Category Archives: [ mtb ]

Great Mountain Bike Routes in UK

1 Swinley Forest, Berkshire

The perfect starting point for a novice, though some rides here will test experienced bikers, too. There’s a beautifully-crafted network of trails in this 2,600-acre pine wood and newcomers might like the fact that it has fewer hills than some areas. Riding permits: £2 a day on-site (www.gorrick.com/swinley/index.php).

2 Coed Llandegla, North Wales

A stunning private wood with many fine trails that include a teasing 12-km beginners’ ride. After a gentle uphill section comes the joy of downhill, with taster-jumps offering spice. Bike hire available (www.coedllandegla.com).
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3 Glentress, Scotland

Described as “the UK’s number-one mountain bike destination” by Ian Warby, trail expert at the influential cycling organisation CTC, (www.ctc.org.uk/mtb), Glentress is one of Scotland’s famed 7stanes top-level biking centres (stane means stone, symbolic image for these seven southern Scottish biking centres). Great facilities, with trails from beginner “green” routes to fearsome top-level “black” runs (www.forestry.gov.uk/glentress).

4 Grizedale, Cumbria

The North Face Trail at Grizedale Forest in Cumbria sounds disturbing, but its 16 kilometres offer much of what mountain-biking’s all about: fabulous views, testing climbs and technical excitement. There are also forest sculptures in in the unlikely event that you get bored. Search “Challenge Trails” at the International Mountain Biking Association’s website: www.imba.org.uk.

5 Machynlleth, Mid Wales

The cycling landscape around Machynlleth is wonderful and the Cli-Machx trail through Dyfi Forest provides a gorgeous 15km round trip, with eight tricksy berms, or banks, at the end. “You’ll probably be screaming,” muses Guy Kesteven, professional bike-tester and trail adviser to Wales Tourism (www.mbwales.com).

6 Coed y Brenin, North Wales

Hailed as the birthplace of modern mountain bike centres, this cycling oasis offers a café, bike hire, changing rooms and six trails, from the easy to the beastly. The testing 9km Temtiwr trail includes high-speed downhill zooms and will take up to an hour. Click on “Coed y Brenin” at www.mbwales.com.

7 Fort William, Scotland

The craggy tops surrounding this town in the Scottish Highlands play annual host to the Mountain Bike World Cup. Try the 15km Witch’s Trail, starting from Nevis Range ski centre car park and climbing towards fast, rocky descent sections. Breathless in all senses. Tough, technical, terrific (www.ridefortwilliam.co.uk).

8 Calderdale, Yorkshire

The Mary Towneley Loop near Calderdale offers a heart-thumping challenge because of both the distance – around 47 miles – and the fact that you cross the Pennines twice. Described respectfully by Karl Bartlett, chairman of the International Mountain Biking Association UK, as “the more serious kind of mountain biking” (www.nationaltrail.co.uk and www.idonohoe.com).

9 Kirroughtree, Southern Scotland

One of the lesser known of the 7stanes (see listing for Glentress), Kirroughtree offers buzz-inducing trails through forest and open country, from easy to oh-my-gosh. The latter includes the 31km Black Craigs trail, littered with section descriptions such as “Heartbreak Hill” (www.7stanes.com).

10 Sky high

Heli-biking is a new craze open to bikers with a passport. Sling your bike on a helicopter, whizz uphill, then hurtle down under the influence of gravity. It’s really catching on in such countries as Canada, New Zealand and Nepal. A 3½-hour heli-bike ride near Mount Cook, New Zealand, costs £75. See www.helibike.com.

Marin Trail – Llanwrst

Marin Trail – 25km – Llanwrst

Heres my review of it in 3 words. Climbs. Rocks. Views.

Getting there: from Chester, take the A55 head to Abergele, take the A580 then to Llanwrst. Takes about 55 mins, lovely drive

The Marin Trail

Reading reviews about this trail it seemed to be a perfect one for me. Long enough to test you, but short enough not to push you over the edge. The climbs would be rewarded with stunning views and fast downhill sections, it said. Wrong. Two out of three aint bad someone once said but missing out on fast downhill really irks me. The start of the trail is right from the car park (which is free to park and eerily quiet) and takes you deep into the forest and straight into some epic climbing with really technical rock sections (remember the word rocks).

Start of the trail

Each ‘section’ of the trail has its own climb, each climb varies in steepness and length. I would say there was 4 or 5 ‘sections’. Each starts with a ‘You are here’ style board, which is good because  you can see how much progress your making (but equally is bad because you see the upcoming climbs). I would say the first climb is one of the toughest and its pretty dull as you on a doubletrack, sort of road, in the forest. I was passed by one other rider on this initial climb but he said “Hello mate” and carried on past. The riders on this trail seemed alot more friendly than the Llandegla elites.

Just before the first big climb

Reaching the top of the first climb is rewarded with a lovely view over the mountain range, and a much needed blast of cool air as you emerge out of the forest. The white signpost ‘Marin’ is easy to spot (take note signposters of Delamere!) and upon following you are immediatley heading downards and dodging rocks and roots. This first downhill section is steep with multiple rock pools, meaning you have to sit right back on your bike, slow your descent and pick your path. This was my first encounter with one of the trails most annoying features. Each downhill section seems to have these speed sapping rocks. This first one was fun, because it was at a really steep angle, with some drop offs and I was just getting used to how to handle them. This section didnt last long, and before I knew it I had popped out of the forest and was back on some double track/road feature following round the mountain.

Road after first descent

This path ambles along for the next few miles before delivering a fast but boring descent into the next stage of climbing. This is where you hit the next ‘You are here’ map, which has a car park attached to it (the section not the map!). The climb here is fairly steep, possible the steepest one (I keep saying that!), and is very sapping as it winds its way up the mountain. The reward then is to come out literally on top of the mountain, with spectacular views and a descent in front of you. Again though we are thwarted from gaining any speed, or jumping opportunities, as the jagged rockpools are really challenging on this bit. You have to pick your route carefully as its easy to hit a rock and fly over your bars. The amount of energy this section takes out of you is immense, and I had to stop just to get some breath back, and this is on a descent!

Coming out of the bottom bit of this second descent you are rewarded with some berms and a faster downhill section but this only lasts seconds before you see a sign saying “Beware of cars” and your back on the road moving towards your next climbing section.

Using the timer on my phone to bad effect

Heading towards the third ‘You are here sign’ takes you onto an actual road and you pass by several farm houses as it takes you out of the forest. This section is quite a fast downhill allowing you to get some nice speed up, albeit on a public road. This speed takes you up back into the forest, and as you see the next white Marin trail marker, you only have to peddle a small amount to get back on the trail and into the familiar rocks. This section is quite level, with a few climbing sections, so the rockpools are even more difficult to traverse as you have to pedal over them. Picking your path is essential here as its easy to bottom out your pedals. Really you start getting a bit bored of picking your way through rocks at this point, and this section leads you back out onto a dirt road – heading up another steep climb. Eventually it points you back into the forest, more rocks, this time going uphill. Very demanding. Then you hit a plateau with a steep descent and no rocks! Unreal, obviously at this point I was very wary of hitting top speed on a downhill bit due to the rocks, so I cautiously went through this section. The bottom of this section you go over a bridge and hit a rock wall.

Marin rockwall

Really not impressed with this section. What are you meant to do here? Seriously I think pro mountain bikers would struggle here. This is after some of the toughest climbing, and your more than half way round by now. Anyway it was carry-the-bike time as this rock section stretched out, up and along for a good 100m or so. Eventually you can get back on your bike, and through a singletrack in the forest of rooty, rocky stuff. This then leads to another downhill bit, which also has a warning that people may be crossing, and you know your about to pop out onto a road again. After popping out here I was greeted with a crew of about 6 cockney riders all with maps out looking rather lost. “Excuse me mate is this the right way”, erm, “Its my first time round lads, you starting it or finishing it” I asked. They replied “Starting it mate”. “Ah well its a circle just follow the signs” I said as I rode off. They also muttered how stupid that rockwall section was, and I also mentioned there were no fast downhill parts and I could sense enthusiasm dropping.

This section then leads you back onto some doublepath/road which by now had alot of walkers on it and I wondered if I had missed a sign, but I hadn’t. That was pretty much that, and as the trail ends it gives you some more rocky rooty parts but it kind of fizzles out. The only other thing is because its a loop I missed the part where I should have come off and ended up doing the first tricky rock section again (which was good because I did it much better second time round). I then bumped into a load of miners (random!), and asked them the way to the car park as I didn’t fancy going round twice. They said turn round and just go down the hill. This was a super fast descent but on a gravel road, so no chance for jumps etc. And that was that, back to the car park and the car. I’d classify this trail as one for the fitness freaks, with plenty of climbing and even the downhill parts are sapping. Theres loads of singletrack and rockgardens, and to be honest I was sick of rocks by the end. Not a trail I will be rushing back too, but one I will revisit again just for those views.