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Cyclists riding through the forest on a dirt track

A beginners guide to cycling in the forest

While lockdown and Covid-19 has meant a lot of changes for many people this year, it has also meant that many of you have been rediscovering a love of the outdoors, visiting our forests again, or trying out new activities like trail cycling.

In this blog post, we hear from Active Forests Ranger and passionate cyclist Clare Curtis, who has lots of handy tips and pointers for new cyclists heading to the forest. Find out what to expect when you visit the forest on bike and how to make your visit as enjoyable as possible, ensuring you'll be back again soon to keep up your new hobby!

Cannock chase mountainbiker point of view

New to cycling can mean so many things, it certainly did to me when I bought my first adult mountain bike when I was 26. Riding into town, exploring and generally being outside took on a whole new quality and I loved it. 

But it can also mean new to fitness, to a new way of socialising and meeting new friends, or new to racing a discipline such as cross-country or the more extreme downhill mountain biking. And it can even mean finding your freedom again!

Do your research

When visiting a forest for the first time, it's a good idea to check out that forest's webpage before your visit, where you will find all the most up to date information including: 

  • What facilities are on-site so you can plan the rest of your visit
  • Which trails you can find here, whether there is bike hire or a bike shop for any repairs you may need
  • If any trails are closed for maintenance or forestry operations 
Man using a disability recumbent bike
Little boy cycling

Be prepared

Before you start your adventure, a good tip is to make sure you have a few basic tools with you on your visit, regardless of what type of cycling you are doing.

A multitool, pump and a spare inner tube (the correct size for your bike), water and snacks are important. The weather can change quickly as well, especially if you are out exploring, so a waterproof jacket is often a good idea.

Know your way

Most of our waymarked trails have a ‘trailhead’ at the start where you will find a map of the routes and other important information. It can be a good idea to take a photo of the map so you can find your way back easily should you get a little off course! You can also buy a map of the local area to plan out your route.

While a lot of our forest sites do not have great mobile phone reception, a fully charged phone can get you out of a pickle if you need help. There is often emergency information at the trailhead too.

And don't forget to tag us in any photos of your day out, we love seeing what you get up to! 

Bikers in Whinlatter forest
Shaded walking trail in Stoke Woods, Exeter

Share the space

One of the great things about cycling in and around our forests are the miles of off-road, traffic free cycling trails. A lot of our trails are shared with other users, including runners, walkers, horse riders, and sometimes even segway riders.

Knowing the Forest Code before you arrive ensures we can all enjoy the forests safely.

Most importantly; have fun cycling in our forests! It's a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family, exploring, learning new skills and challenge yourself as you gain more confidence. 

And of course, if you are in search of a quieter trip to the forest, those miles of forest trails mean you can always find a peaceful spot to take in the sights and the sounds, the wildlife and the birds, along with the ever changing scenery – perfect for some some well-deserved down time. Whatever type of cycling brings you to our forests, we’ve got plenty to keep you smiling!

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