Garmin Ride Out is an annual 50-mile bike ride through the beautiful New Forest countryside and is a chance for cycling enthusiasts to ride alongside some of their sporting heroes. As they warm up for the Tour of Britain, professional cyclists from the likes of Madison Genesis and Dimension Data ride the challenging course and share wisdom with their fans.
The day starts bright and early at 8 am with registration. The ride is a charity event in aid of Action Medical Research who do valuable fundraising work to raise money for medical research to save the lives of vulnerable babies and children. As part of their £35 entry, every rider receives a limited edition Garmin cycling jersey which is fantastic; in fact, I heard that a lot of people enter the race just to receive the jersey and then don't even do the ride!
After receiving your jersey and race number you also receive a Garmin goody bag filled with treats from partners such as a coffee brand and some bike cleaner. There is a charity raffle as well with some incredible prizes such as a new road bike and a Garmin bundle. Once you've got all your affairs together, it's time for a complimentary breakfast and to assemble in the tent for a Q&A with the professional cyclists.
The ride is a 50-mile loop around the country lanes and villages of the beautiful New Forest near Southampton. It is a stunning part of the country with wild ponies, donkeys, and cows freely grazing in the surrounding meadows and casually wandering across the road whenever they like. The scenery transitions from vast open fields to enchanting forests to quaint villages so it is endlessly interesting. There are plenty of cattle grids to watch out for and a handful of busy junctions but other than that it is a smooth ride on very quiet winding roads.
For me, the route was not flat at all. For those on advanced £10,000 bikes it probably felt like a piece of cake, but struggling up 25% gradients on my little Boardman was no mean feat at all! This is definitely a ride for advanced riders only and you really have to have the stamina, endurance, fitness, and strength to manage it. I am in good shape and I have the advantage of youth on my side, and I found it super tough. That said, there were grey-haired gentlemen steaming past me the entire time so I think so long as you are a serious cyclist who is used to long rides you'll be okay!
The Ride is an annual event organised by Garmin so it is very well done. Riders set off in groups of around 20 and each group rides with one of the pros. This gives you the chance to chat to your cycling hero and really feel like you're part of the professional team, if only for a day. The mini-expo at the start provides everything you could need for the event from free bike servicing to food and drink and indoor toilets. The route is sign posted well and fellow cyclists are easy to spot in their matching Garmin jerseys in case you do think you've taken a wrong turn.
There is a rest stop half way (at 25 miles) with a handful of portaloos and food and drink available in the local village hall. There are motorcycle marshalls circulating the route, but there are not many pedestrian marshalls along the way. To be honest, as all the participants are serious cyclists, this isn't necessary anyway so it's fine.
I was invited to take part in this ride by Garmin to test out the new Edge 1030 bike computer. I will be writing a full review of the device once I have thoroughly tested it, but after using it on this ride I am already very impressed. The tech team from Garmin kindly loaded the route onto the device for me which meant I definitely had no chance of getting lost, and it meant I could see any sharp bends coming in advance which was handy, especially when speeding downhill.
The Garmin Ride Out is a truly unique experience and is totally unlike any other casual sportif you may take part in. You need to be confident on a bike to take part and the route is definitely not for the faint hearted. If you're a keen cyclist who wishes to meet and ride with your favourite professional cyclists, then this is an event not to be missed!