It would be easy to underestimate a 30km hack around Dartmoor; but to do so would be a big mistake. This is a big ride: laced throughout with lengthy, sapping climbs, rocky, technical drops, and mile after mile of sumptuous, sweet singletrack.
An early rubble-strewn descent sets the tone, and you know you’re going to pay for it before long. You do, and the winding forest track offers little mercy to legs that have yet to warm up. It’s a little less taxing around Manaton; often feeling more like the North Downs than Britain’s most southerly wilderness, but there are a few granite steps to hop over, and there’s still a long way to go.
West Combe shows the way onto the moor for the first time — first with a fairly savage climb on concrete tractor tracks, then on easier singletrack. From the top it’s a feast of narrow and winding moorland ruts where line choice is everything. More of the same leads onto Birch Tor where a deceptively tricky descent plummets to Bennett’s Cross. The Warren House Inn is just up the road but dare you miss the singletrack to follow?
This next section is pure heaven — a twisted ribbon of granite dust that tests balance and nerve as it weaves between the disused shafts of the Birch Tor and Bitifer tin mine. Then there’s another ridge to hurdle before a long climb up past the ancient ruins of Grimspound.
You’re on the home straight now, with a great descent from Hamel Down, some rough and rocky stuff to Jay’s Grave, and a cup of tea before the grassy pull past Hound Tor. The descent to Becka Brook is steep but all too short and, after a few great boulder-hopping sections and a final big climb up Black Hill, you’re left with prospect of two delectable singletrack descents to finish.