Now that we are into the triathlon off-season, I’m enjoying some cross-training whilst keeping my fitness up over the winter. Last weekend, Glen and I decided to take our cycling off-road and try out mountain biking in Epping Forest.
As we don’t own mountain bikes, we hired them from Go Further Cycling a bike shop situated in the heart of the forest. Our rides were ready and waiting for us when we arrived on Sunday morning, we just had the pedals changed so that we could clip in with our own cleated cycling shoes. After picking up a map, we set off into the forest.
Having only ridden a road bike before, I immediately noticed the difference in mountain biking. The bike was much more robust and heavier, but able to ride over tough terrain easily. Learning to select the right gear took a little while, as the system is completely different from my regular bike.
We explored the bridle paths in the forest and went onto the single-track trails which were more technical and very very muddy! I loved slipping and sliding through the thick mud and puddles, riding down hills and over tree roots. I felt as though I’d fall off the bike at some points, but the tyres provide so much grip and traction on even the most slippery surfaces. Going uphill was much tougher on a mountain bike, I must admit I had to get off and walk on a particularly steep section.
The mud got absolutely everywhere… in my eye and even in my water bottle, which wasn’t very pleasant!
Despite working on the doorstep of Epping Forest, I’ve never really taken the time to explore it. As London’s largest open space, there are acres of woodland to explore by bike or on foot. The forest trails were busy with runners, walkers, bikers and horse-riders enjoying the Autumn weather. As we don’t know the forest very well, we often came to a dead-end and had to get out the map to figure out a route. We managed to find our way to the King’s Oak Cafe where we stopped for a much-needed sandwich and drink. Go Further Cycling do actually offer guided rides, which would be great for anyone new to the forest.
Arriving back at the shop, our bikes were coated in mud and leaves. Not having to clean it was a bonus! I absolutely loved mountain biking, I’d go as far as to say I actually prefer it to road cycling. The freedom of being able to ride across any terrain in the beautiful forest without being surrounded by traffic, made it really enjoyable for me. Plus playing in mud is always good fun!
It cost £20 to hire a bike for 3 hours, and the pedals were an extra £5. Helmets are included in the hire price, but we took our own.
Have you ever tried mountain biking? Or do you prefer road cycling?