We did our first rally in 2019, we were chatting to another parent from our local cycle club and they recommended the New Forest Cycle rally. We had never herd of it before, and to be honest could not find too many details.
We decided to give it a go, our children were 6 and 9, so if it was good we would go again, and if we did not like it we had a nice holiday in the New forest.
We are so glad we gave it a go; the site is lovely, the people friendly, the rides fun, the kids loved it, and we went back again the next year, and are going again this year.
So these are my tips to get the most out of the rally.
1. The rides are group rides and each day a number of rides of different lengths and destinations are posted in a marquee, details as to what type of ride it will be (length, terrain, points of interest*) you can then sign up for the ride if you want. They normally leave at 9:30 / 10.00ish (although longer rides will start earlier) and will have stops at towns or cafes for food, but we find it easier to make pack lunches. [*e.g. Cafes, beaches and wildlife parks]
The ride leaders are volunteers, basically they are inviting you along on the ride they want to do that day. I’ve never known someone be left behind, but common courtesy is that you only sign up for rides you can do. Don’t be nervous about asking the ride leader about the ride if you have any concerns, they will be more than happy to talk to you, (they managed better than me at convincing my wife she could do stuff she was nervous about!) If it is a larger group there will usually be a back marker to ensure no-one is lost on the way. Kids can and are encouraged come along on the rides, we have had the company of an 8 year old on a 20 inch wheel, a 3 year old on a bike seat along with a wide ride a variety of bikes from tag-alongs up. There are a wide variety of rides to pick from over the week, and you can always pick your own route if nothing takes your fancy on that day.
2. Take a bike 😊, many of the routes are on forest trails or country lanes. I have a hybrid with 30mm tyres, others have touring bikes or cyclocross. I would not bring a full out road bike with skinny tyres as this will limit your ability to do some of the wonderful trails that a lot of the rides (but not all of them) tend to include. Also pannier racks are very useful
Bring your repair kit, a spare tube and puncture repair kit just in case. Generally you’ll be offered help from someone else on the ride but you need your own kit.
3. If you are camping the ground is hard, and getting the pegs in can be difficult. Bring some long hard pegs, sometimes called ‘rock pegs’. There is normally one windy day when you will be grateful you did.
4. You normally get one day of rain, so waterproofs are recommended (we used this for our rest day, with a trip to the cinema).
5. Pack the sun cream for the other days.
6. The village of Bransgore is 20 minutes ride away and has a small CO-OP. The rides often come back via the village so you can pick-up supplies and fresh milk. There is normally a group BBQ on the last Friday and this is where we get our burgers from.
7. The sea and beaches are a gentle ride away, and always popular, so pack the swim suits and a lightweight towel if you have one
8. The campsite has nice clean toilet and (free hot) shower facilities. Before covid they also had a freezer you could use to freeze your icepacks for a cool box.
9. At night and when we are not using them we lock all the bikes together with a long cable, and leave them next to the tent, but we have never had any problems.
10. Our favourite rides are to the sea at Mudeford and Lymington. The kids love one of the routes that has fords they can ride through including at a place called ‘Donkey Bottom’.
So try it, it’s an inexpensive holiday close to the sea and in the beautiful New Forest, with a great bunch of friendly people, you never know you may end up coming back again and again.
If you have any questions please put them in the comments, thanks Morgan