Left, right, right… Trying to avoid the trees and their roots. A big fallen branch, but now it’s too late. The brakes hold but not the tires. I try to go over but it slips and I’m down. A stranger asks if everything’s all right. I get up, thank him and continue. It was a great day out.
When you live in a big crowded city, the need for escape is almost inevitable. It’s a shame to spend the day indoors when April gives you a beautiful clear sky with 24C. They’re very rare in England. After failing to set up logistics for my hike on the Jurassic Coast wasn’t much left to do but search alternatives around London. I recently moved close to Epping Forest so it seemed like the best option. I knew my hybrid bike with road tires would struggle but was determined to give it a try.
The Forest has multiple access gates and parking but for public transport the easiest ways are via tube to Epping on the central line or Chingford via overground. If you travel with a bike though, the train is a better option. Be sure to check the restrictions.You can find a cycling map online but only for the gravel tracks. I’ve personally used View Ranger and followed someone else’s route as a guide but tailored it to my own like. There are plenty of walking paths as well and some cycling restrictions apply. But you can spend a full day mixing gravel with forest tracks. And if you do want to explore the woodlands, bring a better bike than mine. A hardtail MTB would be perfect. A bank holiday on a sunny day has a disadvantage though. You’re not the only one seeking the outdoors and that spoils a bit the fun. They tend to stick to the paths so deep in the forest you’ll be alone.
Stretching over 2400 hectare there is plenty of woodland to fill up your day. I put an end to my adventure after 15 miles when my bum became too sore. Even the slightest bump would make me think twice about the speed. The lack of control on a bike with short stem and thin tires is kind of scary when riding at 30mph. What’s more scary is the lack of grip on the tires. Having not ridden a bike on the trail for over 20 years I forgot how fun it is. And I had such a good time that on my return home the search for a new mountain bike began.
Whatever your passion is, make time for it and live with no regrets.