image credit: Natash Ramasay
Like all cycling, mountain biking is on the up in the UK; a recent estimate put the worth of the UK bike industry at over £900m. Whether you’re a hardened downhiller replete with full-face helmet and neck-brace, or a lycra-clad cross-country climber, as a pastime riding off-road is hugely varied; and on this diverse green-and-grey rock we call home, we are spoilt by some of the best mountain bike terrain in the world…you’ve just got to know where to find it!
Luckily, we’ve decided to give you a bit of a helping hand. A few weeks ago, we asked all of our fans on Twitter and Facebook about their favourite riding spots across the country; and from the responses we got back, we sat down and picked out those which we thought you should know about (if you didn’t already)!
So in no particular order; here is our list of SportPursuit’s Top UK Mountain Bike Trails!
1. Afan Forest
Once a South-Wales coal-mining valley, Afan Forest Park has become one of the UK’s top singletrack destinations, even gaining the accolade of being the only UK trail destination to feature in What Mountain Bike Magazine’s ‘Ten best places to ride before you die’. Featuring 5 top-class technical trails, and over 100km of singletrack; Afan is a sure-fire hit for a great day’s riding – see Cognation’s awesome video for more:
2. Holmbury Hill
The Surrey Hills are well known as a popular MTB Mecca, with just about every village in the local countryside offering some little-known gem of a trail. The difficulty can be knowing exactly where to look; with many of the trails hidden away, and none of them signposted – often it’s a local’s knowledge that gets you access to these great paths across the county. Luckily the advent of GPS, MapMyRide, and various other tools makes it easier than ever to ride these routes (and know you’re going the right way!), so we’ve included Holmbury Hill, wedged between Peaslake and the more renowned Leith Hill.
Specifically there’s one route on the hill that we’re interested in; locally known as Yoghurt Pots, onto Telegraph Poles, and down to Barry Knows Best. A loop of all three works out at just under 10km, with a total climb/descent of 471m. You can find more on Surrey Hills MTBer.
3. Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean Mountain Bike Centre just outside of Gloucester is contained within a 42.5 square-mile area of mixed woodland; and is one of the most up-to-date mountain bike centres in the UK. Featuring a visitor centre complete with bike-wash, bike-hire, showers, cafe, information desk, service centre and uplift service, it’s a one-stop location for those wanting to get the most from their day’s riding. With trails varying from family-friendly to technical downhill; there’s plenty for riders of all ages and abilities. See 1SouthWestCycling’s review of the trails below:
4. Antur Stiniog
Somewhat more remote than the previous centres, Antur Stiniog is located in the heart of North Wales; just outside the settlement of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The project came about from a desire to make use of the old quarry; and in 2007 development got underway. The slate-filled earth is very similar to the Northern Alps, and mean the trails don’t get swamped by mud; but it can get slippery…and confidence in rock-gardens is going to come in handy…
5. Fort William
For most British mountain bikers, Fort Bill requires little introduction; a huge expanse of riding trails set amongst the Scottish Highlands, and featuring the UK round of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup – this is a must-visit destination for any committed mountain bikers both in Britain and worldwide. Featuring around 30 different routes of all shapes and sizes, and all the facilities you could require; Fort William isn’t quite like any other destination in the UK. It’s a little out of the way, but you can grab the overnight train up to Fort William station from a number of stations across the country, making it a great weekend trip with some friends. Oh and for any downhillers – it’s the only trail in the country to feature a cable-car to the top! The closest you’ll get to ‘proper’ downhill course in the UK.
6. Tweed Valley
Hosts of the rapidly-growing annual bike festival, TweedLove; the Tweed valley gets riders together from across the country for every discipline of riding imaginable. From King/Queen of the Mountain races, to group ride-outs, for two weeks this town lives and breathes bikes. Check out the write-up from this year’s event, and start getting the dates free for 2014.
7. UK Bike Park
A downhill-oriented bike park in the Dorset Hills; UK Bike Park was started with the aim of creating a US-style mountain-bike park here in the UK. With over 30 trails offering 3500m of vertical descent, and one of the coolest uplift services ever conceived this side of a helicopter; UKBP offers some brilliantly-built courses, and jumps capable of challenging riders of every ability.
Another riding paradise in the South of Wales, Cwm Carn offers everything from uplift-supported downhill racing (the only trail in the UK to offer uplifts all-year-round), to endlessly long singletrack routes through the local hills – there are several colour-coded trails, making it easy to know what you’re getting yourself in for. Only 25 minutes off the M4; the centre is easily reached; and you’ll always find other friendly faces riding who can offer advice on the best routes for whatever you’re looking for.