Forest of Dean – Full Wild Boar Chase – Mountain bike event, 20 May 18
Find a cuppa, a chunk of cake, please enjoy!
6 o’clock start, bright sunshine peeping through the curtains, It promised to be an awesome day of shredding dry and dusty trails and boy did it deliver!
Bike prepped, (It was going to be a Hard Tail kinda day), Kit ready, Even the weather demon had gone on vacation and took all the wet weather. Shorts, T shirt and factor 50+ were order and official dress attire of the day. Jon duly arrived at 06:30, All packed, shades at the ready, we headed west into the Sunshine. The drive took in the UK’s finest motorways! which finally saw us arrive on the delightful roads within the Forest of Dean two hours later. The rich greenery of the forest, the picturesque undulating landscape and way the morning sunshine emphasised the delightful Gloucestershire villages certainly added to the excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead on this late spring day.
Parked up, we headed to the signing tent and collected our numbers, cable ties and event maps. Smiles were a plenty from the lovely ladies running the admin booth, all very official and managed with impeccable order. The breakfast wagon was in full swing, the green sheds (Portaloo) line was steadily increasing with nervous anticipation, Small stalls were dotted around selling all sorts of cycling attire, even the ice cream van was making its first buck of the day. Families, youths, veterans, Grand veterans, young and old alike were out gathering for a ten o’clock start in this glorious sunshine. It was good to catch up with fellow riders I hadn’t seen in a while, swapping stories of recently shredded bike parks and showing of MTB battle scars detailing the gory events and circumstances of how they happened. Hopefully non of those shenanigans today Jon replied!
It wasn’t too long before we were all kitted up (Gels, Pork pies, Emergency tools, Jelly babies and spare tubes) with bikes checked and lubed, we headed to the start line where about 800 riders gathered for the official start time. The sun continued to pour through the trees spreading dappled shade, the temperature increased, it was going to be a wonderfully hot day. It never ceases to amaze me at the start, not one bike is ever the same. So many modifications, travels, wheel sizes, freakish colours, hard tails, full suss, single speeds and even tandems. We chatted to fellow riders and listen in to the obligatory but important briefing before ride start. The host engaged in light humour but outlined that the money raised from the event goes to very worthy causes within the local community. Always gets my vote. Shortly afterwards the bugler played a delightful start tune and we were away for what promised to be, 45 miles of off road pure adrenalin, long busting climbs and tremendous mountain bike mayhem.
Cheered by a large crowed with bells, whistles and shouts of good luck we heading out through the gate and onto our first track. It soon became very apparent that the trails were running hard under tread and were very dusty! That didn’t dampen my side quest in seek out mud!
By now, the 800 or so riders started to pan out, we chatted amongst a humongous dust cloud which attached it’s self to our group like a leech, sharing goals and aspirations from what folk wanted to achieve from the todays ride. Some were raising money, some had never done this type of event before, some were here for the fun, some were very nervous but the camaraderie from the group we were in, soon put paid to that. Even the dust seemed to clear a little. The ride its self was split into four different distances. They ranged from the family small Boar (19 Miles)to the Full Boar of 45 miles. The Woody and the Hog ride distances came somewhere in between. With a personal whole heartily recommendation, it’s a great way to get folk into off road pedalling and enjoy nature, the countryside terrain, the thrills, friendliness, banter and fun that events like these bring.
The dust cloud never really gave up and relentlessly continued as we headed through the first of many forest segments and into our first section of singletrack. We soon got into a rhythm and settled in a group enjoying the landscape and delights that the Forest of Dean had to offer. The route flowed around the historic Seven and Wye railway lines passing former stations such as Speech house and Drybrook and then remnants of former coal mines within the Cannop valley.
The trails flowed really nicely; dust was becoming the norm now, no good hanging of someone’s wheel coughing and spitting the stuff out, lets gain the advantage gain some speed and have some serous fun! The first downhill came unexpected, the initial climb was ok, no need for the granny ring yet. Awesome, Jon followed behind me, we picked our lines impeccably. Getting this right adds massively to the fun factor, keep your head up, focus ahead, relax and let the bike do its thing. We both stopped at the bottom, fist bumped, adrenalin racing, readying to go again.
We steadied the speed along a small section of the route which encompassed the family trail within the forest. We passed several riders out enjoying the great outdoors, I always love seeing families out riding together, enjoying quality time, stopping to picnic and eat cake! (not jealous at all) Then came the first big climb!
What I’ve learned in mountain biking over the years is select a good gear, maintain good posture and spin. Up I went like a mountain goat, passing a few riders who were fighting their own demons and slowly but surely got to the top. The landscape flattened out once again before a wonderful descent that evened out along a river where folk were enjoying a splash of canoeing. Britain at its idillic and finest I thought, then without notice after a small bridge crossing we arrived at our first pit stop.
It was busy as you expect but an undefined etiquette was established with riders parking up where there was space against a tree, fence or open grass before navigating around folk munching on Jaffa cakes, jelly beans and cake. The tented stop was stocked to the brim with goodies. Smiles and pleasantries were exchanged with marshals and sea cadets before bottle top ups, and the impromptu selfie shot prior to starting the second part of the ride.
I must say a massive shout out to all the marshals and cadets who supported the event. Their direction, safety calls and traffic attending were outstanding. Without these good peeps the ride would not be a success. The way they acknowledge you in their very bright green tops was a delight. They marshalled all day from their fold away deck chairs, sun cream and packed lunches, attending to your needs whenever you arrived then passed their well respected territory.
The next section took in the blue Verderer’s trail and the red Freeminers trail. These are purpose built trails with the forest offering up adrenalin bustin downhills, berms, bomb holes and fast singletrack. Once again this brought massive smiles with a “I’ll be back soon” to do these in full, before moving up a hell of a steep climb that weaved its way from the valley floor. This hurt with the granny ring seriously coming into play. I was determined not stop and conduct a bike a hike today. It worked; mental strength got me and Jon to the top. The terrain evened out, we caught our breath and took on fluids once again, all whilst eating a good slice of pork pie.
We passed the Ski run, corkscrew and the good the bad and the ugly downhill sections where I was sorely tempted to go of piste and give them some leather!!!! Next time came the angel voice in my head, reluctantly but rightly….I stayed on track. I somehow didn’t fancy that climb again from the Freeminers trail!.
We opened up at the top of the Wye Valley, the views were breathtaking, we cruised for awhile swapping biking tales with fellow riders before hitting a small section of tarmac in the town of Coleford. We meandered the urban scenery before once again hitting the open but very quiet country lanes of Gloucestershire. This was a very therapeutic & calming part of the ride but this was very soon to change….
Speeds of 38 miles per hour and 3k of smooth downhill Singletrack welcomed us next and boy this brought big smiles, it seemed to go on for ever, I wanted it to last for ever, one of those trails you never ever forget, glances of greenery each side, fabulous scenery once again, let the bike go and let the HT do it’s thing, full concentration required, I know it would seriously hurt if I came off, never in doubt, the Whyte and Scott handled it impeccably.
What goes down must go up & so the next climb begins, this a was a steady climb but seemed to go on for ever, just when you think you’re at the top it turns either left or right for the next incline. Wild garlic lined the route, a strong smell that teased the nostrils amongst the deep in take of breath after each pedal. The dust remained & stuck to every morsel of sweat on the body, finally the top & another awesome decent but this one having a lengthy rock garden half way down to contend with, which required every ounce of concentration. More climbs and more wonderful descents. Finally I found the mud I desired, hidden in a bridleway descent full of grooves which calved their way down the hillside, slop, gloopy mud hid boulders & ruts, a few worrying potential off moments and one lost water bottle, we made it to the bottom drenched in wet sticky mud. I could sense that Jon was relieved to make it down alive. A. technique or should I say a coaching skill remembered from the recent Peaks visit served him well – Andy our guide that day taught Jon to remember a trick as to keep of the back brake, it was as though Andy was above cracking the whip, drilling it into Jon’s memory banks, it worked – cheers Bud! Jon was still smiling amongst the deep relief.
The mud soon dried in the midday sun
Small crowds of folk including children, cheered and waved along the whole route, It always brought a smile from the many riders and strangely gave you and emotional tingle that people cared, were supportive and came out to cheer you on.
The Last climb of many was a killer, CAT 3 and 4.1 k of it!! Boy this really did test strength and agility, relentless in its height, teasing you at every corner. Not a word was said, no getting of for a push. Quietly and steadily we got to the top, relief and a food station! After a few choice words and sheer relief we headed of and completed two great downhills around a local quarry, both steep, one rocky road and yet the other smooth mirroring the speed and efficiently of a rollercoaster on its first exhilarating descent.
The route looped back on itself heading back to the forest and the finish line. Jon and I knew we had an awesome ride, with the thrill, excitement, pain and jubilation, we crossed the finish time in good time, still splattered in dry mud and covered in dust from head to toe. We were welcomed across the finish line from spectators, Marshall’s and riders alike. A warm handshake between us signalled an excellent ride, great company and mutual respect for supporting each other throughout. It was now time for refreshment with copious amounts of cake kindly baked by the local community and organisers.
I thoroughly recommend mountain biking to anyone. The Wild Boar Chase had something for everyone. It was very well organised, family orientated where we made new acquaintances and friends. Refuelled we packed away our trusty rides and headed for home. We promised ourselves that we will be back soon to at least ride the Freeminer’s trail and the corkscrew.