By way of background, in recent times New Forest cycling has become something of an emotive issue as a result of a few organised road cycling events that have attracted large numbers to the narrow public roads that cross the Forest. Unfortunately, there are a minority of cyclists who act irresponsibly and these play right into the hands of the vociferous local NIMBY fraternity who appear to want cyclists banned from the Forest entirely. As a consequence a significant anti-cycling sentiment exists making grown up debate between the various protagonists a little difficult! However, if you are looking for thrill seeking off road cycling, don’t come to the New Forest – the Forest is subject to international protections covering its unique landscape and biodiversity and is NOT an adventure park for thrill seekers. Take in its beauty and wildlife along its designated cycle routes at a leisurely pace as these routes are also shared by walkers and their families.
However, notwithstanding the above, cycling in the New Forest is a healthy way to explore the area beyond the car parks and discover its hidden delights and wildlife. In order to help protect this unique and fragile environment a way marked off-road and road-based cycle network has been created. This network covers over 100 miles and includes the main New Forest villages and the railway at Brockenhurst, with many attractive routes along Forest tracks.
Unfortunately, some sections of the network do not link up and in some other cases the linking sections involve roads subject to heavy traffic which are not really suited to families with young children. There have been several attempts to rectify this problem but proposals put forward by Forestry England and other bodies have been vetoed by the New Forest Verderers who appear resistant to any changes to the network.
Click here to view the cycle route network. Copies of this map are available free of charge from the Bolderwood Information Unit and Visitor Information Centres. From time to time it may be necessary to close some routes temporarily on safety grounds – details of cycle route closures can be found by clicking here.
Bikes can be hired at various locations around the New Forest including Brockenhurst, Burley and Lyndhurst :-
- Cyclexperience, Brockenhurst
- Country Lanes, Brockenhurst
- Forest Leisure Cycling, Burley
- AA Bike Hire, Lyndhurst
- Woods Cyclery, Lyndhurst
In view of the fragile nature of the landscape, please remember that cycling off-road in the New Forest is restricted to the way marked cycle routes and it is a contravention of the bye laws to use other off-road routes. These routes are clearly marked and signposted by numbered posts (see image). The New Forest contains a mosaic of habitats that are unique in Western Europe and its many examples of rare flora and fauna can be damaged or disturbed by cycling in inappropriate and sensitive areas that the cycle network has been designed to avoid. In particular, the period from March to July is a time when many endangered species of ground nesting birds are raising their young across the open heaths.
Take extra care near ponies and horse riders as a kick or fall from a horse could be fatal. Some horses are easily spooked when approached from behind so use your bell or call out a friendly warning well in advance. When it is safe, pass wide and at walking pace, to one side only.
When on public roads, ride positively and well clear of uneven road edges but with consideration for other road-users. To allow vehicles to overtake safely, leave gaps for them to pull into and move into single file when necessary and safe to do so. Never ride more than two abreast.
In view of the special nature of the New Forest and the protection it has been afforded, it is not suitable or challenging enough for extreme MTB cycling. Purpose built MTB trails varying in the degree of difficulty have been constructed at nearby Moors Valley Country Park.
This is actively discouraged by the authorities due to the disturbance it causes to wildlife and the fact that the routes are not designed for night use.
In general, the New Forest welcomes responsible cyclists. New Forest cycling is a great way to enjoy the unique landscape and countryside.