Over the course of December the previous year I was introduced by my brother to a friend who wants to attempt veganism and cycling. He then introduced a friend of his who at least wants to try cycling. That, combined with a friend who wants to get back in the saddle and my brothers need to find wild camping spots reachable by bike has made for an optimistic outlook for the new year.
I suppose the good thing about so many people interested in starting the year right means there shouldn’t really be any solo sessions. Don’t get me wrong, cycling sole with some really good music is all well and good but having another human is much better.
An arrangement was made to meet on the first morning of the year and take an easy enough cycle around the local forests. Only one other person was able to meet for our first ride and we were supposed to meet at the upper entrance to Mountsandel forest as I knew the higher, shorter path would be a good start to get the body loosened and not be too much on our lungs.
Unfortunately due to some crossed wires on our Whatsapp group “Bear” as I’ll call him from now on was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t wait for him for too long as I knew he should have been at the entrance quite a few minutes before me. Entering the trail I noticed the carpark had been resurfaced and the was a (possibly) new sign saying no bicycles. This is disappointing as cyclists have been riding the Mountsandel forest for years. Unhindered I decided to cycle it anyway and as usual, the few people walking or jogging were as pleasant as they always seem. I reached the end of the trail at the lower Mountsandel Road entrance, I rang Bear to find out what was happening.
As it is on the Whatsapp group I had suggested we either do the upper path, then cycle across the new bridge and along the riverside to Somerset forest or we could cycle the upper path and cycle down to Coleraine town centre and along the cycle bridge. We would then cross the road to a long flat path through Christie park, under the new bridge and cross to Somerset forest. Bear though we were meeting at the cycle bridge.
Anyway. Everyone still calls it the new bridge although it has been there for years. Officially it is named the Mountsandel Bridge. We met at the underpass and winding along the tarmac path to the car park at the end.
Crossing the road we entered Somerset forest. It’s not a particularly large place but there are a few different paths to take that can vary it nicely.
Regardless of what side you choose to start on it begins with a steep climb. The left side is one curved climb so I chose the right side to start with because it has a slightly tiered ascent.
Bear didn’t get very far up on this, his first attempt. In my opinion, his first mistake was standing. I find as soon as I stand on this type of climb my rear wheel spins and I just seem to lose grip. This honestly is the toughest part of the track. After a lot of panting and much gulping of water, the rest of the trail is fairly flat with a combination of gravel packed mud, stony path and pine needle carpeted trail between the trees. For beginners it’s perfect. All in all, it was a good start to the year.