Monday, 9 April 2012

Challacombe - A wet morning in North Devon

As the Challacombe ride is fairly close to me and the weather was going to be bad on the day I planned to ride it I decided to do it on its own and leave the Exmoor Forest ride for a drier day. It is just as well I did as the weather was appalling and even getting my bike out of the car was a damp experience. I doubt trying to fit two rides into such a wet day would have been a sensible idea.

I arrived in Woolacombe to park up and get the ride going quite early in the morning. The relatively early hour and the terrible weather meant the place was pretty much deserted. For a bank holiday Monday that's quite a rarity. A couple of locals were out walking their rather fed up looking dogs but that was about it.

Getting the bike out of the car and sticking on my cycling shoes and helmet were enough to get me soaked so I was feeling quite cold by the time I got going. Knowing that the weather was going to be wet I only took my helmet camera with me. I suspect my Chinese knock off camera (a.k.a. Ass Cam) is about as water proof as a tea bag so I left it at home.

The lower part of the climb was quite straight forward. The climb is rated 6/10 as although it hits gradients of 25% in places it is only fairly short at about a mile in length. I was planning to ride to Mortehoe and back to get warmed up for it but the weather meant that such an effort would have been pointless so I just got stuck straight into it. As I rode through a lot of standing water at the foot of the climb I did briefly question the reasoning behind removing my bikes mudguards. I'll say no more on the matter but experienced cyclists will know why I had every motivation to get the ride over and done with and change into some dry clothes.

As I hit the 25% section of the climb I found out what many other cyclists have found out before me: cold muscles don't like steep hills. I had to adopt the dreaded zig zag strategy to get up the hill as it helped to lessen the gradient to a certain extent. The wind was blowing a fair bit at this point however so I felt more like a sailor trying to tack a sailing boat than a cyclist. Thankfully I only encountered one car as zig zagging all over the road is likely to get messy if the traffic is heavy. It did at least get me to the top albeit in a less than graceful and composed fashion.

The top of the climb didn't bring with it the sense of achievement I was hoping for, probably because I couldn't see much (a combination of water on my glasses and low cloud). All I wanted to do was get back down the hill fast and into a warm car. The descent was interesting to say the least with a lot of standing water to ride through and rapidly disintegrating brake pads to deal with.

The next ride I tackle will be the last one in North Devon. Then I'll make start on the South Devon climbs which will involve taking on several on the same day. After Challacombe my bike needs some serious TLC and I may be forced to finally clean it. Hopefully by the start of May I'll have cleared the South West climbs and be ready to move onto Wales.

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