The other day we referred to XC, freeride and downhill as the three main genres of mountain biking and so thought it would be useful if you were pointed in the right direction of where to go. Almost all trail centres – the hub of mountain biking activity in a certain area will cater for all standards with trails emanating fron the centre to varying degrees of difficulty.
However it is always worth ringing the centre first or going on line to check the up to date info on what is going on and where, whether some trails or areas are closed and to determine the level of difficulty of that centre’s trails. It is always disappointing and frustrating to drive an hour or so to a certain centre only to discover it is not what you were expecting.
Below with the help of the Independent’s Activity and Adventure section are some suggestions of where you might go in Scotland, England and Wales to find the best mountain biking centres in each country. I have added some action from each area to give you a taste of what you might expect.
Fort William in Scotland (01397 705 821; ridefortwilliam.co.uk), has a visitor centre, cafés, restaurants, freestyle trails, some fantastic XC riding and a World Cup downhill course. The Fort William site is free to use if you fancy walking or pedalling, or you can buy a day pass for the gondola ski lift for £19 per day to gain altitude and potential energy and enjoy the descent all the more.
Also in Scotland, try one of the fantastic Seven Stanes areas – a conglomerate of trail centres all to the south of Edinburgh and Glasgow that share a great website and are all managed by the Forestry Commission (01387 272 440; 7stanes.gov.uk).
Of all the Seven Stanes areas, the perfect family weekend is to be found by heading to the almost twinned centres of Glentress and Innerleithen. Glentress is brilliant for families with a great atmosphere, breathtaking views and fun terrain including the rock drops and berms of Spooky Wood, and wooden beams and obstacle tests at Ewok Village. Again, the trails are wellmarked, with kilometre pointers so you can judge how far from the café and car park you wish to ride.
Innerleithen is the spot for some more progressive downhill riding, although there is still some great riding for those just coming into the sport. There is a minibus ferrying riders to the top of the mountain (but only on certain days, so check upliftscotland.com). To hire equipment for either trail centre, or for tuition, go to The Hub in the Forest in Peebles (01721 721 736; thehubintheforest.co.uk), while the bike-friendly Tontine Hotel (01721 720 892; tontinehotel.com), also in Peebles, has a power-wash area and secure bike storage.
Thanks to bealach for the video.
The north-west of England has the fantastic XC centre of Stainburn (singletraction.org.uk), just outside Bradford. A little further east lies Dalby Forest and Pace Bikepark (forestry.gov.uk/england-cycling), perfect for both XC and freestyle riders with a newly built visitor centre and the Purple Mountain Bike Centre (01751 460011; purplemountain.co.uk) – a combined café and bike hire and repair shop. And of course, the Lake District is superb to explore. For first-timers, Grizedale Mountain Bikes in Ambleside (01229 860 369; grizedalemountainbikes.co.uk) hires decent equipment and is a great source of local information, or if you already have a bike, simply pick up a free trail map from the Grizedale Forest visitor centre.
Bristol, Cardiff and the Southwest have Blandford Freeride Park in Dorset (07881 571 069; ukbikepark.com), which is home to some fantastic downhill trails as well as an army-style truck and bike rack trailer to service them.
The South-east is equally blessed. Aston Hill (01296 625 825; rideastonhill.co.uk) in Buckinghamshire has downhill, XC and freeride obstacles, Esher Shore in Surrey (01372 476 969; eshershore.com) has some of the UK’s best freeriding, and Penshurst in Kent (01892 870 136) is home to a terrific bikepark (an area specifically designed with obstacles, jumps and balancing tests) and some small but fun downhill trails. For those in the Midlands, Cannock Chase (01785 619619; chasetrails.co.uk) is a well-marked site and perfect for families, while Hopton Castle in Shropshire has fantastic downhill and an uphill lift service – again, a minibus pulling a bike trailer – provided by Pearce Cycles in nearby Ludlow (01584 879 288; pearcecycles.co.uk).
Thanks to POPPYCAT2495 for the video.
South Wales has some superb trail centres, such as Afan (01639 851 900; mtbwales.com) – considered to be one of the foremost mountain bike centres in the UK – and Coed Y Brenin (01341 440 742; parcnet.com) where a new £1.6m visitors’ centre welcomes bikers. Cwmcarn (01633 614 615; mtbwales.com) is one of the UK’s most accessible trail centres. You can hire through martynashfieldcycles.co.uk), and the trails themselves feature fantastic XC, downhill and freeriding for all abilities. The area is well marked, so you’re unlikely to get lost, and there’s a trailer service to lug your bike uphill for £22 per day per person (book through cwmdown.co.uk). For bike-friendly accommodation, try the Coed Mamgu Guest House (01495 270 747) just underneath the trails.
Thanks to robmanns2000 for the video.