UK mountain biking is something special. Since its earliest origins in Northern California in the early 1970s, the sport of mountain biking has truly become a worldwide phenomenon. Perhaps nowhere else outside of its origin country has MTB been more popular than in the United Kingdom. The UK has a fiercely dedicated MTB community, and across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there are numerous trails dedicated to the sport. What makes UK mountain biking so distinctive?
MTB culture in the UK finds its origins even before the sport became popularized in 1970s America. Since the 1950s, a culture surrounding off-road cycling, later MTB, has grown out of Britons yearning to explore the natural vistas of their island nation while combined with the rustic and physically stimulating sport that comes with MTB.
In this comprehensive guide, we are going to explore everything there is to know about MTB culture in the United Kingdom. We will take a look at popular trails across the UK, and how each of these trails offers a unique and distinctive experience for all manner of MTB techniques. The geography of the UK is diverse and varied across its regions, and each of these regions makes for a singular MTB experience. Read on to find out more about UK mountain biking.
UK Mountain Biking: Wales
Wales is a landlocked, independent nation to the west of England that shares unification with the wider UK. In Wales, the geography features numerous hills, valleys, mountain ranges, and stunning views as far as the eyes can see.
From the stunning highs and lows of the Cambrian mountains to the windswept, temperate southern coast south of Swansea, Wales is filled with some of the most majestic landscapes for MTB in all of the UK.
With this in mind, what are the best MTB destinations in Wales?
Bike Park Wales
By far, one of the most exhilarating MTB trails in all of Wales is the Bike Park Wales. There are endless jumps to be found in this bike park, in addition to looping jump lines, technical black runs, smooth flowing red runs, and all manner of downhill MTB dynamics.
In terms of UK MTB, Bike Park Wales needs no formal introduction. This is an absolutely amazing place to ride. This is because there is so much fun to be had riding here that not even the wet weather (plan for this) can dampen the sheer enjoyment of this iconic park.
In addition to numerous trails, Bike Park Wales is also packed with convenient amenities such as a cafe, a gear shop, restrooms, bike wash outlets, and ample amounts of parking space. There is a dedicated push-up track for fitter riders, or you can take the uplift if you want to conserve energy for the trails.
Checking in and picking up your uplift tickets is swift and easy. If you’ve booked the uplift, you can spend a day hitting as many downhill trails as you like and getting a lift back to the top.
Bike Park Wales is loaded with trails so there are plenty of trails for practically all MTB skill levels. You can spend weeks in the park and never have to ride the same trail twice. If you want to start with the biggest and most challenging trail, go with the A470 Jump Trail.
Afan Forest Bike Park Trails
Further south into Wales, there is the forest-ridden Afan Forest Bike Trails. The numerous uphill climbs in Afan are breathtaking to behold, and the trails scale in difficulty the further into the forest interior you ride.
Afan has it all from flowing singletrack threading through the forest to more exposed trails on wide open hills with amazing views and even a Bike Park. Natural Resources Wales’ Afan Forest Park is the fastest growing mountain bike area in Britain and located only minutes from the M4, making it perfect for those wanting to reach a variety of fantastic riding without the hassle of long journeys.
With six superb flowing trails ranging from 7km to over 40km and a Bike Park there are more all weather singletracks than any other MB Wales centers. The mountain bike trails here total over 130km and are supported by a continual program of trail maintenance and development.
Y Wal trail is a swooping 24km mainly singletrack loop with epic views and breathtaking descents to keep your heart pumping all the way round. Watch out for The Graveyard section and hang on for the searingly fast final descent.
The White’s Level and Blade Trails have some of the most technical sections of all the trails at Afan Forest Park. Both starting on a combined and challenging singletrack climb out of Glyncorrwg, with mostly purpose built, all weather singletrack routes they both flow in an adrenalin pumping mix of rock drops, step sections, berms and traverses.
Whites Level also has an optional black run descent section for the more skillful riders since it creates an outrageous 17km loop.
If you want to add some more distance to your ride you can also add in the top loop of the old ‘Skyline’ trail with some fantastic high (600m) and remote singletrack sections. Make sure you are properly equipped as this loop takes you to remote areas with changeable weather conditions.
UK Mountain Biking: North Wales
The northern region of Wales contains many mountain ranges and is slightly rockier and more rugged than what can be found in the smoother hills and valleys in south Wales. When in North Wales, be sure to check out these destinations.
North Wales is a two-wheeler’s dream. The super-fit can ride marathon-length routes, the adventurous world-class mountain bike trails. Casual riders will delight at the miles and miles of car-free tracks, many on disused, gentle-gradient railway lines. There is truly nothing like riding your bike in Northern Wales.
Mountain bikers will typically head for the forests of Gwydir for the original Marin trail, as well as Llandegla and Coed-y-Brenin for some of the best centers in the UK. Or take the fast downhill near Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The quiet single-track lanes of Anglesey, the Llyn Peninsula and around the Vale of Clwyd make for flatter, scenic road cycling. When cycling North Wales there’s always a village and welcoming hostel not far away.
With this in mind, don’t make the mistake of taking car-free trails – built on former railway lines – as you will want to avoid the more mountainous areas. Lôn Las Ogwen, part of the Sustrans long-distance routes, follows a rail line that once transported slate from Snowdonia to the sea near Bangor. Starting at the port, this trail makes a spectacular route up into Nant Ffrancon Valley (one of Anthony Hopkins’ favorite places btw).
Other trails like Lôn Las Menai follow the fast-flowing waters of the Menai Strait. Further south, the Mawddach Trail is arguably the most scenic cycle route in Britain.
But what is the best MTB trail to consider in North Wales?
The Beast at Coed Y Brenin
This is the trail that everyone aspires to ride. It’s long, it’s tough, it will stretch you physically, mentally and has left many broken souls along its terrain.
This long distance route covers 35 km so go prepared with adequate fluids, clothing and bike spares. Expect to come back tired, muddy and exhilarated.
You can expect loose rocky climbs, gnarly descents, stonefly-offs, berms, tabletops and hips on this 35km trail.
Don’t miss the Pink Heifer, Big Doug combo that gives over 4km of continuous sublime singletrack through majestic tall Douglas firs. So will you be dragging yourself up the final climb, limping down the last descent utterly spent or will you rise to the challenge and tame the Beast? Only a visit here will let you know.
UK Mountain Biking: Fort William
Mention Fort William in mountain biking circles and get wide smiles of friendly acknowledgement – and that’s throughout the world, not just in Scotland. So, Fort ‘Bill’ and mountain biking go together like bread and jam you could say.
This is all thanks to the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup. First held in 2002, this event has become a phenomenon, attracting up to 17,000 spectators, consistently being voted the best event on the world mountain bike calendar, and, proving the catalyst for the Highland town winning the right to stage the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships, which attracted over 40,000 visitors over the six-day event.
The Witch’s Trails in Leanachan Forest do more than host international mountain biking events each year though. They also offer different grades of cross-country riding for the whole family for the whole year. From the Forestry Commission Scotland car park you can play on the skills park. This area gives you a taste of what is available out on the trails.
Once you’ve warmed up on the skills park feel free to tackle the blue-graded Cour Loop, the red-graded 10 Under the Ben Loop and of course the red-graded World Champs loop.
All these trails offer good quality single-track, spectacular scenery in the shadow of the UK’s highest mountain (Ben Nevis) and a chance to catch your breath as you admire the view. The blue-grade Cour Loop is fairly straightforward with no nasty surprises, however both red grade trails have several special features that will keep you concentrating, along with black options.
The Nevis Range Mountain Gondola runs from Leanachan Forest up onto 4000-foot Aonach Mor and offers uplift for the famous World Cup Downhill Track. It only takes a swift 15 minutes to reach the top station where the fun begins and of course there’s the Pine Marten coffee shop at the base station and the Snowgoose restaurant at the top, both offering welcome sustenance and refreshment for weary bikers.
The World Cup Downhill Track drops down the slopes of Aonach Mor, plummeting 555 meters in 2.82 kms. With its big drop-offs, rock steps and jumps, it is one of the longest and toughest in the world. The track should be on every downhiller’s tick list, though the inexperienced should approach it with a great deal of reservation.
It takes between 4 and 30 minutes to complete, but you should do it on the right bike – a specialized downhill bike is essential. As is a full-face helmet and padding – all of which can be rented locally.
The downhill track is open between May and mid-September, 10.30am – 4pm, with a fee to use the gondola uplift. A new downhill track, graded red, was developed in 2008/09 and to make downhilling at Nevis Range a wee bit more accessible to those developing their skills.
Ashton Court Mountain Biking
Ashton Court is a very busy multi-user site, and the Nova cycle trail crosses and shares walking and horse riding routes. Expect the unexpected and respect pedestrians and horse riders. Warn others of your approach in plenty of time and stop for horses if necessary.
A ‘moderate’ Blue grade trail, the route offers a rewarding experience for relative novices and more experienced riders. The Nova Trail winds around Ashton Court Estate, packing in non stop flowing enjoyment along the way. The trail has small rock steps, rollers (bumps) and berms (banked corners). In places the trail splits for a short distance, giving an option of a more difficult challenge.
A specially constructed ‘difficult’ Red grade descent, with testing features including doubles, step ups, rock gardens and berm after berm is available for advanced riders, which is a total workout for your body and mind. The trail crosses a shared path after 0.6km. The SuperNova trail presents much more of a technical challenge than found elsewhere on the site and should only be ridden by experienced off-road cyclists.
UK Mountain Biking: Swinley Forest
Swinley Forest has 24km of purpose built, all weather way-marked mountain bike trails that nestle and follow the forest’s natural ebb and flow. The trails are suitable for riders of all levels, from beginners to advanced, and for all sorts of bikes from fat-tired mountain bikes to kid’s bikes to those wishing to explore on an adventure drop bar style of bike.
The trails are built from quarried material onsite that allow the trails to run brilliantly in all weathers making them the perfect for a rainy day activity with the kids or a blast in the sunshine with your friends.
The sumptuous singletrack follows the contour of the forest and has 3 main routes on offer, they are the Green, Blue and Red routes.
- Green Trail: suitable for beginner and novice cyclists.
- Blue Trail: Suitable for intermediate cyclists and mountain bikers with basic off-road riding skills.
- Red Trail: For proficient mountain bikers with good off road riding skills
Nature lovers will love Swinley. The forest is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to the rare European based Ground Nesting Birds, these include the Nightjar, Dartford Warbler and Woodlark. Swinley Forest also holds the accolade of a Site for Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the trails allow riders and nature to be in harmony. Not to be missed.
UK Mountain Biking: Glentress
In Scotland, Glentress is the 7stanes flagship trail center offering a range of trails to suit everyone from beginners to pros. Glentress Peel cafe offers top quality local produce and a bike shop that offers friendly, expert advice on bike hire, sales and repairs.
You don’t have to be an experienced mountain biker to enjoy these famous trails: there are a wide range of routes to suit beginners, families and experts. Plus, there are skills areas for you to practice your technique.
If you’re needing to hire a bike, the Glentress Peel bike shop has over 150 bikes available. It also stocks a range of bikes, bike accessories and clothing, and the staff can offer great advice on local trails. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 6pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am – 5pm. Telephone Alpine Bikes Glentress on 01721 724522 for more information, be sure to put +44 as the pre-calling code.
There are two bike wash units in the lower car park as well.
Ticknock Mountain Biking
Although technically not in the UK, Ticknock Mountain Bike Trail in Ireland, which is just 3 km from Dundrum Town Center and Luas Green Line, is another top-tier bike trail to consider when visiting the UK or Ireland.
The trail loops around the Dublin Mountains with breath-taking views over the city and bay. The shortest route takes 1 hour to complete and a basic level of fitness is required. More experienced riders can take optional extra loops which can extend the route to up to two hours. Just remember to bring your camera to capture the memories at the many spectacular photo stops.
Their location at the foot of the Three Rock Mountain has impressive rock formations. Two Rock Mountain nearby rises to 536 meters above sea level and contains the infamous ruins of the Fairy Castle.
Dalby Forest Mountain Biking and Hub
From riding fast and loose on the red route to taking it easy with the family, Dalby Forest Cycle Hub helps you do it all. Set firmly in the epicenter of Yorkshire’s top mountain biking destination, with trails for all ages and abilities heading right from our front door, this center is in place to ensure you get the best MTB experience out there.
Whether you’re looking to buy a world-beating bike or you want an awesome hire for the day, Dalby’s team of bike enthusiasts have got you covered. They are also there for you if you’re looking for clothing, accessories, upgrades and maintenance. You can even power-wash your bike there before you head home.
Dalby Forest Cycle Hub is 2,500 square feet of MTB heaven, with bikes from the world’s biggest and best brands, including Fox, Endura, Hope, Burgtec, SRAM, Shimano, RockShox, Bontrager, Torq and EVOC.
Whatever you’re into, Dalby’s team of bike nuts will help you find your perfect ride and ensure you head out onto the trails equipped to experience MTB life to the max.
Dalby Forest offers a fantastic day out for thrill seekers and families alike, with mile after mile of green, blue, red and black trails to suit all levels of fitness and proficiency.
As well as offering hours of MTB excitement, there’s also a play park, café, high ropes, Segways, paintballing, orienteering and so much more.
UK Mountain Biking: Surrey Hills
Although the Surrey Hills is by no means an official trail center and has no B1KEPARK, it has been the lifelong home of B1KE’s founder Richard Kelly and is where Surrey Hills Mountain Biking’s story began nearly 20 years ago.
The network of trails is as varied as it is expansive, and the free draining greensand that form the high spots between the chalky North and South Downs make for amazing year-round riding.
The Surrey Hills offer some of England’s finest trails, ranging from the sedate to seriously gnarly. It has become a mecca for mountain bikers and various local MTB enthusiasts have been delivering mountain bike skills training and experiences in the hills for almost two decades.
Although an area benefiting from swathes of open access land that you can visit at your leisure, B1KE can help you make the most from your visit and future visits.
From the top of Holmbury hill, the genuine Surrey hills experience begins with one of the most well-known trails around; Barry Knows Best. Conveniently at the finish there is a fire road climb which you can take, turning at the first right to bring you back to the start in case you want an extra lap.
Peaslake is the perfect lunch stop and then it’s back up Holmbury hill to take in the second of the officially built trails; Yogurt Pots. Expect a slightly gentler, slower trail here but it’s fun once you know it, and again, it’s super easy to do another lap. Just exit left and stay left until the start.
Climbing up this trail will make you realize the hills are actually a pretty good size around this area, and the reward is the longest purpose built trail in the area in the form of Summer Lightning 2. From the end of that trail it’s a fast roll down a byway back to the start point.
UK Mountain Biking: Yorkshire
England’s largest county is home to an impressive network of natural and purpose-built mountain bike trails; in fact, the Yorkshire Dales alone has over 900km (560 miles) of rideable terrain. The biking is varied – there are bridleways, limestone pavements, single tracks and forest paths. Combine this with quaint, amiable villages and the stunning scenery and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the best regions for mountain biking in the UK.
The hilly limestone country of the Dales encompasses some of England’s most prominent peaks, the highest being Whernside at 736m (2,415ft). As mentioned, the mountain biking terrain is varied, but a large proportion of it is on stone tracks and bridleways following broad valleys, with some long ascents. Riding in the Dales is all about natural trails, and it’s here that you’ll really feel like you’re out in the wilds.
The Yorkshire Dales covers a sizeable area and distances between the best riding locations can be further than you think. If you were wanting to tackle circular routes around the famous Three Peaks (Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough), then you’d probably want to base yourself in Ingleton, Settle or Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
Intermediates should try the 20km (12-mile) Malham to Settle route, taking in Malham Cove en route (can also be done in reverse). For the more technical rider, the Pen-Y-Ghent circuit is a must.
Further afield in the northern part of the national park, the market town of Hawes makes a great base for tackling the 30km (18-mile) circuit of Dodd Fell. This takes you on an ancient Roman road and along a fast stone track, with numerous exciting descents to choose from to get back down to the village.
Don’t let the distances and long ups dissuade you: this is a fantastic mountain biking area with tremendous views, and certainly not to be missed.
UK Mountain Biking: Yorkshire Dales
It’s great to explore the Yorkshire Dales by bike. There are so many vast networks of minor roads and mountain bike-friendly byways, bridleways and ‘green lanes’ that cross the area. You also get to see more and feel more in touch with the countryside when you’re on a bike.
So the cycling here may not always be on flat ground, but any effort in climbing hills is always rewarded with the best views of the Dales landscape. Need to walk for a bit? No problem there either, and to be honest, you should really just take your time and enjoy the stunning surroundings.
At the end of the day you’ll have earned that piece of cake or pint of locally brewed beer, plus you’re helping to protect this iconic landscape in this area by moving around it in a sustainable way.
The Swale Trail is a 20km (12 mile) easy mountain bike route running the length of Swaledale from Reeth to Keld. You can complete the route in a number of sections with Gunnerside providing a good break in the middle with its pub, cafes and toilets. The route is aimed at people with older children and those with some cycling experience and links together stone tracks and trails with quiet tarmac trails.
This is a great way to explore this stunning valley. The Viking Challenge is a fun way to complete the Swale Trail, especially if you’re biking with kids. You can download it as a PDF here or pick one up from one of the National Park Visitor Centers.
Useful Tip: The route is not just for cyclists – you’ll also meet walkers and horse riders – remember to share the trail.
UK Mountain Biking: Nevis Range
From 64km-long tours of Ben Nevis to World Cup downhill runs, the ten trails at Nevis Range will take you far into the wilderness and to the edge of your limits. If you’re looking for technical and demanding downhills combined with ferocious climbs and being rewarded with stunning views, try the West Highland Way and Cow Hill, as it’s packed with variety and challenge.
Another top track for more experienced riders is the Fort William World Cup Downhill, which sees you speed down an epic 555m of vertical descent.
For those new to mountain biking, or if you’re riding with kids and want a short introduction, then the 1.3km Nevis Range Green XC Cats Eyes route is for you.
It is possible to mountain bike near Ben Nevis all year round, but the spring and summer months are optimal, not just because of better weather, but you’ll avoid the snow sport enthusiasts if you go out of the winter season. For local mountain bike hire, try the long-established Off Beat Bikes shop on Fort William High Street.
UK Mountain Biking: Quantock Hills
There is a good variety of trails up on the Quantock Hills in Somerset, England, and on a clear day, an excellent view over the surrounding Somerset countryside.
They are very round hills and they only rise about 1000 feet (300m). Up around the tops there are myriads of walking tracks, four wheel drive tracks and bridleways (horse tracks). They are great for a Sunday exploration ride.
Towards the south of the range, up from Triscombe, there is some serious singletrack, developed by local mountain bike enthusiasts, both downhill and cross country, technical and rolling. You won’t find a trail map anywhere and there are no signs to help you find your way around. The Quantocks boasts one of the most densely packed bridleway networks in the country, despite its relatively minuscule size.
There are steep slopes aplenty; very stiff climbs, screaming tree-lined descents, technical puckerings and wide open blasts alike. Truly, there is something for everyone here. Unless you don’t like hills. For all its size, this is a place that punches way, way above its weight.
And then there’s Exmoor to consider – so close that it’s actually part of the same geological system as the Quantocks. Actually they’re only separated by a mile or so, if that. Not quite as abundantly be-patched, it’s still blessed with more than its hair of combs, dells, hills, moorland and unbelievably good riding.
UK Mountain Biking: New Forest
Exploring by bike is the ideal way to discover the magnificent beauty and fascinating wildlife that can easily be missed by car in the New Forest. The off-road and road-based New Forest cycle network offers something for all the family to enjoy. The Forestry Commission provides over 100 miles of off-road waymarked cycle routes.
Most of these routes are particularly suited to families with children and can also be used by people on mobility scooters. The routes are marked on the ground with wooden posts, each numbered. Some of these are shown on the map to help you to find your way around. These marker posts also display an Ordnance Survey grid reference, which is useful if you get lost.
This map brings together these managed routes with all similar networks in the New Forest National Park and links to the surrounding area. The New Forest is a beautiful, tranquil and environmentally sensitive place enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike. Mutual respect and courtesy are essential to enable those with different interests to enjoy the Forest together.
This is a working forest, with forestry, farming and equestrian activity on its narrow roads and tracks. Ponies, cattle and other animals are free to roam the Forest and most of its roads. Be aware that animals are easily startled and may suddenly move into your path.
Kielder Mountain Biking
High above the water on the border between Scotland and England rests a rugged, exposed landscape on a grand scale known as Kielder Mountain. Alone at the summit of Deadwater Fell, 1900ft above Kielder Water and Forest Park, you can truly experience the beauty and solitude of a wild Northumberland where the ascent rewards you with breathtaking views across two countries.
Down below at 250 square miles, Kielder Water is Europe’s largest man-made reservoir and a spectacular site in itself. Enveloped by a thick cloak of lush, evergreen forest, the largest man made forest in Northern Europe, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow been transported into some far away Nordic country.
And it’s this combination of adrenaline and peacefulness that attracts cyclists from across the world. They come to experience not just Kielder’s incredible scenery, but to ride some of the most challenging and thrilling single-track trails in the UK. From the lofty heights of the black Deadwater trail, to the 105 miles of forest and lakeside cycle tracks, mountain biking here is serious stuff.
And with an army of dedicated volunteers keen to nurture and evolve the trails, it’s no surprise that the Kielder mountain biking scene is one of Northumberland’s great success stories.
Epping Forest Mountain Biking
Epping Forest is a mix of deciduous woodland and grass heathland occupying a ridge on the north-east outskirts of London. Miles of fine singletrack, almost all of it open to bikes, lie within it’s tree-lined borders, making it a staple favorite with the mountain bikers among the capital’s 10 million population.
The route is 95 per cent off-road and 90 per cent singletrack, so what it lacks in undulations, it makes up for with twisty, turny stuff. Due to the myriad of trails within Epping Forest, many of them un-mapped, navigation can be extremely difficult. Other than dropping breadcrumbs, the best option for Epping rookies is to join one of the regular shop or club rides that occur every Sunday.
If you go it alone and get lost, you can comfort yourself with the fact that the forest never gets more than 4km wide and 19km long, so you’ll never be far from a road or a landmark.
In winter, Epping can suffer at the hands of the weather. Many parts get very slippery after heavy rain, and where the horses tread, the ground can become a quagmire. The trails take a while to dry, so even in high summer you can encounter muddy sections.
Don’t let that put you off though, because with the right frame of mind, slithering around in the sticky slope can be a real blast.
Grizedale Forest Mountain Biking
The Lake District is a mountain biking hotspot, with some of the best natural trails the UK has to offer. Grizedale is slap bang in the middle between two beautiful lakes, Coniston Water and Lake Windermere. It’s got serious elevation, which gives panoramic views over Helvellyn and beyond. Grizedale is famous for its outdoor sculptures, many of which can be viewed from the tamer trails.
The red-graded North Face loop is perfect for intermediate riders who want an enjoyable but not overly technical singletrack ride. There’s also a short black trail full of jumps, berms and steep descents, with a double-black-diamond option that’s not for the faint-hearted. The North Face trail is an entertaining route, which is rideable by less experienced bikers yet also a lot of fun for better riders.
It has some leg-burning climbs, which will test your uphill strength as much as the downhills test your skills. There are some high-speed sections, boardwalk, rocks and an optional 1km black stretch that can be ridden as part of the red route or on its own.
Rostrevor Mountain Biking
On the shores of Carlingford Lough, the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails powered by Chain Reaction Cycles offer some challenging mountain biking where efforts are rewarded with incredible coastal views and exhilarating singletrack descents.
With a mouth watering 27km red trail and a hair raising 19km black trail Rostrevor is believed by many to be the top spot for mountain biking in Ireland. When you add not just one but two purpose-built downhill trails to the mix, there’s no denying it, Rostrevor is a mountain bikers’ haven.
This red trail will start off with a lung-busting ascent to the heights of Slievemartin, where you can rest assured if the climb hasn’t taken your breath away, the fabulous views over Carlingford Lough will take care of this for you.
You will then be able to enjoy a number of exciting descents and sections of northshore over to Yellow Water where the trail turns back and follows the Kilbroney Valley back to the trailhead.
UK Mountain Biking: Peak District Mountain
The Peak District may be at the geographical center of England, but there’s nothing middling about the selection of awesome singletrack that passes through the park. The Peak District is located pretty much smack, bang in the center of England and offers some of the best mountain biking anywhere in the UK.
Ladybower, Chinley Churn, Wildboarclough, Jacob’s Ladder and The Roych…these are all iconic names in British biking. A plethora of trails that range from grippy gritstone to sharp and unforgiving limestones, with the odd smattering of sand, super-gloopy mud and plenty of peat. Speaking of which, owing to the popularity of the area and the fragile nature of its trails, always check trail conditions before you ride.
Llandegla Mountain Biking
Llandegla is a waymarked route of approximately 5km developed specifically with families in mind. The route avoids major climbs and technical sections, and concentrates on allowing families to experience off-road cycling in a fun and safe way.
The surfaces encountered on this route are generally hard packed but there are sections which are loose, uneven or muddy at times. The route allows riders to ascend gently from the car park, through the forest and on to the reservoir, with its views of the Clwydian Range.
After cycling around the reservoir, the route meanders back through the forest before the final descent which sweeps down to the Visitor Center, providing you with an opportunity for a well earned cup of tea and piece of cake–or the British dessert of your choice.
Forest of Dean Mountain Biking
The Forest of Dean is an area characterized by over 110 sq km of mixed woodland – one of the few surviving ancient woodlands in England. Known for its steep, slippery, rooty descents, the FoD has a massive range of styles, features and riding on offer – from family cycle trails and downhill lines, to miles of secret singletrack.
The area has become known as the home of UK grassroots riding and racing, with a number of top pros, including World Cup downhill stars Laurie Greenland and Charlie Hatton, having cut their teeth here.
The area is open and ready to ride all year round, with hard-packed trails to keep riders entertained even during the wettest of winters, while for experienced riders, the more natural routes just get more fun and challenging in the wet.
The Forest of Dean offers a vast range of mountain bike trails for the more adventurous cyclist if you are up for the challenge. With miles and miles of beautiful singletrack riding, and year-round surfaced tracks such as the renowned Verderers trail, there is something for everyone. Start out on a lap of the 11km, blue grade Verderers before stepping up to the red-graded Freeminers trail.
And if downhill is what you’re after, there are 10 official tracks, featuring big drops, jumps, and roots, which are accessible either by uplift or push up. In fact, none of the downhill tracks are particularly long, three to four minutes max, but you will get a huge number of runs whether you are riding the uplift or pushing up and seasoning sections can also be expected.
There is also a rapidly increasing number of enduro lines appearing right across the hill that will have all the long travel riders grinning from ear to ear. They are hard to find, but well worth the effort.
Cannock Chase Mountain Biking
Cannock Chase is home to two dedicated, way marked, XC mountain bike trails – ‘Follow the Dog’ and ‘The Monkey Trail’. Both trails are free to ride and open all year round. Due to how relatively flat Cannock Chase is, you won’t find that much climbing on Follow the Dog – total elevation is just over 500 feet and there’s only one hill to climb up.
The Monkey Trail is a mix of fast and flowing machine built trail and tight, twisty and technical hand built trails, – the end result is a superbly engaging ride though. There are three cycle trails at the Chase designed for leisure cyclists and families. These trails are open all year round and are free of charge. The leisure trails have been developed from the long-established family routes around Cannock Chase, and all start from Birches Valley.
These trails are shared with walkers, dogs, and horses, so please be polite and careful if you pass other forest users. Stile Cop bike park is home to Cannock Chase’s only downhill trails, with around a dozen trails to choose from over varying difficulty levels. Despite having only 65 meters of elevation, the hill has a wide variety of trails to keep riders busy. Each run lasts around a minute, but there’s enough to keep you busy for a good many hours.
UK Mountain Biking: Ballyhoura
Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails are the largest trail network of its kind in Ireland. 98km of trails including forest road climbs, tight twisty singletrack with loads of ups and downs, boardwalk, tight turns and technical rocky sections are guaranteed to leave you smiling.
The trails range from the moderate 6km Greenwood loop to the demanding Castlepook loop, over 50km in length. The loops between are Mountrussell 17km loop, Garrane 35 km loop and Streamhill 41 km loop.
Facilities at the trailhead include map boards, car parking, toilets, showers and bike wash facilities. On arrival, there is a secure car park with monitored CCTV cameras. There are also snacks and tea and coffee available for a reasonable price.
UK Mountain Biking: Lake District
Road cyclists and mountain bikers are spoiled for choice in the Lake District National Park. There are a range of country lanes, permitted cycleways and bridleways to suit all experience levels, and you can be sure of fantastic views along the way.
If you are looking for mountain biking routes, Whinlatter Forest and Grizedale Forest are criss-crossed with routes. These are suitable for beginners through to more challenging mountain bike routes for those with more experience. Mountain biking in the Lake District gives great routes in a small place, letting you get the most out of your visit.
Lowther Castle has cycle trails and you can hire bikes and e-bikes at Lowther, and you can see some great cycling around Windermere, including an off-road lake side trail. The Eskdale Trail is an off road signed route from Ravenglass through the Eskdale valley.
Flood damage on the Keswick to Threlkeld multi-user trail from December 2020 has now been fully repaired and is open for you to enjoy with the whole family.
The Lake District is a popular choice for people booking cycling holidays and a wide range of hotels and accommodation cater for those traveling light during a cycling tour of the area. Even if you want to stay in the same place, there are numerous different cycling routes throughout the Lake District, so you can easily find a different route for every day.
In all honesty, the Lake District is a great option if you are with your family or just want to experience a more laid back MTB experience in the UK.
Poley Mountain MTB (Canadian Option)
If you want to mimic the UK terrain but find that you cannot make it to the country, try Poley Mountain in New Brunswick, Canada. Whether mountainside, hillside, or a challenging flatland, the Poley Mountain terrain is as big as your ambitions. So when you visit, test yourself on its bike trails, singletrack, and dirt tracks.
If you’re a seasoned mountain biker, you may find you’ve met your match in New Brunswick. And if you’re still learning, you’ll find trails just right for your comfort zone.
New mountain bike trail systems have been popping up all over this province, both technical old school single-track with roots and rocks, and fast circuits. Sugarloaf Bike Park has about 30 km (19 mi.) of bike trails accessible by chair lift. There are berms, table tops, drops, step ups, and wooden features for every skill level. In Edmundston, Sentiers Madawaska Trails is also a great destination for a weekend of adventure.
Almost 60 km (37 mi.) of singletrack starts right in the city and stretches all the way to Mont Farlagne ski hill.
Looking for something a little different? The Minto trail network is built on an old coal mining site, and the trails follow the ridge lines amongst mounds of rocks and surreal emerald and blue ponds. It has steep climbs and descents that are challenging, but accessible to all levels. Poley Mountain, outside of Sussex, is a year-round destination for fat-biking and has downhill trails with chair lift access.
In the Saint John area, you’re in luck. Rockwood Park has over 40 km (25 mi.) of single-track trails. Get ready for the awesome challenge that is in the Park’s name: rock gardens, jumps, drops, berms, and roots will challenge all skill levels. Plus, enjoy a post-ride social at Lily Lake Pavilion on site or on a patio overlooking the harbor in the port city.
New Brunswick’s coastal, valley, and mountain views beg to be explored on two wheels. And with varied terrain, it’s a natural playground for all mountain bikers in any season.