Off road riders are in for a fantastic experience on the Big Wight Enduro on Saturday May 19th, during Cycle Wight weekend. With 90km, 80km, 40km or 25km ride options this challenging ride promises to be both a test of endurance and a wonderful way to see the Isle of Wight. We spoke to Martin Harrison at Cycle Wight Events about the highs and lows of the course.
The Big Wight Enduro begins from the base in Yarmouth and along the Causeway. “An easy warm up of flat pedalling before getting to Freshwater and making the first big ascent of the day onto Afton Down with lovely views of the West Wight and coast,” explained Martin.
Next is a steep drop down past the ancient ‘five barrows’ and across the road and onto the next bridleway. Up onto Westover Down and then at the top you drop down through the woods – “a lovely broad and fast, fun descent,” said Martin. Across the road and you then climb into Brighstone Forest – “a steady grind up and crank up into the middle of the forest,” he explained.
“There’s then an extra spur through the forest tracks, keeping up high, with fairly level riding before bringing you back into a steep concealed descent into the bottom of the forest and through the valley below Cheverton Down. A very picturesque valley almost like a miniature Welsh valley,” thought Martin.
At the end of here you turn left and there’s a steep climb onto Idlecombe Down. “Stony, steep and fairly short but boy do you feel it,” remembered Martin.
From here there’s a lovely cruise on the main tracks down into Carisbrooke along Bowcombe Down. You then follow the lanes around Carisbrooke Castle and into tracks past Whitcombe Manor in the heart of the Island. Here there are big folds in the landscape, and steep climbs around the quarry at Garstones. Some quite hard climbs up and then onto Westridge down and on to the TV mast on Chillerton Down.
“A sketchy descent from here back down to the road and then south onto another bridleway with a stiff climb onto the ridge by Ramsdown Farm and you then follow lanes around the central part of the Island,” explained Martin. “This is a good chance to get your breath back and some feeling in your legs”.
Just west of Godshill you begin to start climbing the downs on the other side of the Island, through Redhill Farm, down into Wroxall and onto the bridleway that takes you on to the top of the downs above Bonchurch, with an amazing viewpoint at the end – 235m high.
“Here you turn north up to Shanklin Down and then there’s a mile of superb descending down onto St Martin’s Down and then another drop right down through Winston Farm at 60m. Across the road and through the Donkey sanctuary and then at the Undercliff at Gatcliff Farm you begin to climb again before striking south and making the steep climb onto Stenbury Down. It’s now just about keeping going but keeping your balance here – it’s a testing climb,” said Martin.
Up on Stenbury Down you’re on top of the Island with fantastic views west and then you ride down through Nettlecombe and into Whitwell. A few little lanes and then you climb again onto St Catherine’s Down and across the down to the Hoy Memorial. “A couple of switchback turns and a skitter descent and you’re at Gotten Farm, then up to Appleford Farm and crossing back through the middle part of the Island to Shorwell. That whole stretch is a chance to get your breath back,” said Martin.
Up through Shorwell, a road climb to the top of the hill and right across the ridge of Limerstone Down and this is the start of the direct run back to the finish. Dropping and climbing as that ridge takes you, gives fantastic views to the south.
Below Five Barrows you turn south into Compton Farm – “a slightly rougher and more technical ride than on the way out,” explained Martin. Onto the military road and there’s a stiff climb to the top of Afton Down and off the road and onto the golf course at the top. Then you drop down to the golf club and back onto the causeway to Yarmouth.