Whether you're an experienced hardcore thrasher, or just getting the wheels rolling on your first trails, the Forest of Dean caters for all.
In the heart of Gloucestershire where the forest landscapes are beautiful and vast, lie some of the most exciting mountain bike trails you can imagine. There's all-mountain adventures, downhill tracks, enduro lines and even family-friendly routes to accommodate any level of rider and family.
Situated just over an hour from Bristol, this mountain bike playground is a definite must-do this year.
There's an extensive network of trails and tracks to discover at the Forest of Dean. If you've got the fitness, you could take them all on in an action packed day, or spread them out and even just session one particular favourite.
The Family route is a green grade with 17km of a smoothly surfaced trail which is all traffic free. This trail is perfect for getting those little rippers on their bikes and getting a taste of the mountain bike lifestyle.
The Verderer's trail is the blue trail at FoD with 11km of winding roller-coasting fun. Shredding through narrow trees, into a wide open forest, before a final rollercoaster descent to the bottom. Recently resurfaced, this trail doesn't have any big drops, jumps or features which make it a perfect flowy trail for some speed, and for the little ones.
Last year the red Freeminer's trail received some much needed TLC, with some re-surfacing and extensions onto the previously short 7km route. It now features some twisting berm, roots, rocks... the whole lot really. It's a great ride for more intermediate riders and a perfect route for stretching out your steed.
In addition to the two trails, the site has 10 hair-raising downhill tracks which are graded by dots: 1, 2, 3. Each of these DH routes takes roughly 3-4 mins, making them short and sweet, but immensely fun. The 1 dot grade is great for the grassroots, and anyone wanting a taste of what DH is really all about.
More and more enduro routes are appearing across the network also with a lot more trail still undiscovered. What's great about the Forest of Dean is that these trails are maintained by volunteers and passionate bikers.
The hub for all these adventures is the Pedalabikeaway centre which has everything you need for a brilliant mountain bike experience.
We spoke with the owner, Ian Officer, who said: "when I took over this place, one of the first things I did was install a proper coffee machine." Something that has now grown into one of the best MTB cafes I've been to. The centre serves a variety of hot and tasty meals, locally sourced with a great selection of cake. It's a great refuelling station.
In addition to the cafe, there's a workshop which is staffed with experienced bike mechanics who are on hand to help with any bike niggles and disasters you may have. There's a great bike shop for kit, clothing and components as well. If you've left something at home, or just feel like treating yourself, there's a great variety for men, women and children.
Female Riders at FoD
Speaking with Ian about his vision for the centre, he said "we've seen a huge increase in female riders at the Forest of Dean, and this isn't by accident. We work hard to promote mountain biking to women, and it's an ongoing priority that we believe in".
Each Saturday morning, the Pedalabikeaway team runs their Little Fodders kids club where the next generation of shredders is nurtured. Whilst the cafe is a warm and comfortable place to wait, and have a cuppa, it's also encouraged for mum's to have a go themselves. Which is exactly what Nicola Tweed did with her son William.
Whilst William was out with the kids club, Nicola would ride with other mums, and now she considers the centre a second home for her and her son.
It's refreshing to see women's clothing on offer in their bike shop, and I don't just mean a couple of jerseys and one pair of shorts, but an extensive range of kit from Fox to Madison.
Ian explains that they "don't sell a lot of women's kit in the shop, as everyone likes to seek out of a deal online, but we think it's important to have the option there for women, to see it, try it on and have a feel. We want women to feel included just as much as the men."
There's a number of events throughout 2016 we can look forward to for the whole family, for women and the men.
The kids club runs every weekend, but each term the centre runs mini races for children. Just last weekend, the half term mini-race welcomed over 40 riders between the ages of 4 and 11 for a day of riding and fun competition.
Annual events include family treasure hunts at Easter, Halloween and Christmas which involved riding around the trails and centre to collect hidden items and collect clues. A great way to get the whole family involved in cycling.
British World Champion, Katy Curd, is a local resident to FoD and often runs women's specific coaching days and weekends to help with skills training and confidence building. These days involve training in the morning with Katy, followed by trail riding in the afternoon where you can put your new skills to the test.
With inspiring promoters such as Katy Curd, World DH Champion, Manon Carpenter and World Enduro Champion, Tracy Moseley riding and coaching at the Forest of Dean, it's a brilliant site for women's riding
With amazing trails suitable for anyone and everyone, the Forest of Dean earns its name as a natural MTB Mecca in the UK.
The work that's being carried out by Pedalabikeaway to promote women's riding is encouraging, to say the least. The centre is accommodating for all riders, and comfortable to be in, which can't be said for other testosterone fuelled sites.
To find out more about their upcoming women's and family events, follow them on Facebook.
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