Darkmoor is a semi-organised cycle ride, through the night, from Plymouth to Okehampton via Tavistock and back to Plymouth via Moretonhampstead and Princetown. It is not a race (though undoubtedly somebody will try and finish first), the route is NOT signposted and there are no checkpoints along the way.
It is possible to take an alternative, shorter route, but doing so would be cheating yourself and certainly not in the spirit of what Darkmoor is about.
The total distance is 88 miles, with a shorter option of starting in Okehampton, reducing it to 64 miles to those that don't quite feel up to the full distance. There are a fair few hills in between Okehampton and Plymouth, so even the shorter distance is still a challenge.
PLEASE NOTE: All participants on this ride do so entirely at their own risk. You and you alone are responsible for your own safety, well being and behaviour while on the ride.
WHY THIS RIDE?
It all started with the Dunwich Dynamo, which is a ride through the night from London to Dunwich, 120 miles away from London on the Suffolk coast. Whilst a well-established and excellent ride, getting back from Suffolk is a bit of a problem, especially for those coming from Devon or Cornwall.
It is for exactly this reason that the Exmouth Exodus was started. The Exodus is a 105 mile through-the-night ride from Bath to Exmouth. Although shorter than the Dynamo, it is also quite a bit more hilly, which more than compensates for the shorter distance. Admittedly it is far easier to get home from Exmouth, if you lived in Avon, Somerset, Devon or Cornwall, but we believed there was need and room for a through-the-night ride that ended in Plymouth.
Plymouth has far better transport links than Exmouth and massively better links than Dunwich, so having it as a start and end location would also help those that live further away.
Darkmoor is a loop because to do 100 miles roughly in one direction would mean cycling Devon Coast to Coast, from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. Having the start and end in the same place also means transport to and from the ride is simplified. Believe us, after having cycled nigh on 100 hilly miles, having had no sleep at all, having to deal with transport back to the starting point is the last thing you want to do.
Darkmoor makes this a whole bunch easier, by being a circular route, so you end back where you started.
The next Darkmoor ride will take place in 2021, with the exact date to be confirmed. Darkmoor 2020 has been cancelled, due to COVID-19.
THE 1ST DARKMOOR - 2014
The very first Darkmoor ride started from the Okehampton railway station at 23h55 on Saturday, 14th of June 2014. Twelve riders, who will henceforth be known as the Twelve Pioneers, participated.
The good people from Cap'n Jaspers, where the ride ended, kindly opened up from 05h00, and even offered free coffee to participants, apparently as a reward for being "nutters". We believe that is Cap'n Jaspers coded language for "highly respected and esteemed customers".
There was a full moon on the 13th of June 2014, and we ended up under mostly clear skies, with moonlit roads. Several riders switched off their main lights at some point, enjoying the experience of cycling by moonlight instead.
This is a turn-up-and-go ride and there is NO support available as such. There is no broom-wagon to sweep up stragglers, and no support vehicles following behind. If you break down along the way, you're on your own.
Having said that, according to the standard cyclists' code, we'd expect you to stop and assist other cyclists in need, just as we'd expect them to assist you if you were in need.
You will need decent lights that will keep going for at least 9 hours. Twilight will start at 03h13 but it will be a long time before you can safely cycle without a light.
You also need rear lights, but try for a balance between getting-seen-from-a-distance and burning-the-retinas-off-the-rider-just-behind-you.
The route is NOT signed! It is easy to take a wrong turning and you alone are responsible for any navigational errors. The route is linked to below, from where you can also download the GPX track to use in whichever digital navigational device you prefer.
We will be passing through towns and villages at stupid-o-clock, so do be responsible and keep noise down to a minimum. There will be plenty of opportunity to sing as loud as you want to while cycling across Dartmoor.
There's no entrance fee payable, though we suggest you carry some cash for when you may pass by a 24-hour shop, or for coffee and breakfast at Cap'n Jaspers on the Barbican at Plymouth, where the ride will end. Unlike the rather excellent Exmouth Exodus, there will be no feed stations along the way. In time, when the ride has been more firmly established, we hope to remedy this.
Really? Isn't is obvious enough? It's a ride through the DARKness, over DartMOOR.
WHAT DO I NEED?
- A bicycle, obviously and a healthy dosage of masochism.
But seriously, while eminently possible, we don't suggest you try and do Darkmoor on a BMX, a Raleigh Shopper or a full-suspension mountain bike. 80 miles feel longer in the dark and you will need gears for the hills. And yes, if you usually ride a fixie you'll probably strongly disagree with the need for gears. In answer to that all we'll say is you're welcome to do the ride on your fixie. After all, it's your legs that will do the work, so it's your choice.
Full-suspension bikes are inefficient, as the shock absorbers also absorb a great deal of the effort you put into pedaling. If you do insist on riding Darkmoor on such a bike, we suggest you fit road tyres or hybrid tyres, as knobbly tyres will cause you to work much harder than you otherwise need to.
Having said that, one of the fastest riders on the inaugural ride did the event on a mountain bike with chunky 29" tyres, finishing well before anybody else, and thoroughly shaming all roadies in the process.
- As mentioned above, you will need lights. We cannot stress this enough. Whenever possible, ensure you have spare batteries, while a back-up light is a good idea.
- Ideally you want to carry food with you and you certainly need to take drinks along. A single water bottle will not be enough. Remember, all the shops will be closed, though there will be some places to top up water bottles plus one or two 24-hour petrol stations that will be open.
- An emergency plan. We don't expect any emergencies, but it's always wise to plan ahead. We suggest you speak to your designated
victim rescue driver before the ride, so if you have to call them at 03h30 they've at very least been alerted to the possibility of this happening.
- Some friends riding along would make the ride seem shorter, and the hills smaller, but you're welcome to turn up completely on your own.
- A toolkit, which includes a spare inner tube. Obviously you'd want to be able to fix a puncture or any other minor mechanical problems that might crop up. We had riders without ANY tools on the 1st Darkmoor ride. Don't be that person! Ensure you are self-sufficient.
- Regarding helmets, as the bunch from the Exmouth Exodus say, it's your head, so do what you like. The only thing we will ask is that you respect the choice others make and that you don't try to lecture them.
- There is no age limit on the ride, though we must ask that under-18s be accompanied by an adult. Nobody will check up on this and if you allow your under-18 to go on the ride unaccompanied then you alone accept full responsibility for their well being. We believe this could be a great adventure and a significant personal achievement for many youngsters, but they should be capable of cycling the distance.
- If you know anything about Dartmoor, you will know how unpredictable the weather can be. The route will be crossing high moorland, which is exposed and offers precious little shelter. Depending on the weather, you may be riding through a still, balmy summers night, or battle your way through strong headwinds in the rain. It is always a good idea to have a raincoat and warmer clothes with you, just in case.
Plymouth has pretty good transport links and you can drive (or be driven) to the start, take the train or simply cycle there.
We will leave Cap'n Jaspers on the Plymouth Barbican at exactly 21h00.
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