So our first attempt at bikepacking, which we decided to treat as a trial run before we even set out, turned out to be a massive learning curve. Loads of fun, but definitely the type-two kind, we are older, wiser, and covered in nettle rash and insect bites.
I’m a new cyclist, and with my bike being twice it’s usual weight, I stacked it twice. Once while stopping (in front of people), and once while pushing off – no people this time! Andy’s air mattress got shredded on the first night, so he had no sleep and then had to help me up hills and over gates.
It would be fair to say that we put up a good fight, but the Quantocks are seriously hilly and rocky. The rocks are particularly rocky to face-plant onto, I can tell you. As I type this I am covered in Sudocrem.
Literally. Covered. In Sudocrem.
Here is Taunton to Minehead via the Quantock Hills
We live in London. Only crazy people drive in London. So we packed the bikes and took the train to my nice, quiet parking spot near the M25, then drove to Taunton.
After our first ride out of Taunton and into the Quantocks, we headed up and over the first of many big hills. Coming down into the valley we came across the ruins of Adscombe Chapel. Naturally, we had to camp there. It was such a pretty spot.
Day 2 began with a steep uphill scramble, but then amazing views of the hills and coast. We met lots of ponies, dogs, and the dog walkers who saw me fall on my face. Yeah, that. Being up that high gave us a sense of how far we had come in a day, and how far away Minehead was. There is not a lot of GPS reception around there so we started relying on vantage points to confirm we were going in the right direction.
Packing-wise, we wondered about how experienced bikepackers do what they do. We thought we had packed as frugally as possible, but we were still doubling the weight of our bikes. I conclude that packing just right is a meeting of art and science, and something we will keep working at. I guess its about trial and error. I think my best packing decision was to bring the Sudocrem! There were so many many little bitey insects. And of course the nettles that we were riding through at speed. Our legs got shredded.
Having tried a couple of little villages and not found a suitable puncture repair kit for the air mattress, we gave in to the desire for real sleep after all those hills. We found the village of Holford and decided to enjoy our evening with a pub meal and a B&B that luckily had a room for us.
After a proper sleep, a real shower (happy dance), and a cooked breakfast, we were ready to try again on day 3. With a lack of GPS signal we chose to try a bit of road instead of all trails, the idea being that we would know we were heading the right way.
We started using Andy’s mobile phone for sat nav as it worked better, until it got smashed while we lifted the bikes over a fence. Those rocky paths struck again! So we now needed two things repaired.
Several little villages later, we joined the coastal path at Blue Anchor and pushed on to Minehead. Literally pushed I mean, it was all stones and sand. Not even Andy’s chubby bike tyres could ride over those rocks. Arriving at Minehead was a relief. Probably due to Butlins being there, I was expecting a tacky tourist town, but it’s actually quite lovely.
We found a great little cafe for a cream tea – yay! But sadly the camping shop couldn’t help us with a mattress repair kit, and the phone shop couldn’t fix Andy’s phone the same day. They wanted to send it away to the manufacturer. I will admit, at this point, I almost started missing London.
So, type-2 fun had and lessons learnt. Next time we would pack the following:
- Shock-proof phone cases
- More puncture repair stuff – we only had kit for tyres
- Citronella candles and/or bug spray
- The tick tweezers we forgot (but luckily didn’t need)
And the best things that we actually did pack:
- First aid kit, including Sudocrem
- MSR water purifier – a lifesaver in the woods
- MSR microrocket camp stove, which is super-light and packs very small
- Tons of electrolytes – Andy likes High 5 and I like SIS or Nuun
On our next adventure we will be swapping wheels for water and kayaking down the River Wye. After watching Ray Mears’ trip on ITV we were sold on it as our next adventure.