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Bristol and The Forest of Dean
#1
I've been lucky enough to get a couple of days off and, after a fun day out in Surrey on Sunday decided to take a bit of a roadtrip west to sample The Forest of Dean. A late start due to sorting various household stuff meant that I meandered my way down the M4 at around lunchtime, needing a wee and a moment's respite from the monotonous trundling, I headed into the services (possibly Leigh Delamere) and unhooked the bike to stow it in the van. Hmm, feels strange. A quick wobble round the carpark confirmed a wonky headset so, tools at the ready, I tightened it all up. And it wasn't loose. It was broke. Bugger me, I'm 100 miles from home and my bike's bust on a riding trip. What a pile of steaming badger tripe. So I headed to Bristol, assuming correctly that there would be somewhere to get a headset.

Arriving at Halfords, which I spotted from the motorway, hidden behind Ikea, I ask the dude if he has a headset. 'What type? There's lots of different ones' he says with a broad Bristolian twang. He insists on coming to the car to check out the bike before selling the headset, which was nice of him, and he seems faintly impressed with the bike too, also nice. Fortunately I've got all my tools with me and so with a carefully applied screwdriver and precision wapping with a mallet, the old headset is out and the new one applied. Forks back in and I'm ready to rock.

But it's getting late now, so what to do? Bristol has a mini trail centre called Ashton Court, just outside of the city centre so I headed over and gave it a blast.

Three laps later and I'm utterly knackered, whilst there's not much climbing at Ashton, the trail is full of, nay completely riddled with, small pump bumps. Which are fine to begin with, but as the energy levels drop and the legs become less compliant, each of those little diddy bumps becomes a 1' high pain in the arse. Literally. My back is starting to ache from the battering it's taking, my legs are complaining and I've had enough. That's not to say that Ashton Court isn't worth a visit, it's actually quite a good riding spot, especially positioned as it is just outside of the city centre, but after a long drive and with only a couple of sandwiches inside me, I'm not in the right mode to enjoy it fully.

I clean the bike down, say arrivederci to Ashton Court and take a pleasant street ride into the city centre to go find chips. There seem to be no chips in all of Bristol. The more I hunt for chips the less I find, and the more my desire for chips increases. I am a man on a chip mission. Instead of chips I find the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which, whilst cheering me slightly, does not sate my desire for chips. My spirits temporarily lifted (Isambard Kingdom Brunel sharing his initials with my little brother) I head back into what is rapidly becoming the hilliest city in the UK and Boomshanka! A Chip Shop magically appears.

The following morning I wake early and head to the Forest of Dean, it's only 25 miles or so and I'm there and riding before 9am. I take to the blue trail with what used to be called gay abandon, figuring the blue (Verderer's Trail) will be good to warm up on before hitting the red. But woohoo, it's really nice to ride. There's nobody here with me, I'm taking the climbs easy and saving a bit of energy for the descent and it's smooth and bermy and flowy and lovely. My back's back in the game and all is well. The final descent of the blue is ultra fun and I'm suddenly aware of the complete lack of braking bumps, either the riders here are fearless or the place is new and well maintained (ok, it's quite new). There's loads of lips, berms and tabletops which the bike floats over beautifully without coercion and before I know it I'm back at the visitor centre.

A coffee and a chat with a couple of dudes (I'm no longer the only person here) and it's time to do the red route, the dudes seemed a bit disappointed by it, but we're all different so I give it the benefit of the doubt and get busy. At the trailhead are a father and son combo, about 25 and 60 years old, both sans helmets and they seem keen to do the blue together, I hope I don't come across them in a pickle later...

The red trail (Freeminer's Trail) is much more old school, not marked as well as the blue and has few berms and manmade features. What it does have is a handful of rocky sections, barely anymore challenging than Canterbury High Street but with less Shopriders, and some off camber roots that could catch out an unwitting biker. Most of the dodgier roots have been marked out with Hi-Vis paint too and I can see why the dudes thought it was a bit of a disappointment as Red grading seems a bit much. (Though the dudes didn't bother doing the blue as the climb was 'boring')

As I've rampaged the Red trail mercilessly it's back onto the Blue for another bash and this time I fly through it, having a feel for the trail and being properly warmed up makes a huge difference as I hurl myself through the berms and pop off every available lip like a randy gazelle. I briefly curtail my horny sexgoat thoughts as I encounter a school party accompanied by a dude from Bromley Bikes (well, he had their top on, apparently it's his brother's) but I'm past them and back bounding through the savannah of the final descent. Woohoo again, the Blue is a great trail, smooth enough to ride on a BMX (almost) and fast enough for a proper grin. I encountered the father and son combo halfway round the blue and thankfully they remained uninjured throughout.

By now it's time to get packed up and get myself home before GF and the cat get all lonely and have to take themselves in hand. So that was my tale of potential bike woe rescued by a couple of great trailcrentres and some cracking riding. And chips, sorry that bit went on rather.
Keep it foolish...
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#2
Nice review Mike, my Dad lives in Gloucester so often tempted by FoD. Will make the effort to get up there now.  Smile
2010 Canyon Aeroad 9.0 SL
2014 Specialized Epic Marathon
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#3
I flippin love your reviews mike, that had me lol'ing, which was especially needed after a rubbish day Big Grin I still need to get to FOD one day, it *feels like i'm the only one on here that hasn't been yet!

*Obviousely i'm aware i'm not the only one who hasn't been there yet!
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#4
My godfather lives in FOD and I didn't go visit him, which was a bit lax of me, but I am planning to get back there this weekend with GF as a stopover on the way to a couple of days in South Wales. She finishes work on Fri lunchtime, we can be at FOD by 5pm and get a couple of hours riding in before it gets dark. I'm freaking out with excitement. Does anyone want to join us? Fri PM, Sat and Sun.
Keep it foolish...
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#5
Great review.  I really need to get out.  Cheers.
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#6
"alkali" Wrote:My godfather lives in FOD and I didn't go visit him, which was a bit lax of me, but I am planning to get back there this weekend with GF as a stopover on the way to a couple of days in South Wales. She finishes work on Fri lunchtime, we can be at FOD by 5pm and get a couple of hours riding in before it gets dark. I'm freaking out with excitement. Does anyone want to join us? Fri PM, Sat and Sun.

Wish I could join you but alas I can't afford to Sad
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#7
Ill check with the boss. Shes on nights so I think most of saturday will be spent with her being asleep but it will be the first time shes seen me in 7 days so I may get in trouble if Im not here!
2010 Canyon Aeroad 9.0 SL
2014 Specialized Epic Marathon
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#8
Went to uni in Bristol, I was riding ashton court decades before it was a trail centre, Leigh woods is better with some nice DH stuff. There are tons of "proper" bike shops there as well, down near the centre and the docks you have mud dock cycles with the cafe up stairs then one at the bottom of park street opposite the cathedral, another one at the top just past the uni etc
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#9
Mud Dock is brilliant, always enjoy visiting there.
2010 Canyon Aeroad 9.0 SL
2014 Specialized Epic Marathon
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