Suffolk is hardly the first place you’d pick when thinking of gravel cycling locations. Even less so a venue for enduro mountain biking. But that is exactly what Phoenix Cycleworks, nestled just outside of Newmarket, specialise in!
Their purpose-built bike park, full of jumps, berms and northshore woodwork is getting a massive overhaul through the winter. And with many eager bikers keen to get out and ride, the team at Phoenix Cycleworks were getting decidedly gravel curious. As this buzzing cycle store is just a stones throw away from ADVNTR HQ, we offered to lead a social ride out into the Suffolk countryside to give everyone a taste of what gravel cycling is all about.
With the coffee machine working overtime, a throng of 28 riders gathered in the cafe and spilled out into the car park. Locals and not so locals, shared their curiosity and cycling background. Enthusiasm exemplified by caffeine and pastries. The variety of bikes on show was nothing short of eclectic. Everything from canti-braked tourer, gravel, cyclocross and big travel MTBs had assembled outside ready to explore the Brecklands.
Phoenix Cycleworks is the realised dream of local MTB enthusiasts Jeremy and Dave. Bored of driving to Wales every time they wanted a mountain bike adrenaline fix, the two decided to “bring the hills to Suffolk.” The site draws huge crowds of bikers every weekend and has even hosted rounds of the National XC and CX Champs. Not bad going for a part of the country which sits only a few feet above sea level!
Suffolk Gravel is the stores monthly social gravel event. Pitched as a ‘no drop’ social for everyone and anyone, no matter what they ride. From the broad range of bikes that joined in, it just goes to show that gravel cycling is a ride style, more than a specific style of bike.
Weather was typically (un)glorious for November, cool, dry and overcast. No rain on the day, but a week of heavy rainfall made the 50km route hard going in places. Deep puddles and sloppy mud did little to dampen the spirits of the group as we chatted and laughed our way through forests, farm and heathland. The mix of trails and minimal technical features makes this route perfect for gravel and hardtail mountain bikes especially.
In the height of summer, these trails are hardpacked and super fast, but today was more a mix of puddle jumping and sliding around muddy corners. All our fun and laughter interrupted a shooting party from their peaceful pastime of shooting anything that moved. Inquisitive/confused expressions stared back at us from under tweed caps and rosy cheeks. They had probably never seen so many (if any) cyclists in this quiet corner of Kings Forest before.
Time flies when you are having fun in the company of some great people. And very soon we were on the lane that lead us back to Phoexnix Cycleworks and its welcoming cafe. Everyone still beaming with huge muddy grins.
If you missed out, don’t worry as the Phoenix crew will be hosting their gravel rides once a month. Make sure you join them if you’re a local, or passing through at the right time.
Last modified: 18th November 2019