Updated: Mar 16, 2019
With a long history of military training, including vehicular training, the landscape is pitted with tracks, bunkers, dug-outs and other slightly alien-looking features.
The forest is dissected with large fire-roads that provide the inexperienced cyclist with easy across the estate and the marked trails usually start and end up on the fire roads.
The crown estate, working with the Swinley Bike Hub have been marking, building and maintaining trails around the forest.
The green trail only covers 1km of singletrack trails, which are overwhelmingly flat, located in a gently sloping and well-lit part of the forest, very near to the Bike Hub. The green trail really isn’t anything exciting but is not a bad opportunity to get the feel of a rental bike, or to take the kids round to get them warmed up before a more adventurous family ride.
The blue trail jumps up significantly, both in length (at 9km) and in range and in diversity. Blue trail really isn’t much more challenging than green and there really aren’t any ‘scary’ bits on the blue trail. What is good though, is that Blue starts to introduce technical aspects including root beds and drop offs in addition to much bigger berms and pump sections, whilst restricting these mostly to the uphill section. This is a great way for riders to progress gradually, without taking themselves out of their depth and having a confidence-knocking fall. It’s worth nothing that, in terms of fitness, Blue Trail is arguably harder than Red. I think the main reason it’s a better trail to learn on is due to the technical ascents and the smooth descents.
Moving on to the Red Trail. This is the longest marked trail in the Forest, sitting at 13km winding through the forest, and making the most of the natural, hilly landscape.
The red trail is Swinley’s biggest ‘marked’ attraction. This trail incorporates fast downhill sections (both on loose dusty gravel and loamy soil), punishing switch-back climbs, table jumps and much more regular use of technical aspects to increase the diversity and feel of the ride.
Once you get into the low 20’s of the Red Trails, you’ll come to the ‘clubhouse’ area of the forest. This area is perched on top of a hill, with several downhill trails leading off, and re-joining the fire-roads at the bottom. Recently, the only downhill sections of any real note had either been Olympia, Reservoir or Baby-maker following a spate of closures in recent years. Swinley Bike Hub have, however, been working hard to improve the Forest’s offering to more advanced riders and have recently been re-digging Traffic Lights (Bikini Car Wash) and will soon be moving onto the Axle Run. Having been part of the team working on the Bikini Car Wash dig, this adds some aaspects and challenges that aren’t currently on offer on the marked trails.
As always in any forest setting, there have been intrepid bikers keen to dig their own courses throughout the estate, and if you take time to explore off the beaten track you will inevitably find some pretty diverse challenges on offer.
In addition to a wide range of trails at different difficulties, Swinley Forest boasts a fully stocked Bike Hub, manned by competent and experienced bike mechanics. There is a café available at the look-out centre, car park and estate wardens who work hard to keep the site clean and safe.
In Summary, Swinley forest is a great local trail, perfect for people to develop their riding skill. The trails are long enough to ensure you don’t get bored, and there is a good range of terrains, tech and jumps to help you develop skills in multiple disciplines.
Generally, the community is incredibly friendly, particularly around the downhill sections, with people spending the day sessioning particular jumps or sections. There are obviously more challenging and exciting bike parks in the country, however, as someone local to Swinley this place is a bit of a hidden gem with enough km of trails to keep you interested.
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