Mountain bike enthusiasts from across the South West converged on Dulverton at the weekend for the second annual ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor’ event, organised by Calvert Trust Exmoor and supported by Exmoor National Park and the fantastic people of Dulverton.
282 cyclists took part in the circular ride, raising over £5,650 between them, with more sponsorship still coming in. The event started in Dulverton and followed the route of the River Barle up to Tarr Steps, then up onto the moor, south-east to the River Exe and then back into Dulverton for the finish line.
The riders really enjoyed the event. As Paul Mugenyi from Bristol said, “Thank you all so much for an amazing day and course. I really loved it and dare I say it was better than last year! A massive thanks to the organisers, marshals and land owners!”
Rob Lott, Head of Communications at Calvert Trust Exmoor, said, “We were absolutely delighted that so many riders came out to support us and enjoy the beauty of Exmoor. Without the support of so many wonderful people from Dulverton and the surrounding area who allowed us to use their land, volunteered to be marshals and run refreshment stations, and helped set up the route, this event just wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks to your support we will be able to help more people with disabilities to access cycling and other adventurous activities.”
As well as the fabulous volunteer marshals and helpers, Calvert Trust Exmoor would also like to thank the brilliant local businesses and organisations whose support enabled the event to happen: Mole Valley Farmers, The Bike Shop (Tiverton), Ivan’s Coffee, GT Bicycles and AMASS Medical as well as Exmoor National Park.
Photos from ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor 2017 can be seen online at www.calvert-trust.org.uk/eatdirt. Calvert Trust Exmoor hopes to announce the date for ‘Eat Dirt on Exmoor 2018’ in the next few weeks.
For most people Easter weekend is a time for relaxing, eating excessive amounts of chocolate, leisurely family strolls, perhaps a cheeky afternoon beverage in a country pub beer garden. For me and around 300 other mountain bikers, our Easter weekend looked a whole lot different…
Enduro mountain biking in its race form consists of six different timed downhill stages spaced out around an area which you must ride or push between. Your times over the six stages are added together at the end of the day and the fastest rider overall wins.
Southern Enduro is an events company which organises Enduro events across all of Southern England. They run a series of four events from June to September, with the champs and a night enduro in May as extra stand-alone races.
The Southern Enduro championship took place just outside Minehead as a two-day race with practice on the Saturday and racing on the Sunday. Many riders camped overnight in the race village where sponsors had set up shops, local bike shops were on hand to fix bikes and food vans stayed open into the evening when there was music and a beer tent.
With near perfect weather conditions, there was immense excitement amongst riders about to be let loose on trails normally closed to the public. I took part in the race myself and I can safely say I did not see one rider not grinning from ear to end by the end of practice.
Event organiser Scott and his team did a fantastic job utilising existing trails and building a few extra to put together a great mix that would test rider’s technical skills, bravery and fitness, whilst still delivering a fun factor of 100%. All of the transitions were rideable (depending on your fitness level as there were some long old hills), sticking to fire roads that took you through beautiful forests. Occasionally you would come to a sudden opening with stunning views across the valley that would lift the spirits and distract you from aching legs. From the top of three to four they had included a great little traverse and descent on singletrack. Then the transition back over from four to five took you along the ridgeline with views over moorland right out to the sea where you could just about spot Wales in the distance.
Race day dawned to more blue skies and stoke level was high as we set out for the first climb. The schedule for the day was set up so that riders were set off in groups of 12 with a five-minute gap between. When you registered at the start of the day you could write your name on the board and choose your own group, the idea being that slower riders started first and elites had to go at the end of the day.
In the past I have suffered with nerves whilst racing, putting so much pressure on myself to do well that it has ruined the fun of the experience. So my main aim for this weekend was to stay calm, smile and enjoy the sociable side of Enduro that allows you to ride round all day with your friends. I tried to concentrate on enjoying just riding my bike somewhere new and embracing the excitement and energy that gives me. Other than a few nerves before stage two which was the steepest and most difficult of the day that literally EVERYONE was having issues with, I managed to stick to my plan.
There is a great camaraderie to mountain biking that transcends all ages, sex or ability barriers. You can almost forget your racing as you pedal around bumping into friends heading the other way, chattering to total randomers at the bottom of each stage when you’re all buzzing off the adrenaline telling stories of your various successes and mishaps so far that day.
Southern Enduro events include a ‘Fun’ category for men and women that is designed to encourage newcomers to the sport where they will be less intimidated by being ranked against more experienced and serious racers. This is such a fantastic idea and within the women I believe all of the fun category was made up of ladies new to enduro. It was fab to see 24 women racing altogether, an usually high number at a race this far south.
My own race went really well, with very few mistakes to leave me fourth out of tenin my senior category; a result I was very pleased with in such a competitive field. However, the greatest success of the weekend was the ultimate fun I had shredding new trails, learning lots and having a great laugh with friends old and new. Bikes are the best!
Becky is one of our new team of Active Exmoor writers. She will be providing us with blogs from time to time and she will also be appearing in the magazine on our Active pages. Becky is a part-time groom and freelance writer based in North Devon. She is a huge mountain bike and trail running enthusiast, never happier then when out exploring the moorlands and forests of the South West accompanied by her faithful collie dog. She pens her thoughts about the outdoor adventure lifestyle and lessons learnt from her own experiences on her blog. Her work has been published on a selection of mountain biking and running websites such as Total Women’s cycling, Outdoorista and Women’s Running. She also has a website, runridewrite.com, and is on Instagram: beckyparker_runridearite
Welcome to the team Becky and thank you for your first blog for us!…
When most people think of mountain biking they picture Wales, Scotland, the Lake District or the Alps. Yet tucked away in a corner of the South West this hidden gem that is Exmoor has some of the best riding the UK can offer, with a modicum of the trail traffic. The success of the new enduro race ‘The Ex’ has brought Exmoor’s trails to the attention of the industry. In a feature about the event they spoke highly of the variety of trails on offer before one of the organisers, Michael Wilkens, stated how he couldn’t resist the potential the area offered with “its perfect combination of hills, ancient woodland and stunning coastline, and, of course, the incredible network of trails.” Following the success of the race, Exmoor appeared as one of just seven trails in their ‘Must ride in 2017’ feature – high praise indeed!
Much of Exmoor’s appeal lies in its lengthy untouched ribbons of natural singletrack. Though it is a relatively small area in comparison with the likes of the Lake District, it makes up for this with the vertically up, vertically down nature of the terrain. This makes for a tough day on the legs – almost all instructions beginning with the motto ‘Pack your climbing legs’ – but in a relatively short ride of 30km you can often pack in 1,000 metres of climbing and, better yet, descending!
If you’re putting in all that effort to climb out of the valley, you want to make sure the descent is well worth your while. There is nothing worse than descending on a road – criminal! So here I have written a round-up of some of what I think are the best sources for anyone trying to find a ride that works for them.
MAPS First things first, you will be needing a map. Only a silly person ventures out into the middle of nowhere relying purely on modern technology. Signal is never fully reliable. I personally use and can recommend OS Explorer maps. OL 9 1:25000 covers the whole area. (pictured here). If you would like something a little more detailed, on a bigger scale and laminated take a look at this example from a series www.croydecycle.co.uk/mapsandguides.htm
GUIDEBOOKS There are a few good guidebooks out there, my pick of the lot and the most highly rated is South West MTB by Nick Cotton and Tom Fenton, who produce a series of books covering all the UK. It includes routes for Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Quantocks, caters for all levels and is super easy to use and follow. www.amazon.co.uk/South-West-Mountain-Biking-Quantocks/dp/1906148260
Other options for guidebooks include: Around Exmoor and Dartmoor (Rough Ride Guide) by Max Darkins
Exmoor, North Devon and the Quantocks Mountain Bike Routes by Al Churcher
DOWNLOAD GPS ROUTES Despite my earlier cynicism regarding modern technology, where smart phones and the internet do come in handy are for sourcing new routes to ride and then downloading them to follow easily on the go. Here is a selection of what I think are the best websites with Exmoor routes for you to browse.
Mountain Bike Rider(MBR) is a popular UK magazine that includes four new routes with every monthly issue. If you buy the magazine itself, you also get a handy A5-sized 0S map with the route on one side and instructions on the other. Of course, Exmoor is only featured once in a while but all of their past featured routes are available to download from the website. This link is for all of the South West, search Exmoor for more trails that were featured as part of ‘best of’ articles www.mbr.co.uk/routes/south-west-england
Mountain Bike UK (MBUK) is the other UK magazine which also includes four routes with maps in its print publication. MBUK shares its routes through the Viewranger map app. If you click on ‘view all routes on a map’ you can then search for Exmoor specifically where there are around eight different routes of varying length and difficulty to choose from. You do have to download Viewranger to use their routes; no bad thing as it’s a useful and free app. my.viewranger.com/user/details/727299
During my research for this blog post I stumbled across this rather excellent website that shows on a map where the best trails are and what names they are known by. Trying to describe trails to friends/mtb acquaintances or your local bike shop as they struggle in vain to direct you to this new epic descent someone has found can be a total nightmare, so this is a really handy resource. Unfortunately, it does seem to be limited to one area of Exmoor though by general consensus Dunkery and Horner do contain the best technical trails. www.trailforks.com/trails/map/?lat=51.186029&lon=-3.598682&z=13&m=trailforks
ROUTES FOR ALL
Locating family- or beginner-friendly trails on Exmoor can be somewhat of a challenge due to the perpendicular nature of its hills. Several of the above resources, particularly the Nick Cotton book, do provide ‘easy’ level routes which will be achievable for anyone of average fitness and teenage children. There are several beautiful and mostly flat bridleways following the river such as stretches of the Coleridge Way, Exe Valley Way and Two Moors Way. These are mostly designed as walking routes, bike access is limited in places, so it is best to check online before attempting your chosen section. The section from Simonsbath to Withypool is a good place to start.
Tourist Information or National Park centres are the perfect place to pick up leaflets and information for easy access and family friendly cycle routes. Check out this website to find your nearest one – www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/information-centres
Mountain biking is a fantastic way to get outdoors, explore and appreciate this amazing National Park which we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep. What better way to enjoy the variety of moorland, coastal trails, forests and river valleys than on two wheels that can take you anywhere and allow you to fit in so much more to one day? Mountain biking can be a tranquil pedal alongside the river listening to the birds, spotting deer and bird watching or embarking on a lung-busting climb followed by a white-knuckle descent. The ride is what you make it but best of all it is another way to get and enjoy Exmoor.