Category Archives: Mountain Biking – South East

Winter begins!

Today I officially started my winter training after a couple weeks off. Winter training means lots of endurance miles and strengthening up my core ready for the new season in March.

With a clear weather forecast I opted for the slightly more fun off road ride. Starting in Petersfield I headed out to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP). A good road warm up climb brought me to the back of QECP and yes another climb this time a fire road climb which are the down pour over the last couple of days had left leaves sprawled out over the chalk making for slippy riding to say the least!

I headed further up and onto the new blue trail which weaved through the trees, its a good blue great for beginners as the corners are nicely spaced and the gravel surface is beading in well to make a hopefully winter resistant trail!

QECP

Making my way onto the red trail it was great to be out on my bike again, the air was cold but from all the climbing I was toasty warm as my bike swooped down the steep red sections. Dodging puddles as I went, partly not wanting to get wet and partly as my tyres were pumped slightly too hard for sticky wet riding.

Working my way back to the top of QECP the sun shone low through the trees making seeing far ahead difficult so I had to slow down. This gave me time to take in the scenery the stunning colours of the leaves burnt orange and golden brown contrasted against the bright green moss.photo 3 - Copy (3)

 

The trails always look different in the winter, more severe, as the leaves retreat and the trees are left bare. Winter riding brings new challenges, not only how to keep warm but the clear line through the trail has now vanished and in its place is thick layer of mud ready to swallow your back wheel should you enter a corner with too much speed. The opportunity now presents itself to be the ‘black sheep,’ as following where those other bike tracks have gone is going to end up in the goo, so the game is now find the line around the mud that is still on the trail!

With the red completed it was now time to head back up the blue and on home. The sun was fading quickly which pushed me onwards and upwards towards home.

Grip Grab

Finishing the blue climb I took a slight wrong turn and ended on a gem of a singletrack run which soon spat me out onto the road lower down than I expected in the village of Buriton. Rolling into my drive it dawned on me how much of the trail seemed to still be stuck to my bike!

Silverback Syncra photo 5

2 hours 18 miles, a good start to the winter. 

Swinley Forest

Swinley is one of the top spots for riding in the South. Swinley Forest stretches from Bracknell in the north to Bagshot in the south. A great location close to London, with good road links, making Swinley an ideal place for a blast on your bike after a hard days work.

Swinley used to be a great place to ride if you had local knowledge of how to find the best single track. However without this you could more often than not spend a lot of time getting lost riding up and down fire roads looking for single track. Although getting lost is a great part of mountain biking, the issue with this was that the single track didn’t flow as a course and there was always the potential to meet someone coming the other way to you down sections which was, at times a little scary! 

Bird

Swinley Forest has recently been turned into a trail centre with blue, red and green graded routes, so there is something for everyone. The blue and red routes can be linked together to create around a 15 mile loop linking together a lot of the great old singletrack like labyrinth, a sweet section which drops from the top of the old ‘expert mountain bike’ zone into a sandy downhill section through the trees and spits you out into a clearing in the forest where you then begin to climb a steady incline, weaving through the trees. Just as you think you have reached the top the trail turns down hill, before yet another bit of up and then finally a long downhill section with plenty of berms, roots and tree gaps to play with, before you leave the forest and end up on a fire road at the bottom of the hill, ready to make the climb back to the top. The new trail sections were built by Rowan Sorrell and the ‘Back On Track’ team and add a new variety to the trail.

Now that the trail is graded more people can enjoy the trails safely and it encourages the less bike savvy to stick to the green and blue routes, leaving the red route for the more advanced biker. Its also a relief to all be going in the same direction which makes the obstacles you have to dodge of the tree kind instead of the two legged on wheels kind! 

Arriving at Swinley you are greeted by “The Look Out Discovery Centre” which is great place for refreshments to replenish those calories burnt off biking the trails, I would highly recommend the lemon cake!

photo 5 

Leaving the car park you ride onto the first section of blue graded trail which meanders up through the trees. The incline is slight and this section is a great warm up to get the blood pumping and legs warmed up. Crossing the first fire road the track continues onwards and upwards showing you a peep of what is to come, in the form of a downhill switch back section, which leaves your heart pumping and you eager for more.

Swinley is great for all year round riding and the new trail sections have been built to withstand the British weather, draining quickly when its wet, which is a real bonus. 

Swinley is great for beginner riders who want to develop confidence and bike handling skills on the blue and green routes. The green one mile loop is also a brilliant place for kids to get their first taste of single track its a flowing loop which they can really gain confidence on, before heading out onto the blue trail.

Bird - Swinley

Intermediate and advanced riders will also enjoy Swinley as it has a little bit of everything. From heart pumping hills, fast and twisting flats and of course, the best bit is the downhill, which is varied from sandy and stony to compact and rooty, with lots of table tops, berms and switch backs giving every rider the opportunity to push their skills to the next level.

The blue and red trails link together to make a ‘blue, red, blue’ trail with the red starting about half way through the blue, this loop is around 15 miles long and is the best way to get the most out of riding at Swinley. 

My favourite thing about this spot is the variety. You enter a forest of Scots pine and can loose yourself in the trail. It flows effortlessly through the forest linked together by a couple of fire roads but 80% is single track, this makes it one of my favourite places to train as it offers a good selection of terrains and features to make the riding different and enjoyable. Swinley’s location and variety make it a brilliant place for mountain bikers in the South East to get their single track fix without having to travel too far.

With more potential expansion of the red trail I am really looking forward to what Swinley could offer in the future, the Coed Y Brenin of the South East, Perhaps? 

 

#MyLocalSpot: Crooksbury Hill and Heathland

Crooksbury Hill

Crooksbury Conservation Area is located in the peaceful, picturesque Surrey Hills just outside Farnham. It is an expanse of wood and heathland with Crooksbury Hill being a prominent feature on the landscape. It rises steeply to the south from 110m to 162m above sea level. The views from the top, once you make it, are incredible and stretch far out across the South Coast in both directions. On a clear day you can even see Spinnaker Tower at Gunwarf Quays in Portsmouth. – Read more here.