12 plucky bikers set off on Petes’ magical mystery tour of Exmoor bright and early on Sunday morning. (Well 11 as I left whilst our final joiners were getting petrol but they soon caught up). We picked up another bike from Callington and joined up as the full party outside Launceston. Having been warned what would happen to me if I got lost in Launceston (I don’t know why you all don’t find the firestation as interesting as I do), I decided to skirt round Launceston despite the risk Dave’s Lifton Farm Shop auto homing instinct would kick in. Chris C almost fell off his bike when he realised I had successfully navigated around Launceston without getting lost.
The rest of the run up to Torrington was pretty uneventful with very little traffic and good roads. Parking as ever was interesting but we all got in without too much trouble. Confusion reigned as they now do table service not order on arrival. I think they coped really well with our group and the bacon sandwiches and coffee were just what was needed after a nice reasonably brisk 90 min run.
At this point I was starting to think I had got the hang of this leading thing and I have to say I was feeling confident if not a little cocky as I outlined the next part of the route. To show how much effort I had put into this I pointed out it was a Bank Holiday weekend and so Withypool Tea rooms would be jam packed, but I knew a quiet little town that would be IDEAL for a stop. Remember this bit – it is important later. And so we set off and I was convinced nothing could go wrong.
A good run saw us up onto Exmoor, the weather started to be a little unkind and those in full wet weather gear felt vindicated. I was a little concerned that as we went higher onto Exmoor we would get some wonderful views of the inside of clouds and morale would drop, however, after no problems crossing the raging torrent of the ford through the Ex outside Exford (I guess the clue is in the name) we started across the highest points on Exmoor and whilst not perfect the rain just about held off and you could tell there was a great view, you just couldn’t quite see it.
Justin had been struggling a little with his hydraulic clutch, and no that is not a euphemism. Fortunately Plymouth bikers is jammed with engineering types who quickly decided they knew nothing about hydraulic clutches other than they needed hydraulic fluid. A quick check of the reservoir showed this was the problem and so began the hunt for hydraulic fluid. It’s really fun riding old bikes you get to do all sorts of stuff you don’t get to do if you ride a bike that works is reliable is modern. (Sorry Justin but you knew you were going to get your leg pulled). Having failed to find a garage in Porlock I decided that what was needed was a quick stop.
After a bit of tooing and froing I finally made a decision to go to Minehead and then changed my mind and decided to continue with the route having realised there was a petrol station on the route and Justin’s clutch was in no state to cope with traffic in Minehead. I was pleased Justin tucked in behind me as we set off then I realised that the effect of his clutch problem was he couldn’t stop so I was defacto his crash barrier and so I spent the remainder of this leg braking very gently and trying to make sure we didn’t have to stop. We had to stop as we came off of Exmoor and turned to Wheedon Cross. It was terrifying and funny at the same time as Justin came past me unable to stop, walking his bike forward and trying to get a gap in the traffic. All was well in the end and we arrived at Wheedon Cross. Fluid was found, reservoir topped up, chaos created around the petrol pumps and then we set off for Watchet. I sensed that this leg had run on a bit so I decided to try and be clever and get to Watchet as quickly as possible , however, Murphy’s Law of Tom Tom kicked in and we went a more scenic route than intended until I decided to bin the sat nav and follow the road I knew.
We were late getting to Watchet but as we rode in I consoled myself that the ire of the team would more than be made up for by how tranquil Watchet would be, half empty tea rooms, carparks and no queues for massive ice creams. Remember I mentioned earlier I had been really proud of the decision not to go to Withypool.
The first sign of disaster was a small sign, easy to miss, saying Wheelbarrow race expect delays. The second was the flashing blue lights of a police car, the third the queue of traffic and the fourth the man in the hi viz jacket saying turn your engines off its going to be at least 10 mins. A quick glance down the road showed the town centre was PACKED. Apparently we had arrived with the Watchet Music festival in full swing (don’t ask me why they race wheel barrows as part of the music festival) and the town was over flowing. This was off course totally unpredictable, I mean who would think to Google Watchet whats on this weekend? Certainly not me! Chris showed his natural charm and really hit it off with one of the locals. I can say no more other than he was at the end of a repeated universal greeting but not the one you’d want to use the first time you meet somebody you are hoping isn’t going to punch you. We did discuss setting off to find this individual and defending Chris’s honour but we decided that whilst we valued Chris’s honour we didn’t value it more than getting a cup of coffee.
Fortunately I was able to find the motorcycle parking this time as I don’t think we would have got into a car park. Whilst the town was busy we did do our best with ice creams, some really good sandwiches, fish and chip and ice creams being hunted down and dispatched by the hungry bikers. There was a special request for the route home, namely that we used a road that had a white line down the centre and not grass. We saw a wonderful old steam engine, but then had to spend quite a bit of time explaining to Ian (who comes from Dartmouth) that steam trains weren’t normal and there were new diesel and even electric trains. I am still not sure he believed us.
With time running on we did a quick run back down the A396 to Bickleigh Mill for a final cuppa. I’d forgotten how good that road is, you certainly have to keep your wits about you, there were a couple of bends where my braking definitely wasn’t for comfort. We dropped off a small team to grab petrol in Tiverton and then we split up even more as Ian decided not to stop with the main group. Having collected Ian the main group arrived into Bickleigh Mill before the refuellers, but sadly this didn’t stop Dave P missing out on the last piece of key lime pie. After farewells we went our separate ways, all in all I think we did over 200 miles and I arrived back into Plymouth around 1800 so a good days riding.
It was especially good to see new faces out, forgive me I am awful at names so I won’t name check you all but I hope you had a good run. Our normal Sundays don’t stretch quite as far so please do keep on coming along.
I know this update is getting as long my ride, however, a couple of reminders.
If you want to join the Watsapp group for rideouts please let me know. This group is gently policed to stop it getting too noisy and is a great way of keeping up with what is being arranged for rideouts and any info during the ride. Drop me a line on 07598 681157 and I can add you.
If anyone wants to volunteer to lead a ride please do not hesitate, drop Dave a line and he will get your route published. Leading is not stressful, and if you get lost no one will know but you, and even if you get totally lost there is always somebody in the group who will be able to get us to a coffee shop.
Finally if anyone wants the Tom Tom tracks for the routes I ride please just ask and I can e-mail them to you.
Thanks for a great day and see you next time