I spent a couple of hours on the Stumpjumper yesterday exploring Cringle Plantation, one of the more technical mountain bike areas on the Isle of Man. Towards the end of the blue dot community trail I was transported into a magical woodland of mature, moss-covered larch, planted just wide enough to allow a carpet of wild clover to conceal the entire forest floor, and that carpet was now in full bloom.
The Surrey Hills area is a mecca for mountain bikers, with rich terrain offering something for riders of all abilities. I’ve been riding here on and off for about 5 years now, following a route originally downloaded from a site that’s long since disappeared. It’s a pretty tough tour taking in four of the highest hills in southern England, but includes a bail-out loop if you want to cut out Peaslake and The Hurtwood.
Another impromptu cycle ride, another cause to wonder if small bikes can be used for touring. Audax fans will tell you that luggage isn’t necessary, so why not extend the minimalist theme to your ride? Temptation to plan a longer trip is fuelled by an ad hoc ride home from my new job. Maybe I’m just eager to get out after being cooped up for a couple of weeks, or maybe it really is possible to go the distance with impossibly small wheels. Either way, this itch needs scratching.
Sounds impressive, but cycling to Paris is easier than you’d think. The route uses established cycle paths, most of it is flat, and some is even traffic free. In fact it’s so popular that a small tourist industry has sprung up, ensuring you’re never far from a loo or a cafe. The best bit? A large chunk of distance is knocked out by the ferry, leaving you with a ride that Mum could do on her shopper.