Forest of Dean 45km and Freeminer trail review

Forest of Dean autumn view

The plan for the day was a social ride with mbswindon. The meeting time was 9:30am and with the clocks going back that was 10:30am in old money. There was no way that was going to happen.

I got up at about 9am, sat around looking at the internet and then spent an hour doing various yoga things, finishing with 20 minutes lying on the floor. So that was camera charged, Garmin charged, me charged.

Runners from the Stroud half marathon were streaming along the side of the A road on the way out of town. People of all shapes and sizes were demonstrating what a bit of dedication can do. I did a fair amount of jogging when I was in my twenties but luckily gave it up. I’m not a fan of it – every runner I know has had problems with their knees, ankles, or hips. I’ve just checked out the route – if you like running along the side of a road then it looks great.

As I drove through Gloucester the sky went very dark and a deluge of rain fell out of the sky. I seriously considered turning back and spending the afternoon editing some videos. For some reason I kept going. Possibly because I knew I’d feel restless if I didn’t get some exercise plus I was hoping that the weather might improve. I arrived at Pedalabikeaway in the Forest to find that water was no longer falling from the sky. I could see where it had gone though – on the ground. Riders and bikes were all generally a shade of brown.

I spotted a few people I knew and had a chat whilst I fixed a puncture. I reached the end of the car park before finding that I had another flat. So I fixed that and got on with some riding.

Roots in the Forest of Dean
Rooty descent – now gone.

My plan was to cover 40 or 50km by doing various combinations of the Verderers’ and Freeminer trails plus the various bits of xc Enduro route I know. The Fod MTB pages show these routes.  Also take a look at the write up and map from a Verderers’ + Enduro combination route I did in June 2012.

I was 0.3km into the ride when I started to feel deflated once again. I was starting to wonder if all of my tubes were failures. Either that or there was a thorn in the tyre. There was a thorn in the tyre. Top tip – check for thorns in the tyre if you keep getting punctures.

This was first time that I’d ridden the remodelled Freeminer trail, formerly known as the FODCA trail. It’s built and maintained by Dean Trail Volunteers.  Some new downhill tracks now cut over the original start so it had all been moved around. I’d heard mixed reviews about the new sections. My first impressions were mainly positive. It was a real pity that the rooty valley short cut was no longer part of the trail but the boring climb had gone.

The new ascent was generally a more entertaining proposition than the old trail. There was a new, fun wooden jump with a down ramp, a rock ramp and a set of tabletops to add to the interest levels. I spotted a wild boar roaming the trail and waited for it to disappear into the undergrowth. I was too slow with my camera – some young ones followed on.

Wild boar in the Forest of Dean.

The trail climbs a lot further up the hill than it used to. If Einstein was still around we could ask him to explain why the long climb leads to such a short descent. After riding down via a series of bermed corners the trail then felt strangely familiar. It took me a moment to work out what had happened. The new section linked in to the top of the original final descent. It then looped off at half way onto the old final climb and then on to the top of the original first climb. That left the bottom half of the final descent as the final descent. If you’re keeping up with that you’ll realise that it means the trail has been remixed a bit. An extended 12″ mix complete with some big edits.

Jump on the Freeminer trail in the Forest of Dean,

If you’d never ridden the original trail then you’d probably rate the Freeminer as a pretty good trail. If you had ridden it before then you’d probably miss the rooty valley and the original descent.

With that completed I did a lap of the Verderers’ trail plus a few extra options. This trail was opened a few years ago and roughly follows the line of the original xc enduro loop. As trails go I quite like it. There’s a fair amount of featureless filler but the final three sections of descent make up for that. See the second half of the video. I was giggling on the rollers. My best descent was on the first lap where I chased Gary Lee from MBSwindon down the trail.

Forest of Dean enduro route
xc enduro route

I reckoned on a 10km/h average speed, so 5 hours would allow me to rack up 50km. I started at about 1pm so it all looked viable assuming that it would go dark at about 6pm. I ended up with 45km made up of the following (where F is Freeminer and V is Verderers’):

  • F
  • V + small section of enduro
  • F climb + V descent
  • V climb + enduro sections + F descent
  • V climb + more enduro sections + V descent

I knew that the route was going to look like a spider’s web on the gpx plot (see also the Garmin connect website). I think I achieved my objective there.

45km mtb route in the Forest of Dean

Pedalabikeaway centre

My last lap was done in the twilight – I’d forgotten that when the clocks go back then it gets dark an hour earlier (how does the sun know to do that?). I got the distance up to exactly 45km by riding round the car park for 0.7km. This is a pointless game I like to play.

The Garmin guessed that the ride had consumed 1800 Calories. Considering the boggy conditions then it I’d say that was a minimum. Good training. Considering how tiring Saturday had been and my lack of food intake I was quite pleased with how I felt by the end of the ride.

Some more FOD route ideas on MBSwindon.

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