With the change to drier but colder weather and a little bit of spontaneity, Dandy and myself arranged to meet up at Swinley Forest. The idea was to have a quiet, slow ride as we are both recovering from Christmas food and ailments.
Our decision was inspired as we found good riding conditions; with the sun shining brightly between the trees it gave that unique view of a forest that one can only see in the winter but as any MTB knows beauty brings danger; the low angle of sun suddenly hitting you in the eyes as you apex a bend temporarily blinds you but at our sedate pace we were safe.
It was a mostly soft and dry loamy surface – arguably the best for Swinley giving up lots of grip, and there were a few puddles around but these were easily avoided and there was no need to use our Mobis post ride. I also had my Christmas present fixed to my helmet – a ContourHD camcorder and through the ride recorded several sections alternating between myself and Dandy leading.
I decided to keep us mainly in the central area but as always at Swinley there is an inclination to explore and find new places, we found a couple of promising spots to explore on further rides. For a change we went west out of the car park (rather than go through Go-Ape) and picked up the firebreak road to Watson’s Wander, from there we took a left and made our way over to Stickler.
As many may know there were two extensions added to Stickler last year and I have only ridden the latest once – on a wet November day with the Swindon MTBs. After tackling only the new extensions we then travelled over to Seagull which was ridden in both directions and back to ‘new’ Stickler; this time riding it in the opposite direction, which we both preferred. Any new trail is a welcome addition and new Stickler includes a couple of nice sections but unfortunately the lack of elevation changes does limit it somewhat.
We then rode onto Jump Gulley (with the obligatory playtime) via old Stickler and Tank Traps and up to the Reservoir, Rollercoaster and Ski Jump, before riding over to the Labyrinth via the expert area and down both Deerstalker2 and Babymaker.
The video above includes Jump Gulley, Ski Jump, Deerstalker 2 and the latest Stickler extension in reverse. The accompanying music is typical of what Old Codgers listened to on record players back in their teens, back in the good old days when you showed how cool you were by what album sleeve was under your arm.
Deerstalker2 was a particular highlight with Dandy leading and myself filming, the trail was in generally good condition and we flew down. It was quite an experience to be focussing on keeping up with Dandy to ensure we got a good coverage of our descent, rather than leading or riding solo. Unfortunately the Babymaker video did not turn out so well as I lost speed on the first jump and then sight of Dandy. I can see that the camcorder will add an extra dimension to my riding this year, and I have noted two places (one forward and one rearward facing) where I can easily fit it on the bike once the trails dry out later in the year.
We then made our way back to the Reservoir using a completely different route via firetrack road through the woods, and had one more play at Jump Gulley before returning to the Car Park. We were out for about 2 hours and covered 14 miles; a nice gentle pace, and great fun.
Special thanks to D’Andy for his willingness and contributions to the videos.