At the start of the Rocket & Rascals monthly gravel ride, leaving the popular cafe at 0835 after the road ride. Photo: Adam Frame.
Leaving at 0835, the ride is a great introduction to the local area, which ends with a short trip on the chain ferry (Don't forget your £1 unless you want to retrace the entire route) back to Rockets for a well-earned coffee and/or cake.
It's fair to say I do most of my riding on my own now.
With a family to entertain, a small business to keep on top of and the inevitable list of jobs to do around the house, I tend to grab an hour or two when I can which doesn't always mean meeting up with others is possible.
However, I'd promised Jon that I'd make it this month, so the gravel ride was on the family calendar in pen - so that was that - and I'm mighty glad that I did.
After riding the 5.5 miles from home to Rockets in time for the off, I was greeted by a variety of gravel bikes lent up against the barriers all ready for the off. Whilst SRAM's 1x drive train was undoubtedly a popular choice, the sheer variety of kit on display just goes to show how much effort the bike industry is making adventure/gravel riding & racing "a thing".
The monthly gravel ride has been running for two years (their weekly road ride has been running for five) and was introduced after the guys at Rockets started to sell more and more of the multi-terrain gravel bikes.
If you are new to it all and don't have one yourself, then Rockets do have a fleet of Whyte Friston demo bikes from 50cm to 58cm available to ride. For June's ride, two of the Whyte's were out, ridden with riders with smiles on their faces enjoying bridleways, forest trails & dirt offering a change from a tarmac-only route.
Starting out, the route takes us through Poole Park heading towards Upton County House & Park via the Holes Bay cycleway. For me, this is my daily commute route home, so rather than concentrate on the beautiful scenery, I was able to roll along and engage in some conversation with topics including SAP, supply chain, web services, eCommerce and Rocket Espresso machines - so certainly not all cycling.
After 8 miles, we were well and truly into a proper gravel route, with a nice bit of singletrack that was new to me, but I had Jon's wheel, which got me thinking how many years ago it was that I was last racing and holding onto his wheel.
We do go way back, to the early MTB races in the south of England, and it's fair to say that both bikes we were lucky enough to be riding today (Jon's bike of choice is an OPEN U.P. running 650bs) are way more advanced than the steel klunkers of the dim and distant past.
Organford was our next destination, with the bridleway next to the old post office a popular entry point for many local cyclists wanting to access Wareham Forest.
We reached Wareham around the halfway mark where we head for Arne via the causeway before turning left into the super-narrow Nutcracker Lane.
The roads in and around RSPB's Arne Nature Reserve are wonderful with the recent resurfacing no doubt causing some Strava KoM/QoM attempts, however our route took us off road at South Middlebere to access the recently improved NCN Route 2.
The gravel tracks through Rempstone Forest offer a great mixture of terrain as well as proving a great on and off-road short cut towards Studland.
With the dreaded sound of a puncture amongst the front riders, Jon dropped back to offer his decades of experience to get it fixed as quickly as possible. On this occasion, the use of a Dynaplug tubeless repair tool had the operation as quick as it can possibly be.
After foolishly holding a gate open for too long, I had a chase to get back on, which did mean my heart rate was higher than it's been for a good while. The speed didn't drop once we were back on the chain ferry road, but nothing could be better for morale than seeing the ferry arrive just as we did!
Being a busy Summer's day, there were plenty of takers for the ferry, and on the other side the traffic was heavy, so if you are doing this ride during the Summer months do take care along Banks Road as the painted cycle lanes don't offer much help when people are in "Holiday Mode".
I hope you enjoyed the read, and we'll continue to add additional local riding blogs for customers who plan on visiting the local area.
The following pieces of clothing were worn during the ride, and thanks to an incredible morning weather-wise there was no need for additional backup layers in my jersey back pockets!
Unlike the road ride that started five minutes before, there was a huge variety of different frames, wheels, drivetrains and tyres in attendance on the gravel ride.
Ride leader Jon (left) offers some sensible and practical advice to the assembled riders outside Rockets & Rascals to ensure all have a good time.
Wareham Forest offers a huge number of all-weather, gravel fire roads ideal for riders of all abilities. The Sika Trail Car park is a popular starting point for many.
Perfect weather greeted us for June's gravel ride, heading away from Corfe Castle onto the newly improved NCN Route 2 through Rempstone Forest.
It's not all wide gravel tracks, there's some singletrack that can be ridden at speed for some additional entertainment!
Whilst the signage has greatly improved through Rempstone, some landowners have helpfully added some extra signs for those not familiar with the route!