New to Mountain Biking?
Covid 19, self-isolating, social distancing, all new ideas, and things which we have had to adapt to and have become part of daily life and may well continue to be for some time.
One important aspect of the current “Lock Down” is the ability to get out and exercise which is great for physical and mental health. We are fortunate, as we live in the Wye Valley and just a 5 minute pedal to a purpose-built traffic free cycle route which links Monmouth to Symonds Yat East, deep in the Wye Valley. We use this cycle way to access the kilometres of forest fire tracks which make up the Wye Valley.
During our daily rides it appears that more and more people are choosing to dust off their old bikes and head back into the natural environment. When the official “Lock Down” finishes will these new cyclists continue with this new pastime, and if they do, will they choose to cycle further afield?
This blog aims to give you a step by step guide on how to progress from riding in your local area to riding further afield, like in the beautiful Wye Valley or surrounding areas such as the Forest of Dean. Off road cycling, is not something complicated, it’s simply riding a bike off the national highways, where you don’t need to worry about cars, vans and lorries overtaking you. This lack of motorised vehicles allows you to get away from the pollution, focus on the natural environment and provides the opportunity for everyone , including less confident riders to safely get out on their own or perhaps with their kids, safe in the knowledge they don’t need to have to deal with traffic.
Step 1: Decide where you would like to Ride.
Apart from the Wye Valley, the Forest of Dean would be the closest area to go for our next cycling adventure. The Forest of Dean is steeped in industrial history, has hundreds of kms of woodland, a number of visitor centres and a dedicated Cycle centre called Pedalabikeaway which has an off road family cycle trail leaving right from the café, sounds perfect? More on that in Step 5.
Step 2: Equipment.
You will need the obvious kit, a bike would be useful, cycling helmet, sports clothes, food and water. One of the biggest barriers to cycling away from your local area is being able to transport your bikes easily, but this is where cycle centres like Pedalabikeaway help. They have a full fleet of bikes which range from family touring bikes, tag along for the small ones right up to Electric Mountain Bikes, all can be hired for a half day or a full day, and are kept clean and well maintained by the dedicated staff The cycle centre also provides the hire of cycling helmets, somewhere to fill your water bottle, café, secure car park and toilets. The onsite bike shop offers the cycle network maps which help guide you around the off road cycling route, if map reading isn’t your strong point, don’t worry, you can also book in with one of the British Cycling Mountain Bike Guides from WyeMTB who can tailor your experience just for you needs.
Step 3: Let the Adventure begin.
It is always worth popping into the bike shop and asking the staff if there is anything you should know about the loop you plan to ride; the staff are locals and love to share hints and tips with you about the local riding conditions or your planned routes
Step 4: Have a plan of action.
Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly, if it’s going to rain pack an extra layer, if it’s going to be hot and sunny, extra water and sun cream should be packed. Make sure your mobile is fully charged, not just to capture great photos and videos of your adventure, but also for you can call for help should you need to. A great phone app which is FREE is OS Locate, if there is an incident the emergency services might ask for your location, OS Locate will give a pinpoint location with 2 letters and 6 numbers, don’t worry you don’t understand what they mean, the emergency services will know, just open the app and hit go!
Step 5: Route options.
The Forest of Dean offers a family trail, 11km of off-road cycling which will take between 60mins and 180mins depending on how many photo and picnic stops you make! The trail is “hard pack” which makes for great riding for all abilities. The loop has off shoots which access local towns and villages like Coleford, Lybrook and Cinderford, so you can top up your water bottle or even grab some lunch. The loop is clearly way marked all the way around making it a great route for your first adventure.
Mountain Bike Specific Loop – ‘The Verderers’ a name steeped in the history of the Forest of Dean– 11km of single track, this means the cycling traffic only travels in one direction. The trail is graded Blue and is a step up from the family trail, want to know what a blue looks and feels like? Then why not ride around the family trail where there are 5 extras add ons which split from the main trail and allow you to experience what a Blue grade of trail looks and feels like.
Mountain Bike Specific loop – ‘The Freeminers’ 12km in length is one more step up from The Verderers trail and is graded Red meaning Extreme. This trail is single track and you can follow the way marked trail straight from the cycle centre. The Freeminers will follow some of the Verderers trail so you will know what you are getting yourself into.
Advance and Down Hill trails – The forest of Dean and Pedalabikeaway also hosts a wide range of dedicated downhill mountain bike tracks which are not for the faint hearted, these should only be attempted if you have worked your way through the grading system, starting simple e.g. family trail, blue trail, red trail and then the easy downhill trails should be accessed first. These trails will require a dedicated Mountain bike with a minimum of front suspension, again which can be hired from Pedalabikeaway, you may also want to consider extra personal protection for example a full-face helmet body armour or other pads.
Step 6: Developing those skills.
You have now ridden around the family trail, tried all the extra little blue sections and ridden around the official Blue trail but perhaps you feel you could have done better? Maybe it’s time for a Mountain Bike Coaching session? WyeMTB offers a staircase coaching style designed to take beginner riders of all ages right the way through to advanced Mountain bike riders. We offer regular group sessions as well as 1:1 session to focus solely on your aims and objectives to improve as a rider. Whether it’s specific skills and techniques or just boosting your confidence to hit the trails on your own or with your family WyeMTB can help.Our Mountain bike coaching sessions really allow you to gain or consolidate the key skills to enjoy your riding all delivered by our British Cycling qualified coaching staff, in the beautiful Wye Valley and surrounding areas