"Get lost!" I said to Dan, but it wasn't meant in a disparaging way, even if I am jealous of all his current free time. What I meant was lets go to the Forest of Dean and largely ignore all the way marked trails and go explore, if we get lost all the better!
So we rocked up on a Saturday mid morning desperate for a caffeine hit and stumbled into Pedalabikeaway cafe to find the electricity off and the staff handing out free coffee (ok maybe the girl felt sorry for the sleepy looking bearded weirdy on the other side of the counter to her) but hey, free coffee always tastes sweeter and we guzzled it whilst checking out a map Dan had cobbled together. We had a vague plan, i.e "lets head towards that green forested area" so once I had visited the romantic Gents toilet (lit by a very atmospheric L.E.D. light, no 'leccy you see) we were off and into the woods.
Did i mention on the journey to Gloucestershire we went the wrong way? That sort of set the tone of the ride. That was the object at the start though so we were on target the whole ride. We knew where we were many times, just not in relation to other parts of the forest.....or the van. still, i think we visited every lake in the area, had giggles with some hen-do monkeys at the go ape centre, saw one other fat biker and answered many questions about "enormous tyres". We did also find some sweet singletrack, the very centre of the woods (there was a plaque and everything!) and some sculptures. We almost got robbed of our lunch by an enormous great dane and failed to impress the lady at the tea stall who said "i saw 10 of those bikes with fat tires last week, there's loads of them around here"
Eventually, all things became clear and we managed to find our way back to the Cycle centre, just in time for tea and cake and thought while we're here we might as well show the weekend warriors how to ride at a trail centre, even with 20 miles in the legs before we started.
To keep the theme going we put together own own route around the way marked bits, got a little lost but managed to avoid the biggest climbs and hit the final downhills on the Verderers trail fast and hard... well as hard as a rigid forked fatbike can. Arm pump was up to Popeye proportions, by the end i was hanging on for grim death, if the trail had been half as long again I'd have had to stop and let my hands recover before continuing. Reaching the end was a mixture of relief and sadness, the adventure was over, but I didn't have much left in the legs anyway. Riding a fatbike exclusively off road on varying surfaces and undulating terrain takes it out of you far more than an ordinary bike, well that's my excuse anyway.
we packed the van and popped into the on site bike shop. Dan made a purchase...an Ordinance Survey map of the forest! talk about bolting the stable door after the horse had bolted!
great ride though, sometimes not knowing exactly where you are is the best thing.