This is post 4 of 4 for my mountain biking in England series. Read more here!
I found the good stuff, woot woot! But to be truly honest, this was actually my second attempt at this loop. The first attempt went something like this: spend 15 minutes backtracking again and again at the start because I wasn’t really sure where the right trail began, huff and puff up a pretty mellow incline that felt like Everest, backtrack again, eventually find the first downhill but grumble and curse because it’s basically a rock pile, hike-a-bike up a ridiculous climb, climb some more, call it quits for the day.
Not my best outing to say the least…
That was a few weeks ago, so why did I go for attempt number two? Well for starters, my goal was to ride every route in my South West England Mountain Biking book before I left England in August so I had to actually complete this ride if I was going to keep to my goal (which I didn't in the end...). I also knew that I wasn’t in the best of moods that first attempt and my body was obviously tired; plus I knew that there is some good singletrack in the Quantocks and I was determined to find it. So fast forward to attempt number two, it was 150% better than attempt number one!
The route pretty much consisted of three different loops: three climbs and three downs. The first climb (that felt like Everest on my first go) really wasn't that bad. The top part got a bit steep, but the rest was pretty easy pedaling. The first descent - Smith’s Combe - came after a nice stretch along a grassy ridge dotted with wildflowers. It was probably my least favorite down of the day just because the first section was basically a rock pile that had me bouncing all over the place and holding on to the handlebars for dear life. I think I wore through half my brake pads just trying to maintain control. My forearms got a workout, though!
After the rock pile, the trail transitioned into some fun, swooping turns before abruptly face planting into a steep, rocky climb (that I hike-a-biked). Thankfully the steep part was short, but the slow trudge back to the top on grassy double track was not.
The second descent of the day - into Weacombe - was much better. A super fast, curvy, well-defined singletrack led down through a narrow valley that was walled in by steep, grassy hills to each side. It was a bit too short for my liking (especially considering how much climbing was involved to get back to the top), but those couple of minutes were exhilarating. I had to remind myself to hold back a bit because it would have been easy to really let it rip. Riding by myself is great for a lot of reasons, but the idea of getting tossed from my bike without anyone around to help out is always a bit concerning…
Another steady, leg burning climb that got the best of me at the end landed me back to the top for the final (and best) descent of the day. I really, really loved this one - Stert Combe into Somerton Combe into Hodder’s Combe. I met a group of hikers at the top who were ‘appalled’ that anyone would want to bike down that trail, but I assured them that it is quite fun. Their eyebrows rose. But what fun it was! Twisty turns, deep ruts up to the thighs, a few technical drops and rollovers, a mostly smooth track… my kind of trail. It was also the longest descent of the day and spit me out right back at the car without much pedaling to be done.
In all, it was a pretty fun loop. I did miss the flowyness of well built mountain bike areas that at least have switchbacks for climbs rather than straight ups, but I can’t really complain. I was England for the summer, exploring by bike. Life is good :)