Back in black
A black trail should be the ultimate test of man and machine. It’s the hardest cross country grade we have so it should be long, wild and technically demanding. Most trail centres will simply bolt-on some black sections to what is basically a red run but we think a a true black run should stand in its own right.
Britain is not blessed with a wealth of black trails as the sheer process of building one is so difficult, but there are some gems to be found if you look hard enough. If you want to really test yourself here are Britain’s best black trails:
Black Craigs, Kirroughtree, Scottish Borders
Kirroughtree is part of the 7 Stanes family that includes Glentress and Innerleithen although its westerly location keeps it quieter than the more popular sites.
The highlight of the Kirroughtree’s Black Craigs must be the McMoab section, a Scottish tribute to Utah’s famous trail haven. Instead of sandstone though, the McMoab presents you with a granite monolith that is a very difficult to clean without a dab. The section climaxes in the Chute, a sheer rock face that needs full commitment to hit.
While you’re there: Try the red Twister trail or head to the nearby Glentrool
Black Wildcat, Golspie, Scottish Highlands
The Wildcat trails start in the centre of the coastal town of Golspie and take you straight up into the barren Highlands.
When you eventually reach the top of Ben Bhraggie you’re faced with stunning views over the North Sea and over 1,200ft of descending back to sea level and every single inch of it is a gem. The trail is rocky, natural and feels frankly epic. You’ll roll in Golspie constantly looking over your shoulder and wishing you were back up at the top again.
While you’re there: Hopefully Golspie will have whetted your appetite for natural riding, get out there and explore
Llandegla, North Wales
We’ve had a lot of complaints that Llandegla wasn’t featured in our best blue or red trails and that’s because its crowning glory is the black. This takes in all the best bits of the red and blue and adds in the B-Line and the famous boardwalk drop.
It’s worth noting that Llandegla’s black trails aren’t the most demanding you’ll come across, but that doesn’t stop them being fun. The speed you can gain is flattering and you can easily scare yourself as you reach the bottom of a section and wonder how you got down it so fast.
While you’re there: A post-ride muck about in the skills area is a must
The Raven, Brechfa, South Wales
Brechfa may be nestled deep in west Wales but the black-graded Raven trail should be worth the journey and a big plus is that it doesn’t draw the crowds that its more easterly cousins do.
There’s an awful lot of climbing at Brechfa but The Raven rewards you on the descents. They flit between swoopy, flowing singletrack and technical challenges, with some jumps that wouldn’t be out of place in a bike park.
While you’re there: Brechfa also has a red route from the Abergorlech car park
Warren Boulder, Stainburn, Yorkshire
Stainburn wears its ‘Britain’s hardest trail’ medallion with the pride of a grizzled war veteran. If you want cheap, flow-induced highs you may as well head elsewhere, Stainurn isn’t the trail centre for you.
Instead it’s at true techy test on both the climbs and the descents and you will almost certainly have to session some sections until you are able to clean them. It may not be long but multiple laps will almost certainly make you a better bike handler at the end of the day
While you’re there: There are two other fiendish Stainburn trails to try or Norwood edge over the road.
MBR, Coed y Brenin, North Wales
It’s 13 years since our own MBR trail at Coed y Brenin was opened. The trail may have looked smooth and easy back in the day but now it is dark and close, a technical attack on the rider closer to riding nearby Snowdon or Cadar Idris than any trail centre.
All the trails here have been changed, either by man-made interference or nature, since Coed y Brenin first became a riding destination in the early 90s but the MBR remains the best due to its great old-school rocks blended with new-school flow and berms
While you’re there: There are a whole host of other trails to check out including two more blacks
W2, Afan, South Wales
If you really want to test your mettle then the W2 is a signposted linking of Y Wal and White’s Level, combining both with linking fire roads to offer a huge 44km trail with nearly 1,000m of climbing.
It can be started from either the Afan or Glyncorrwg centre, and you can use the other base as a mid-ride food and drink break. This trail earns its black grade through the combined challenge of the two reds, so if you’re up to those, and you’re confident of your fitness, you’ll be just fine.
While you’re there: If you have any legs left treat yourself with a play in the bike park