While many of the hints for driving in Devon hold true, especially the description of the roads, biking in Devon holds many other pleasures and pitfalls. This entry hopes to shed light on some of them, but as always it is no way definitive.
The Fun Parts
Devon, in the south-west of England, and as stated in many entries within h2g2, is a wonderful place; from the bleakness of the man-made wilderness that is Dartmoor to the natural beauty of the coastline and the tree enclosed roads. It is these roads that make biking in Devon so much fun. They're twisty, but with some nice straight bits, and there are wonderful views wherever you are. Traffic congestion in the summer months means that, if you are on a bike, you can be assured of arriving at your destination well before any four-wheeled vehicles.
If you are a biker, you will know the pleasures of being able to ride in such pleasant surroundings. If you are not, then you should seriously consider becoming one.
Devon people are among the most relaxed you can find. Very few bikers get grief from the non-biking community - you never see 'No Biker' signs at pubs because Devon bar owners will take anyone's money quite happily. Not only that, but in the RiDER POWER (note the mixed case is deliberate) survey for 2001 showed the South West second lowest in the number of police stops (1.84 per reader) and third best in number of crashes per reader(1.28) and was also one of the cheapest three regions for insurance (£312).
As the entry on driving in Devon states, Devon has many single lane roads. While you may have to ride on these to get to your destination, they cannot really be recommended as a fun ride (especially when the centre of them has grass growing in it just where you need to place your bike). Also, the high Devon hedges make seeing what is coming towards you impossible. These roads should be avoided for fun riding, and ridden along with care whenever you have to use them.
Even where the roads appear as two lanes - complete with white lines in the middle - do not be fooled. Devon is an agricultural county as well as a tourist destination. While the lanes may be wide enough for cars, farm vehicles and coaches will cross the middle line. This is important on those right-hand bends. If you are close to the line with your wheels then if you are leaning as you should be, your body will be exactly where any on coming large vehicles will be. With the high hedges and/or trees, seeing round these bends is impossible. Only ride this close to the centre line if you can see that nothing is coming towards you.
While they can be a problem if met head-on as mentioned above, tractors pose one other problem - overtaking.
Firstly, cars; it is not uncommon for a single tractor to pick up a score or two cars behind it, the drivers of which will be frustrated and some will try to overtake where they lack the space and power to do safely. If you are riding the other way and see a tractor expect some idiot car driver to pull out from behind and not see you till you head butt him.
Secondly, you; if you are following a tractor - especially with a trailer - keep an eye open for field entrances, especially on the right. That tractor could turn into one just as you blast past, often without indicating. Or if it does indicate then chances are if it has a trailer the trailer indicators are either not working or are not connected.
These are, of course, a seasonal problem. If you are following a car loaded with holiday gear, displaying signs of not being local (especially non-UK cars), then expect the unexpected. They will change lanes at roundabouts without indicating or looking, they will emergency stop and U-turn in front of you, and they will pull out on to dual carriage-ways even when traffic is blasting down. These are all real events. However, more irritating, they will drive very slowly all the time. This, of course, gives you the opportunity to have fun overtaking them, but also causes similar problems to tractors with local car drivers overtaking when they haven't got the power to do so.
Devon is one of the major dairy areas of the UK. Dairy cows need to be milked daily, and frequently this means a trip that involves crossing a road. With the bendy Devon roads and high hedgerows you may not see them in time. Look into the distance; if you see a group of cows gathered together at the edges of fields on both side of the roads, it may be a fair bet that they are in the progress of crossing the road.
If you travel a route regularly then watch out for tell-tale patches of mud going between field gates. Remember to take care around that area.
Devon has some magnificent roads with almost total tree coverage, which are very attractive but also a hazard. The difference in light can be drastic, especially on bright days. Riding into such an area can result in a moment or two of limited vision as your eyes adjust to the gloom. Good quality sunglasses are essential. Remember, just because you have taken this on board, many car drivers will not. While the subject of daytime headlamp use remains controversial, you may want to consider switching it on if you don't normally.
An odd one, this; but with the combination of hills, bends and high hedgerows, it is possible for an optical illusion to develop where you think the road is relatively straight - it may well have a sizeable bend in it. You pull out to overtake and all of a sudden a car will emerge from the hidden part of the road - brown trouser time: be careful.
OK, don't let all these pitfalls put you off. As the RiDE survey showed, the South West has lower accident rates than a lot of areas. The enjoyment far outweighs any pitfalls, so get your leathers on and come down for a blast. There's nothing like overtaking a long line of caravans pulled by cloth-cap wearing Volvo drivers to put a smile on your face.