Sunday I was in the area, so why not ride the newly rejigged trails at Gisburn Forest, particularly as the date coincided with the opening of the trails. Rocked up at about 9:45 to realise it’s one hell of a popular place. Cars everywhere with cyclists busy putting wheels in bikes, testing brakes, forks, adjusting clothing. A busy old place despite the threatening looking weather.
For reasons best known to myself, I didn’t park in the main and spangly new parking area but chose instead to ran the van into an illicit side road parking spot. Tucked away in the trees with privacy to change. Mind you, for that, I also have curtains.
The first stretch of riding took me along some disappointingly smooth and new single track to the main car park. I say disappointing just because it had that oh so new feel to it, a track which was worn by tyres in the centre but had that clearly man made grey hard core sides thing going on, and it lacked interest of anything up or down or feature other than a few small pumpy bits and an artificial meandering. Still, things looked promising above the car park with riders accumulating in a gathering spot surrounded by hip height stone wall.
From there, it was into the forest. It’s not for nothing it’s known as Gisburn Forest. Again, I felt some slight disappointment with the trails through the trees because they didn’t feel as though they’d been formed by riding them, but as though they’d been formed with imported materials and possibly a machine if not spade and shovel. Almost as though the roots had been covered up to aid smoothness which kind of defies the point of a forest ride.
After finding the full sus brigade getting out of my way on the gently zig zagging downwards meander, eventually I found the trail going equally gently upwards, almost unnoticeably so. That’s a nice change from the trail centre norm of sending you climbing up fire roads though. Then the first technical bit, a short descent of rock garden. I climbed off. And was rewarded for doing so by seeing the next rider fall off at the bottom. He was fine, and I was relieved.
The trail got more technical after that, with again an unusual characteristic of some properly technical gnarly climbing, rocks and boulders galore, and for the trail centre hamster an unusual feature in that there were many more than one correct line, options, choices, blimey. There were some freakishly natural features; a ford to cross, and climbs along hillsides which were in the most part not wide but singletrack. There was a moorland crossing or two, some of which provided a number of options so that if you happened to be fast and held up by a slow moving obstacle such as me, you could overtake in a kind of polite fashion. Not that there was anybody about by then because it was pissing it down with rain.
Lots more up, and some meandering descents. And just as I started to despair of any kind of fun or gnarr on the descents it happened, interest. In that there were bits of descent which were fast, exposed, narrow, bendy, terrifying and inescapable and I found myself riding things that if offered an escape route I would have taken it but with features coming at you quickly and round corners without warning or time to plan riding was the only thing to do. Surprisingly survivable. Surprisingly fun.
But, the gnawing question for me was this. What happened to the profile of the riders at Gisburn? I reckon I saw 50+ riders that day, only two were female and both were either out with their dads or sugar daddies or some other relationship, and of all the men I saw I would have to say 90% fitted into the age 30 to 45 age bracket. What was all that about? No kids, absolutely no kids. Were they all on the skills area and pump track or had they stayed at home because of the weather. What, indeed, is the world coming to ...?