Moor fun on the MUni

Discussion in 'rec.sport.unicycling' started by Mikefule, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. Mikefule

    Mikefule Guest

    Another chance to get out on Dartmoor: Monday 8th Aug.

    I started at the side of the small disused quarry, 400 metres above sea
    level, and set off down the kilometre long rocky track towards the
    shallow ford. When I rode this track a couple of days ago, the uni was
    difficult to handle. Now I'm back into the stride of ridng the 26, and
    I've also put a bit more air in the tyre, and it's much easier to
    ride.

    Half way down the track, I meet a walker with a dog which runs at me
    barking. "He's never seen a unicycle before," explains the owner.
    There is a slightly ironic emphasis on the syllables,"u"and "ni".

    I take the stepping stones across the ford, then decide to ride up the
    steep rough track opposite. The surface is ballast and chippings. Some
    of the stones ping out from under the tyre, others skitter away, some
    just don't move. The worst are the ones that start to move, then
    suddenly stop, nearly tripping the wheel.

    I make it most of the way up the steep slope then hit a drainage curb
    that runs across the track, and I UPD. Less than a mile into the ride
    and I'm breathless, so I take a few minutes to rest. I've dropped down
    about 20 metres, then climbed back up about 30. Aspenmike has nothing
    to fear from me!

    Continuing up the track, I reach the crest, then it's an easy gradual
    descent along a shingly track. I meet a group of walkers. The leader
    says, "That's impressive." I thank him, and the rest of the walkers
    burst into a round of applause. This is slightly weird, but well
    meant.

    Soon, I pass a portaloo. This really is strange. Chemical toilets seem
    to be springing up left right and centre on the moor. It does rather
    spoil the impression of remote wilderness!

    There is a steepish section of track down to a deep ford, and I cross
    via the stepping stones at the side. The next section of track climbs
    up steeply from the ford, and I take a few seconds to plan my route. To
    my surprise, I ride the section first time, with no UPDs. Then, of
    course, I fall off for no good reason on an easy bit.

    A hundred metres later, the track sort of fades away into a deep spongy
    grassy strip that is hard work to ride on. After too many UPDs, I
    decide to walk for a bit. I come to a narrow sheep track that goes
    round the contour. For no obvious reason, I find this hard to ride, and
    I get increasingly frustrated. I start to feel like I'm not that good a
    rider.

    The other day, I exhausted myself by trying too hard when the going got
    tough. I'm on holiday, and I should be riding for fun, not to prove
    some obscure Freudian point, so I decide to abandon this route and ride
    back down the slope to the ford and retrace my steps. Later, when I
    check the map, it turns out this was a wise decision.

    With only a couple of mistakes, I make it back down to the tarmac road
    that loops around this section of the moor. There is a long slog up a
    steep hill which I make in two sections. Half way up, I am overtaken by
    farmers' boys on quad bikes, who grin as they pass me. 4 wheels and an
    engine - now why didn't I think of that?

    The next mile or two are steady climbing, mainly on tarmac, but with
    some unmade road. I stop twice. The first time is for refreshments.
    My Snickers bar is starting to melt, so I hold it underwater in a clear
    cold stream for a few seconds before unwrapping it. The second time is
    when I meet a huge black and chrome 4x4 (US = SUV) coming down the
    hill.

    A quick multi choice test: Michael is slogging up a steep hill on a
    unicycle in hot sun. Mr. Git is driving down the hill in his 4.2 litre
    air conditioned 4x4. Who gives way? Is it:
    a) Michael, or
    b) Michael?

    That's right. And cheecky Mr. Git even gives me a self satisfied smirk
    and a thumbs up as he passes. Can't possibly put two of his shiny alloy
    wheels off the tarmac, can he?

    I reach the high point of my ride at 566 metres, and have splendid views
    across Dartmoor. Two Sea King helicopters (we Sea King here, we Sea
    King there...) are practising low flying manoeuvres, one at a time. One
    flies high, the other drops into a steep sided valley below.

    The road down from here is quite steep, and I have to be careful not to
    "spin out"and lose control.

    A track to the right attracts my attention, and I explore it. It is a
    long steady climb on sand, grit and loose stones, but not too difficult.
    I reach a turning point, with a military hut in it, and continue down
    an ill-defined track across the moor. This gets steeper and steeper
    until the last bit is beyond my nerves and skill and I bail out.

    I sit for a while. Below me is a narrow, fast flowing river. Across
    the valley is Steeperton Tor, and I can see two walkers, "toiling on the
    slopes of Mount Doom", dwarfed by the scale of the hillside. A buzzard
    hovers overhead. I'm only a mile from the road, if that, but it feels
    so remote.

    The next stage of the ride is difficult. The track is badly rutted, and
    large rocks are embedded in it. There are also loose rocks and patches
    of grass and loose stones. I reach the point where I am UPDing every
    few metres, and missing some mounts. In the end, I decide that the
    rewards are not worth the effort, and I carry the uni for a quarter of a
    mile or so.

    Eventually, I reach Oke Tor where I stop, rest, admire the view, and
    tootle on my harmonica for a bit. From the top of Oke Tor, I can see an
    easy looking track down to the road, and I decide to take this.

    In fact, the track is not that easy. In places, the grass grows in a
    thin layer over the granite. In other places, it is deep and soft. It
    is never possible to predict how the uni will respond. On moment, I hit
    a bump and the bump yields to the tyre; the next moment, I hit a similar
    bump and it stops the tyre dead. It's like eating meusli blindfolded,
    not knowing if my spoon will contain a raisin or a hazelnut.

    Back down to the road with about three UPDs and much foul language, I
    decide to follow the tarmac back to the car. I need to pick a friend up
    in nearby Okehampton, and I'm running late. Progress on tarmac is so
    slow on a MUni, when I've been getting used to the 700c. However, I
    eventually make it back, hot, tired and hungry, but with the sense of an
    enjoyable and varied ride in some beautiful scenery.

    "Only" 11.25 miles of riding, plus half a mile or so of walking


    --
    Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

    Competing with yesterday to hold off tomorrow.
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  2. phil

    phil Guest

    Mikefule wrote:
    > *A quick multi choice test: Michael is slogging up a steep hill on a
    > unicycle in hot sun. Mr. Git is driving down the hill in his 4.2
    > litre air conditioned 4x4. Who gives way?*


    I had this happen on my latest (proper) go at my Really Big Hill...
    there I was, fixed grimace on a face about to explode, gasping for
    breath, a river of sweat running down the hill... so what does he do but
    stop right in the middle of the road and point. His amusing comment when
    I was forced to get off did not go down well.

    Bah humbug.

    I've only ridden on Dartmoor twice; the first time was a fairly short
    spin on the muni; the second was an unintentionally much longer trek on
    the 29er around some of the bleakest bits of the moor I've seen for a
    long time. It started off okay, on a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the
    car park by the Avon Dam. Many hours later I was still out there, in the
    dark, with only a vague recollection of how to get back after having
    left my A4 printed map on a rock half way round...

    Would you recommend the area you went to? I keep getting an urge for
    some proper out-in-the-wilderness 29ering, rather than the
    never-more-than-a-mile-from-a-main-road that the Quantocks offers. This
    time, though, I will look after my map.

    Phil


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  3. Mikefule

    Mikefule Guest

    phil wrote:
    > *
    > Would you recommend the area you went to? I keep getting an urge for
    > some proper out-in-the-wilderness 29ering, rather than the
    > never-more-than-a-mile-from-a-main-road that the Quantocks offers.
    >
    > Phil *



    I'm not really experienced enough to comment in detail. I've only had
    about 5 or 6 rides in total on Dartmoor so far. Also, I don't know
    enough about your ability and style.

    The area of Dartmoor that I have written about is the most remote area
    of all - within a mile or two of the legendary Cranmere Pool. There are
    no through roads, so only people actively visiting this area go to it.
    You get dog walkers, hikers, kite fliers and so on. It is rare to see
    more than 20 cars in an hour's ride, and most of them are parked.

    If you can get up onto the skyline, there are fantastic views and a real
    sense of isolation. However, many of the tracks are very hard work for
    someone at my level of experience and ability. I find embedded rocks in
    an uneven surface quite tiring in long sections. My preference is for
    long steady sections with occasional short sections that are at the
    limit of what I can achieve.

    I have only ridden a 29er very briefly, so don't know what is possible
    on one. More "rollover"than a 26, lower gearing than a Coker?

    I doubt I could ride a Coker up some of these hills, and I definitely
    couldn't ride a 28 x 35 down them without damaging the rim. A 26 x 2.3
    copes with most of it. At my level, it's a case of almost every yard
    being rideable, but stringing the yards together can be a problem.

    I rode about 8 miles around Sousson's Wood and up as far as Headland
    Warren (near Grimspound) today and found that more to my liking. Hard
    work, but rideable.


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  4. Mikefule

    Mikefule Guest

    phil wrote:
    > *
    > Would you recommend the area you went to? I keep getting an urge for
    > some proper out-in-the-wilderness 29ering, rather than the
    > never-more-than-a-mile-from-a-main-road that the Quantocks offers.
    >
    > Phil *



    I'm not really experienced enough to comment in detail. I've only had
    about 5 or 6 rides in total on Dartmoor so far. Also, I don't know
    enough about your ability and style.

    The area of Dartmoor that I have written about is the most remote area
    of all - within a mile or two of the legendary Cranmere Pool. There are
    no through roads, so only people actively visiting this area go to it.
    You get dog walkers, hikers, kite fliers and so on. It is rare to see
    more than 20 cars in an hour's ride, and most of them are parked.

    If you can get up onto the skyline, there are fantastic views and a real
    sense of isolation. However, many of the tracks are very hard work for
    someone at my level of experience and ability. I find embedded rocks in
    an uneven surface quite tiring in long sections. My preference is for
    long steady sections with occasional short sections that are at the
    limit of what I can achieve.

    I have only ridden a 29er very briefly, so don't know what is possible
    on one. More "rollover"than a 26, lower gearing than a Coker?

    I doubt I could ride a Coker up some of these hills, and I definitely
    couldn't ride a 28 x 35 down them without damaging the rim. A 26 x 2.3
    copes with most of it. At my level, it's a case of almost every yard
    being rideable, but stringing the yards together can be a problem.

    I rode about 8 miles around Sousson's Wood and up as far as Headland
    Warren (near Grimspound) today and found that more to my liking. Hard
    work, but rideable.


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    Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

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  5. I've not ridden much on the Okehampton side of the moor so I can't
    comment on that, but on the high moor around where I am (Princetown)
    there aren't that many legal tracks. No shortage of mileage, but it can
    be quite a way between junctions - so varying the route can be difficult
    without adding large distances (or driving somewhere different to start
    from, but I usually like to ride in a loop from home). Most of the
    bridleways are rideable for me (technically mediocre rider) on my 26x3,
    and I suspect may be even better on a 29er. Lots of rocks (fist to
    football size or larger) either loose or embedded in the ground, as Mike
    mentioned - I enjoy riding over those, but some of the uphill rocky
    stuff defeats me on the uni (although it's easily doable on a bike, but
    then I've had much more biking experience).

    I think it's a fantastic area to be if you like a bit of bleakness (but
    I may be a bit biased!) and views. The main bummer is that a few years
    ago it was made a criminal offence to ride off the bridleways, so no
    riding on open moor any more (it used to be technically outlawed but not
    really enforced that much), but to be fair it isn't really very rideable
    over most of the open moor anyway - it's either boggy or covered with
    very bumpy tussocky grass. But once you get out of easy
    tourist-with-dog range from the nearest carpark you still get the "you
    and your uni against the elements" feeling even on the path. If you
    fancy an easier ride, there are a few old railway lines. If you want a
    navigational challenge, some of the lesser-used bridleways can be
    extremely hard to follow - just marked with a wooden stake every hundred
    yards or so, usually knocked over and trampled into the ground by cows.
    I haven't come across any really good singletrack stuff like in the
    Quantocks, but there is probably some somewhere on the moors (around
    Dartmeet possibly?)

    Being used to Dartmoor, I found the Quantocks really good in that there
    are loads of tracks in a small area, so varied routes could easily be
    taken on a loop from the same start point.

    I would say definitely give it a go if you've never ridden down (up?)
    here - perhaps drop in on me if you're around :)

    Rob


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  6. phil

    phil Guest

    The Quantocks are fantastic for short loops of singletrack, but in some
    ways it's the opposite of Dartmoor in that there's too much choice. Each
    up-and-down loop doesn't take all that long so you're seeing the same
    bits over again on different routes. The riding is excellent but you
    don't feel particularly adventurous or at one with nature.

    Then I saw 'this photo' (http://tinyurl.com/c772m) (spot the teeny tiny
    bikers in the bottom left corner) and now have an urge to take the 29er
    somewhere incredibly remote.

    I think I'll have to add North Dartmoor to the list of places to go when
    I get a free day on a weekend... I'll let you know!

    Phil


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