Having promised myself I would take my mountain bike on some proper trails rather than just using it to get to and from work when I bought it a few years ago, and feeling empowered to just get on and do things rather than putting them off forever following my hike up Kinder Scout, I decided a day at Sherwood Pines in Nottinghamshire was in order.
I bundled my bike into the back of my car – thankfully the Civic’s seats are very easy to put down, providing a large flat space big enough for my bike to fit in. I was more worried how I would lever the bike out at the other end but figured I got it in so I must be able to get it out again. It was a teeny bit of a struggle when I arrived at Sherwood Pines, but I think I managed without any of the other cyclists around noticing!
Sherwood Pines Forest Park is in the heart of Sherwood Forest. It has a large car park (£4 for the day), toilets, play area, large grass areas, somewhere to have a barbecue, a nice café serving cakes and meals (I may have had a warm sausage roll and a pot of tea…), Go Ape treetop adventure (the one I went to and wrote about), Segway tours, cycle hire shop, and lots of places to walk and cycle.
It wasn’t too busy when I arrived. It was about 9.30am and there were a few cars dotted about the car park. It was the School holidays so by the time I left just after lunch it was pretty busy everywhere. I spotted a number of very keen mountain bikers arrive with what looked to me like very expensive bikes, covered in all the protective gear – they were definitely doing the red Kitchener route around the forest. I had a good look at the map and online at some reviews and decided to go for the blue Adventure Trail to make sure I was within my limits on my first trip over there. There is also a green Family Trail which is an all-weather track designed for the whole family to ride together.
The Adventure Trail is six miles of unmade winding cycle route through the forest that gave me plenty to concentrate on. It starts and finishes on the green Family trail which adds about a mile – so each circuit is just over seven miles total. It took me around 55 minutes to get round, which gives you an idea that the trail itself is not a very difficult one. I am sure a more competent rider could do it faster, and other riders would take somewhere near the hour-and-a-half it suggested on the signage.
It has a few ups and downs but is not too strenuous, and is mostly wide enough for two bikes to pass easily with some small sections of single track. Parts of the trail were covered in sand, I assume this had been done to fill in some of the dried out mud ruts caused by 100s of cyclists making their way around as it was deep in places and mainly at the bottom of hills before the trail went up again. The sand made my lack of technique quite obvious and the first couple of times I sank my front wheel into it by having my weight too far forward – I soon got the hang of keeping my weight back for those sections, though.
The route is well signposted with blue numbered markers so you always know where you are. I also had the added benefit of my Lifedge case and bike mount which meant I had my phone right in front of me, too. I thoroughly enjoyed the single track downhill section between markers 20 and 25 – it felt fast and narrow with foliage to skim against and lots of snaking bends to give me some real wind-in-my-hair interest for a mile or so. I went round the whole trail twice purely so I could do that section again, it was loads of fun.
I knew I was going to enjoy the trail – it was the very reason I decided to buy a mountain bike and not a hybrid a few years ago, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it or whether my entry level and unmodified Carrera Vulcan would do the job. I could, it did, and I loved it. I know you make much more progress on nice even tarmac roads, but the trail was exactly what I wanted and I will definitely be going back for more soon.
Oh and to the bloke riding the Adventure Trail with his son on a tag along – fair play mate. Your son was obviously having an awesome morning and I didn’t even mind that you were faster than me!
Do you enjoy mountain biking? Where should I take my bike next to ride some nice fun trails or countryside routes? Is the Kitchener Trail at Sherwood Pines worth attempting? Anything else within easy reach of Lincolnshire I should know about? Any mountain bikers fancy giving me a lesson in technique and showing me how to ride properly so I might feel confident enough to give that red route a try?
PS: Don’t forget I am chasing my next adventure in the hope that it will open even more doors to help me kindle that feeling of being alive (and help me tick some more things off my ever-expanding bucket list!). I’d love it if you could vote for me to win one of the places available in the Big Blog Exchange. It’ll only take a minute, if that. Thank you!