Despite the early start time nine souls gathered at Whiteways carpark in anticipation of trying some new singletrack in Houghton Forest. Coffee was downed, tyres were changed and bikes and gear tweaked as the carpark rapidly filled up with ramblers and motorcycles.
The ride began with a couple of climbs that were a brutal awakener for cold legs; however the pain was soon forgotten as we nipped into the first singletrack descent. The many logs and fallen trees caused a couple of pile-ups but we all made it to the end without any problems before heading straight into a narrow and twisty deer track that was barely discernable from the carpet of fallen leaves. Next came the first fun area; a large bomb-hole the exit of which is a mass of exposed roots between two trees, the roots are followed by an immediate slow speed left turn into a ridge climb before dropping down a steep chute. The rooty bombhole exit resulted in a couple of man/tree near misses and the large tree roots at the bottom of the chute saw much brake grabbing. A singletrack climb through increasingly slippery mud was next, this was a chore but the reward was a long singletrack descent along the top of a ridge, although this run is a descent it does not rob the height of the previous climb so we emerged still on top of the ridge ready for the next section.
We regrouped ready for the next section, a ribbon of singletrack a couple of hundred metres long through a wooded area, around large and small stumps, across a log ramp, down a small dip, a turnaround on the lip of a hole, over a daunting stump ramp and into a dip via moss covered fallen trees before picking up yet another deer track that traverses the hillside. Big grins on all faces. A rest stop where cake, various bars and even cheese and pickle sandwiches were wolfed down. Then it was straight into another new section that started with a mulchy climb before a twisty descent to the ‘Natural High’ rollers and chicane. This was a perfect playground and everyone had a couple of rides on the large roller and the smaller but very tricky doubles. A couple of man/tree incidents and one off before we continued on our way. At this point the group got separated but we rejoined without too much difficulty and without spoiling the flow of the ride. A second run through the wooded singletrack this time with a detour at the end led us into a steeply descending section that emerges onto a fireroad via a nasty little drop off. A couple of close calls but we all made it.
The return leg retraced the deer tracks and after a muddy climb we were straight into the first section of well known singletrack. A blast along here and for once ignoring the large drop for a sharp rooty climb to the fireroad. A final singletrack blast to the road and a gentle spin back to the carpark.
Approximately 12 miles of singletrack in 3 hours, we had earned the coffee and bacon rolls from the café.