Cycling on high-up Exmoor is hard and only for touring cyclists who are keen on a challenge. A general good fitness level and mentality to keep going is essential. Even then, watch your steps.
Although a journey along the north coast of Exmoor might be appealing on the map (and there are even now some signposted routes), cycling conditions can be harsh. Not only do you have to deal with extreme climbs such as Porlock Hill and the climbs in and out of Lynmouth, the current signposted routes take you also on the A39 main road. This road might not be busy, but you are very well exposed to fast moving traffic, not so nice when cycling in blind bends and up on steep slopes. If you insist on travelling the north coast it is better to walk. The stunning South West Coast Path between Minehead and Woolacombe can be walked in four days.
If you want to cycle across Exmoor, a more inland route from Taunton via Bampton, Dulverton, Bratton Fleming to Barnstaple is recommended. This route is via quiet country lanes only, meaning you can entirely focus on your hill climbing challenge without having to worry about traffic. Planning your distances is essential. Do you normally cycle about 12 miles per hour on the flat? Expect your progress on Exmoor to be about 6 miles per hour max! Weather conditions can seriously affect your journey, so ensure to bring water and wind proof jackets and trousers and warm spare clothes for wet weather and good sun protection and plenty of water on warm, sunny days.
So long as you take it easy and prepare yourself well, cycling across Exmoor is possible for most people. Great vistas are the ultimate reward for all climbing efforts, just as some great descents. Bampton and Dulverton are scenic villages, with very much a remote mountain valley feel. The prehistoric Tarr Steps are a joy to walk across with your bicycle, allowing you to travel a route which has been in use for over 3000 years! Both Taunton and Barnstaple on either end of the journey will welcome you "back to civilisation" in style, with plenty of opportunities to celebrate your achievements!
The Exmoor Cycle Route is signposted as Route 3, but as some signposts are missing on crucial junctions and information on services on the way are essential, we recommend our Cycling on Exmoor route which contains:
Route: Taunton - Bampton - Dulverton - Bratton Fleming - Barnstaple (with extra route via Tarr Steps, not signposted)
Total distance: 66 miles (108 km); cycle paths: 8%, quiet roads: 86%, roads with regular flow or possibly fast moving traffic: 6%, busy main roads with adjacent footpath: 0%
Grading: Hard to strenuous, serious climbing all the way, including some extreme climbs. Not suitable for younger children. Only suitable for keen and fit teenagers.
Highlights: Taunton, remote West-Somerset hills, scenic Bampton and Dulverton, Exmoor National Park, Tarr Steps, Two Burrows (highest point of route 480 m above sea level), Devon hills, historic Barnstaple
Our Cycling on Exmoor route is part of our London-Land's End Cycle Route Book. This guide book provides great value for money, includes GPS-tracks and features many more regions other than just Exmoor!