Enjoy car-free mountain biking

Taking a mountain bike to the trails is easy, right? Stick to our code and you too can enjoy car-free mountain biking.

>>> 20 best mountain bike trails in the UK

The railway code

Warning: may contain bitterness and sarcasm.

Watch: Would you risk taking one of these on a train?

Choose your time

Rule number one, never, ever try and take your bike on the train between the hours of 6am and midday, or 2pm and midnight. Those times are reserved for commuters and fare dodgers. The train companies appreciate this may make journeying with your bike hard, but hey, they don’t make the rules. Any suggestion that bikes take up space and cut into their profit margin is absurd.

Boarding the train

Right, now you know where you stand as the most despised of rail passengers it’s time to board. By a strange quirk of physics, people with bikes become invisible when trying to board a train. It’s not that the other passengers are pushing in front as you patiently wait, it’s just they really can’t see you. Mountain bikers, know your place.

>>> 5 free routes near Glasgow, Brighton, Cardiff, London and Leeds

Smells

If you’re lucky enough to now be inside a train with a section for bikes, welcome aboard. Don’t get too excited though, as the bike bay is really just part of the toilet carriage meaning you’ll have to listen to people do their business for the duration of the trip. Hopefully you won’t mind, at least the constant traffic of people crunching their luggage into your beautiful bike will distract you from the smell.

Upon your arrival

You’ve reached your destination, but leaving a train carriage is harder than leaving earth’s orbit. With unswerving fatalism, people will board the train before you and others can exit. Don’t panic, the muddy frame and gleaming chainring teeth will persuade people to move eventually, and out you’ll pop like the contents of an overflowing train toilet.

>>> How to practice your trail skills on the streets

Five of the best train rides in Britain

Anyways, enough of that misanthropy above. Blame the current state of Southern Rail for that one!

Here are a few routes where travelling by train makes sense and is well worth the headaches.

The Blorenge, Brecon Beacons

16km (10 miles)

A cracking big-mountain route. From Abergavenny station, head towards town and take cycle path west alongside the Usk, then beneath the A465 to Llanfoist. Take the Community Path that leads W into the Clydach Gorge (Landranger 160/SO286132).

At the Forge car park, follow lanes WSW onto the foot of Gilwern Hill (SO236140). Go S then descend E then S to the Punchbowl. Follow the canal to Llanfoist.

>>> Download the GPS route here

Glen Kinglass, Scotland

57km (35 miles)

A massive expedition that’s best saved for a good day. Take the West Highland Way N from Tyndrum (Landranger 50/NN328306) to Bridge of Orchy and take the road to the western end of Loch Tulla.

Cross Victoria Bridge then follow the path signed to Loch Etive. Cross the bridge at Ardmaddy Bay and head SW to cross Glen Noe and continue through woodland to the A85. Hard R at Taynuilt station, and a train back to Tyndrum.

>>> Download the GPS route here

Pole Bank, Long Mynd

26km (16 miles)

This is a sweet little blast that starts almost at Church Stretton station (Landranger 137/SO455935). Head up High Street and onto the ridge via Carding Mill. Follow tracks SW over Pole Bank and the road to the gliding club.

Drop down Minton Batch, take the road to Hamperley and climb to the Shropshire Way. Now head N to the car park S of Pole Cott and take the footpath (permissive BW) SE over Round Hill and down.

>>> Download the GPS route here

Wendover, Chiltern Hills

18km/12 miles

Fun singletrack within easy rail reach of London. Form the station (Landranger 165/SP065177), head south east through town and pick up the Icknield Way, which you take all the way to Little Hampden. Lanes lead south to Hampden Bottom, then west to a die-straight track past Hampden House. Back on the Icknield Way north then east to Buckmoorend, where a bridleway then lane lead north to Low Scrubs. A fun descent finishes it off.

>>> Download the Wendover GPS route

Wepham Down, South Downs

12km (14 miles)

Train access to the South Downs isn’t as easy as it looks — the main artery runs S of the hills. But Amberley is well placed and you can run E or W from here.

>>> Download the GPS route here

Head S from the station (Landranger 197/TQ025118) to North Stoke, E onto Camp Hill and S to Wepham. Continue up into Wepham Woods until you reach the lane that leads N over Blackpatch Hill and on to the South Downs Way. Head W.

  • Jameth

    Your railway code gave me plenty of chuckles this morning – you hit the nail on the head on a number of points! Thanks for the fantastic article too.

  • Bungle2010

    More people on the train doesn’t mean more profits. That’s not how it works. Train tickets are sold for a journey, not for a seat, nor for a specific train.

  • stevephipps

    If you’re going to have people standing but you also have more seats that’s more people. Anyway as this the longest I’ve ever talked about trains I’m going to go now!

  • Bungle2010

    Anyway, the number of people would be the same, with just more people standing up. But people complain about that, which is why space for bikes is kept to a minimum, in favour of seating. Nothing to do with profits for the ToC.

  • Bungle2010

    Take up more room? So? More people on the train does not equal more profit for the ToC.

  • stevephipps

    Because they take up more room than people, plus for every bike you have a passenger so because we don’t pay for bikes it’s not in their interest to allow more. I don’t know why they might only have 2 but 2 different companies told me that they provide the legal minimum of 3.
    They obviously do what they do to make money. This is why government should legislate on stuff where something helpful may not make the most money.

  • Bungle2010

    How does giving space to bikes affect profits? No it doesn’t. And down here you just put your bike by the doors. Also, I don’t think your claim about a “legal” requirement to have 3 bikes spaces is inaccurate, because Southeastern’s 375s only have 2 spaces per 4 carriages, so if the train is only 4 carriages long then that’s only two spaces – but like I said, you just put your bike by the doors. TBH Southeastern don’t even advertise their bike spaces, and they are not even marked on the exterior of the carriages, so it’s only recently that I realised that they even existed.

  • stevephipps

    Not totally wrong. Some only have the legal 3 bike spaces & if they’re used they can refuse you if you haven’t booked. On the others, you’re right, it’s pot luck!
    I think the point is book a space if you can.
    The profits thing is just the space bikes take up. Hence a lot of companies only offer the legal minimum.

  • Bungle2010

    Please explain how allowing bikes on a train “cuts profits”? Um, no it doesn’t.

    Also, the advice about always booking your bike is totally wrong. In a lot cases it is not necessary, or even possible.

  • Darren Watson

    Its Glen KINGLASS not FINGLASS