They won't leave you seeing red
A red route is any trail centre’s bread and butter. It will almost certainly be the most used trail by experienced mountain bikers and will draw cyclists from all over the country.
That’s not to say making a red trail is easy though. It has to find a balance between being technically testing and fun so that people will want to come back and ride it time and again.
Here are Britain’s best red trails that manage to do just that:
The 8, Gisburn Forest, Lancashire
Gisburn Forest lies on the Eastern edge of the forest of Bowland. Much like Wolftrax, The 8 is a loop that can be cut in half but we recommend doing the full loop.
It features a good mix of wide machine made trails, narrow volunteer built trails and some natural features too. Keep an eye out for Hully Gully, it’s graded as a black option but no visit to Gisburn would really be complete without sampling its humongous berms.
While you’re there: Test your jumping skills on the Hope Line or the Leap of Faith.
Upper and Lower Red, Laggan Wolftrax, Cairngorms
The Cairngorms may seem a long way to hunt for a red trail but the Wolftrax delivers pack of near-perfect trails. The red trail can be split into two but as you’ve travelled all that way you may as well do all of it.
The Wolftrax trails are renowned for having bite and the red is no exception – if you go into it expecting a casual ride you’ll be in for a shock. The highlight is surely the commitment-testing Air’s Rock but the whole route will be a technical test for your riding skills.
While you’re there: Have a play in the bike park or really test your skills on the black route
Penhydd, Afan, South Wales
The Penhydd trail at Afan should have been renamed the Phoenix. After a three and a half years hiatus, it has risen from the sawdust of the felled trees that forced its closure, rebuilt by Rowan Sorrell, who has preserved the best of the old and brought in something new too.
>>> Click here for our complete guide to Afan
The Penhydd is where the trail centre story began for South Wales. The first purpose-built trail stretching up the steep sides of the Afan Valley, it inspired a generation of riders and new trails like White’s Level and Skyline.
The final descent is undulating natural terrain tracked with fast berms and rolling chutes and drops. There’s nothing rough here, but it’s so fast it’s really challenging to hold your speed and the line.
While you’re there: You can’t beat challenging yourself on the legendary W2
The Monkey Trail, Cannock Chase, The Midlands
The Monkey Trail starts at the end of the first sustained descent of Follow the Dog and is easily spotted due to the HUGE signs. The descents are what sets the Monkey Trail apart from most English trails and what will keep progressive trail riders coming back for more. The final three are among the most varied we’ve ridden in the UK and should provide gravity addicts of all tastes with the fix to get them buzzing.
Key to the Monkey’s character is a distinct trail surface. The ‘rumble strip’ pebble-strewn aggregate mix can sap rolling speed and prove slippery in all conditions — polished and dusty in the dry, greasy in the wet. Dropping tyre pressures a tad improves grip and momentum over the small bobbles
While you’re there: There are some semi-official downhill trails at Stile Cop if you want to test your skills
Innerleithen XC, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Innerleithen’s trail offerings may often be overlooked in favour of Glentress’ but its red XC route has been slowly winning fans for years. The trail is a very simple all-the-way-up-then-all-the-way-down style ride but don’t let the climb put you off, the descent is worth it.
The route is definitely harder than those at Glentress but there are plenty of rewards to be found. Be ready for Caddon Bank that is shared with one of the downhill trails (although all the bigger obstacles have alternate lines).
Watch us race the EWS at Innerleithen
While you’re there: Pop down the road and take in all that Glentress has to offer.
The Altura Trail, Whinlatter Forest, The Lake District
The motto of the Altura trail is: “puts the mountain back in mountain biking” and it’s true, this is the only opportunity you have to ride your bike in one of England’s mountain forests.
You feel it in the ride as well, although some of the climbing sections (especially the fireroad “slog”) are real testers on your legs, the descents seem to go on and on. The most memorable section of singletrack is final switchback descent on the North loop that has your back wheel skittering dangerously close to the precipitous edge of the trail.
While you’re there: Make sure you explore the surrounding area for great rides like the Borrowdale Bash
Dragon’s Back, Coed Y Brenin, North Wales
The Dragon’s Back is a classic XC trail that has really stood the test of time. It’s 31 km long and at times can have a real ‘out-there’ feel so make sure you’re well prepared for a whole day’s riding.
The singletrack is tight and old-school but you can still find flow on sections like Dreamtime and Adam’s Family.
While you’re there: If you still have any legs try the other trails Coed Y Brenin has to offer.