We’d had a few late sign-ups for the ride so agreed to meet at Maccy D’s just outside of Oxford as it was on the way for those travelling for Bucks & a good meeting point for those travelling from around Oxford.
After a game of bike frame Jenga in Dan’s van we were ready to roll. Our convoy of five cars held a hoard of bikes and riders from such exotic locations as London, Milton Keynes, Chesham and Oxford!
The drive was quick, uneventful and mostly sunny (always nice!) and we arrived at FoD with plenty of daylight to play with. The FoD café did a fine job of keeping the cold morning at bay with tea and coffee whilst we set up our bikes and ensured we had all the gear we needed.
The ride we’d planned was to start on the Verderers’ Trail (11km – graded blue) which guarantees a smile followed by the Freeminers Trail (4.5km - graded red) followed by a look at the downhill trails after a spot of lunch.
The trails were wet but grippy (nice sandy soil and well maintained) and really busy with other riders. The Verderers’ Trail is a great flowy thread of hard packed single-track that winds it’s way around, up and down one of the main hills at FoD; it’s a real pleasure to ride and a really rewarding trail. The climbs are not steep and the descents make the most of the gradient without loosing all of your height in one fell swoop. Most of the trail runs through woodland, with moss covering the ground at the beginning of the trail making for stunning views and a wonderful atmosphere when the sun blazes through the mist or early morning fog. It’s also nice because it takes your mind off the first long climb! Next the trail drops into a great little descent – some fast berms and a few tight rollers before a G-out, more rollers and some more gentle berms. Another brief climb before coming into the open and sunshine! The next section is a nice gentle climb leading into some singletrack. Out into the open (thanks to Ash Dieback disease) the next section is a real joy at speed – sprinting into berms and pumping through the rollers and downhill for a second before making our way back up to do it again. It’s literally a 30 second section of trail but so much fun! We stopped here for a few pictures (on facebook) and made our way over the top of the forest to the start of the final descent.
The final descent is in two sections really – it starts with some narrow singletrack that teases you to pedal harder to get the most back from the trail. A short climb breaks the descent up and we unfortunately had to wait here whilst one of our group fixed a mechanical problem - a bunch of bolts on a borrowed bike (I won’t name and shame the owner!) worked themselves loose and they were in a rather awkward place... We re-grouped and set off down the trail on the last section of descent which is hands down the most fun descent on an XC trail I have EVER ridden! If you don’t believe me then get yourselves over there!
The delay and the wet trails meant that we finished this loop not long before we had planned on having lunch… We ended up having a long lunch as the trails were wet and we were a bit cold then set out for the afternoon’s riding. A few of our group head off to ride the XC again – really it IS that much fun! – whilst I walked up the side of the DH trails with half of our group. We rode down a few of the DH trails and had a look at the jumps and root gardens on some of the more technical trails for a few hours before making our way down for the final time…
After more tea we said goodbye to half of our group and the other half made their way over to the free-ride area to have a go on the drops and hip-jumps before rain, darkness and a puncture ensured we stopped for the day.
I’d like to thank everybody who came to one of our last open rides of the year and am really looking forward to 2013’s riding!
Michael | BucksMTB Club Secretary