A new year shakedown Epping Forest mountain bike ride.

Sunday 04 January 2015 – Epping Forest.

First ride and first post of the new year, I am hoping to be able to keep up with both.

My Christmas and New Year were both enjoyable, El and I stayed around home for the most part, though we both worked a couple of days between Christmas and New Year. It was a welcome break from work, it did get a bit stressful towards the end and after so long off work, four months seemed a long time between holidays. I cannot say I am looking forward to going back tomorrow, but at least I am relaxed again – reasonably so anyway.

I missed my family over Christmas, in the end I did not even get too see them on Skype which was a real shame, and apparently they had a good time without me! I did enjoy my time with El and her boys though, lots of food, some wine and not too bad TV made for a good couple of days and it was lovely being able to share it with them again.

I have made a couple of small life decisions in the past couple of weeks, firstly I am growing facial hair again, I won’t go full hipster beard, just a small winter warmer and an opportunity to not have to shave for a few weeks, my most hated chore. Secondly and more radically I have deleted my FaceBook account. I have been there, almost since the beginning, but have finally gotten sick of it and the fact that it intrudes so much into my life, mostly because I let it I will say. Anyway I will see how it goes with a FaceBook free life. It can only be better.

It was a pretty lazy holiday period, though we did walk, I have not run since before Christmas and have not been on the bike since late November when I did my first bike event in years. An event I was really poorly prepared for and subsequently did not enjoy as much as I should have. Not that that kept me off the bike though – laziness and an ever extending stomach kept me off the bike.

Last week, local mountain bike enthusiast, Tony from Walthamstow Cycles, sent an email round about a group ride in Epping Forest this Sunday and it was the impetus I needed to get off my sorry ass, get the cold gear out, lube the chain, pump up the tyres and get ready to go out for a ride – even if it was supposed to be in a -1 freezing fog.

Fortunately, on the day it was comparatively nice; with grey skies, a light mist and a positively warm zero degrees when I left home to meet the crew at 8:30. There was supposed to be eight riders heading out today and surprisingly everyone was there and even more surprisingly everyone was there on time, in fact we actually left the meeting point early. This is not something I am used to at all. I like this group already!

We rode off from Beacontree Ave into Walthamstow Forest, a small section of forest that links up, via a few more small sections into the broader Epping Forest. You know it is cold when the frost covered grass is crunching under your wheels and the puddles in the mud are iced over. Luckily once we got under the trees the layers of mud were not so iced over, just slushy and boggy and clingy. Did I say luckily ?

I had tossed a camera in my bag on the off chance I would get a chance to get some photos off a foggy and damp Epping Forest, but as expected the opportunities were few and far between, this was a bike ride, not a photographic mission!

We rode through to Epping Forest by a long and winding route, trying to avoid the worst of the mud and wet areas from a very full River Ching. There was some quite tasty single track sessions that I am unlikely to ever find again. Once in Epping Forest itself, it was ‘good’ to ride up Pole Hill and away from the wet land. It is the highest point in the forest, though at a massive 91 metres it is hardly going to be much use for hill training. But we did take a break at the top and I got to take a couple of pictures. Sadly there was no view….

IMG_1103IMG_1101The best bit about riding up a hill is getting to ride back down again, I rode this trail on my first ride in the forest but was never able to find it again, it was a lot more fun when there was some grip, but even slippy and slidey it was still a load of fun and one of my favourite trails of the day – not that there was a bad trail ridden….

IMG_1102We had another break for some running repairs as we headed across the middle of the lower half of the forest, and I again took the opportunity to take some photos. The forecast had said that there would be an increase in fog over the morning and they were not wrong for a change.

IMG_1106Our next stop was Strawberry Ponds, a lovely area of the forest that I would like to visit again and take some photos at. A location I have now lined up for a session if it snows, though finding it would be a challenge. It is a beautiful spot and the middle of the pond was very much covered in ice.

IMG_1109IMG_1110After almost three hours of riding we took a much earned rest at the tea shed at High Beach, coffee and the famous bread pudding was very well received. The riding had been quite hard, we were hardly setting a rocket pace, but the mud was constant and we were either sliding around, splashing through puddles or grinding through thick sucking mud – the worst kind. I was not feeling too bad, mid-pack in fitness so able to keep up easily enough and with steady riding I had not gotten too hot or too cold – with the exception of my toes which were freezing. New socks are on the shopping lost.

IMG_1111We took a few short cuts on the way back towards home, scooting quickly down some of the more established paths. Losing half the group as we went. It was a bit of a slog back across the flat areas with a some real bog grinds and a crossing of the River Ching (in reality a small stream) when we came across an impassably flooded section of track.

Tony offered us the use of his pressure washer to rinse the bikes down, along with a quick chain lube before I rode home after almost 28 kms of mostly single track riding. My new bike – a Genesis Latitude, was perfect for this riding, the bigger wheels were great in the mud and the bike is so well balanced, I am really glad I bought it.

IMG_1113It was a great morning out, a hell of a lot of fun with a good group of riders. I earned the sausage, eggs, chips and beans I had at the local cafe for lunch ! Thanks Walthamstow Cycles !!

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.