The Dartmoor Devil on a Tandem

Thursday 2 September 2010, Filed in: General

Well the day started off find, we loaded the tandem on to the back of the car alright and the weather forecast was sunny with no wind. So far so good, things started to change as we drove up to the start at Bovey Tracy, the light board decided to come off, luckily only on one side. It didn't hit the deck so I just clipped it back on and we arrived at the start.

Sue completed her first attempt of the DD on a solo.
I needed a couple attempts, the first wrong gearing and a very young club member I was looking after, we died, lucky dad was following in the Volvo.
Bad weather was the next effort, well I didn’t bother, with a storm forecast and on the ride only a handful finished, while a lot were reported huddled in a ditch for protection. Yes, it’s bad up there.
Finally, the following year I succeeded,

Signed on, got ready with a very large group of 100 cyclists of which we were one of three tandems taking part.

We were on Stokes (Sue’s) Dawes tandem, there was also a couple on a orange and yellow Thorn tandem with the tiniest granny ring you could imagine/ get.
The other couple were on a rather racey blue Cannondale with Rolf wheels.

The couple on the Cannondale were given ahead start of two minutes to warn the marshals that all hell was about to brake loose. Or we had all started.
Of we set bang, turn right up a big hill, and that set the precedence for the rest of the ride, which I seemed to recall as all long up hills onto Dartmoor but do not remember too many down hills.
There must have been because it was only on the descents that our troubles appeared to strike. More of that later.

Our friend Sandra was riding with us on her solo, when we decided it was time to take off our long sleeve jerseys at the bottom of a climb very early on, but we had to pity all those riders in their thermals because it was hot. Very unusual for the Dartmoor Devil.

Normally freezing cold wet and very windy.

Just after that Sandra had a front wheel puncture on a climb, so as good friends we stopped but Sandra said “carry on I’ll catch you up” so a hill start. Quite hard to do as usual wrong gear, trying to clip in, but we got there.

One very long descent, brilliant only 38 mph but the roads around here were strewn with water, mud and vegetation, so I had to be very careful, No I was told to be very careful.
We had caught up with a group of solos and had to sit behind them, as we could not get past them, so quite a bit of braking to keep the tandem in check. Just as the road started to rise, a gun was let off in my ear; well that’s what it sounded like. Rear wheel blow out. Sandra caught us up, but we told her to carry on, we would catch her up. No, we wouldn’t. On removing the inner tube, Sue asked if it was repairable, in truth
“No as the split was about 11 inches long.” The beading of the tyre was a little worse for its experience as well. We fitted a new inner tube and pumped it up. By now, every man and his dog had gone by.
Still it was early, so off we set for the next up hill. This road/track was unsuitable for motor vehicles, but not us. As we started up this very wet slippery debris littered potholed track, upwards forever upwards, I said to Sue that it seemed the solo riders were walking up, then we started to get abit of wheel spin, but manage to keep going.
With the loss of traction, it seemed to me that we could get off and walk. However, the command from the stern was
“I am not walking up any hill on the DD.”
So I continued on, very near the top where we were now wheel spinning more than travelling forward, the solo riders were cheering us on, Wow we could not stop now but regained traction and rode on up. Yes!! We made it.

A lovely day it was until the next disaster / adventure, me trying to change down under pressure, the chain dropped down between the chain rings and somehow caught, well and truly trapped.
Calling for brute force and a screwdriver blade to get the chain out. Onward and definitely upward until we reached our next checkpoint for some lovely soup and rolls. Here we met Sandra and also a lot of the group that set off an hour behind us.
Yes we had lost quite abit of time, I think it was at this point that we thought we could have a slow puncture.


Tandem H.M.T. Skylark having a rest.

Riding a tandem with a fairly flat rear tyre is err interesting. Especially cornering a speed, as you could feel the wheel rolling over the tyre.
Now lots of deservedly “you will be careful” well I did be very careful, as I didn’t want to hit the deck either.
As we made our way back up onto the moor to a place called Jurston, there was a water stop but he didn’t tell us a cake stop too, but we spotted the delicious cake and stopped immediately, no hesitation.

Once fortified it was of to sunny Princetown, but we had gained a little friend, you know the type. Non-talkative but just sits there while you do all the work.
We tried to shake him off but he was persistent until the descent into Postbridge.
Not a hope, we wound the tandem up to 50 mph and freewheeled into Postbridge then carried on up the other side leaving him somewhere, along way back.
When we got to Princetown the cloud building behind us was black, and we still had to head back that way.
Our friends Rogere and Doreen were manning the control so we had a chat, another piece of cake as we sat out in the last of the days sunshine, a very amusing thing happened.
Picture three blokes sat on one side of those picnic benches, on the other a female cyclist (who happen to be our friend Sandra) Well Sandra stooded up walked maybe two paces when the table tipped up, depositing tea and cake into their laps. Sandra immediacy ran and put here weight on the side she had been sitting on as it was now up in the air.
Doreen made some comment about Sandra, “that she was carrying alittle to much weight.” Good job Sandra didn’t hear that comment.
It really wasn’t Sandra’s fault as the table leg had snapped.
We now set off for two very big climbs, the first was Dartmeet hill, alittle bit of across the Moor to Widdecombe, Yes Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.
This was the hill that Chris Boardman did in 4 minutes something. We didn’t, it took us well quite abit longer.
Back to Dartmeet hill, “we are not walking up any hills on the DD” as we approached the bottom as usual I was in the wrong gear and we ended up stopped and laughing. Finally, we got going and soon got into the rhythm that you need on a hill like this.
The weather had now come in, very low cloud, so on with the lights. We soon got to the top and set off across the Moors. At Widdecombe, we stopped for food and pump up the tyre. With that done off we set thinking nearly done it, nearly finished. After this all down hill all the way back to Bovey.

We overtook afew solos on the way up, and got a few “well dones”.
We were chuffed, because we had climbed all the hills on the tandem, Not on foot.


Muddy legs at the end picture by Sue

On arrival at the end, a nice pub at Manaton, we logged in and sampled the ale.
We were really proud the we had completed this monster ride and only had a couple of miles downhill to get back to the car, and we had now completed the Devil on a Tandem, we were really pleased with ourselves, in fact, we were Buzzing.

As we were about to set of in the dark and switched our lights on a rider came up and asked if he and a group of about seven other riders could tag on as “they didn’t have any lights” well except one.
Sue was not best pleased about this and wanted to leave them behind, as it was their fault, they knew the clocks had gone back. Very True, but I was still happy and didn’t want to leave a fellow cyclist stranded even if they were on solo’s.
We set off at a steady pace, but the back end of the tandem was getting very sloppy.
I went very carefully; on a marvellous decent where I think we could have beaten our record of 53 mph downhill speed record with ease. Maybe next year.
As we got to the bottom of the hill we both heard the fis, fis, and we knew what was coming next. Yes the Big Bang, Sue screamed “Stop” I am trying, in more ways than one. We stopped, puncture!
“Oh you have a puncture” and with that they rode of into the night never to be seen again, “thanks so glad of you assistance”
As we stood there in the dark Sue asked do we fix the puncture or walk.
The answer was WALK, well it wasn’t that far as I recalled.
By time we had changed the inner tube, tried to pump up the tyre and it was very black.
So of we set, chatting about what a fun day we have had so far.
Cars stopped and offered us tubes, one even offered us a wheel, But we were OK, we’d be back at the car in no time.
Sue said “Stop can you hear that rubbing?” “Well no” came the reply.
Yes, it was ever so peace full, and I couldn’t hear the tyre rubbing. So we stopped removed the front light and looked at our rear tyre. Not a pretty sight.

The bead had separated from the tyre so even if we had fitted a tube it would of stuck out. And gone pop again. Sue and I counted our blessings that we had completed the Devil before this disaster struck, and we weren’t speed around a curve.
We carried on through the night still chatting about the marvellous day we had had, but it wasn’t over yet. As we pushed the tandem along Sue had already remove the rear brake carrier, the tandem got harder and harder to push.
“Sue what are you doing?”

Nothing” came Sue’s reply
“Stop messing about Sue”
“I’m not!”
I took our front light off and low and behold, the inner tube was now wrapped around the rear cassette and as taught as a bowstring.
“Have we anything sharp we can cut this with”
“I don’t think so” came Sues reply.
“How about that little screwdriver blade?”
Then that’s what I had to use. Inner tubes must be made of Kevlar.
Tough or what, very tough, but we managed.
And with that our savoir turned up in a van and kindly took us back to the car park.
We didn’t have that far to go, less than half a mile.
It wasn’t until the Tuesday afternoon that on opening my toolbox to get out a pair of scissors that I remembered that in the bag on the tandem was a first aid kit that
Had a Pair of Scissors in it, how silly did I feel.
But it was still an adventure worth doing,
Yes and its pencilled in for next year?
Thank you Sue very much but the decision is yours.


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