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Bike-packing in the (Not so New) Forest

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

I decided to test out my bike back in gear after it being stored for 18 months during the lockdown. It seemed like a very long time ago when we toyed with the idea of going out as a group in RAB, so now would be a good time to get out there and just do it.

I found a cute circuit on and decided to turn it from a one day mashup to a leisurely two day 'bimble' with a one night stay in a campsite. Hardly wild camping - but just an opportunity to see what was hot and what was not in my gear line up.

I had a lots of kit from 2020 but then lockdown struck. Anyway, now I was on my way fully kitted heading for Brockenhurst to start the circuit.

Of course it didn’t help that I’d forgotten my Garmin charging cable this meant that 100% charge level got smaller throughout the weekend so It had to be used sparingly. The roads were very clear and the usual 3 mile straight run into Brockenhurst was completely clear and devoid of caravans.

With an early push off around 11 o’clock I was able to start the course refreshed. The GPS on my watch performed perfectly well as there were a lot of short left and right turns with few straights. The gravel started quite early on and while there were a few day-riders I was quite surprised at the remoteness and size of New Forest.

And of course the bike performed perfectly well ….it felt light, rolled well so full marks there.

For once I was rolling along gravel for considerable lengths of time… was very flat. So only some noticeable climbing as I approached the A31. The top of the course involved some meaningless mini loop which contained a lot of mud plugging i.e. roots and boggy single track - an ideal recipe for an off however I did manage to stay upright and not time-waste because I needed to camp by at least 6 o’clock. And of course I managed to get in the traditional 'log shot' which all bikepackers yearn for! I’ll keep it short of sweet but the campsite was quite a family affair so I had to re-pitch three times just to give myself the feeling I was reasonably alone. Briefly the kit before very well. I resuscitated some hotdog rolls from lunchtime and with my dried minestrone soup and noodles and a blob of marmite cooked up a tasty pasta stew.

I struggled to motivate myself to have breakfast, get dressed and do my ablutions without getting wet. By some miracle the morning rain tailed off so miraculously I didn’t get terminally wet. I set off again but now having to switch from Garmin watch with 20% charge to my mobile phone. It should have been straightforward but unfortunately Komoot thought I was hiking as well as biking. I switched to voice mode which had a time-lag so I could get lost more slowly. In desperation I turned to the encapsulated map and finally the compass on my watch. The numbered bike routes were still rubbish. My stop at Lyndhurst was useful. This very new gravel bike shop sorted me out nicely with a decent coffee and vegan flapjack. The customers were quite hardcore bikepackers, but so what? Each to their own I guess. The staff were really friendly on both the food and the equipment fronts.

At least I left feeling fed. I reset and then carried on course. I was forced to cut out the last leg of the loop as it seemed a little bit pointless, with a retrace around a field, west of the town. In fact the last stretch before this sealed the deal as it I rode through an 'untidy' farm via totally overgrown and unrideable paths - it wasn’t a great end to the ride but nevertheless I ended back in Brockenhurst reasonably early. I popped into the level crossing bike shop for a browse, had a quick chat with the shop-person and then tried to find something to eat which at the best of times can be a dietary challenge in London but near impossible in a small village like Brockenhurst.

To sum up, the itself was a good looking, non technical experience. All in all, it worked well as a solo effort.

For the route itself I visited Komoot, at which allows you to download this as well as many other cool routes in the UK, Europe and overseas.

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