This Saturday. MODS in FOREST and RADS OUT and IN the Forest (Long 30miles ride). 11.am we LEAVE from Bury Road car park. If you cannot join us pop into the Station House pub for a chat after our ride.
With time on my hands, sitting on the return ferry with a 6 hour crossing leaves plenty of time to put together a ride report.
Christmas holiday spent in Normandie near the medieval town of Domfront with my bike in tow, what could I do but get out and ride. During a previous trip I’d finally managed to get into the local Office de Tourisme during their opening hours and picked up a copy of the local VTT (Velo Tout Terrain or Mountain Biking as we would say) route map for the area, for several euro, with 22 different routes and 470 km (293 miles) to choose from.
Warm up ride – Domfront – Bagnoles – Domfront - well warm up for cycling but close to zero temperature outside with a sprinkling of snow in the shadows and frozen earth making the riding easier than last years mud fest slogging through inches deep mud. The pumped up mud tyres and the hard earth were certainly easier than the old all purpose tyres deflated to get some grip.
Nearly 20 km or an hour and a quarter each way – setting off from the end of the paved road beyond the municipal dump past one or two closed up holiday homes and small farmsteads through the forest, along the top of the ridge using a mixture of old forest roads/tracks and backroads. All the off road routes in the area are typically well signposted, by the French VTT club allowing straightforward navigation, following the Red Route 12 to the edge of Bagnoles, dropping down off the ridge into the town, past the grand old houses and the health spa to the lake to find my planned coffee and pain au chocolat stop was closed. Making do with my emergency rations of cuppa soup and more cereal bars standing in the cold outside the takeaway pizza shop was not quite the French lunches I was used to.
I only saw one other cyclist out that day, whose tracks in the snow I followed for a while before getting ahead of him on the direct route into town, and not the more interesting green lane that he took, before he passed me outside the pizza shop.
An uneventful return journey back past the hunters nearly blocking all of the track with their little white Renault vans. At least they had put their guns and dogs away by now, although it didn’t stop me trying to remember what happened in Deer Hunter. Cold and wet feet despite my seal skins, and quick change by the car.
Black 8 – Noir Huite or L’Epine Orbiere – 47 km (30 miles) - around 1degree centigrade.
Photos @ www.flickr.com/photos/8113388@N05/sets/72157625830112834/show/
A classic loop north east of Domfront, mix of green lanes, some road sections and pure forest tracks. Start Domfront, head North, short down hill section, across the river over the ancient stone bridge before hitting the uphill and through the farm yards into the green lanes. First sighting of many birds of prey that day.
Mid way through the route, another cuppa soup again, by the side of the road, at a crossroads in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, aka L’Epine Orbiere. My late start meant that the sensible thing to do was now cut the route and miss out the top shitty third that goes through deep ruts and mud even in the middle of summer let alone mid winter and pick up the route again later. For once sanity prevailed and a few quick cheeky road miles and an overshoot later left me looking at the map trying to work out where I was (St-Clair de Halouze) and where I should pick up the route again. A quick U Turn, a left, and two miles later find me nearly back where I started. Another U Turn, and a diversion, well off route, via a small town with a misty church up on the hill, (St Bomber Les Forges?) find me eventually back on track.
Still some snow on the ground on some of the higher back roads, but manly wet. More green lanes, short road sections, over the river and back up the steep valley side to the start. Another change to dry clothes by the side of the road.
Forret Des Andaines – slightly warmer around 3 degrees
Photos @ www.flickr.com/photos/8113388@N05/sets/72157625830402468/show/
A couple of emails had located the President (Patrick Chopin) of the local VTT Club in Domfront, (vtt.domfront.pagesperso-orange.fr/ )who rounded up his troops for a “bottom of the year” ride in the forest for the foreigner.
The email read -
“Pour tous ceux que cela pourrait tenter...
RDV à l'étoile d'andaines sur le coup de 9h00 pour départ 9h15
Retour vers 12h30”
Or 9.00 am for 9.15 sharp departure from Etoile D’Andaines (Star of …) or as we used to say in Norfolk – five ways – and a gentle 3 ½ ride around the forest for those mad enough to go.
Whilst some of MBR over 35 group may occasionally complain about the number of people using Epping forest, it does have one big benefit – it keeps the tracks as singletrack. Yes, the tracks may cut up and there may be some potholes and mud patches large enough for small hippos to wallow in, but cycling over virgin forest undergrowth or sticking to the fireroads makes for less exciting cycling, until you run into the locals wearing hi vis vests hunting with uncocked shot guns in the same forest that you are merrily cycling around.
A brief conversation in French between my local guides and the hunter concluded that we should proceed quickly as the rest of the hunters, with their guns and dogs would be working their way through that part of the forest shortly.
We proceeded quickly or “Allez Vite” as they say en francais.
Long story short, yet again I find myself following the older guy going up the hill. Did anyone say Miles?
Highlights - sighted a couple of deer, a couple of chapels, and the Roc du Dames.
The Domfront VTT team are organising a series of events from the 31st July to 6th August over 600km of trails.
See the Google translation for the Walk of the Squirrel, which we are all invited to, if anyone fancies it.
translate.google.com/translate?js=n&...esperso-orange.fr%2F or in French vtt.domfront.pagesperso-orange.fr/
All photos by Kean at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8113388@N05
Edited by Steve MTweet