Introduction - how this blog works

The idea of this blog is to share some of my favourite bits of mountain biking with the world. Principally so that you too can enjoy the bits I've enjoyed. And avoid the bits I've hated. So many people have given us advice on biking since we started - what bikes to buy, where to ride, how to ride. So this is my chance to feed a bit back to that body of knowledge.

I'd really welcome your comments - what have I raved about that you thought was awful? What gems did I miss when I visited your local riding spot? Is a bit that I said was awful actually sweet singletrack in the summer or when you're riding well? Comments will help this resource be improved for all readers, and also give me some hints as to where to ride next!

I've written a load about what we've ridden over the last year, and grouped it geographically. My plan is to add to it in the future, hopefully using the tags to keep each region together, though I haven't quite worked out how it will work yet. I may just need to start all over again in a year to keep things organised more sensibly - I'm not really sure a blog is the most sensible format - but it seems the best for me as I'm not terribly motivated to learn any more code than the day job necessitates.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Penhydd trail at Afan

After several years out of use the new 14km Penhydd trail at Afan is reopened!   It starts with a pleasant switchbacking singletrack climb and short fun descent to a fireroad.   The a long climb up a fireroad to a point misleadingly called the "top" (more on that later).   From here more fireroad climbing to pick up one of the old trail sections "Desolation" which feels quite dull compared to the new stuff.   it also carries a lot of drainage to leave you fairly mud splattered!   Another short fireroad climb to the first of the new red sections which is steep and bermy.   Another climb to some of the old sections - Sidewinder and Dead Sheep Gully - again these feel old and wet now.   Then the final descent which is short sectiosn between fireroads - some technical, some more flowy, and back to join the blue route back to the cafe.  

However, you can go out on another loop on the 7km blue (the Blue Scar).   This is the same to the "top" (which is true this time) and then a long descent back to the cafe.   The berms are just were you need them to pull you round the corneer and the whole thing is wonderful to ride - we really were sad when we reached the bottom.

Forest of Dean

The new blue route (the Verderer's trail) at Forest of Dean is definitley worth a ride.   It's one of a new generation of blue routes that has plenty to entertain "red" riders - plenty of berms, kickers etc, the only thing there isn't is drop offs or rock gardens.   The ascent was pleasant if not terribly exciting, but the descent was awesome.   There's a couple of red options that are a bit steeper.

Ben Nevis

No, no the trail centre, that would have been sensible.   Instead we got sent on a wild goose chase by this book which sent us up to the CIC hut (168722 - mostly a push), across to the Halfway Lochan (147724 - also mostly a push), then down the Tourist Path.   Even though it was a weekday in May this was still rammed with people but also extremely technical.  The people meant you had to ride it all on sight - no inspections.   The whole path is constructed of stone steps, but soem steps and quite big and some conceal wheel eating drainage ditches.   Rich rode about 60% of it, I rode about 20%.   Pushing your bike downhill with an audience who are telling you what a silly idea this is is no fun at all when they're right.   I definitley wouldn't recommend this route unless you like pushing your bike, you have a lot of confidence in your technical riding ability and you can find a very quiet day!


You can pick up a fairly comprehensive map from Square Wheels in Strathpeffer.   To be honest we didn't find that much to impress us.   There's some singletrack but it's sort of laid out between trees rather than built and as suhc has neither flow nor satisfyingly technical bits.   The rest is just easy walking trails.


Another supposed must-go biking venue in Scotland is Torridon.   Actually it all seems to boil down to one route, and that rotue is bascially a 35km ride to get to the top of an awesome descent.   Start at the free campsite in Torridon village (905557 - a recommendation in itself, it even has free hot showers, though beware the village shop is never open at helpful tiems so bring supplies).   Follow the a road east to the top of Loch Clair (002581).   This is north Scotland so it's an A road with passing places and not too unpleasant (in fact the worst bit is drivers waiting patiently for you in passing places so you feel you need to hurry to let them go by....).   Follow the doubletrack along the east side of Loch Clair.   There's a bit of singletrack along the NE side of Loch Coulin to break it up.   Then climb steadily on doubletrack up the Coulin Pass (024500).   In theory the descent is on doubletrack too, but when we were there the Forestry Commission had diverted onto some newly built, slide-your-back-wheel-round-in-the-mud style singletrack which was entertaining.   Descend to join the road at Achnashellach Station (002482).   Curse the fact that one one has thought to build a cafe anywehre in this valley to feed hungry mountain bikers.   Follow the road SE to Coulags (957451) and set off into the hills again.   This climb is much worse and involves quite a lot of pushing.   Don't get too enthusiastic on the bits you can ride that you smash your back wheel on a drainage bar and disscovere that your pump is a bit shoddy.....   There is a bothy (940480) part way along.   The summit is Bealach la Nice (934508).   Then enjoy the descent all the way back to the campsite.   It's all single track.   Not desperatley technical but occasionally goes onto slickrock so you cna make it as hard as you like.   Is sustianed all the way down - lovely!

Glen Sligachan

The Sligachan circuit on Skye often pops up in "best routes in Scotland" features, but inspection of the map suggests a long day with loats of road, and further research suggests a lot of bog too.   Also, it was a really minging day, so we went to the distillery instead.   However, on the way back it looked like it was brightening up so we rode up Glen Slig (from 487298) up to Loch na Creitheach and back again.   You'll notice there's barely any ascent, but do not fear - this will be the most fun flat bit of mountain biking you will ever do.   The path does undulate a bit, so there's constant mini sized techy climbs and descents, which obviously become the opposite on the way back.   And plenty of drainage bars, but once you get confident about popping oveer them it's ok.   It doesn't have the satisfaction of a big mountain day, but once the Sligachan Hotel disappears round the corner it feels very remote!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Glentress Red and Blue

Finally got the opportunity to ride the Glentress Red and see what all the fuss is about......   And Spooky Woods is very very good.   A perfect combination of drops, tables and berms.   To ride it fast you have to keep pumping it at every opportunity.   And it is satisfying long so by the bottom your legs are aching!   The other sections on the red and blue are all pretty good, but it's Spooky Woods which I think makes it the most talked about trail centre in the country!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

West Yorkshire outwith Calderdale and Bingley

The publication of Benji Howarth's new guidebook inspired us to find some West Yorkshire routes other than around Hebden Bridge and Bingley.  These are some of the best legal bits.   (There were some footpaths, and some dull bits too.....)

The Pennine Way from Wessenden Head (0700073) down to Wesseden Reservoir (057088) above Marsden is a lovely long singletrack descent with nothing too challenging on it but good views.

The descents into Newsholme Dean (019405) both from Newsholme (019400) and Todley Hill (013410).   Both narrow, little used tracks and quite tech.   Needs to be dry.

On Ringstone Edge Moor (038187) a short little section of Packhorse slabs.   There were other bits round Rishworth but no bridleways worth a special trip.


Went to explore Guisborough.   There's a 11km-ish red route.   It has a long ride out from the car park on fireroad and up a very long climb.   Eventually you read the top and find some singletrack, up and down a bit (including pushing up soem nice looking downs, hmmmm).   The final descent  (at the far west end of the hill) is great and actually quite technical, almost natural feeling singletrack.   However, it ends about half way up the hill, so officially its the fire road back down.   But there's clearly loads of cheeky singletrack all over and the bits we found were excellent.   There's no trail map though so it's hard to work out how to link everything together efficiently!

Monday, 23 July 2012


Arran often seems to feature in country-wide biking guidebooks so we had to go and find out what all the fuss was about.   There are some excellent resources published by the Arran Bike Club.   However we didn't see a single rider the whole time!

Our first route was a variation on their Classic Route.   We had parental shuttle so started at South Kiscadale and cycled into point 7.   From here you pretty much cycle the famous Glenashdale Falls walk backwards (with occasional route finding difficulites as all the signs point the other way.....)   It is pleasant with not much technical challenge.   The waterfall is very impressive though - a huge drop and now a great viewing platform too!   After climbing up to Giants Graves (point 10) you then follow the forest road around the hillside to the start of the singletrack (point 12).   The singletrack isn't so much constructed as simply waymarked.   So it doesn't quite flow under the wheels properly and we had moments of wondering whether this was what we'd come all this way for.   After scooting back through Lamlash you can then do a pleasant singletrack climb up to point 18 - they've made a path by the side of the raod that just feels far enough away to feel remote.   I then followed the forest track to point 4.   Note this track has now extended so the road end is not a good navigational point!   It's very scenic with views over the Holy Isle.   However, the descent is a vague trail that is good fun but not awesome and reaches the road quite quickly to descend on tarmac.

The next day we tried the Laggan Route.  We were shuttled to point 2.   However, the descent from here is very vague.   We ended up puhsing downhill over tussocks......   From point 3, the biking on Arran became awesome.   The climb to point 5 was easy enough for rich to do but too hard for me.   So I pushed while rich bum-waggled his way into the distance.   The view on the far side into the Clyde is awesome and really adds atmosphere to the descent.   The final section is ridicolousloy steep so I ended up walking which was a sad finale.   But then you get beachside singletrack all the way to point 9 which is superb - all rideable.

Later that day (after a distillery tour....) we did  the Clauchlands Route.   Again with a cheating shuttle to south Corriegills we rode into point 3.   The descent from point 5 is great - it eases you into a false sense of security and then suddenly gets steep and technical!   After a climb back up to point 4/7 you descend towards Lamlash.   I was worried by the annotated warning but actualy the cliff top descent isn't exposed at all - it's singletrack sufficiently far away from the edge not to be worrying.   It's not terribly tehcnical but very atmospheric!

New Peaks descent near Mellor

Found a new Peak District descent to put into the list.   I think it ranks between 7 and 8.   (Yes, this blog has now got disorganised and needs restarting.....)    It descends off Mellor Moor (SJ985874) to The Banks (SJ979874).   It starts off steep and loose, then gains steps, then is steep, narrow loose and steppy all at the same time.   With some corners thrown in.   Get relaxed about what your back wheel is doing and for 2 minutes you could be in the Alps!


We really loved Drumlanrig.   The philosophy of the place is pretty cool - basically the Duke who owns it decided to get some mountain bike trail built on his estate.   More landowners like him are needed!   The downside is you're meant to pay to get in - £6 each!   We were advised to park in the lay-by just before the bridge on the way in.   But from here you still have to cycle past the entrance booth/carpark where we got nobbled for the entrance fee as well as having had an extra long cycle....   With more cunning use of the map you should be able to work out a way to avoid it.   Or just pay, enjoy the trails and wander round the gardens after too (we had a 6 hour drive ahaead of us so had to get moving!)

Anyway, the trails are great - really narrow rooty singletrack that wiggles on and on!   Feels very different to other trail centres - very little stone and no big climbs or descents.   Undulates a lot so definitely have an uppy downy steapost.   Lots of tech stuff to keep you on your toes, and long enough to make you really tired!   Even some Alpine swithcbacks!   Really good - we'll definitely be back!

Fort William Witches Trails

We just had a sneaky evening here and managed to get in the World Champs trail.   It was pretty good with plenty of variety and some nice tech stuff.   The start was pretty hard to find (it's to the right of the gondola if you're looking up the hill).   Lots of sections seemed to be closed when we were there too - with this not even being posted at the trailhead.   But hopefully this isn't normal!


Innerleithen is next to one of the most talked about trail centres in the country.   It is however surprisingly quiet!   The car park is full of downhillers using the uplift service.   These provide good entertainment as the first climb goes right next to the downhill tracks.   After this the climb goes on for quite a while to a nice summit feeling top.   The descent was maybe a bit disappointing considering the overall reputation of the 7Stanes.   There's some nice flowy stuff at the top.   Then a black option with some nice technical stuff.   Then another section with some big drops that all have sneak lines.   So overall "nice" but not stunning.

Nan Bield and Gatesgarth passes

Those of you who know me and the history of this route may not expect me to rant about it.   But I'm going to.   We started in Kentmere, but it would also be possible to start in Lonsleedale or Mardale Head.   From Kentmere head east from Stile End (NY 465 050) to Sadgill (NY483050).   Although this is just the warm up on any other route it would be the highlight.   Then there's a long slog up Gatesgarth to Mardale Head (NY468108).   This isn't quite as good, as Rich put it "how can doubletrack be this hard?" with lots of loose stuff and unhelpfully placed drainage ditches.  

The push up to Nan Bield is pretty brutal.   The first half is just about pushable (and Rich rode most of it down while I pushed up slowly....).   Beyond Small Water it is brutal - real hike-a-bike.   If you're a nutter it does go but even these guys weren't on the actual trail.   However, it is worth it.   The first section is all rideable switchbacks - tricky but fun.   There's a middle section with just enough to keep you on your toes, then it steepends again at the bottom.   Just watch out for the big drop off! .....  Possibly the best natural trail in the UK?

Llandegla - extension

What can I say - the new stuff at Llandegla is awesome!   Whilst previously the route seemed to fizzle out - suddenly you were back at the car park without the "final descent" which typifies most trail centres.   Now there's loads of extra - in fact make sure you save enough energy - there's a killer climb nesar the end!   More rollers/berms/jumps than anything tight and technical.   The map on the wesbite seems out of date so I'm not going to link to it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

New trails at Gisburn

There has been a lot of work at Gisburn. More hardpack has been put into the exisiting trail which makes it less of a mud fest. Sometimes this is quite sublte, sometimes the trail has been totally restructured, for example on the climb the Sheep Hill (which is now a lot easier). I can't find an updated map, but basically there's a new bit of singletrack on the fireroad that you end up doing twice if you do the complete red. It's got loads of northshore on it but the most terrifying bits are avoidable.

More excitingly, there's a new downhill course which goes off the follows the fireroad climb up to Sheep's Hill back down again. It's wonderful, a good mix of tight bits, big berms and jumps at the end. Unfotunatly that outs you at the bottom of the climb again. It'll be interesting to see how they're planning this to fit in wiht the rest of the trails.

Coed y Brenin

Some changes afoot at Coed y Brenin. Already open is a new section called Adam and Eve which is smooth and jumpy and fits between Cain and Slated. I've just learnt to jump so I'm more enthusiatic about these sections now. It looks like Dreamtime has been given the same treatment but it isn't open yet.

There's also a new Blue trail called Minotaur. It's very wide and smooth (designed for all-ability bikes) but has one section of incredible berms and also handily marks all tiny drop offs with a danger sign so you now exactly when to jump!

Unremarkable route round Swainby

We picked a route from the usually excellent Vertebrate Publishing North York Moors Guide. It's route 3 if you want to make a special note to avoid it, which you should do as it has nothing of interest except some nice views. Actually I guess it would be a good novice route as the going is never unpleasantly muddy or anything, it's just technically unchallenging.

The descent which looks promising goes over Scarth Wood Moor from 462999, via Scarth Nick (473002) and down Limekiln Bank to 483008. However, it just isn't that entertaining! I can't really be bothered to describe the rest of the route, sorry!


Just realised I've not posted about Stainburn at all. There are three short trails at Stainburn.

The red is nice and varied, nothing especially to comment on - only 2km or so.

The "descent line" seems to be graded blue on the map above but is definitley harder than the red. You can reach it from the top of the red climb or by riding along the road. Again lot of obstacles and small berms etc. The push back up to the car from the bottom is particuallry brutal however and always demotivates us for repeat attempts.

The Black is totally mental and on a par with the blacks and Golspie and Laggan. Expect lots of hard obstacles, inspection, wishing you had more armour/bravado etc. That applies for both the climbs and descents! Having said that it's usually quite quiet as it's too fiddly for the downhill boys and probably beyond the average XC rider. So you can session stuff without worrying about being mown down.