you won't see a soul
  • While it's a funny old city and has some rough edges, Plymouth isn't as bad to tackle on the bike as I feared. 

Final statistics:

Cycling Time: 19hr 2min
Calories Burnt: 6,345 (active)
Distance: 204 km
Climb: 3,771 m

(*actually they look pretty great)

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