Mountain Bike Rides Around Hampshire
- Hampshire ride files
- Portable GPS units: why bother?
- So what do you need?
- Hold on though, can't a smartphone do all that?
- GPS on the cheap
- GPS mapping software
This page hosts a collection of GPX tracklogs from my off-road mountain bike rides. Most are in Hampshire - mainly in the south. The range is widening as I run out of bridleways near home, so some rides stray into West Sussex and Dorset. I compiled this page so that I could record my rides and re-visit good ones from time to time. I would welcome any feedback from passers-by, particularly if you have suggestions for routes in this area.
All the rides are legitimate, that's to say they all use public rights of way or permissive trails where bikes are allowed, including bridleways, BOATs/Restricted Byways—and as little road as possible. They are all circular and the start point is generally a free car park or lay-by unless stated otherwise. On a couple of rides, a very short stretch of public footpath may have been used to complete a loop. Riding bikes is not allowed on public footpaths in England and Wales, but you can always push your bike for those very few short stretches if need be.
Hampshire Ride Files
- View the rides on Ordnance Survey maps down to 1:25k scale
- Toggle the map between OS and Google Maps (good for viewing satellite images)
- Save the GPX files for your own use
Maps not working? Please see the Release Notes. It could even be that my map limits have been exceeded.
|Miles off road
|Pepperbox Hill Show Map GPX
|East of Salisbury clockwise. Some good tracks and bridleways with stunning views. Takes in an old Roman road on the northern edge.
|Farley Mount Show Map GPX
|West of Winchester clockwise. This one came from the cycling site of Hampshire County Council. I found it pretty straightforward.
|Cocking Down Show Map GPX
|North of Chichester clockwise. I found this one quite tough. It was raining throughout and very muddy, so perhaps I'll try again in the dry and see if can wimp out less.
|Petersfield Show Map GPX
|West of Petersfield anti-clockwise. Another from HCC. It is well worth the initial off-road hellish hill (more pushing!). Some great descents and stunning views.
|Sparsholt Show Map GPX
|West of Winchester clockwise. Easy ride, not too hilly, pleasant rather than exciting. Ox droves and bridleways make for easy riding.
|Alresford Show Map GPX
|North of Alresford anti-clockwise. Some scenic country lanes around Itchen Abbas. The off-road bits have great views over the countryside.
|Whitchurch Show Map GPX
|North of Whitchurch clockwise. Another from HCC. The car park is a lay-by on a quiet road. Steady hills, the views from the top of which are stupendous.
|Fordingbridge Show Map GPX
|North west of Fordingbridge anti-clockwise. Breamore House is spectacular. Some good gnarly bridleways and lovely muddy tracks. Grim's Ditch overlooks miles of stunning countryside.
|Bramdean Show Map GPX
|South of Alresford clockwise. The first mile looking over Wheely Down provided the best views of the ride. Saw some deer in Cheriton wood.
|Compton Show Map GPX
|North east of Havant clockwise. Hilly and varied with stunning scenery. Probably the best views of all the rides so far. Some steep climbs and glorious descents.
|Morn Hill Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester anti-clockwise. More roads than I'd have ideally liked, but we were staying at Morn Hill camp site. The less popular bridleways were heavily overgrown.
|Cheesefoot Head Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester anti-clockwise. Another from HCC. The tracks on Fawley Down are rather overgrown in summer but they do have wonderful views.
|Stoughton Show Map GPX
|North east of Havant clockwise. Overlaps with some parts of the Cocking Down ride. Some good hills at the start. Nothing technical on this one—all the bridleways were easy going.
|Middle Wallop Show Map GPX
|West of Stockbridge clockwise. Loosely based on the HCC Danebury ride. Some good climbs with rewarding views over the countryside.
|Aldridge Hill Show Map GPX
|West of Brockenhurst anti-clockwise. I love the New Forest, but it doesn't offer much to MTB enthusiasts. The official trails are to be too bland for real MTB fun. The old railway line on the southern edge has some fine views though.
|Chawton Park Show Map GPX
|North of Four Marks clockwise. Most of this is off-road. Some of the byways were so rutted in parts as to require a bit of pushing. There were some short sharp climbs and some good singletrack-like sections.
|Denmead Show Map GPX
|North of Denmead anti-clockwise. This takes in a few miles of the South Downs Way going past Old Winchester Hill. The return leg includes a stretch of the Meon Valley railway track, a welcome respite for a couple of miles after some of the tough hills earlier.
|Durford Heath Show Map GPX
|North east of Petersfield anti-clockwise. Much of this area off-road is fine wet sand; this doesn't just slow you down, it brings you to a dead halt as the tyres dig in. Lots of pushing. After 24 or so miles I bailed out and headed back on the road.
|Hazel Down Show Map GPX
|North west of Stockbridge clockwise. Apart from getting thrown off down some rutted tracks, this was plain sailing with only a couple of steep climbs. This was a pleasant keep-in-trim sort of ride rather than a belter.
|West Moors Show Map GPX
|North of Bournemouth clockwise. We were camping at Oakdene, so I was restricted by what I could get locally. The bridleways were sandy in parts and there was way too much road work. The forest bits were pretty. Chalk this one up as training miles.
|Owlesbury Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester clockwise. It's not often you can go on a ride and see wallabies. This includes a bridleway adjacent to Marwell zoo which gives a great view of the animals, depending on the time of year. Great ride best done in summer.
|Medstead Show Map GPX
|North of Four Marks clockwise. Starts off the same as the Chawton Park ride. I'd intended to do about 27 miles, but it was a serious mudfest today. After 16 miles of low gear thrashing, my legs were getting very tired, so I took the road back.
|Harting Down Show Map GPX
|NE of Havant anti-clockwise. Some tough hills—this is the hilliest of all the rides by quite a margin. Cracking ride which overlaps some parts of the Cocking Hill ride. The South Downs Way is very spectacular in these parts, and is definitely worth the effort.
|Colden Common Show Map GPX
|South of Winchester clockwise. Parked in Marwell Zoo car park. Compton Down is spectacular, as is the view from Twyford Down looking toward St Catherine's Hill. Shame a motorway carves up the landscape.
|Frogham Show Map GPX
|East of Fordingbridge anti-clockwise (uses the Breamore section from the Fordingbridge ride). Not many hills, but still plenty of boggy mud on the non-Forest bridleways. Best views were on the hills NW of Breamore.
|Cheriton Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester clockwise (uses sections from Cheesefoot, Bramdean & other rides). I joined the gaps from various other rides starting at Cheesfoot Head. I will definitely revisit this one in the summer as the views were fabulous over the South Downs.
|Corfe Castle Show Map GPX
|Anti-clockwise. OK, this is Dorset, but it's not far from Hampshire :-). Cracking ride with a bit of everything, tough climbs, great descents, singletrack, technical stuff and amongst the very best views on the South Coast. Well worth the drive.
|Vernham Dean Show Map GPX
|Vernham Dean Clockwise. Good hardpack trails for virtually all the ride. A little too much road in between for my taste, but a very pleasant ride. Nothing technical, but there were some good rooty descents and wonderful panoramic views.
|Isle of Wight Show Map GPX
|Anti-clockwise. Caravan holiday at Newbridge. The island claims nearly 200 miles of tracks and bridleways. The views are as good as the Purbeck ride and there is virtually zero traffic off the main roads.
|Durdle Door Show Map GPX
|Clockwise. Caravan weekend in Dorset. Great views of the sea. I missed a turn on the last leg so we ended up doing a little more road than originally planned, but as we were battling gusty head winds we decided not to double back.
|Cheesefoot Revisited Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester anti-clockwise. The rifle range at Chilcomb had the red flags up so I had to make a detour. Still a fine ride though, despite traditional summer nettles and growth nearly filling some of the trails. I had nicely zinging legs by the end.
|Whiteways Show Map GPX
|North of Arundel clockwise. Whiteways car park is a popular spot. Good hardpack most of the way. Had to backtrack at one point when the track I planned to use turned out to be a footpath and not a bridleway as marked on my map.
|Cheesefoot MTBBritain Show Map GPX
|East of Winchester anti-clockwise. Cracking day. It was reasonably non-boggy this time, which makes a nice change. This was more or less the same as the previous ride but slightly shorter. Great views over the downs and some good climbs as usual around here.
|Graffham Down Show Map GPX
|North west of Arundel anti-clockwise. A figure-of-eight with the SDW in the middle. I often find the adjacent tracks quieter and more interesting than the SDW itself, and so it proved today. Hot day but slippery with clay, mud and moss.
|Moors Valley Show Map GPX
|North of Bournemouth clockwise. I was expecting this to be easy as it is rather flat in these parts. However some muddy trails and a few unexpected climbs made this a proper ride rather than just a run out—nothing even vaguely technical, but a decent ride anyway.
|Milborne St Andrew Show Map GPX
|Milborne St Andrew in Dorset going clockwise. Very pleasant XC loop with a good killer climb at the start of the first offroad section. Some climbs were tough, but there were some great speedy bits as reward. Cracking views over the Dorset countryside.
|Whiteparish Show Map GPX
|East of Salisbury clockwise. Shares parts with the Pepperbox Hill ride. I wanted to check out the trails I hadn't seen last time. More road work than usual, but it was hard to get a circular loop. Cracking ride, but would be better in summer.
|Kingsclere Show Map GPX
|West of Basingstoke anti-clockwise. This route was very clear with no obstacles or tricky bits of any sort. The start point is shown as a car park on the OS map but is actually a layby.
|Butser Hill Show Map GPX
|North of Portsmouth anti-clockwise figure of eight. Butser Hill Car park was a good start point. I've done much of this ride on other rides but found some new tracks today which were excellent—some really quick descents and some tough climbs.
|Butser Hill 2 Show Map GPX
|Tried out some previously unridden tracks this time. Excellent ride, quite tough hills, and tired legs this evening. A bit more road than I normally like, but it was the only way to check out the new sections.
|New Forest loop Show Map GPX
|Monster loop getting up my fitness up. I had forgotten how pleasant the Forest can be. Easy riding on firm, maintained paths for the most part, but I was pretty tired at the end but pleased to have clocked up so many miles.
|Walbury Hill Show Map GPX
|South-west of Newbury anti-clockwise. Walbury Hill is the highest point in southern England. Sadly much of the ride was on byeways, which is a code word for "so heavily rutted by vehicles as to be almost unrideable". Good views, but too much pushing required to avoid the ruts.
|Arundel Show Map GPX
|North of Arundel clockwise. A definite for the summer as the view are fabulous. The Roman road section (Stane Street) was a strange experience. Much of the raised road and flint sub-surface is clearly visible—it felt odd to be riding on the remains of the main London to Chichester highway. This unexpected brush with antiquity made the ride for me.
|Isle of Wight Show Map GPX
|Isle of Wight anti-clockwise. Most of this was taken from the long-gone "Isle of Wight extremists" cycling site. The Island is very hilly, especially off-road. Good offroad scenery and cracking sea views in the south part. Not a technical ride, but a good day trip on a sunny day.
Portable GPS units: why bother?
Having spent some time evaluating and using a GPS with a mountain bike, I thought I would summarise my findings to date for anyone interested. First of all then, why bother at all with a GPS when you've been getting around fine for years with an OS map? Here's some reasons:
- No more map-reading stops—well, hardly any! Provided you have previously created and uploaded the planned route to your GPS, the machine will clearly signal where to go for each leg of the ride.
- Free your mind! No more worrying about which turn to take next. You can literally follow the machine around the whole ride. Once you learn to trust the GPS, you find you almost don't care where you are, because you know the machine will guide you. This is very liberating.
- Have you ever inadvertently taken a wrong turn and found yourself a long way off track? The GPS will give you early warning of such deviations.
- On better models, you can see exactly where you are on built-in maps.
- The machine will record your journey as a tracklog. On your return home, you can download the tracklog, load it into your mapping software (or use this site) and see exactly where you went.
- You can pull off accurate speed & distance stats.
- You can download and use other people's rides.
- No more annoying flapping map pouch on the handlebars or fiddling around with a stupid rear map pocket which is inaccessibly covered by your bag.
So what do you need?
- A weatherproof sturdy GPS unit.
- A handle bar mount for the unit, often available as an extra.
- Software to create a route as a GPX file (more on this below).
- A means to upload the GPX route to the GPS (e.g. via simple file transfer using a USB cable).
Hold on though, can't a smartphone do all that?
Yes, if you're so rich that an expensive phone leaping out of its mount and smashing to pieces doesn't bother you. The main problems with using bar-mounted phones are:
- Add-on waterproof cases are mostly hard to see the screen through and are prone to steaming up and being totally unreadable in bad weather.
- Phone batteries will soon die on a long ride if you have the screen on all the time. And if you allow the screen to turn itself off, then you have to stop and fiddle for navigation checks just like the bad old days of using paper maps.
- Phones are not rugged! A small tumble will likely knock it out of its mount and smash it to pieces—or at least smash the screen.
For me, the fear factor of smashing a phone up or losing it actually impinges on the enjoyment of the ride. I much prefer the peace of mind afforded by a rugged GPS unit on the bars with an additional safety loop strap round the bar for when—not if—it gets knocked or jarred out of its mount.
GPS on the cheap
I bought my first GPS—a Garmin Etrex—second-hand off Ebay and used it for several years before I upgraded. It was an old model, but still accurate enough. It had a large arrow which pointed where you need to go - simple but effective. Modern units have built-in maps—even OS maps on the more expensive ones. I bounced my Etrex over rocks and lumps big enough to loosen dental fillings, and it took it all in its stride. My current model is a Garmin GPSMAP 64 which I bought for the mapping feature and increased storage for longer rides. I'm not bothered about heart rate monitors and other gadgets on more expensive models, so the GPSMAP 64 still does me fine.
Which maps to load into your GPS unit? For Garmins with .IMG format maps, I can personally recommend the-thorns.org.uk. His maps provide full detailed UK coverage at a very reasonable price. They are almost as good as OS maps but at a fraction of the price. For UK, Spain and France maps I can also personally recommend Talkytoaster. Garmin IMG files from these two sources have kept me on track for many years now.
GPS mapping software
Software maps makes the whole operation a no-brainer. You simply click out the waypoints of your planned ride on your phone, tablet or computer, then save it as a GPX file. Then upload the GPX file to the GPS. Job done. There is a wide range of software out there which supports this kind of thing. Which one is best for you will depend on the depth of your pocket and your specific needs. Here's some of the various packages I've played with:
|Converts waypoints, tracks and routes between popular GPS receivers and mapping programs. If this can't convert it, chances are nothing can. Freebie but donations accepted.
|Shareware with limited Freeware version. Add your own map images. I found the size restriction on the map image files made the free version too limited for me, but YMMV.
|Basic version is free. There is also a commercial Pro edition with a few more features. Add your own map images. I used this for my first few rides years ago. It's a little idiosyncratic, the help is patchy and many of the features are non-obvious—but it did me proud for while.
|Not tried this one but it seems to have a loyal fan base. Add your own map images.
|OS maps and software. Long-established company.
|OS maps and software, another respected name in the game.
|The new kid on the block (relatively speaking) and my personal favourite. I use it all the time to plan rides. It's available for a very reasonable annual subscription and has all the basic features needed for creating and viewing GPX files. It runs on phones too, and because it allows offline use, you can use your phone as a backup navigational device.
A final word of warning
My advice (having learned the hard way) is not to rely on just one GPS unit. I also have tucked away in my backpack a GPS app on my phone with my current route loaded up which will work where there is no internet. I'm mostly exploring new areas so I'm usually not familiar with the area I'm riding in. So I also have a pocket compass with me and often carry a paper map too, especially when abroad. GPS is not infallible! I have had problems with:
- Missing signals caused by dense foliage.
- Batteries running out—I always carry spares now.
- Idiot user problems due to cold winter fingers—I once accidentally deleted the entire route while fiddling.
- Confusing, hidden, incorrectly marked or even blocked rights of way forcing a re-think of the route.
The bottom line is this: do not rely on a single bar-mounted GPS unit to get you around your planned route. Carry a map or a phone with a GPS, anything so long as you don't rely on just one electronic means of navigation.