Ex to Ax, an east Devon A road spectacular

The day started so well. I sipped a coffee, in the sunshine, plotting a scenic route from Exeter to Axminster, via Newton Poppleford and Seaton. It would be great. I’d even eaten! What could go wrong?


Doing some checks before setting off, I noticed that one of my cleat screws was missing, and another was hanging off. Hmm, this meant I’d done Exmouth Exodus with 1.5/3 screws. After having it pointed out to me that only twats ride with worn cleats, I went to find a bike shop. They found a spare screw for me, but discovered that the plate of my sidis was broken. They suggested I buy new shoes, or ride home barefoot. I bought new shoes.

Finally, I was ready to leave and the sun was still shining. I carried my totally overweight bike down the steps from the shop, carradice now groaning under the weight of wet clothes, broken shoes and unused swimming costumes – and in that moment, it started raining. Big, heavy, horizontal rain. Fuck you, weather.

I set off, I got lost, I sheltered under a tree. It all seemed so familiar. I rode in circles around an industrial estate. Eventually I found my way to the outskirts of Exeter and realised that I’d lost too much time with shoe-fuck-ups and getting lost to do the nice route I’d planned and would instead have to ride up the A30 and A35. Urgh.

The A30 was just as grim as I thought it might be, a dual carriageway packed with lorries driving too close to me and blaring their horns. I got pins and needles in both feet and my right hand and had to stop in every lay-by to shake out my limbs. It was unpleasant, still raining and annoyingly hilly.

When I got to Honiton, google maps told me to take a long route around the town, but I figured that I knew better and turned on to the A35. Big mistake as there’s basically a vertical road of doom leading out of Honiton. The road is also quite narrow with lots of blind corners, which meant that I soon had the following stacked up behind me: 2 lorries, a bus, 4 cars with caravans, 3 vans and several assorted cars. When they passed me they each shouted something encouraging, original and witty, like “get out of the road”, “pay some fucking road tax” or “get a car, you hippy”.

The road went on and on, and mainly up and up. It rained some more. My feet hurt. My ipod ran out of batteries. I’ve never been so happy to see the sign welcoming me to Axminster, the home of fine carpets since 1755.

30 miles but it felt like a lot more. No tears but only because my eyes were continually washed out by the driving rain. I never want to see my bike again.


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