THE Wiggle New Forest bike ride got underway this morning with hundreds of riders setting off from Matchams Leisure Park.

The first riders got underway around 7.30am with groups of around 20 at a time leaving the Matchams Lane site every few minutes after that.

UK Cycling Events, the organiser of the Wiggle rides, moved the start of the sell-out ride to Matchams this year from their previous New Forest Showground site.

The event has caused controversy in the past with complaints from residents about the conduct of the riders, while last year cyclists were hit by acts of sabotage, with protesters putting tacks on the roads and signs being torn down.

This year, opponents of the event have published posters urging residents to alert the authorities if any of the entrants cause trouble.

The posters list 15 towns and villages across the Forest where critics claim incidents could occur over the weekend.

As riders were leaving the site this year, Martin Barden, director of UK Cycling Events was warning riders of the rules and regulations of the ride.

He told the groups before they set out: “We don’t want to see anyone cycling two, three or four abreast; do not block out the road.

“Anyone seen to be doing that will get banned from today’s event. Have a wonderful time, but do it in a responsible way.”

He added he wanted the event to go smoothly but ‘please play your part’.

Father and son, Dave, 45, and Matt Wilson, 25, from Southampton said they were taking part in the event for the first time.

“It’s local and it’s in the beautiful New Forest”, Matt said.

“It’s right they should take a strict stance with people; the roads aren’t closed and frankly people should be riding sensibly anyway”, Dave added.

Craig Lewis, 36, Cathy Thompson, 42, and Roy Collins, 58, from Poole were taking part in the event for the first time.

Talking about the conduct on the roads, the group agreed with the organisers’ position.

“You’ve got to take responsibility on the roads; I think they’re right to remind people.”

And Rob Crawford, 32, from Bournemouth added: “You’ve got to use your common sense.”