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Mountainbiking on the Isle of Wight

The most common assumption people make before they visit is that because it is a relatively small island, it must be pretty flat. NOT TRUE! Anyone who ventures off road will be amazed by how little of the extensive bridleway network (apparantly there are more per square km than any other county in the country) is actually on level ground. In fact some parts are so steep you may wonder how a horse gets up there! Having said that,for the MTB'er there are some very challenging routes to be had.

Books

There are some publications available which are aimed at cyclists of varying ability. One written by Ian Williams describes routes with a mixture of on and off road routes. It has a green cover and can be found in most Island bookshops and some bike shops. The other guide is published in leaflet form in four parts according to which part of the island you want to go. It is also available in some of the libraries.

Where to Ride

For those of you who prefer to get the map out and explore, there now follows the Extremists guide to the juciest bits of riding on the island. Outdoor Leisure map 29 is ideal for this.

Without doubt, the prime spot to go is Brighstone Forest. This is the island's largest woodland area, which is part private and part controlled by Forest Enterprise. Either way, access is not a problem for both rights of way and unofficial tracks. The annual Wight Max event in early June has part of it's cross country course laid out over sections of the forest, although you cannot do the whole route at other times of the year since it goes through farmland and a quarry. Some locals have created a secret downhill area (nothing to do with us!) It's tucked out of the way as you might expect but on the map, it is at 434851.

The bridleway network covers nearly all of the scenic (read hilly!) parts of the island. Here is a list of our favourite sections for you to try out as part of your route.

  1. From the top of Stenbury Down, past the radio masts and head north. The track drops steeply then becomes undulating and turns to the right before reaching Freemantle Gate. Turn left, continue downhill as fast as you dare and you will end up in Godshill.

  2. From the radar masts on Ventnor Down, head along the road in the direction of Shanklin. The surface becomes more broken, then you turn left through a gate and continue on a track which runs along a ridge. After 2Km, the track bends to the left and starts to drop. Continue down a section of woodland to a junction where you turn right along the edge of a field still downhill. After a gate, the track widens, goes under an old railway bridge and ends at a main road. Turn right and continue for about 1Km. Look out for a gap in the trees on the left and a sign for America Wood. There is a good section of singletrack here although it can get very muddy especially in winter/spring.

  3. From Arreton Down, just past the Hare and Hounds pub on the Brading road, turn left on a bridleway signposted Havenstreet. This is an excellent long fast descent, just watch out for any farm traffic coming the other way! Turn right through Combley Farm and continue for another 2Km still slightly downhill until you emerge at the steam railway car park.

  4. From the highest point in Brighstone Forest (at the trig pillar) continue NW till the track enters a clearing. Go round to the left and continue until you see a lesser track on the right. This is a good fast section which gets steeper towards the bottom. Watch out for the gate by the road (marked Calbourne Bottom on the map).

  5. From Nunwell Farm near Brading, head SW towards the downland. There is a steepish climb, but once you reach the road, turn left then almost immediately right onto bridleway B43. The downhill that follows will test your nerve at first, but it soon levels out and becomes a fast sweep down to the village of Alverstone. If you are in the mood for some more, there is a climb back up to the top via Kern Farm. Another bridleway to the west takes you down towards Knighton.

  6. There are numerous short but sweet sections of singletrack and old drover's tracks to try;
  • Dark Lane, Carisbrooke (to the south of the Castle off Whitcombe Road).
  • St Georges Lane , SE of Newport between the gravel pit and Arreton Cross.
  • Hollow Lane, Chillerton.
  • Hoy's monument 496788 down to Upper Appleford farm.
  • Shepherd's Lane from Arreton Down to Heasley Manor.

Dave Stratford April 2000