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Phil Brown – bicyclist, photographer and cake tester.

With a collection of cliff-top coastal paths, ancient tree-lined roads and vast open heathland, the New Forest is a slice of paradise for cycling …there’s no need to be a seasoned professional to ride here either; the highest point is only 129m above sea level.

New Forest Escapes caught up with Lymington based Cyclist Phill Brown for his view on what makes the area so special for enjoying time on two wheels. We started with a little background by asking Phill where his love for cycling came from:

“I grew up on the edge of the Shropshire Hills and have many fond memories of riding bikes in the shadow of my older brother – my mother often shares the story of how I one day picked up my brother’s bike and chased after him down the street on it, the first time being on a bike with no stabilisers!”

“Moving to the New Forest in 2010, I felt like I was missing out by not exploring the area by bike. A colleague gave me his old mountain bike which I used it year-round to commute and on weekends, it was the gateway to adventure – little did I know this would be the start of a true passion for cycling.”

“Fast forward to 2020 and I’ve ridden in some of the largest cycling events in the country, raced in numerous local events and found myself packing a bicycle as an essential piece of luggage wherever I travel in the world.”

We asked Phill why he felt the New Forest catered so well for cyclists:

“I feel like there are three key ingredients that make the New Forest such a prime location for cycling; a majority of the roads are well surfaced and restricted to just 40mph, there are over 100 miles of car-free forestry trails and finally, the relatively flat landscape makes it easy for cyclists of all abilities.”

What are the most popular trends are in cycling in and around the New Forest?

“Cycling has been a part of Forest life for many years – the local cycling club (New Forest CC) was founded back in 1934 and frequently host time trials, races and training rides in the area, along with several other clubs. More recently, a desire to get off the beaten track and ride at a more leisurely pace has seen a significant rise in people travelling to the area to use the iconic golden gravel tracks.”

Phill, where are your favourite places are to cycle?  Ok I’m splitting this up.

“For road bikes, nothing beats the rolling road from Emery Down across to Ringwood if you’re on a road bike, returning via Brockenhurst and Beaulieu makes for a nice 65km loop.

https://www.komoot.com/tour/191340247

For families, the aerodrome at Beaulieu offers a safe-haven for families, with a 4.5km flat loop of mixed gravel and tarmac.

https://www.komoot.com/tour/191341408

And for off roaders, I love the Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst loop via Oberwater and Bank, it’s a spectacular route for a gravel ride too.

https://www.komoot.com/tour/191343713

We know Phill only rides his bike for the coffee and cake so we asked him for his top three mid-ride stops:

“Number one on my list has to be CafeVelo in Ringwood – as you can guess from the name, this place is a cycle themed cafe owned by a cyclist and only a short ride from Sunnydell Cottage. Second has to be The Lookout at Lepe beach – there can’t be many cafes with a view like this one and its just a short ride from Gins Barn. Finally, I’ll always call in to Maison Cuisine nestked in the heart of Lymington High street – They always have the best cake selection and their coffee is divine!.”

Finally, we asked Phill for three things all cyclists coming to the area should know.

“Firstly for me, it’s important to remember the Forest is home to thousands of beautiful animals – it’s their right of way so be sure to give them plenty of space and the respect they deserve. Secondly, there are endless quiet lanes and back roads to explore, it’s always worth checking the map twice as you might just find a gem hidden along your route. Finally, most of the larger villages throughout the forest have bike shops so keep an eye on where you are and be sure to know where your nearest one is for those last-minute essentials.”

It was great to catch up with Phill before he jumped on his bike and rode off into the horizon with his camera strapped around his shoulder. We’re sure we’ll be hearing more from him again soon so keep your eyes peeled for more stories and photos from his cycling adventures.