Sussex By Cycle - Forest Row Cycle Path, Sussex
PUBLISHED: 14:55 28 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:00 20 February 2013
Si Beales tries out recumbent bicycles in the heart of Ashdown Forest...
Every now and then Si Beales has a new experience which makes him fall in love with cycling again. It takes him back to his early days when his beloved Carlton racer symbolised everything that he yearned for as a teenager freedom, adventure, excitement and fun. So what worked the magic this time?
One sunny autumn afternoon in the heart of Ashdown Forest, my friend Matt and I decided that wed love to try out recumbent bicycles and headed out to Future Cycles in Forest Row. For those of you not in the know, a recumbent is one of those bikes where you sit low with your back against a back rest and your legs pedalling horizontally rather than vertically.
The principle is essentially down to aerodynamics, as Ian the owner who has been designing recumbents for years explained. Basically, when you get to 12 miles an hour on an ordinary bike 80 per cent of your effort is spent pushing through the air around you. So if you can make yourself more streamlined you can put more effort into going faster.
A recumbent slips through the air more easily and is thus faster particularly when going down hills. But forget about that technical stuff for now. What you really get to learn, when you ride one, is what tremendous fun they are. Forest dwellers are fortunate to have a fabulous Sustrans cycle track right on their doorstep called Forest Way, running from Forest Row to Groombridge.
Yet again, its another disused railway line, axed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s. The irony being that Dr Beeching used to live in Forest Row and used to regularly commute to London on the line. I would say that its one of the best family friendly tracks in Sussex and if you fancy a decent but level ride, through some fabulous countryside, you cant beat it.
Ian advised Matt and I to try out recumbent tricycles as the two-wheel versions take some getting used to, with the danger of constantly toppling over. They really are nippy. Being so low to the ground reminded us of our sports car days and you can really whip them through corners and shoot downhill. Theyre not quite so good going uphill, as you cant rise up to meet the road but you soon get used to that.
One thing that we hadnt foreseen was that being so low to the ground you can get incredibly wet and muddy, but its all part of the fun and by the end of the ride we really felt like wed earned our cup of tea. And what a lovely ride through canopies of willow and alder you can keep an eye out for Mallards and Moorhens and even the odd Heron as you cycle along the floodplain of the River Medway. Its totally traffic free, so perfect for children of all ages. And if you get the chance why not try a trike.
At 2,500 youll need fairly deep pockets but if youre serious about buying one, you can borrow a demo from Future Cycles. But if not, just get out and enjoy Forest Way. I guarantee you wont regret it. Happy Cycling!