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This Dorset hotspot is not an island, but it does come with a ferry and the promise of adventure, as Tom Hutton discovers.


If it starts with a ferry ride it’s an adventure, right? OK, so the ferry ride’s only a few hundred metres, but that doesn’t matter to me – from my saddle, those few hundred metres somehow make Dorset feel like Scotland.

And as the gargantuan chains start creaking and groaning as they winch the huge boat away from land and out into the fast-flowing channel, to me at least, Sandbanks has become Oban, or Mallaig, or Uig, or some other remote Scottish port (albeit with higher house prices), and the Isle of Purbeck, which is really a peninsula and not an island at all, has been magically transformed into Skye, or Knoydart, or Arran, or Harris.

Hey, we can all dream.

This was a dream day for an adventure: late September and wall-to-wall sunshine. Sure, there was definitely that chill in the air confirming autumn was on its way. But in the sun it was pleasant, even in just a jersey, and it was still early in the morning. It was going to be a hot one later. For a bit anyway: the forecast suggested things might change by the end of the day.

A word of warning at this stage. Don’t miss the cycle path around the toll booths when you get off the ferry. I was with Steph and Sean (of Marmalade MTB fame), and we almost got taken out by a very violently dropping barrier that certainly would have won if we were still on V-brakes. There then followed a tirade of abuse from the barrier’s operator, who seemed to think we’d nearly decapitated ourselves deliberately, rather than making a genuine error.

With our heart rates back to normal, and our ears no longer ringing, we cruised up the road onto the ‘island’ wearing ear-to-ear grins. The prospect of a sunny day out on some of the south’s most fun trails made the couple of kilometres to the start slip by in no time.

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About Singletrack

Don’t Look Down! – Pete Scullion takes a precarious trip across the lesser-ridden ridges of the Alps. Trail Hunter: Tom Fenton tells you why Cross Fell and High Cup Nick need to be on your must-ride list. Just bring sandwiches. Lots of them. Bike Test: Full suspension XC bikes. – Three long-legged ride/race bikes from Giant, Specialized and Scott Group Test – David Hayward tests sub-£1500 carbon wheelsets. At this price, they’re still a major investment, so we’ve done our best to thrash them all. Editor’s Choice – We pick the products, places and events that have left an impression on us this year. From bike races to gears and gadgets. This is the stuff we really rate! Room 101 – Charlie takes a look at your complaints and throws them into Room 101 if there’s due cause. And if there isn’t, he throws you in instead. Column – Our award winning columnist Jason Miles brings us more pearls of wisdom and wit. Porage People – Bike race meets survival challenge meets Scrabble and It’s a Knockout! Welcome to the weird world of the invitational (Wo)Man of Porage bike race. Classic Ride: The Purbeck Hills – Tom Hutton shows us that south coast riding is far from flat. It’s not always sunny there either. Trickstuff: Singletrack travelled to Germany to see the surprisingly low-key, family-like atmosphere at Trickstuff, producers of some of the world’s most precisely engineered brakes and components. Column – Lifecycle of a Riding Spot: a tragedy told in 11 chapters. Antony de Heveningham charts the rise and fall, rise and fall of your local woods.