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MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE FOREST OF DEAN

As soon as I mentioned that I was heading sown to the Forest of Dean for an activities weekend, two friends tweeted me to ask if I would be going mountain biking. The place is pretty famous for the sport, and boasts a number of local world champions. The fact is I didn’t know if I was going to be hitting the trails, but I packed suitable clothing and hoped. I admit that when I opened my schedule and saw I would be joining Pedal a Bike Away for some fun on the bikes I let out a teeny little “whoop”.

Group shot before we hit the trails – with World Champion Katy Curd.

I’ve written before about how, when it comes to cycling, I consider myself a mountain biker rather than any other kind. I own a mountain bike, albeit an entry level one, because I just love the feeling of riding it. Living where I do in Lincolnshire, there are not many opportunities to ride the trails, and I do admit that my bike is wasted on me in the main as in order to use it properly I have to bung it in the boot of the car and head to Nottinghamshire. But here was a brilliant opportunity to play in an environment absolutely made for mountain biking, with hills and trails and berms and waymarked routes, and with the added bonus of having people there to show me where to go and how to ride.

Those people guiding our little ride were Ian, Pedal a Bike Away owner and Chairman of the tourism board who’d sponsored our weekend, and Midge, a fellow blogger over at Muddy Mam who works at Pedal a Bike Away and is a hardcore mountain biker I couldn’t wait to ride with.

With my noble steed on the family trail.

I was a little concerned about my level of fitness when I looked around at the group, but decided if didn’t matter if I was shattered for the rest of the weekend and so I would just get on and put the effort in because we all know that is when you get the most out of something. After a chat over a cup of tea about the business and the area, we put our bits and bobs in lockers and headed to the bike hire shop to collect our steeds for the mornings ride. The bikes, the Cube Attention, were rugged looking softails with hydraulic disc brakes. Certainly better than my entry level machine back home, which considering the type of riding I was about to do was a very good thing.

Mountain Biking in the Forest of Dean

We started by crossing the bridge over the main road to the family routes. This is am 11-12 mile traffic-free, surfaced circular route. Graded “green”, it is suitable for all ages and abilities, and provides access to the sculpture trail and places for picnics and wildlife spotting. The trail is undulating but not difficult, and it was a lovely way to get used to my bike and chat away to my new blogger friends.

Jenni going off piste.

After detouring from the main family trail (the benefit of being with two people who really knew the area), which included lifting the bikes over a fallen tree and whizzing down a very muddy single width track (which is why we had brought spare clothes!), we crossed back over the road to what Ian and Midge referred to as the “fun side”! The rules of what goes up must come down came into play, but in order to try out one of the many downhill routes available to us, we first had to plod our way up to the top of the hill. We did this via the popular Verderers’ Trail, a blue graded trail that winds its way up and down the mountain bike area for nearly seven miles. To be honest we mostly went up, which involves lots of stopping to catch my breath and allow my legs to recover, but the intermittent downhill bits were super fun even on this trail. As we made our way along the trail, Ian and Midge were giving us pointers and technique to help our riding, including the ready position to help us in the downhill section we were just about to ride.

Up, up and more up on Verderers’. Thanks Jenni for the snap!

The Downhill lines at the Cannop Cycle Centre are considered the home of grassroots riding and racing in the UK. The Forest of Dean is well known for steep, slippery, rooty descents with a massive range of styles and features. And, having spent two hours bimbling along and making our way up, we were very much ready to stand up on our pedals and whizz down one of the plethora of downhill trails on offer here.

See all the routes here > http://pedalabikeaway.co.uk/trails/mountain-biking/

Launch Pad is a relatively new downhill track back to the area. Marked with one orange dot, the lowest of the black grading, it is a gravity trail designed with wheelchair bikes in mind. Pedalling is not allowed, it’s all about freewheeling down the narrow trail, around the berms, over the humps, building up as much speed as you dare and dabbing the brakes to keep things under control if you so wish! I was nervous thanks to the sign that said the trail was for “experienced” riders “aspiring for an elite level”, but also incredibly excited. Ian and Midge wouldn’t have brought us here if they didn’t think we could ride it successfully, and it’s not like this was the first time I was riding a mountain bike. I stood up in the ready position and allowed my bike to roll down the hill. I am not afraid to admit I dabbed the brakes quite a lot, especially when there was a particularly muddy bend (motorcyclists have a particular fear of muddy patches!), but I did allow myself to freewheel down the less slippery bits and even let out a “wheee” more than once. The wind in my hair, the speed, the danger, the adrenaline. All awesome. Two hours up, one minute down. Again again!!

At the top of Launch Pad.

Exhausted but exhilarated, I handed my bike and helmet back to the guys in the hire shop a little sad that I knew it would probably be many months before I get to ride trails like that again. I must get back to the Forest of Dean and do this again, it was brilliant.

Trying out the “ready” position. Thanks Jenni for the snap.

If you are heading to the Forest of Dean you absolutely must check out the trails from Pedal a Bike Away. There’s parking, bike hire, a lovely café with home made cakes and soup (mmmmm), and plenty of trails to keep you going. A standard mountain bike (this year they have the Cube Attention) will cost you £20 for half a day. There is no charge to ride the trails.

My morning of mountain biking with Pedal a Bike Away was part of the Dean Wye Bloggers activities weekend. #DeanWyeBloggers was an activity weekend organised by Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tourism to help promote the area. I was invited along with a number of other bloggers and had an absolutely fantastic weekend with them. I have been asked to follow up my visit with a blog post or two, but know that I always write from experience and with my own opinions.

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