There is nothing more satisfying for me as a mountain biker than riding somewhere new. Riding in a new location, twisting along singletrack and dropping into bomb holes that I have never seen before brings back the thrill of my first mountain bike rides.
So when I saw that FOD MTB did guided rides through the Forest of Dean I knew it had to be done. The trail centre is one of my favourites with its natural feel and great mix of singletrack and technical features – so a ride away from the sign posted routes was going to be interesting.
It was an early start for us and we left at around 7am to be sure we got to the Pedalabikeaway centre in plenty of time for our start at 9am. We met Paul and Mattie (our guides for the morning) and a few other riders for a safety briefing before heading off.
Starting with some fire road and a short section of the Verderers, we soon picked up part of the Enduro route. These routes are off the beaten track and not maintained like the main trails, so extra caution is needed as they are not cleared of sticks, rocks or leaves. Jumps, drops and stream crossings do not necessarily have clearly defined entrances or exit points so listening to some basic advice from the guides is vital.
Each section of trail was clearly explained before we rode it; this was everything from a simple just “follow me and try not to fall in the water” to a proper stop and look at a jump or drop to see if you felt you had the nerve or the skill to have a go.
Before long we were twisting our way through parts of the forest that I had never been to before and we were heading for the first of the surprises Paul had in store for us. At well paced intervals we were met with a drop or small jump to test our skill and nerve, between them was some great singletrack and natural riding. No berms or table tops, no wooden bridges to cross streams – all natural twisty trails.
The first half of our ride culminated in a huge near vertical drop followed immediately by some steep loamy trail and another technical drop onto a fire road. Straight after we were into a fast flowy section that had everyone smiling.
Only the guides did the big drop – it was really big and steep and the whole section was probably one of the most technical parts of the ride. We will be going back to take another look no doubt.
As the ride progressed, we were met with more trail features and some pretty big jumps – not to be taken lightly! I was pleased with myself for doing the jumps I did, and equally as happy to have not done to ones I avoided. All the time the guides gave us plenty of notice and time to take a look before attempting them. The only pressure you were under to jump a stream or gap was your own.
This ride wasn’t just about nerve and skill, there was plenty of picturesque singletrack to enjoy also. One particular section will certainly be on the list for a visit with my camera as spring progresses as it promises to be full of bluebells.
The final section of the ride involved some of the jumps hinted at above. A small stream gap and some other jumps required confidence and commitment, not just because of the gaps involved but also the not so straightforward entry and exits. Definitely something to work up to, and to master, to fully appreciate the natural terrain.
In summary, the 4 of us that travelled from Calne had a great time and enjoyed some new experiences in terms of terrain and trail obstacles. Huge thanks to Paul and Mattie from FODMTB for showing us some of the lesser known parts of the Forest of Dean. I think I speak for us all in saying we thoroughly enjoyed it, would recommend to anyone and will be booking again so we can discover some more of the hidden gems of the forest.
For more info visit http://www.fodmtb.com