In its ninth year, the Garmin Ride Out was the biggest yet. Just over 800 riders came to the New Forest in South England and rode alongside pros from Cannondale-Drapac, Dimension Data, Movistar Team and Madison-Genesis.
The New Forest is a National Park covering 566 kilometres / 219 miles square in the south of England. Open common land allows cattle and ponies free-roam around the area, complementing the stunning scenery and vistas.
At 50 miles, the Garmin Ride Out won’t present too much of a challenge for most seasoned cyclists; there are, of course, events much longer and on more challenging terrain. However, there is far more to cycling than your longest, hardest rides and Everest challenges and the Garmin Ride Out reminds us how to have fun on your bike in a new place, in good company and on great roads.
We take a look at five highlights and why we want to head back next year.
1. Start, finish and facilities
The Garmin Ride Out starts and finishes at the Hobourne Bashley campsite, offering ample parking (within 25 metres of the event) and toilet facilities.
Included in the £35 entry fee, each rider receives a goody bag with nutrition, bike cleaning products and an event jersey.
On top of this, at the ride's finish, riders are presented with a medal and then welcome to help themselves to a recovery meal of curry or pasta, which we enjoyed sat on large beanbags in the Hampshire sunshine.
2. Route and location
The route is a 50 mile / 80 kilometre loop through the rolling roads of the heathland and woodland of the New Forest. Just 600m of ascent makes the ride attainable for most levels of fitness, while the scenery ensures stunning views throughout.
A food station with ample supplies midway through the ride is welcome for some, although we chose to plough on due to the relatively short distance.
The course is very well signposted and marshalled throughout, although if you have a Garmin, staff will happily load the GPX file onto your device at the start event (as well as offering the route in advance to upload yourself).
If you’ve never had the opportunity to ride in the New Forest, we highly recommend it. Picture-postcard villages and unique heathland, combined with quiet country lanes result in a truly stunning and relaxing ride. The only negative on the course is the high number of cattle grids due to the free roaming live stock, which were fine in the dry weather but may be a concern to some riders in wetter weather.
3. Ride with professionals
In the two hours leading up to the Ride Out itself, Q&A sessions with the professional cyclists, coaches and other guest speakers kept participants and family members entertained.
Each professional then took turns to roll out with batches of riders at the start of the event, giving you the opportunity to ride alongside cycling stars such as Alex Dowsett, Taylor Phinney and Dylan Van Baarle to name a few.
4. Latest Garmin products on show
Richard Robinson of Garmin UK presented the latest products off the back of Eurobike explaining the latest features and inviting the audience’s questions.
While this may seem like just another marketing exercise, every participant of the event is a Garmin customer and having the opportunity to speak to some of the team who develop the latest Garmin products is welcomed.
5. Limited amount of participants
The New Forest Cycling Charter limits cycling events to one thousand participants at any given event and this results in a sportive that is both exclusive, but by no means sparsely attended.
Garmin believes it could go over and above this number in a different location, but chose to respect the New Forest local authority and keep the event on the company’s European HQ doorstep, which is located nearby in Southampton.
We always found small, friendly groups to hop between out on the road, without ever feeling like it was a Cat 4 road race (we’re looking at you Ride London).
Speaking with Garmin UK’s Head of Marketing ahead of the event, Richard Daish explained what the Ride Out is about.
"The Garmin Ride Out is a chance for Garmin to stop and say thank you to our retail customers, the end users who go out and buy our products and a chance for Garmin to give back to the cycling industry.
"The event is extremely important for us as it’s not only a chance to be able to say thanks, but give the opportunity for customers to go for a ride and also a chance to raise money for charity. From a brand perspective it gets more important for us year on year.
"This is the ninth Garmin Ride Out in a row and in the spirit of ‘Beat Yesterday’, which is our brand campaign, it’s grown in magnitude each year in terms of media interest, the number of pro riders and the number of people who actually take part.
"The Garmin European head office is based on the south coast near here in Southampton, on the edge of the New Forest and we think it’s important to keep it here as it’s part of our heritage in the UK."
The Garmin Ride Our is partnered with Action Medical Research, a UK based charity aiming to save and change children’s lives through medical research. You can learn more about the charity here.