The second bank holiday of may presented the chance to load-up the bike and head-out onto Dartmoor for some bike-packing. It had been a while since a chance to get some multi-day off-road miles in had presented itself, and with plans to have a crack at the Highland Trail 550 this summer forming this made for a good training opportunity.
This was by no means a lightweight trip; the bike weighed in around 25kg loaded up, with an additional 6kg of camera gear in a rucksack. The plan was simple, Max (the same one as I did John O’ Groats to Lands End with last summer) and I would ride out to Postbridge where an additional friend, James, would join us for the last bit of the ride up to Teignhead Farm. On arrival another two friends, Luke and Pete, would join us on-foot.
Progress was initially slow as Max had a problem with his bike where the rear brake was stuck on, and we lacked the tools to do a field repair on it. As a result of this we were reduced to a slow pace on what is normally a very quick few miles up the Plym Valley Trail to Yelverton, along the top of Burrator Reservoir and continuing up the old railway line into Princetown.
It was 14:20 when we reached Princetown for lunch, so we made the decision to skip part of the planned route and hit the road from Princetown through Two Bridges and onwards to Postbridge. After putting a quick call with James he brought the missing tools out to fix Max’s brake in the carpark before the three of us moved off together.
The trail after Postbridge proved to be hard going, and was new to all of us. One minute we would be pushing, then next we’d be shouldering the bikes and then we’d get a few more minutes of in-the-saddle riding in before repeating. In the end it took us around 1 hour 30 minutes to cover the last 6.5km.
This timing worked well; just as we were descending to the bridge over the river Luke and Pete appeared on-foot at the fence line behind us. James and I pushed on to find a spot and start setting up camp while we waited for them to catch up, while Max cycled up the hill to meet them and get the car-key so he could fetch his kit.
45-minutes later we were all set-up, dinner was on, and Pete pulled a BBQ and a heap of chicken out of his pack. After dinner Luke and I wandered off for a few hours with the cameras to photograph the sunset. We chose the direction to head in badly, and with no foregrounds had little success.
Back at the tents we sat by the fire for a short while before setting up the camera on the tripod once it was fully dark for some light-painting.
The next day Luke and I were up earlier than should be humanly possible, and walked to a set of stone-circles to shoot the sunrise. Unfortunately as soon as the cameras hit the tripods, the fog dropped on us both writing off the shoot and sending us back to the tents for some much needed sleep.
Reappearing at a somewhat more acceptable hour we were all up and the camp was packed down relatively quickly. James and I proceeded to kill time for a bit as Max had to take his kit back to Luke’s car before joining us for the ride back home. We took the other side of the valley back to the way we went out which, despite a few river crossings, proved to be a much better choice and was much faster going.
Back at Postbridge James parted with us, but decided to meet us in Princetown for lunch, a short ride which took Max and I about 45-minutes on the road. After a small mountain of cheesy-curly-spicy-fries each in the Fox Tor Cafe Max and I proceeded to head back home on the trails we know best and ride frequently.
The route can easily be ridden from Plymouth, or picked up part way along from numerous car parks en–route. The last section involves some fairly technical mountain biking; off road experience is a necessity.