‘It looks like something from out of the Gruffalo!’
This is not the usual conversational topic you might expect to overhear coming from a group of mountain bikers pedalling through the Forest of Dean.
But that’s part of the beauty in joining a social ride such as the one organised by Trail 42, the Royal Leamington Spa Cycling Club, and cycling instructor Clare Curtis. Free flowing conversation, a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and the chance to ride with a group of like-minded women.
Over 25 women took over the trails in the Forest of Dean on Saturday 25th January with a wide range of experience and ability, but a mutual love of mountain biking.
There were riders who’d ridden for years and riders who’d ridden only months. There were new bikes, old bikes, full suspension bikes, and hard tails. It was open to any and all, and there was a refreshing lack of ego and competitiveness. This was about the fun.
Setting off from the centre, we formed a colourful, chatty string of cyclists snaking their way along the leafy Verderers trail. It’s a beautiful route, winding through pine trees with a vivid green mossy carpet coating the forest floor, hence the Gruffalo comment above!
The route itself is a smooth, flowy and fun blue route, and so perfect for the mixed abilities in the group.
With no pressure to go fast or go hard, we spun along some lovely trails at a nice pace, stopping to rest at junctions and taking on sustenance in the form of the odd jelly snake.
The ride was the brainchild of Ruth (co-owner of the Trail 42 clothing brand), Michelle (of the RLSCC) and Clare (cycling instructor and Breeze champion), and it’s safe to say it was a roaring success.
They’ve run women’s social rides before, and they’ve always proved popular.
A social ride is simply a group of people meeting together to go for a cycle. Often organised by bike shops, cycling clubs and communities, they’re informal, accessible and inclusive, with no pressure or expectation of ability (unless otherwise stated - some rides are aimed at particular levels).
They are a great way to explore a new area, meet people to ride with, and generally have a great time.
Back at the Pedalabikeaway centre, conversation flowed freely over the post-ride bacon sarnies and pie, not to mention some rather tasty cake. Stories and experiences were shared, advice was sought and recommendations made on everything from bikes to trail centres to gear.
For those who wanted more, there was the chance to join pro-rider Katy Curd for a spin around her favourite local trails in the afternoon - what a brilliant opportunity!
There are plans afoot for another ride in the spring/summer, so keep your eyes peeled for details.
In the meantime, it’s well worth asking your local bike shop or trail centre what they have planned, as social rides are something we’d highly recommend trying.