an Epping Forest mud fest.

Saturday 11 October 2014 – Epping Forest.

Wow, three posts from consecutive weekends from the same place, I must say it has been a lot of fun visiting the forest – who would have known !

As I mentioned in my last post, autumn arrived last weekend with a sudden drop in temperature and the onset of the first rain in what seemed like weeks. Fortunately it only rained while I was at work or at home and I managed to squeeze a couple of runs in on the way home from work. Not that I am running very far at the moment, just barely squeezing out five miles. The good news is that I am getting fitter again, not that I could get a lot less fit. I signed up with a doctors a couple of weeks ago and found I am 7kilos heavier than I was when I did my 50km run two years ago – ouch! I have not been 85kgs for a very very long time.

I had been following the forecast all week and had decided if it was not pouring with rain on Saturday morning I would head out for a ride and see how muddy and greasy it would be when it had been wet. It was a pretty damn glorious morning. No excuses needed.

I am really lucky living in Walthamstow in NE London, I am twenty minutes from work in Covent Garden by tube (plus a short walk) and I am five minutes by bike to the bottom fringes of Epping Forest. If you look at the area on a map it is hard to see that all these small patches of green all hook up and eventually join with the lower reaches of the forest itself.

I wore my Garmin watch so I could map the ride, and maybe come up with a vague idea of where to go next time.

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As I was riding on my own this time I was hoping to be able to find some of the single track we rode a couple of weeks ago, but there is so much track in the forest and it is impossible to get really lost, so I was not too bothered. I would guess that well over fifty percent of the ride today was on proper single track with the rest on wider trails, and apart from the first and last five minutes of it none of it was on road – though I did cross a few

The forecast had been for a cloudy morning with some showers, but it was pretty damn nice out there, I love the fact that unlike most of the riding I did in New Zealand, I was not riding in pine forest, so I loved the trees and the way the sun filtered through them. I had to stop and take a few photos on my phone on the way; this was just five minutes in to the forest section of the ride – bike is still clean !

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The light reflecting off the water at Highams Lake was lovely so I stopped for a wee look and just maybe, to stop sucking air for a second.

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The trails had taken on a lot of water in the last week and it was pretty slippery in some places, traction was minimal at times and I will have to make sure I get some decent tyres on my new bike, it was a hell of a lot of fun and I surprised myself by how quickly riding greasy trails came back to me, though I am slow as all heck…

I did stop for half a cup of coffee at one of the forest tea huts. I was trying to work out where I was on the map on my phone, but without glasses on it was hopeless.  I think I will take the paper map next time.

Two rides and I have already bent a seat post, it used to take me at least four or five rides.

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The forest has lots of wooded area which is riddled with single track, some old and faint and some new and freshly ridden, I really enjoyed the mix of fast trail and tight twisty faded trails with low hanging branches and a vagueness of direction. The stinging nettles are a pain though! Epping itself is not all forest, there are a few open sections and I made use of these to gain some distance. My plan was to ride as far north as I felt like and then duck into the trees and meander my way back.

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I pretty much managed to ride a mix of single track all the way back down to the bottom end of the forest, surprisingly I managed to head in generally the right direction the whole way back towards the small interlinked sections that got me back home. At one point I found myself riding along the side of the River Ching, along some trails that EL and I walked a while back.

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I got a bit uncertain about my direction in the next section of mini-forest and ended up riding back up a trail that I rode down a couple of weeks ago before realising I was heading in the wrong direction, and that was really the only time – something I was utterly surprised about as my sense of direction has been truly awful since I have been in the northern hemisphere. Maybe I have just not been testing it enough.

I wanted to get a couple of hours of riding and was pleased to do that, we had some furniture to move after the carpet man had been in while I was out, so had vowed to come home in a reasonable time and less knackered than I was two weeks ago. I did get laughed at when I turned up all muddy though!!

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It was a great ride, I am now very keen to get myself a new and properly sized bike, my left hip really did not appreciate me riding so low today and was quite painful by the time I got home. But bloody hell it was fun out there. My love for the sport has certainly been rekindled.