Soreen Tranquility (Dartmoor 2) (with puzzle)

Sunday dawned much brighter and clearer. The visibility had improved so much that you could even see the sky!

All my best riding gear (such as it is) is soaked and gritty. Time to change into costume B - my frighteningly Lycra cycling tights, and my Allstar baseball boots. Not cool, not attractve, but dry.

We set off up the same path as we used to start yesterday’s ride. It has a slight incline, a gritty surface, and some rocky bits. Every so often, there is a gully to be negotiated.

This is not working. My legs won’t respond, my balance is all off, and I am falling every hundred metres or so. The planned ride is even longer than yesterday, and I am intimidated. My latent tourettes rises to the surface with a vengeance.

We reach the crossroads at the top of the hill. Yesterday, we turned right down a long rocky descent. Today, we go straight on, retracing the last 5 km or so of yesterday’s ride. Downhill it is ten times easier. We have the unexpected luxury of a view, and even some sunshine! I maintain a steady pace, and at each obstacle I am greeted by a gallery of photographers, all eager to see me “not so much ride as plummet”.

I’m doing well, now, and this is feelgood riding - a big open space, plenty of time, and riding that is challenging enough to keep me focussed, but not overwhelming. I guess I average a fall every kilometre or so. The most spectacular (on which Rob was kind enough to remark in his post!) Has me rolling down a rocky slope, my right wristguard and helmet both throwing themselves intot he path of danger to protect the client. There is more swearing, but this is born of surprise and sudden pain, rather than frustration and low morale, and I quickly see the funny side.

Nevertheless, I do need to work on this whole potty mouth thing. It is a definite weakness in my unicycling game.

At the bottom of the hill is a strange obstacle comprising a sort of rocky threshold/culvert and a cobbled area. I ride over it alright but immediately UPD. Some people hop it, others roll it, and many fall. Young Tom does as well as any - on his 20! I cast my mind back to the crossroads, and wonder whether I can recall him engaged in a transaction with a gentleman with cloven hooves, dressed in red. But no - he’s just talented and indestructible.

We regroup around this obstacle. I eat ginger nut biscuits (the shop in Princetown had no Soreen). The others, to a man, eat Soreen - a little ostentatiously, in some cases. I reflect that it is important not to be bitter, and I smile with my customary good nature, and eat one of those disgusting stodgy “good for you” bars that stick to the roof of your mouth.

On down the hill to the bridge and the ford. I ride the bridge, but the bridge is not enough for the crazies in the gang. Joe tentatively rides into the ford, loses his nerve, hops round and bales out onto a dry-ish tussock. Then he tries again and rides through. The water is 12 inches (30 cm) deep or more, and his shoes get wet. Not to be outdone, Phil takes a deeper route, then again, and again. Neither he nor the crowd will be entirely satisfied until he falls in, so, obligingly, he does.

“With hindsight,” he later comments, “I should have taken my digital camera out of my trouser pocket before trying that.” It looks like his pictorial memories of the weekend will be confined to whatever he can sketch on a beer mat in the pub later.

Yesterday’s long ascent up the road is today’s steady descent, and soon we are on the level. We stop next to the village cross at Sheepstor near the church, and regroup. The others eat Soreen. Those who are not hungry just flaunt theirs. I nibble a dry biscuit.

I remove my Camelbak and notice something small land in the grass a few feet away. A minute or two later, I glance at my wrist-mounted GPS and see that one of the pins holding the strap is missing. I put two and two together, and we instigate a search of the village green. Many witty remarks about needles and haystacks are made, but the pin is nowhere to be found. The distraction is a nuisance, becauseit wastes time, and I had hoped to visit Watson’s grave in the churchyard.

Back on the unis, and we ride on to the edge of Burrator Reservoir, and round to the dam. Here we pause while some have the amusingly-named Willy’s ice creams. In contrast to yesterday, the weather is lovely, and all around us are holiday makers and bicyclists.

On from here along perfectly smooth tarmac, I go to adjust my foot position, and UPD in the most embarrassing fashion in front of the biggest crowd of the day.

Soon we reach a junction with a path that climbs up the hill to our left. Near this junction is a quite spectacular waterfall, and a few of us ride up the path at the side of the stream to have a closer look. We decide to session the area to the max, and for the next few minutes the woods echo to the whoops and screams of unicyclists nearly plummeting to their deaths in the pool at the foot of the waterfall.

Time to move on, and we set off up the steepish climb. The ground is uneven and sometimes loose, with occasional mud patches and puddles. There is a hairpin to the right and someone UPDs, bringing down two others. I ride through the ensuing melee and power on past pinewoods until I reach the top without a fall.

We regroup and session an awesome tree stump for a bit before moving on along a footpath that follows the line of an old railway track. This offers a variety of surfaces from muddy single track to deep wet grass, to mud and ballast. Rob is nervous because the path crosses a field where he was once chased by a bull, but today there are only benign cows or bullocks in the field. (I don’t look in that much detail, but they’re definitely not bulls!)

Soon we reach something which is more recognisably the old railway track. It climbs slightly, almost but not quite following the contours of the hill. The surface is rock and ballast, fairly easy to ride, but with occasional traps.

We stop near a gate, and someone points out there’s a nice little drop down onto the field to the left. Rob remarks that he’s never dared to risk the drop, and that riding up the hill at the side of it is one of his ambitions. What happens next is predictable: several of us, including Rob, ride down the drop then down the soggy grass field and try to ride back up. The drop itself is easier than it looks, but I doubt if I’d have done it without the chorus of well wishers encouraging me. The climb back is just a slog, with the trickiest bit just before the top. Determination fatigue kicks in and I UPD 3 or 4 metres short of my goal.

Onwards and upwards along the trackbed, gradually climbing. There is quite a bitter wind, but the sun is out and the views are good. Ahead of us is the Princetown Mast - a massive telecommunications mast which is visible from miles away. It is near to the bleak grey bulk of Princetown’s famous prison. This is the very prison from which the convict escaped in the The Hound of the Baskervilles. Princetown shamelessly exploits the Sherlock Holmes Heritage, with a life size statue of the great detective in the Dartmoor Visitor Centre. Dr. Watson, of course, is buried only a few miles away in the churchyard at Sheepstor.

After another mile or two, we are all perhaps a little bored of the gradual grinding ascent. Boredom breaks out, and there is an attempt to push Joe into a pond as he rides past it. A little later, we come to the remains of an old quarry, where rocks are piled high. Some of the group stops to eat nourishing and appetising Soreen. I glumly crunch a dry ginger biscuit. Joe and some of the others lead an assault on the rock pile, then come bounding back down with the enthusiasm of spring lambs to announce that we are all going to ride from the top of the rock pile.

Moments later, passers-by are greeted with the sight of a group of blokes clambering up a rocky hill, carrying unicycles. At the top we pose for photographs (which have been posted in a gallery from the Dartmoor Muni Weekend thread) before realising that the ride down will be far from simple. For example, the first bit is impossible.

Most of the descent is fairly easy, with the biggest risk being a pedal strike on one of the half-exposed rocks. I make it with only two falls (excluding the impossible bit at the top) and gradually we all make it back to the trackbed.

From here? More gradually climbing up the old railway. The summit is always just around the next corner. The wind is biting, but the sun is out. The group strings out a bit, with some rushing ahead in a flurry of testosterone. This is where Rob hits unprecedented speeds, and his Muni phase-shifts into a parallel universe where the rules of balance are subtly different. Subtly different, but different enough to cause him to do a ballistic dismount and cut and bruise his leg. Indeed, his injuries are almost bad enough for Sven to suggest he has a chance of playing in the quarter finals at the World Cup.

Back at the campsite, I feel much more like a successful Muni rider than I did yesterday. Ignoring the first mile or two when I was out of sorts, I think I’ve had no more falls than anyone else in the group, I’ve ridden some stuff I might not have tried on my own, and we’ve all had a great time.

My typical (alleged) Muni ride is an hour in the forest, covering 6 miles and climbing maybe 50 metres in total. Today’s ride stats:
Distance: 16.3 miles (26.2 km)
Max speed: 11.2 mph (18 kmh)
Average speed: 5.3 mph (8.5 kmh)
Time spent riding, excluding stops: 3:02
Difference between highest point and lowest: around 230 metres - although the total climbing was considerably more.

All this on a 24 x 3 with 165 mm cranks.

That makes it one of my biggest Muni rides yet - and one of my best.

As usual, there is one rogue “general knowledge error” in there. PM me with the answer if you want to play. Keep quiet if you don’t. Thanks.

Cheers for another top write-up, the more I read about this muni weekend the more gutted I am that I didn’t go!
I will definitely have to make the effort to get to the next BMW, whenever that may be.

I have had the same problem with my Garmin Foretrex 201 GPS five minutes into a ride at Cannock Chase though fortunately another rider, Andy, found the pin quickly. I have since taken to using the extension and wearing it further up my forearm, which I also find more comfortable, and where it seams to be less prone to this problem.

Anyway nice write up, wish I could of made it.

I feel it should be noted that Phil had stopped to remove his camelback full of tools, waterproof clothing, wrapped food etc before this, to prevent anything getting wet. Wouldn’t want anyone to think he’d been a bit silly.


Pardon my stupidity but what is “Soreen”??

Soreen is the brand name of a kind of Malt Loaf that’s popular in the UK.

Basically, imagine the following:
A loaf of bread that’s been shrunk to about 8 inches long, made out of really dark sweet tasting dough, incredibly dense, with raisins. It’s reckoned to be good stuff to keep you going on long rides.

It also has the useful property that no matter how you squish it, the consistency is about the same.

This! Do you not get it in the US then?

Oops make that Canada! And anyway, what he said ^

I love the Soreen picture in the gallery!
It’s great! :slight_smile:

Huh?..Mever heard of the stuff before today…maybe i should try to track some down in Canada

A more interesting link is this has a page devoted to Joe @ Strathpuffer.


That invoked a distant, ill remembered sketch. Might I sheepishly enquire: was it early Python, or one of the radio comedy shows?


Python, I think. I’ve never seen the original, but did hear the soundtrack on Radio 7 recently.

The answer to the “puzzle” is in the next post on this thread.


The offending passage:

<<Princetown shamelessly exploits the Sherlock Holmes Heritage, with a life size statue of the great detective in the Dartmoor Visitor Centre. Dr. Watson, of course, is buried only a few miles away in the churchyard at Sheepstor.>>

(There is another mention earlier in the post too.)

Dr. John Watson is a fictional character

Me too. I’m going to MUni at Llandegla forest on Sunday and most of me wants to do the Beginner’s route so that I don’t hold everyone else up. (Also because I am a beginner and I don’t want to put myself off by killing myself on the Intermediate route on my first go).


You weren’t the problem Gavin, it was just an unfortunately uneven balance of fast people and not-so-fast people. Other muni events I’ve been to have had a much bigger “slow” group so the problems we had last weekend don’t happen. Anyway, keep practising and you won’t be a beginner for long - keep that tyre pressure low. You might have been able to keep up with me on the Haldon Woods trails - I’m useless on forest tracks with trees and mud :roll_eyes:


Don’t worry about holding people up, people will always wait for you in the end. Having said that, the sunday ride might have been a bit much for you at your current level, it was 17 miles, and there was a fair bit of technical riding and climbing, and some rocky downhills like the day before. I dunno if I was just a bit more tired, but it seemed harder than the Saturday morning ride to me.

You’re obviously not unfit, where you had a problem seems to be in the technical level of the riding, which is what you really need to work on if you want to be faster at muni weekends. The trick with that is to push yourself to try new riding, rather than going round the easy wide tracks in Norbury Park, or riding round reservoirs, that’s not muni. If you want some really easy to find trails, these ones are those ones I was talking about, they’re not far from you at all. They’re fantastic trails for unicycling, and a real good introduction to more technical riding. I’d suggest starting by riding Summer Lightning, as it’s the easiest of the trails (not that it’s easy though, you’ll fall off on bits of it), Waggledance and Crooked Furrow are more technical, I don’t think I’ve ridden them clean ever, but every bit of them is rideable on a unicycle, Regurgitator I’ve never made it up, in fact it was named after how I felt the first time I tried to ride up it, with a great big hangover. That map isn’t 100% clear, where the circular on the map junction to get to the start of Summer Lightning is, there’s a big log pile, and there should be a signpost up there somewhere to point you at the trail. On a weekday, you’ll be fine parking in the car park opposite the plough in Coldharbour. From that car-park, you can also ride up the hill to Leith Hill Tower, this isn’t technical at all, but is a jolly big climb, about 800 feet I believe, and is pretty steep. There’s loads of singletrack trails in the woods near the tower, just go into the woods anywhere and look for bike tracks leading into narrow trails. Also, the ride down from the tower to the west (I think it’s the Greensand’s Way) is a long wide slightly technical downhill. It’s light till 10 in the evening now, so there’s no excuses for not getting out and riding! At the weekends that area is great, because there’s millions of mountain bikers around to help if you get lost, or need to find some trails.


Thanks for that Joe. I’ve actually got two weeks off work this month, so I’ll have a look at those trails.