Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hounds of the Basket Meal

With Mrs John away for a week in not-so-sunny Ireland, Wrong John thought it a good opportunity to arrange a TCA outing to further develop TCA member's skills, (riding skills, not just drinking) and for us to experience different terrain (and different real ales!).

After a bit of research, a few e-mails and a couple of telephone calls to a guy called Woody, who runs a company called Bike Dartmoor offering guided rides across Dartmoor, it was left to Jon and John to head down south due to numerous poor excuses from other Associates. With an excellent weather forecast, and Vince the camper van loaded up with all the necessary victuals, we set off to the arranged campsite, Dornafield near Newton Abbott: Three and a bit hours later the campsite turned out to be a real gem, in an excellent location, well equipped, and with award winning toilet and shower blocks (that even had piped music playing in them). John prepared Vince taking all of 2 mins, and then, insisting that Jon arrange alternative accommodation in order that rumors of their 'alternative' lifestyle would not be propagated, watched the entertaining sight of Jon remembering how to put his tent up.

By pure coincidence the campsite happened to be equidistant between two pubs, but which one should we choose? Woody then turned up to brief us on the plans for the Saturday ride and to solve our quandary; the Two Mile Oak Inn had real Ale on tap, so the choice was clear.The pub had several kegs of real ale behind the bar, so we opted for a couple of pints of Abbots as the local Otter Ale had run out. We retired early back to the campsite for a cup of tea, shot of Jack Daniels and sticky bun as Jon had a hard week at work, scratching his balls for longer than usual and also having refused many more than usual planning applications. (it should also be noted that on route to the pub Jon the ever vigilant planner decreed that he would not have approved plans for a couple of houses we walked past

Woody turned up as arranged early on Saturday morning to find both of us ready, yes even Jon! -Al please take note - both of us had a fine breakfast of cereal and bacon butties and were suitably hydrated, and prepared with sufficient liquid for the day. Bikes were loaded on the Landrover and off we set: The plan was to do a 40km figure of eight loop route around the Princetown and Burrator reservoir area. Following a safety briefing from Woody, who explained what we should do in the event of his demise on the route (was this an indication of the severity of the route?) we set off.

John, Jon & Woody

Straight away we encountered one TTF after another, (Technical Trial Feature for the uninitiated) and this set the pattern for the day. The paths were primarily single track which were strewn with lots of large rooted and loose boulders, offering a good chance to practice skills such as bunny hoops, wheelies, drop offs etc, or to just get it wrong and end up on the floor, as J and J did on numerous times. The route offered excellent views of the moors, and Jon took the opportunity to keep alert, hoping to add to his tick list of birds. There was plenty of fun and adrenalin filled descents along the way, and technical climbs and a variety of primarily open moor land vistas (below).

The moor was very busy in places with TTW’s (Ten Tours Walkers), the weather being completely different to last years when the Ten Tours event was aborted due to severe rain and wind. In true TCA form the days did not go without incident: Jon discovering that his head bearing needed replacing and forks needed a service; John having two punctures, one of them a pinch flat and also inextricably continually grounding out his full suspension Scott. The latter was to eventually cause him to have to curtail his afternoon’s ride and limp back to the reservoir to be picked up by Woody and Jon after they had completed the route leading to not insignificant grupiness.

The grounding out was caused primarily buy the fact that the bottom bracket was very low (and of course by misjudging some TTF’s). The constant grounding caused one of the pedal shafts to bend, and eventually drop out and strip the thread of the crank arm, so continuing with one pedal was not an option. Having been picked up and on the way back to the site, whilst discussing the possible causes of the problem, true to form John was already contemplating changing the bike. In order to allow John to ride on the Sunday Woody kindly offered to loan out one of his bikes*.

Post-ride Protein

The power showers at the campsite offered relief from our sore limbs, and John then set to work preparing the evening BBQ. A large matured steak each, with salad and new potatoes followed by fresh fruit and custard washed down with a fine selection of bottled real ale suitably replenished our energy stocks. We then set about putting the world to rights and sorting out a specification for a woman for Jon, whilst listening to what must be said was a very funny Russell Brand show on Radio Two. Any women reading this who think they fulfill the following please contact Jon: Height – 6ft or close; Hair colour – any but Ginger; Earnings - Min £100k per annum; a good cook, and someone who enjoys slowed cooker prepared meals; Someone who enjoys outdoor activity including bird watching; Someone who can empathise and sympathise with the typically hard day a city planner endures; someone who is a devil in the bedroom [poor eyesight also a bonus, Ed.].

The Happy Octagenarian Couple
Enjoying the Obligatory TCA Barbecue

With a good nights sleep J and J were fed and watered and covered in Factor 30 sun cream ready for the shorter Sunday morning ride. Woody turned up as arranged, with a Scott full sus bike for John to borrow, and we set off to ride in the eastern area of Dartmoor. Part of the ride featured in MBR, and is around the Lustleigh area. This 18km ish ride was completely different from Saturdays, offering more technical ascents and descents across more grassed and wooded areas, and the vistas were different, being more wooded and cultivated, with a section called Snake Alley where apparently adders were commonly seen (before you ask, no we did not see any).

The rooted granite slabs and rocks were prevalent again, offering Jon a chance to remove some of his skin, and for John to try to improve his skills on a bike that was working properly. All too soon we found ourselves back at the car park, where we encountered a tea van aptly named “Hound of the Basket meals” (above). Back at the campsite, after another reviving shower we packed up and set off for home - John stoney-faced and silent after his frustrations with the bike.

The service and value that Woody offered was excellent, he basically will take you out on a route and length suitable to your needs/wishes, and will cater for all levels of skill, even arranging “beginners” weekends where he will teach basic skills and lead you out on a suitable route to practice them. His charge includes pick up, lunch, guiding and if required hotel accommodation, he can also rent out bikes if necessary. He clearly knows the moors, routes and the science of mountain biking and is a very affable person so I would have no hesitation in recommending his services.

Dartmoor is an excellent place to ride, offering a variety of terrain, vistas and TTFs, just make sure you are suitably equipped as the weather can change quickly. The Dornafield campsite is one of the best we have ever stayed on, is ideally located for a holiday on Dartmoor and we would certainly recommend it and will aim to use it again.

(Posted by: John; Supplemental photos here)

*A post ride examination of the bike showed that the rear suspension unit appeared not to be working properly, as opposed to lifting the bike higher under load it actually lowered the frame, this was later confirmed when John took the bike back to his local shop Hargroves of Fareham, who had sold him the bike. They have always given excellent after sales service - ture to form they immediately got on the case by contacting Scott, who then agreed that the shock was at fault and all damage would be covered under warranty. This shows the added value of trying to support and dealing through your local cycle shop.

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At 5:46 am, May 20, 2008, Blogger simon said...

another brilliant post- love the look of the BBQ and the camper ( of course)

At 11:25 am, May 28, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

Greetings from Lapland to all TCA readers.

That meat looks good, I have been surving on sanswiches and fish soup for the last two weeks!

At 9:59 am, May 29, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

Good effort Boys, and excellent photos. You certainly picked your weather. On another occasion you might have had broken suspension AND horizontal rian... wouldn't have been so nice waiting for the other two then, eh John?



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