Ride the freshest loam, the flattest tabletops and the biggest berms with new trails at Swinley Forest, BikePark Wales, Laggan Wolftrax, Dyfi Bike Park, and Fort William.
In need of inspiration to keep you riding through the winter? Looking for a new location to tick off? We’ve been out scouring the country for the best new mountain bike trails in the UK and this is what we found.
1. Laggan Wolftrax, Highlands
You can have any colour you want at Laggan, as long as it’s black. So spoke Henry Ford, and while he was talking about his latest model Ts more than a century ago he could just as easily have been referencing Laggan Wolftrax and its famously rocky, techie, black-graded trails.
Things have changed though, with a new blue-graded loop finished and ready to ride as you read these words (well hopefully, October half term in the school holidays is the goal). There are now also plans for a completely new red-graded descent, funded by a combination of local groups, riders and help from the Scottish government. And it means you can add Laggan to your next roadtrip destination, and take in some of the best mountain bike routes in Highlands.
“We set off a few years ago thinking we’d build a blue, but what we’re really doing now is completely restructuring Laggan,” explains Cristian Pizarro, in charge of the build at Laggan. “You’re going to be able to choose which bits you ride and dip in and out.”
Laggan is modernising then, and the plan is to let riders dip in and out of the existing trails by building in multiple trail splits with entry and exit points dotted across the mountain side. “At the top we’ve built a trail hub and a viewpoint,” Cristian says. “The trails converge there with lots of features and ways to do little loops. All along the trails there are ways to do loops and loop around the more technical features if you like.
“The “Howling Wolf trail is going to be split into two sections,” Cristian says. “That trail gets harder as you descend, and really you want it to be the other way round – it stays the same level of technical difficulty or gets slightly easier, otherwise people can get into trouble. The solution is to split the trail into two.”
Laggan has been talking about building a blue trail for as long as we’ve been writing about it, and while in actual fact there’s more than just black trails going on, they’re all at the top end of difficult. Or too easy, in the shape of the Green trail (OK, so it’s not all black at Laggan, just nearly all black). What’s stopped progress for so many years is, of course, money. The lack of it. Laggan has managed to move around this though by funding the new trail with help from the local community trust, with support from the Cairngorm National Park Authority and local trails association.
“It was really difficult to get to this point, there was very little appetite for just a blue mountain bike trail,” Cristian says. “But we struck an agreement with Forestry Land Scotland. The Community Trust will raise the funds and the FLS will provide a licence and the liability.”
What we’re getting then is a modern blue, built by CRC of Tarland fame. At the top you can expect your skills to be tested with rocky features, before the trail mellows out in the middle with tables and rollers. There’s going to be a new red descent too, with black optional features, and you can link that into the blue trail or vice versa if you choose, and these could well be open by October too, if the weather holds, Cristian explained.
Laggan is back and blue then, no longer the hangout of exclusively experienced riders, it hopes to bring in the middle ground and those new to the sport.
2. Dyfi Bike Park, North Wales
Last year Dyfi opened Lovely Dyfi, a swoopy roller coaster of a trail designed to flatter mortals and send pros like Rachel and Dan Atherton to the moon. For 2023 the new track is the Insta360 FlowState line, it’s more technical and faster with a single black diamond grading, but it’s of the same style, with great flow.
The FlowState line is 2km and manages to squeeze in a ton of features, with a natural rocky feel at the top and a huge rock slab, a wooden wallride, and flowy woodland singletrack. At the bottom there are enormous berms – and we do mean enormous – to keep your speed, and the line’s signature step up that definitely takes some commitment.
3. Fort William Bike Park, Highlands
Fort William now has its own bike park, including a huge pump track (second largest in Scotland, no less) and building well underway on a BMX-come-skatepark and trials area. The track is adaptive, meaning wheelchair riders can use it too. It’s been an incredible seven years in the planning and cost £500k, with the majority of funding coming from Sport Scotland, so for god’s sake ride it and get your money’s worth if you live close enough.
The park is community run and largely for the benefit of kids, with the West Highland Wheelers kids club pushing for the facility. Next up are plans to build a clubhouse and a community bike maintenance workshop.
4. Swinley Forest, South East
There are 24km of sandy singletrack in Swinley Forest, and the latest addition is a brand new section of trail called Bikini Line. Expanded out from the old Bikini Car Wash trail, it’s now 340m long and carries riders down the hill on a series of perfectly sculpted tabletops and berms.
“We wanted to make the trail that was easy to ride and rollable for everyone, but still fun for people who want to jump,” explains trail builder and skills coach Aidan Bishop from Swinley Bike Hub. They’ve hit the mark there, there was a steady stream of riders looking to drop into the new line, on bikes costing everything from £500 to £5,000.
The new Bikini Line fits better into the existing trail network too, Aidan says, sending riders straight into a trail called Berminator. Bikini has been made from the local sandy soil and shaped by Aidan and fellow builder Seb Lammas, who also built last year’s new jump trail, the Jubilee Line.
5. BikePark Wales, South Wales
BikePark Wales quietly turned 10 this summer, and while the park modestly remained pretty quiet about the achievement we certainly won’t. It’s a huge deal, BikePark wasn’t the first gravity orientated venue in the UK with an uplift service, far from it, but it transformed the UK riding scene and set a new benchmark for trails. More than any other venue, it’s influenced the trails we ride and the bikes we do it on, with jumps and high speed trails pushed to the forefront.
The latest trails there reflect the competency of both the riders at BPW and the builders too. Plans for 2024 include “new trails and some improvements to the uplift route,” Martin Astley from BPW told us. For now though Boomslang is the newest trail going, already an mbr favourite it’s probably the best trail Bikepark’s put together in its decade of building. Ride it and you’ll see why, the top has some small bermed corners to ease you up to speed, before a couple of small gaps, followed by some really steep but supportive berms that feel like you’re being buried into the trail. Then it’s a complete switch, you get a totally natural, off-camber and wide track jinking between the trees. The roots are coming out here and there, but there’s still plenty of loam to carve up if you get there quick. Helmets duly doffed to BPW then for recognising what we’re all keen to ride – fresh loam au natural.