Ever wonder how popular mountain biking is becoming these days? A trip to the Forest of Dean on any Sunday will give you a good idea. Regardless of the weather, the car park will be rammed, the trails will be alive and the cafe will be filled with the buzz of riders recounting tales of their day on the hill.
Even though FOD, as it’s called by the locals, is a vast area of woodland, Cannop Cycle Centre is one of the UK’s most compact trail centres. It packs an impressive number of trails onto one gently rolling hill. Even if you had the legs for it, you’d do well to ride everything in a day, and there’s always a hidden line around the corner or a fresh trail to put tyre marks down on.
The draw for riding novices is the 11km, blue graded Verderer’s Trail, though the flowy final descents are also a blast for more experienced riders when ridden hard. There’s also an 18km family trail which snakes through the forest on a wide, gravelly track.
The rooty and undulating 11km, red Freeminer Trail is mostly XC singletrack with a few roll-able jumps and drops thrown in for good measure.
With 14 different tracks, the FOD is also a lively DH venue. While the push-up is fairly short and steep there’s also an uplift for maximising your runs.
Chuck in a shed load of unmarked trails and there’s plenty here to keep you busy, whatever your level.
The postcode GL16 7EH will take you to the Pedalabikeaway shop and the trails themselves.
Be warned, there’s minimal phone signal in the forest and the roads are like a maze – so we advise taking a map.
Parking, toilets, showers, bike wash, bike shop, cafe, bike hire, uplift, suspension tuning and skills coaching
Nearby bike shops
Pedalabikeaway are based in the car park and have demo bikes plus a big hire fleet. Suspension tuning experts Sprung are also based on-site. Dean Forest Cycles are just down the road in Parkend.
417 Bike Park: Run by Fly-Up Downhill, who operate the uplift service at FOD, the 417 Bike Park is 45mins away and has a range of surfaced flow trails, plus an indoor pump track and dirt jumps.
Cwmcarn: Near Newport in Wales, Cwmcarn is the closest trail centre, an hour from FOD. It has two red-graded trail loops, two downhill tracks and an uplift service.
Why ride here?
It’s a place where riders of all abilities can have fun, with trails ranging from a family circuit in the woods through to uplift-serviced downhill tracks
Loads of official trails of varying difficulty, all packed into an easily accessible area.
If you get bored, the whole forest is intersected by a maze of off-piste lines to explore
Limited elevation means you won’t find any ‘epic’ descents here
Due to heavy traffic, a lot of the trails would benefit from some spade work
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s the accessibility and variety of the trails that’s FOD’s biggest asset. The downhill tracks end just a short ride from the cafe and can be ridden on trail bikes as well as DH rigs, and the graded cross-country trails mean it’s a great place to bring beginners too.
Our only grumble is that, despite the best efforts of the Dean Trail Volunteers, the trails aren’t always in top condition because of the high volume of traffic.
To read our full report on the Forest of Dean, check back to issue 352 (available here), or pick up a copy of the latest mag to keep up with our monthly Wrecking Crew reports.