Do you ever dream about long and elaborate cycle tours? For many of us these don't fit in with everyday life all year round. They need to be planned, time booked off work and much more. Sometimes you need to think smaller and take opportunities when and wherever possible. You don't always need to slope off for months, it could be an afternoon off work or a long weekend away. Use your imagination and you will see many opportunities.
I'm never one to miss an opportunity to ride my bicycle, so I decided to turn a trip to see friends in the UK into a mini cycle tour. Normally I catch a 45 minute flight from Jersey to the UK, but with flight costs being high (school holidays) and the weather being good (kind of), I booked myself on the ferry crossing to Poole, Dorset. With my bike of course!
On paper this would give me about 50 miles each way of cycling. Not big distance, but still something to look forward to, as the route would take me through the New Forest. An area of the UK I have always wanted to ride. With plenty of time on both my arrival and departure days for a good few hours of riding and exploring, I was all set to go. All that was left was to intensively look at the weather forecast. leading up to my departure date. Not that by doing so makes any difference and I always ride whatever the weather!
Arriving in Poole (two hours late, thank you Condor Ferries!), I powered on my Garmin touring sat nav and started riding. For this trip I planned to use sat nav to make sure I arrived at my friends by a certain time. With an evening of beer and food promised, it was in my interests to arrive on time :-)
The delayed crossing meant I was under a little pressure to fit in a good ride and arrive on time. To be honest, it didn't start too well! The first half hour was all about me getting hopelessly lost in Poole, with my Garmin going into meltdown! It kept re-routing, taking for what seemed forever each time. In the end my iPhone came to the rescue and got me out of town. And I was soon on the edge of the New Forest.
For those of you that haven't been to or not aware of the New Forest, it is a vast forest area in the South of England. Beautiful villages, gorgeous views, and animals roaming freely. It is an awesome place to visit and a great place to ride a bicycle, especially if you keep away from the main road running through the centre. The terrain is varied, with main roads, quiet country lanes and miles of trails and tracks. Riding through this beautiful area already made me want to come back for a longer visit. With many places to camp, both wild and well kept camp sites. Also, you will never starve with the abundance of little village tea rooms, cafes, pubs and restaurants to keep any cyclist happy :-)
If you do ever have the opportunity to visit this area the one thing you will notice is the amount of horses roaming freely. At first I wondered if I should be contacting someone to tell them their horses had escaped, but soon realised it was normal. With many families stopping to say hello.
Realising the time, I had to pick up the pace head into the busy roads of Southampton. Soon the beauty was replaced with too many cars and concrete!! Maybe I have lived on a small island for too long, but it did seem to be more traffic on the roads in the UK now and many drivers are in such a hurry to pass cyclists, sometimes a little too close for comfort.
I got thinking that evening and made the decision to skip the built up areas of Southampton on my return. So, to make the return journey more about riding in the forest, I decided to catch a train to the edge of the forest at 6AM. What a great decision this turned out to be. After a 50 minute train journey, I was greeted with empty roads, stunning morning views. Now had an extra couple of hours chilled out riding. With a quick stop off for a healthy English breakfast to keep my energy levels topped up, before heading back towards Poole.
Sitting on the ferry writing this post, I'm really pleased I decided to complete this ride. It may not have been an epic cycle tour, but it was still a mini tour to me. I visited somewhere new and explored it by bicycle. That sums up cycle touring for me; getting out there and exploring. To sit on the plane would have been the boring option.
Next time you get the urge to go cycle touring, but cannot for whatever reason. Have a little think about any spare time you have coming up. Maybe you have a visit planned with friends/family? Or need to travel for work? Whatever the reason, grab your bike and take it with you and go exploring. Little trips like this can be more accessible than those longer cycle tours and are guaranteed to put a smile of your face :-)
I have included a slide show of all the pictures I took on this little tour. Also took lots of Go Pro footage. I'll upload that to the video section once it has been edited.