The seat was so high my toes were just scraping the ground. Wobbling along on tippy toes trying to gather momentum made me feel like a child again, and I never have been good on bikes.
But low and behold I was away pedalling loops behind the New Forest train station, honing my skills before the 18-mile epic.
The New Forest is an outdoor mecca for amateur adventurers like myself. With incredible forest, sheltered country roads, and an endless supply of wild ponies, this National Park is an incredible spot to explore on bike.
But here’s a tip – If you plan to cycle the forest, make sure you book your bikes in advance! Having accidently planned our adventure around the half-term school holidays our choices were hideously limited. Needless to say I ended up with a bike built for a 10ft man. Even better – Jamie & Chris got a tandem bike. The day was going to be fun.
First stop was the local Sainsbury’s for a backpack full of sandwiches, chocolate bars and drinks. Given the incredible autumn weather we’d opted for a picnic and there was no doubt we’d find an incredible lake or stream to park up beside.
The wider National Park is also littered with fabulous old country pubs that serve hearty meals for the ravenous cyclist. Folk tales speak of pub-crawl routes throughout the forest but I’d fear for my motivation after a few pints.
So we set off up the country lanes, hooting and hollering, the boys taking tandem selfies and testing their luck with a bit of off-roading.
The scenery is diverse ranging from shady ancient woodlands to wide open heathlands with vegetation that is a scattered mix of heathers, gorse and beachy tussock type grasses that thrive in the sandy soils.
We chose a cycle route that is a mixture of all sceneries so we could experience the best of the New Forest area in one ride. These routes are well-marked and as long as you can read a basic map, the options are seemingly endless. They leave you to get well acquainted with the 3000 local ponies that roam freely. We definitely stopped to make a few friends on the journey and I wish I’d packed a few apples…
After all the goofing off and testing our tricks on the tandem, the quads were starting to burn and we parked up for our mid-point snack session and stretch.
Then to top off a fabulous cycle trip in the area, we headed down to The Ship Inn in Lymington. Fabulous pub, great food, great interior, and a cozy fire. What more could you want?
To cycle the New Forest yourself, check out the New Forest Cycle Maps and cycle hire here. And to go adventure cycling in in other forests throughout the UK, here is the Guardians Top Ten Forests to Cycle.