As riding areas go, the Forest of Dean has always been a destination for those in the know.
In more recent years the areas profile has been rising considerably. Investment in a proper trail centre setup with all the usual paraphernalia they require; marked trials, large car park, café serving generous portions of yummy hot food and lattes and cappuccino, and close proximity to some major arterial rods, has seen the number of people riding there rising massively.
Hoping to tap into this popularity, but show that there is a lot more on offer than the waymarked routes that start from the Pedalabikeaway bike shop, is the brand new Wild Boar Chase marathon. An event with a choice of distances, with the longest a chunky 42 miles, provided the ideal opportunity for us to see just what the area has to offer.
And what an area is it. Lush green meadows give way to idyllic woodland, trails ranging from bridleways to byways, forest tracks to singletrack, and a few stretches o of linking road sections. This is old school mountain biking, making the most of what is around you, and being imaginative in linking the many trails up together.
The 42 mile Full Boar is the route I opted for, deciding I needed some miles in my legs to prepare them for the upcoming 12-hour solo ride in the Erlestoke Twelve tomorrow, started just down the road from Coleford, bang centre in the middle of the Forest of Dean.
The organsiers had picked a fantastic route that fully exploited just how much good riding there is in the area, in the Forest itself and the nearby Wye Valley, a particular highlight of the ride.
Starting with some steady climbing right from the car park, the 370 riders soon strung out along the route, and before too long my riding partner and I found ourselves riding alone. Opting for a steady pace, we left the fast racers to contend with lactic acid up front, while clearing the slower riders in the early miles, settling into the middle of the pack.
Away from the Forest of Dean we wiggled into the Wye Valley loop, the most spectacular and beautiful part of the ride. Streams gurgling through lush green valleys opened out in front of us like an all enveloping post card, allowing a distraction from the sore legs the many long draggy climbs and short yet savagely steep inclines were creating.
It was far from an easy ride. Conditions made for some boggy sections and elsewhere surfaces akin to riding through clay keep the effort level high throughout, while the high ratio of climbing ensured full usage of the lower gears on the cassette.
We rolled back into the car park, to be served freshly baked cup cakes upon crossing the finish line. A burger and can of coke to replenish tired legs, from a ride that was rather more taxing than I had predicted from reading the course profile the day before.
As event debuts go, the Wild Boar Chase ticked all the boxes. Yes, there were a couple of issues with apparently locals removing arrows towards the end of the route, but that didn’t impact negatively on the enjoyment we had riding such lovely trails in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
The Forest of Dean is a small pocket of old school trails mixing with the investment of the trail centre at the heart, combing to make it a must-ride area. Based upon this ride, it’s an area worthy of exploration. So next time you’re looking for somewhere to ride, make sure to consider the Forest of Dean. Just don’t think the trail centre is all the area has to offer though, there’s loads more high quality riding available.
Photo by Mountain Bike Photos of Chepstow