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No joy on avoiding the mud though; this ride was tough due to much of the offroad sections being seriously boggy and hence very hard work indeed.Good bit of pushing towards the end as the legs tired, but I will definitely revisit this one in the summer as the views were fabulous over the South Downs. OK, so this is Dorset, but it's only 75 or so minutes of driving from Locks Heath. Cracking ride with a bit of everything, tough climbs, great descents, singletrack, technical stuff and amongst the very best views on the South Coast. Conditions were very good, making it the best ride of the year so far by a good margin.I spent the first few miles just getting warm, but my feet had turned into ice blocks by the end. The South Downs Way is very spectacular in these parts, and is definitely worth all the effort. The bridleways in the Marwell area are so muddy and horse-damaged as to be almost unrideable this time of year, but the rest of the ride was mostly OK. They describe this as one of their most challenging trails. Oxdroves and bridleways make for easy riding in dry weather.25-Mar-06. The road bits joining the offroad sections were very quiet, making the whole ride virtually traffic-free. What I didn't know is that much of this area off-road is fine wet sand; this doesn't just slow you down, it actually brings you to a dead halt as the tyres dig in. After 24 or so miles I bailed out and headed back on the road. Apart from getting thrown off down some rutted tracks, this was plain sailing with only a couple of steep climbs.I've also put up a Search & Upload page to allow visitors to search for their own maps and see their GPX track files on OS, IGN & Google maps. Some good tracks and bridleways with stunning views. The climb up the final hill on the return leg was tough. This one came from the excellent pack of bike rides available from the cycling site of Hampshire County Council. They describe it as challenging, but I found it pretty straightforward. The forest bits (Moors Valley & Hurn Forest) were pretty but all wide fire trail stuff. Today most were out of site tucked up keeping warm. The track from Marwell to Owlesbury was so horse-damaged and boggy as to be a push job all the way. Without these I'd have been walking for most of it. But there was still plenty of pushing; this is the hilliest of all the rides by quite a margin.See also my Non-Hampshire Mountain Bike Rides page. It was a freezing cold January morning when I did this - I waited in the car park until the sun was up enough to ride. Cracking ride which overlaps some parts of the Cocking Hill ride, but done the other way around. I planned a short one with more road than normal as I was still getting over a strained back muscle and didn't want a killer.The track through the hills at Hippenscombe felt truly ancient - the kind of vibe you get at places like Glastonbury. B: the published ride is about 22.5 miles, but I missed a few turns so did a little longer. The views are as good as the Purbeck ride and there is virtually zero traffic off the main roads. I'd planned a second ride but did my back in once again, so one ride had to do for this trip. Met up with with Jon again for a very pleasant XC ride with a good mix of terrain.
Not many hills, but still plenty of boggy mud on the non-Forest bridleways.
It felt tougher than the stats suggest, probably due to dragging though mud. But it was very muddy in parts today which sapped the stamina and enjoyment somewhat - I had to push a few times.
The start point is shown as a car park on the OS map but is actually a layby.
I would welcome any feedback from passers-by, particularly if you have suggestions for routes in this area. I did OK up the first evil hill but ended up pushing on the return leg. Local dog owners seemed to be walking there too, so I hope I wasn't trespassing! We were camping at Oakdene, so I was restricted by what I could get locally, which wasn't really very much. It's not often you can go on a ride and see wallabies. After 16 miles of low gear thrashing, my legs were getting very tired around Upper Wield, so I took the road back (managing to go the wrong way initially). At least the new bike has had a good christening - it took ages to clean afterwards. Some tough hills - I was amazed how much difference the new 3-position Gravity Dropper makes on the climbs.
All the rides are legitimate - that's to say they all use public rights of way or permissive trails including bridleways, BOATs/Restricted Byways - and as little road as possible. They are all circular and the start point is generally a free car park unless stated otherwise. This one is straight from the March 2006 issue of MBR magazine. This was a pleasant keep-in-trim sort of ride rather than a belter. The bridleways were quite sandy in parts (requiring a little pushing) and there was way too much road work. This ride includes a bridleway adjacent to Marwell zoo which gives a great view of the animals, depending on the time of year. The Trailrakers were excellent for grip in the mud. The "1 up" position let me stay pedalling where otherwise I might have pushed.