So yesterday saw my first ever visit to a trail centre. Haldon forest park is situated near Exeter and as a first time visitor I was suitably impressed by the layout and organisation of the site. It offered all the amenities you’d hope to find at somewhere setup for mountain bike use.
Parking was well laid out and reasonable at £4 for as long as you wanted.
I was quite cautious in what I was letting myself in for. Up until now all of my riding has been relatively tame riding around the somerset levels which don’t offer massive challenges in terms of technical ability. Upon arrival I did a look of the green discovery trail just as an opener and to get my legs going. The view from this forest park is great looking between the trees can offer views stretching miles into the distance
We then decided to head out on to the red route. It started out really well flowing as we headed towards the descents, winding our way through the trees, first descent saw a rocky
Section across a clearing heading to the tree line, great fun, picking my lines and enjoying it. Through the trees and pumping the sections to maintain speed was a good practice as its not something I can do as much on my local trails.
We then came to a road, so a quick pause to gather our thoughts, Matt who has been numerous times before asked if I was enjoying it and doing alright. Smiles and nods ensued and we were off again, this next part was very undulating and smooth through the trees with a few large rocks mostly sunken in the mud to keep you on your toes, I really enjoyed this part and found myself going faster and trusting the bike/tyres more (I’m probably far to over cautious and should try and let the bike go a bit more). We came out of the trees to another clearing and the trail turned to loose gravel with some reasonably large rocks along the edge to keep you following the route rather than trying to straight line it.
It was here that my talent ran out, my rear will skipped over a patch of loose rocks and next thing I know I’m over the bars and kissing a rock at what felt like a reasonable pace (well to me anyway). A fat lip, a grazed elbow and a cut on my knee so not too bad. Best check the bike over. Hmm brake lever is a bit bent, oh and I have a fair amount of gravel wedged between the rim and tyre bead.
I pushed the bike to a slight clearing and set about clearing the trapped stones. Another rider came along and slowed to make sure I was ok and had the tools etc. that I needed. By this point Matt and Nick were probably at the next junction wondering where on earth I’d got to! They then appeared from the tree line to check I was ok, tyre re-inflated brake lever adjusted a bit to make it useable. Right time to get going. I get through the next group of trees and through the next gravel part to the next fire road crossing. In honesty I was nervous from the point of coming off, I really need to brush up on my technical riding ability, possibly a bit of skills training in order. As I caught up with Matt and Nick at the next clearing, they are checking Matts bike over (a rather nice brand new orange five), he’s managed to split a sidewall on some rock. At the clearing Matt manages to patch and gaffa tape the tear in the sidewall and then get some air back in, the carcass has a slight bulge but we’re all hopeful that it will hold.
Before the small black loop (this runs off of the red route to be used as an extension rather than an independent run) Matt warns me the first 5metres or so are very steep and rocky but after that its not too bad. I chose to bypass the first part my brain telling me I don’t want to come off again. I follow the fire road round the corner then start walking through the trees to spot Nick and Matt stopped just after the steep rocky descent. The tyre hadn’t held, only one thing for it, Matt has to cut the rim strip out and fit an inner tube. Thankfully the weather is nice so me and Nick clear the trail of bikes and park ourselves for 5 minutes while Matt fixes his tyre.
Nick taking a breather
Matts poorly orange five
The tubeless liquid really doesn’t look too appealing!
After Matt had the tube in and inflated we got going again, the rest of the black run flowed pretty well with some nice big berms to play on and some more undulating terrain to enjoy!
Next was heading back to the clearing we first tried to repair Matts tyre, a fire road climb. This was quickly over and followed by a bit more climbing to pick up the remainder of the red route which was then gradually climbing back up the hillside. I found that here I lacked confidence on the downs to keep up with nick on the flat and uphills I had the legs to stick right behind him which made me feel a bit better.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed it and will hopefully make a trip back there sometime soon to try and improve my abilities and above all have fun!