Since the first one opened over ten years ago trail centres have sprung up around the UK, making it easier than ever to go mountain biking.
These centres usually provide you with a bike hire/shop, a bike wash, a café and marked trails – sometimes man-made, sometimes natural. It may have taken some of the adventure element away from riding but for a guaranteed ride, usually with options for all levels of ability, planning a day’s riding from a trail centre is a great option.
Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire
Widely regarded as the best centre in England, Dalby Forest offers a mix of riding from easy beginner trails to a technical black route. One of its big draw cards is the 37km long singletrack red route – if that’s too long there are signposted shortcuts.
With bike hire, a good bike shop and a café also on site as well as a bike park and a Go Ape zip wire close by it’s a good option for families. It has also hosted the UCI Mountain Biking World Cup.
More info: www.forestry.gov.uk/dalbyforest
Bike hire: Purple Mountain – www.purplemountain.co.uk/
Part of Scotland’s first class 7stanes mountain biking network, the award winning Glentress in the Tweed valley is considered by many to be the best in the whole of Britain.
A brand new state of the art £8.5 million visitor centre is testament to its popularity. Out on the trails there is good singletrack for all levels of rider including a very tough, technical 30km black trail. There is also an excellent freeride park here for those who like tricks.
More info: www.7stanesmountainbiking.com/Home
Bike hire: Alpine Bikes Glentress – www.alpinebikes.com
Swinley Forest, Berkshire
Thanks to its easy access from London this is understandably a popular site. With mile after mile of singletrack riding and rides to suit all ability levels, this is a great place to get lost.
And this is quite likely because none of the trails are marked or mapped. But don’t let this put you off as it offers some excellent fast singletrack riding. You do need a permit to ride here (£2) and this can be purchased in advance online.
A number of events are held here during the year including TrailTrax which combines mountain biking with orienteering and cross country endurance races.
More info: www.gorrick.com/swinley
Bike hire: The Look Out - www.wellingtontrek.co.uk
Coed y Brenin, North Wales
Back in 1997 Coed y Brenin opened its doors as the first trail centre in the UK, changing the sport forever by making it more accessible and appealing to bikers looking for a guaranteed ride. It’s now the largest trail centre with seven singletrack trails covering 140km.
With a combination of man-made areas and natural trails it’s a great place for technical XC riding. Advanced riders will love the challenge of The Beast of Coed Y Brenin, a tough 38km quality technical singletrack ride.
More info: www.mbwales.com
Bike hire: Beics Brenin - www.beicsbrenin.co.uk/
Grizedale, Lake District
While there may be better locations in the Lake District for advanced riders, for beginners and intermediates this is a good choice. It’s best known for The North Face Trail, a 16km red loop including nine sections of winding singletrack, a switchback climb and some fun sections of boardwalk. But there are also five other trails to enjoy ranging from a 3km blue ride to the 22.5km Sirulian Way.
There is also bike hire, a café and a Go Ape zip wire on site.
More info: www.forestry.gov.uk/thenorthfacetrail
Bike hire: Grizedale Mountain Bikes – www.grizedalemountainbikes.co.uk
MTB @ london 2012
Mountain biking at the Games comes in the form of cross country, also referred to as XC or XCO. A true test of strength, stamina and speed, races last for around one hour and forty-five minutes and can cover distances of between 30-40km for the women.
Mountain biking is fairly new to the Olympic scene and made its Games debut in Atlanta in 1996. This year the event will take place at Hadleigh Farm in Essex on a newly constructed course built especially for the Games.
One to watch
The tricky climbs and technical descents of Hadleigh Farm are sure to provide a tough test for riders from all over the world, and one likely competitor is Annie Last.
One of GB’s best hopes, the 20-year-old has had a sensational run of success over the past few years. After joining British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme in 2009, she went on to beat Olympic Champion Sabine Spitz in Stage One of the Tour de l’Ain in only her first year as an under-23 rider.
Move forward a couple of years and Annie remains at the top – she beat Spitz again in 2011, this time in the Muttenz Swiss Cup, and is certainly a rider to watch out for this year.