One of the most glorious natural areas in the South of England, the very best way to experience the New Forest and its surrounding countryside entirety is by getting on your bike. In this article we take you through not only the best cycling tracks in the area, but also everything you and fellow riders need to enjoy them.
Getting started with cycling in the New Forest
Whether you’re going solo, a ride with friends or on a family cycle, when it comes to a new forest bike ride, it’s important that you know where you’re going.
Of course the tried and tested format of downloading and printing off a New Forest cycle map will always stand you in good stead (barring a dreadful downpour of course). However, if you’re looking for a smaller, streamlined way of checking routes, there is now cyclexperience, a New Forest cycling routes app. It’s built by local business Bike Hire Brockenhurst and fwdesign,a tech company with good experience in building wayfinding tools, so you’ll be in good stead. The app currently has 8 of the most popular New Forest cycling routes and over 100 miles of traffic free trails. It’s GPS services also mean that no matter how remote your location within the New Forest, the app will be able to direct you towards places of interest and tourist attractions. Taking breaks is important, and the app can also help with that, showing areas to stop for picnics, food and refreshments, and can essentially work as a new forest pubs map.
Our tips on cycle hire in the New Forest
If you live in the south of England, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be looking to bring your own bike. However, there is also a selection of excellent hire shops dotted around the New Forest area, that will be able to find the ideal bike and cycle accessories for you and your cycling party.
- New Forest Activities, Beaulieu. A hire store that makes the very most of the wide range of activities that New Forest has to offer, including Archery, Adventure days and Watersports. Their Bike section is pretty extensive too, New Forest cycle maps and guide offered along with your bike hire, as well as the option to pair it up with a paddling session as part of their family adventure days.
- Cycleexperience Bike Hire, Brockenhurst. With over 25 years of experience and the birthplace of the previously mentioned New Forest cycling routes app, this is an excellent option if you’re in the area. Even if you don’t need a bike, it may be worth popping in to get some cycling inspiration and insider info on Brockenhurst cycling routes. They’re also known for offering the largest selection of e-bikes in the area.
- Forest Leisure Cycle Hire, Burley. Looking to go on a family cycle? If it’s not too far out of your way, Forest Leisure Cycle Hire will have everything you need, from top branded bikes for all sizes, helmets, rucksacks, trailers and tagalongs. They also offer a line of e-bikes and hybrids as well as repair kits and breakdown cover should anything go wrong whilst you're out and about.
- AA Bike Hire, Lyndhurst. Having been in business for 30 years, this family run shop has a fleet of both Specialised Hardrock mountain bikes that are ready to ride at a reasonable price. They operate on a first come, first served basis, so if you are planning on using them, it’s good to get down early.
- The Woods Cyclery, Lyndhurst. Partnered with Forest Leisure Cycle Hire, it offers many of the same variety of bike brands, gear and repair kits. Also, if you’re looking for tips and advice round the Lyndhurst area, the experienced team at The Woods Cyclery will be ready to help.
Our tips on following New Forest cycling rules
- Ride positively, but with consideration and a courteous nature toward other riders, motorists, pedestrians and residents.
- Allow vehicles enough space to safety overtake you, and when it's necessary, pull over. Avoid any uneven edges on paths.
- When cycling off road, only take paths waymarked by the Forestry England Tracks and Designed routes.
- For route planning, use the aforementioned New Forest Cycling Map or app to plan all routes. Check for route closures, and make sure you’re off the tracks by sunset.
- Use your bell and allow plenty of room, when going past people or animals. Be ready to stop if necessary.
- Pick up litter after you and do not feed the animals.
- Close gates behind you. It keeps the animals safe.
- Go about your cycling business quietly. Be respectful of the forest’s environment.
Our top 3 family cycle routes
- Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard. An ideal family ride for those who are still teaching their little ones how to get to grips with country cycling. After spending time in the beautiful village of Beaulieu, this stunning 3.2km cycle along the Solent Way footpath will take you along two river views, as well as Beaulieu Mill an old, now disused tide mill and the Mill Dam, an old tidal mill pool. Once at Bucklers Hard, you and your family can unwind at the Maritime Museum, the Apple Orchard and Captain’s Cabin Tea rooms.
- The Old Railway. Kicking off at Brockenhurst train station, this flat, easy route will take you and your family all the way along ‘Castleman’s Causeway’, a former railway line named both after it’s creator Charles Castleman, and shape that it cuts across the forest. There are two different route options, one 8km long and probably preferable for a family cycle ride, and the longer one of 14.5km. Along with the thousands of ponies you will spot along your route, there are a number of places to take you and your family can take a break at, including the Cider Pantry, The Rising Sun and the famous Old Station Tea Rooms.
- Looping Lepe and Exbury. A circular route that begins and ends with stunning views of Solent at the picturesque Lepe Country Park. Passing through the quieter areas of Langley and Blackfield, this ride in its entirety clocks in 14.4km, although it is possible to take a shorter route if it is feeling too much hard work. It’s an easy ride during the summer months, however it can get muddy and challenging during the winter, and should be approached with a hint of caution, especially during a family ride.
Our top 4 long distance cycle routes & sportives
- Northern Forest Circular, Ringwood. With a range of wildlife, picturesque villages, vast green spaces, hilly climbs and 28.6km long loop, not to mention a selection of well regarded pubs, the Northern Forest Circular is a trail that has it all. Kicking off at the Appleslade car park, this trail is seen as one of the more inspiring New Forest cycling experiences.
- Lymington to Sway Ride. Starting and finishing at Lymington Railway Station, this 27km circular trail is a great way to experience coastal views, heathland scenery and woodland pathways. This route includes the diverse birdlife of the Keyhaven Marshes and the historic Hurst Castle, built as a defence by Henry V1 and used as a lookout point during World War 1.
- The Royal Oak Ride, Gorley and Fritham. At 51.5km long, this is both one of the most challenging trails in the whole of the New Forest, and one that demonstrates the beauty of the area in its entiry. A combination of off road riding, enjoyable country lanes, quaint little villages and some of the highlights of the New Forest pub map, including The Royal Oak in Fritham, North Gorley’s Foresters’ Arms and The Alice Lisle, which is based in Ringwood. It’s certainly a trail for more experienced riders, although if you go off track, finding your way back to the starting point at Burley is simple via GPS. To get the very best experience from this ride, many feel it’s better to be enjoyed over a few days, with a couple of stops at B&Bs along the way.
- The New Forest 100 Sportive. An event that has been running since 2012 and one that has recently established itself as being one of the biggest cycling events in the UK. There are three different possible routes available; the Short(48.2km), the Standard (96.9km), the Epic (1609km). The ride begins at Somerley House in Ringwood, an area usually closed to the public, meaning participants will have the opportunity to explore the stately home before setting off. Riding through the New Forest in late summer, cyclists will experience glorious flats and short, punchy climbs, and bear witness to the first colorful signs of autumn, as well as landmarks including River Avon, Cranborne, Three Legged Cross, and cycle through the villages of Brangsmore, Burley Fritham, Linwood and Wick. Once the ride is over, there is a large celebration involving music, food and entertainment for the riders and their families. Certainly one to keep an eye on for next year!