Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Swinley Forest Ride Part 1

On Sunday Ben & I went for a ride in Swinley Forest in Bracknell. The weather, although not as hot as Saturday, was great. As we needed to drive to get to the forest it also gave me a chance to try my car bike rack for the first time since getting it for Christmas and I was quite nervous about its stability. No matter how tight I pulled the straps holding it onto the boot of the car, I still had one eye on the bikes and one eye on the road ahead as I drove, especially on roundabouts which gave me visions of it all twisting and throwing off to the side.

Nevertheless we made it all the way there without any issues, arriving just 15 minutes after the area opened to find the car park full to bursting and only one space left in the overflow car park! I was amazed at how busy it was.

We quickly unhitched the bikes, deciding that there were so many people around that it would be okay to leave the rack on the car, paid the pittance of £2.00 for a days cycle pass and hit the trails at 10.30am.

Swinley Forest is a huge area owned by The Crown Estates (hence the reason for the fee to ride there) and one corner is dedicated to mountain bikes with lots of narrow technical tracks winding through the trees, linked to moderately easy trails, and then the rest of the forest is covered by narrow cleared paths which are again linked with wide paths that are probably a car and a half wide.

The majority of it is reasonably flat with long gradual hills, except when you get to the "offroad" mountain bike trails which are very uppy-downy.

Ben managed most of the trails with ease once he had come to grips with the perils of tree roots causing the wheels to slip sideways and spongy and muddy ground which grips the tyres unless you have the power to get through. The randomness of the ground was a challenge and he initially found that he wasn't putting in enough power to get the bike up the hills.

We did attempt the more technical area but it was just too tough for Ben to manage all the very tight turns and we gave up when on a bend he lost it and fell. His forehead hit a 1 inch diameter branch laying on the ground and snapped it in two! Talk about thick skulled - it didn't even leave a mark! What upset him was another large branch that managed to get wedged in his shoe and grazed his ankle, so we Indiana Jonesed our way on foot out of the area by carrying the bikes through the woods. Not an easy thing.

Ben following the "I destroy trees with my forehead" incident

The scene of the crime - Exhibit A; broken branch

Looking back at the technical route

After that we stuck to mainly narrow paths which were a lot easier and we covered a lot of ground. Around midday we found a nice spot to sit and eat our lunch - and boy were we ready for it. I'd bought some mini baguette's the previous day and we had half each, which I'd stuffed with chicken, cucumber & lettuce, then a pinch of crushed pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, followed up with a packet of crisps and a chocolate biscuit.

One of the more open "easy" paths as we head towards lunchtime

Ben just as we stop for lunch - looks a bit knackered eh?


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