This is a re-run of the popular and hugely fun Minehead Big Weekender that we did in 2017. We will be staying at the same accommodation right in heart of Minehead, convenient for pubs, shops and whatever else floats your boat…
Outline plan for the weekend:
Friday – optional ride around the beautiful Lynton/Lynmouth and Valley of the Rocks – start time TBA Saturday – ride ‘from the door’ up cliffside path then few uppy-downy bits including the stunning Horner Woods and the awesome Dunkary Beacon Descent (be warned – you gotta get up there first!)… Sunday – Quantocks – brilliant ride round the stunning Quantock hills (yes – that’s more hills!) including a play on the downhill runs at Triscombe.
All rides will be a bit on the ‘lumpy’ side with a reasonable degree of technical challenges – nothing mad, and you can always get off and push… These will be big days out, though…
Accommodation is at the Base Lodge, 16 The Parks, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 8BS – nothing fancy, but clean and functional. There is a very well equipped kitchen for knocking up your nosh, although we will probably visit the local hostelries for food and beverages.
Cost for 2 nights digs £35.00 per person, based on sharing a room.
At moment, we have 1 x 5 and 1x 6 room booked – one for Fellas and one for Sheilas. We can add more rooms if we can get numbers up from the 10 currently signed up. Max number is 22.
Please contact Graham Burgess if interested in going.
Fancy something different to trail centre? This is a classic mountain bike route with some of the best natural riding in Britain. It’s going to be an all day ride covering most of the Quantocks area. We will start at Holford and climb up through the tree covered combe, taking in the leafy autumnal scenery. Reaching the top to catch your first breath, you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Bristol channel. Back on the bike, we take one of the many descents down before we ride back up again over the moors to explore some more other combes. It’s all natural riding with a good mix of terrain interspersed with many water crossings. We will also get a chance to ride some of the DH and Enduro tracks at Triscombe and Great Wood. The best is saved till last when we return back to Holford and finish on the grand finale descent. This is not a ride for novices. It will be physically demanding with a lot of climbing and pushing as well some quite technical descents. Distance will be 30-40km and will be 4-5 hours. It’s your chance to squeeze in one more ride before the clocks go back. You also get an extra hour in bed to recover – result! Oh, there is a pub at the start and finish.
We’ll meet at the Plough Inn car park, Holford at 10:00 29th October 2016
Gary Lee will be leading this ride and describes it below.
If you are serious about mountain biking and haven’t been, then this is for you. It’s an often forgotten destination that’s right on our doorstep and makes a change from the Welsh trail centres. It’s been too long since our last MB Swindon visit in 2013.
This ride will start from the carpark at Holford. The route will include some steep technical climbs and possible pushing near the start. All good rides include a bit of pushing or carrying. This is rewarded with some of the best natural descents you’ll find anywhere. The terrain is a mix of singletrack, grassy moorland and some water features. Some places are a bit muddy at the moment and can feel a bit like riding on wet carpet.
We will be heading over to Triscombe and play on some of the DH runs. It is possible to do about 3 runs (down and then ride/push back up) and still have some energy left before we ride back to the start.
Save some energy as there’s a great finale as we head back down towards the carpark. Oh!, there is a pub at the end.
I would recommend taking plenty of drink and some food. The ride time is about 4 – 5 hours, 26-28km distance and around 1000m of climbing. Intermediate to Expert level riding.
The scenery is very agreeable especially on a clear day.
Words by Gary Lee Photos by Gary Lee and Hilda May Latham
Quantocks Revisited is quite an apt title; we came here as a club about two years ago and had not been back since – it’s been far too long. Not as far to drive as Afan and only a little further than Cwmcarn from Swindon. The big plus is no bridge toll to pay.
The weather man said to expect rain in the afternoon. It was dry but looked gloomy overhead in the morning when we pulled into Holford, along the A39 just past Bridgewater. The rain started spitting a bit, but looked like it was holding off. The temperature was a mild 12 °c on the temperature gauge. Big decisions had to be made: rain jacket or softshell; merino wool base layer or synthetic; electric blue or tennis yellow top? Oh! Hang on….
I was looking forward to this one – my first time leading an official MBS ride. We’d already done a recce ride a few weeks back, but there’s still plenty of scope to get lost in the Quantocks. Switch on the Gary Nav.
This also happened to be the first outing of my new Santa Cruz build after a warranty replacement. The evening before, I was just clipping off the last bits of cable tie on the new frame… it’s such a satisfying feeling isn’t it?
I started doing my pre-ride checking to make sure everything was screwed on tight. The customary bouncing up and down around the car park ensued as I tried to convince myself the suspension set up was perfect. I knew one thing though… I’d just fitted new low friction PUSH seals from TF Tuned on my Pikes. They felt nice, and this was the perfect ride to test them out.
It was good to meet up again with a few club regulars. Surprisingly, it was the first time for many of them to ride the Quantocks. A new face appeared, Alfonso from Chippenham (he’s originally from Spain actually) on a ‘try before you buy’ ride. It’s always good to see new faces on rides. Personally, I think it’s partly what these rides are all about. People turn up, have a great time and then join the club.
With the preliminaries out of the way, we set off up the bridle path on a steady climb. One thing about the Quantocks… it’s quite hilly! The gentle ride up through woodland with a nice scenic stream-crossing quickly becomes a sharp technical climb with a left hand switchback. At this point I took the opportunity to stop and look back to check the group. Most of them were pushing. The higher we got, the looser the ground, with small pebbles turning into rocks. When we reached the top, jackets and top layers started to come off. Nice little warm up then! Catching our breath and looking around, we got our first glimpse of the grassy heathland scenery. There were a few sheep grazing and a couple of walkers here. A small herd of red deer ran across the heather and gorse in the distance. This was going to be a good ride.
We regrouped and dropped down to the first little fun descent – into a tree lined ravine, with a few little narrow techy bits – which finishes at another stream crossing at the bottom and the path splits up in several different directions. This is a very typical feature of the Quantock hills. They can all look very similar and can mess with your navigation. I pointed “that way” and we carried on up another climb through two gates and came to an open field… and then I realized we had gone off course. I carried on like it was all planned – I knew the general direction and followed my nose. All was well when we crested another hill and I could see where we were headed. We stopped and everyone took in the scenery whilst I recalibrated Gary Nav. There’s a spectacular view of the Bristol channel and the Jurassic coastline from here, with a good view of Hinckley Point power station below and Wales off in the distance.
We rejoined the path where I had originally planned to end up at. There was a lady on a horse who kindly gave way to us whist we rode through a narrow, almost hidden track, through the gorse and up along a steady upward traverse around a big hill. At this point the sun came out and shone through the silver-covered birch trees and lit up the path in front of us. I forgot about the tired legs and took in the amazing scenery, with just the sound of our tyres rustling through leaves and small twigs, and heavy breathing. The climb then levelled off nearer the top and became fast and flowing single track. The ground had dried and was riding very quickly compared to a few weeks ago.
We reached the road and carried on past two car parks. We saw other bikers and walkers parked here and it looked quite busy. After a short stint of road, we were at Triscombe. There’s another car park here which is popular with with DH riders.
I was determined to get everyone down at least one of the DH runs. A brief description was given by me to everyone on what to expect, but I didn’t give too much away. I find it best to just ride and not think about it too much. Saddle down, off I went down one of the main runs – “just follow me”. It starts with a nice flowy section down through a S bend onto a rooty berm, and over a hidden drop on the right. Into the trees, it steepens into a series of turns and little steps and kickers. Half way down, there’s a jump I remembered well from last time which I cleared and landed onto a small compression and slingshot back up the other side. Then, it was onto the next series of turns and step offs down onto the fire road.
I quickly turned round to see who was behind me. At this point, I wondered whether I should have mentioned the jumps and the fact that you could ride around them. One by one, the others appeared with big grins and their faces. I need not have worried – everyone made it down successfully without incident and rubber side down.
Back on the bikes, we spun back up the fire road climb. We then decided to rest and have a bit of lunch back at the car park. Once we had munched down our flapjacks and sandwiches, we were ready for more. Some opted to rest at the car park while the rest of us went for another two runs.
We went searching for that elusive trail which I had done back in 2013 but couldn’t quite remember where it was. In the end we found a different route down and ended up doing part of the Three Kings descent. Saddles back up and granny gears selected, it was back up the fire road again for another run. The last run down was similar to the first but ended up a little steeper and finished further down the fire road. There is so much here that I wished we could ride them all, but that would require an uplift service or an e-bike with several spare batteries. There are supposed to be around forty separate trails – it would take a while to ride them all! It’s definitely worth a return visit just to do the DH runs. And yes, there is an uplift service available.
It was time to head back to Holford. There was still a lot of pedalling to be done and probably the best is yet to come. We headed over towards Great Wood. The almost 100% natural single track through the trees is just awesome. Dropping in from the fire road, there are tight turns dodging the trees, roots and step offs, wooden logs and jumps. It’s not steep but still technically challenging, and pedalling is still required to maintain speed. Out of the trees, we followed the track alongside the cliff before we came to a tight left hander into a zig-zag, back into the dark overhang of trees and a fast descent down to the road. Pick your line carefully along here otherwise you’ll end up in a big rut. I took the high line on the left, getting plenty of grip from the High Roller IIs on the loamy surface.
Down at the road, we went through another car park and then had a long drag up the last fire road climb. Passing a busy picnic area, we could smell BBQs which made us all feel a bit hungry.
We reached the road we had ridden along earlier and it was time for the finale – the descent back down to Holford. The top part starts fast and weaves through the trees and then ground becomes increasingly loose. This turns into a big rock garden and it’s difficult not to lose speed. I felt the wheels pinging off the rocks and felt the advantage of those slippery stanchions and the new seals on the Pike. Once past the rock garden, you follow the the hill down alongside the stream, crossing it in different places. There are narrow, rooty, off camber bits which you have to clear on both sides of the water. There are several line choices in places which provides an opportunity for overtaking at speed… if you feel brave enough.
The gradient flattens off halfway down and we stopped to regroup. Lucky we did – no sooner had we picked up speed than we were confronted with a large fallen tree. As we approached, there was a young couple with their two children on the other side of the tree. The father was chipping away at the branch with a small axe and carrying a baby on his back. The baby seemed to be enjoying it. Then the mother decided she wanted a go and grabbed the axe and started swing away with it. We left them to it – I had a feeling they were going to be a while. Just one more gate to negotiate and it was back along the road to the car park.
All good rides finish at the pub, and there’s quite a good one in the village called The Plough. They cater well for mountain bikers with a beer garden, a good selection of beers on tap, a very good food menu and even vegetarians can eat well.
Having returned to ride the Quantocks, I am determined to come back soon for more – I won’t be leaving it another two years again! I think another recce ride is in order, so watch this space. Special thanks to all the riders who turned up.
Pete Latham, Hilda Latham, Richard Ford, Jonathon Shepard, Alfonso, Andrew Titcombe, Graham Burgess, Paul Broderick, Gary Lee
There will not be any shops etc. during the ride so bring a day’s worth of food, water and spares. There is a pub at the end.
The climbs are long but steady – no worse than Welsh trail centres, but not a ride for novices. Skills wise, its all on the fun side of technical. Don’t let the ‘downhill’ tag put you off – it’s all rollable.
If you like the look of the DH trails then keep an eye on our gravity team and their Facebook page for info on uplift days and dh evening sessions.
It was almost two years to the day since our previous visit to the Quantock hills. Six of us met in Holford car park on a bank holiday Monday. I’d been told on Saturday “you don’t want to go there. It’ll be raining”. Wrong! It was non standard issue sunny bank holiday weather.
Our host for the day was Robin Steward, an ex-Swindonite who relocated to Taunton last year. So he’s had plenty of opportunities to explore the area. He’d come up with a set of natural trails that took us up from Holford and then across to the Triscombe downhill tracks.
The DH tracks offer many lines through the woods on the side of a steep valley. We started on a very gnarly track which turned steep and loose towards the end. Most of us wimped out. Gary Lee and Robin showed how it was done. After a long climb back tot he top we took a much smoother trail which lead to a lot of jumps. We spent half an hour trying out the various jumps before continuing down the trail and then back up. We repeated this pattern several times, spending a few hours trying out various options.
This is definitely a place to visit if you want to develop your jumping. There were plenty of small and medium jumps that were ideal for practicing on. There are also some very large jumps if that’s your thing.
With playtime over we followed more natural trails back to the start. We spotted some sections from the Gravity Enduro event including a very long and rocky descent which they had to push up on the event. It was definitely better in the down direction.
After a long descent towards Holford we finished with a final bonus climb and descent and made it to the car park just as the first drops of rain fell. Excellent timing by Robin. A great day out. We’ll be back.
Thanks to Robin for organising, Jon Proudman for the video and Andrew Weaver for taking half of the photos.
Part Two. Lunch and general hooning about. A couple of hours exploring the many ‘downhill’ tracks near to Triscombe Car Park or just kick back and enjoy the rest!
Part Three. 2pm ish. Return to Holford via some classic singletrack and Combes
There will not be any shops etc. during the ride so bring a day’s worth of food, water and spares. There is a pub at the end.
The climbs are long but steady – no worse than Welsh trail centres, but not a ride for novices.Skills wise, its all on the fun side of technical. Don’t let the ‘downhill’ tag put you off – it’s all rollable.