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The Forest of Dean - FODCA Trail

The Forest of Dean is easily accessible from the South and has a real variety of riding including a 3 mile singletrack and quarry play area. there are also endless miles of wide forest trails for the easy riders.

The Flood
It had been raining. A lot. The floods had arrived for a second year and the news media had gathered their standard footage of sand-bags and soggy carpets. On the day however, a minor weather miracle gave us Autumn mists and clearing skies, deep joy. We arrived a few minutes late and immediately got in a flap as the helmet cam stubbornly recorded a blank grey nothing. Several minutes of flapping later I traced the problem to the battery which was connected in reverse DOH! Now what was that I'd read in the instructions a year ago? Oh yes, respect the polarity of the power connection or damage to the camera will result' With trepidation I got the power the right way round and the picture flicked on, nice one RF Concepts! Matt Frederick was our guide for the day and we set off on a mission to warm up and film everything in sight. The start of the trail is just around the corner from Pedalbikeaway and we set off in to the wood and in to the mud. The trail snakes left and right and climbs over a multitude of by now glassy smooth tree roots. Concentration was full on, hop root one, lean in to corner, bump root two, rear wheel shoots left, foot down, DOH! 

We soon approached the top of a drop through a small valley/large bomb hole with root drop off's. Piece of cake on a drier day I'm sure, it looked a tad tricky and we scouted for a volunteer to push over the edge. One of the lads obliged making it look easy and we all followed bumping and slithering down one side and mostly pushing up the other. The next section was a twisting, greasy snake of black mud and tree roots where staying on the bike was a real feat and high speed was unattainable for most. This set the scene for much of the route, greasy black fudge interspersed with a few short sections of clay to really gum up the works. At one point I asked the long suffering FODCA boys if the local soil type was Pace RC7 or Black Gold? Ha Ha.

The Gorgeous Gulley
A long wheel-spinning climb brought us to the top of a really good downhill that the mud was almost, but not quite, able to spoil. This soon led us down to the Gully, this natural over-grown ditch has been used to best effect with the singletrack crossing left to right and back for a roller coaster ride. At the bottom of this we could see the possibilities of riding the FODCA trail in the Summer. In the end though there was just too much mud and not enough downhill to make the day worthwhile. The Forest of Dean has a play area and loads of drier forest trails but the singletrack possibilities were sludged out. We de-camped and shot off to Afan Argoed for a well earned loop of the 9feet trail. Even parts here were muddy on this dampest of all days. But close to the coast as it is, the sea breezes had cleared the skies and we were treated to perfect Autumn sunshine on a day when the rest of the UK suffered cold and wet.

The Winter Locations
We'll keep you posted on when the FODCA trail is dry enough to ride, this may not be until the spring. When it is we'll update this feature and add the video we'd hoped for on the day. For the moment the FODCA trail organisers say "come and ride it if you wish, but you may not enjoy it!".
Best ride locations for the wet winter trails:
1. Coed y Brenin
2. Peak to Peak
3. Afan Argoed
These are in order of wet weather capability. When the weather turns wet the rockiest trails will by and large be the best ones. Both Coed y Brenin and the Peak to Peak route are often deep in water but retain high speed descending capability. You will need a Crud Catcher and glasses or goggles though. If you want to keep your shorts drier a rear Crud Guard is useful. The Pink Heifer is the one everyone should do when they've left the novice riding behind.



Facilities
Pedalbikeaway has bikes for hire and is situated in the main car park. They also serve tea and snacks, sell spares and have toilets.
Location
The FODCA trail is in the Forest of Dean, 3 miles East of Coleford, 18 miles West of Gloucester.
Trail Directions
The FODCA trail is well sign posted with wooden posts at junctions. See the FODCA website for a trail map.

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