How to find a trail centre, what to expect, what to bring and what’s the best kind of bike to ride


Mountain bike trail centres are brilliant facilities, whether you’re just getting into mountain biking, are looking to develop your skills, or just want a fun day out on graded trails. Dotted all over the country, the colour-coded trails make it easy to find the right level trail for your skill-set, and mean you can concentrate on having a great day out. 

How to find your local trail centre

Trail centres will usually have parking and a waymarked trail network. Bigger ones, such as the Forest of Dean Mountain Bike Centre, have a cafe, bike hire and more

There are trails centres all over the country, so there’s bound to be one near you. If you’re looking for your nearest one, a good place to start is online at mbr where we’ve got an extensive list of trail centres with all the information you need such as how to find them, what facilities they have and what the trails are like. 

Use our interactive map to locate your local mountain bike trail centre, or identify new locations to ride and explore. 

What facilities do trail centres have

Trail centres have trails built specifically for mountain bikers, with signposts to help you navigate

Since trail centres vary vastly in size, location and remoteness, there’s a lot of variety in the kinds of facilities you can find at each one. 

At the smallest, you may just find a car park, a board that shows a map of the trails, and the way-marked and colour-graded trails themselves. 

The bigger trail centres, often located on Forestry land, will often also have a cafe, toilet facilities, and sometimes also a bike shop where you can pick up any essentials you’ve forgotten plus a skills area where you can warm up before hitting the trails. Many of the bigger trail centres also offer bike hire. 

What to bring with you

Man riding hardtail Cube mountain bike

You’ll need a bike, but lots of centres have hire available if you don’t own one

You’ve located your nearest trail centre, now all you need to do is get your kit together and get riding. 

Mountain bike

As mentioned, the bigger trail centres often have mountain bike hire available, so if you’re just dipping your toes into the world of mountain biking, you don’t need to splurge on a bike straight off. 


Photo of a collection of full-face and shell helmets on an orange and green backround

A good helmet is absolutely essential

If you do already have a bike, and it’s in good working order, then the next most important thing to bring is a decent mountain bike helmet. Riding off-road means the chances of falling off are much higher, so helmets are essential for MTB. If you’re looking for our recommendations from the ones we’ve tried and tested, check out our guide to the best mountain bike helmets. 

Puncture repair spares

how to repair a puncture

Make sure you have what you need to fix a puncture

It’s always good to be prepared! So you should always carry a spare inner tube, pump, tyre levers and anything else you need in case you get a puncture you need to fix. If you’re running tubeless, then bring tubeless plugs. 


Mountain biking is thirsty work so make sure you bring at least one bottle of water out with you – if it’s hot or the trail you’ve chosen is long, you may want to bring more. You can either carry this in water bottles attached via bottle cages on your bike, or in a water reservoir with a hose that fits in a bag or bum bag. These are often called hydration packs


Getting hungry and running out of energy is no fun at all, so make sure you’ve got some snacks with you. Flapjacks are the classic choice, as the combination of oats and sugar provides both quick release and delayed release energy. 

Multitool and quicklink

Photo of a Cube bike multitool on a white background

A multitool is a compact and convenient way of carrying essentials

These little compact sets are perfectly pocket-sized and, depending on which one you go for, will have a range of elements like allen keys which mean you can make mid-ride adjustments or fix mechanical mishaps. The quicklink is a handy spare you can use to fix a snapped chain, so you aren’t faced with a long walk back to the trailhead. 

Backpack or bum bag

You’ll need to carry all of this kit, and you don’t want it all in your pockets, so bung it all in either a backpack or bum bag. If you’re going for a backpack, choose one that has straps across the chest to stop the shoulder straps slipping off when you ride. 

Mobile phone

You’ll want to take pictures of your ride, and you’re phone is obviously perfect for this. You might also want to track or record your ride using an app like Strave so you know where you’ve been and how long it took you, which is great for monitoring progress. But most importantly, having a phone on you is important in case you’re ever in the unfortunate situation where you need to call for help. 

What to do in an emergency

We hope this never happens, but in case it does, the first thing you need to do is call for help. Most trail centres will have marker posts along the route. These don’t just tell you where to go; they’re also numbered and may have coordinates on them too, which will make it easier for you to tell people where you are. 

We’re not medics, so we’re not going to give you advice on what to do if you encounter someone in an emergency situation, but we would recommend calling a professional, and we’d also suggest it’s always worth doing a dedicated first aid course. 

How to choose the right trail

Here’s a map from Bike Park Wales showing the different trails graded by colour

If you look at a trail centre map, you’ll probably notice that the trails are graded by colour. Green is the easiest, working up to the Black trails. 

When turning up to a trail centre for the first time, we’d recommend erring on the side of caution and start off by riding a trail grade below what you’d usually ride to get a feel for a place. A blue in one trail centre isn’t necessarily the same as a blue elsewhere, plus it also takes a little while to warm up into riding. Once you feel more confident, move up a grade. 

Also, it’s important to note that all trail centres are one way, so make sure you read the signs and always follow the direction of traffic. 

We’d also suggest that if you stop, stand off to the side of the trail, and try not to block the entrance or exits of trails. 

Green mountain bike trails

Green trails are the easiest. They’re aimed at complete beginners, are mainly flat, and won’t have any technical features or very small ones. These are the best place to start, and they’re brilliant for kids too. 

Blue mountain bike trails

Close up photo of legs of man riding Cube mountain bike

Blue trails are perfect for developing your mountain biking skills

This is the next level up from Green, and as you’d expect they’re a bit harder. They’re also often absolutely brilliant fun! These may be longer, or have more elevation (which means more climbing), and/or have more technical features, but these will all be ‘roll-able’ which means you don’t need any special skills to ride over them. 

Red mountain bike trails

These are classed as intermediate trails, and this is where more experienced mountain bikers ride. These will usually be longer and have more elevation, and will have technical features that require calculated speed, precision and some technical skills to negotiate. 

Black mountain bike trails

These are expert-level trails for expert riders, and will often feature very steep sections of trail and large features that require real skill and experience to clear. 

What kind of bike can you ride at a trail centre?

Cube hardtail mountain bike

A hardtail mountain bike like this is ideal for most trail centre trails

This is a whole topic in itself, and will mostly depend on your skill level and where you’re planning to ride, but if you’re looking for a good beginner mountain bike then a hardtail is a great choice. 

Hardtail mountain bikes only have suspension at the front, and no rear suspension, hence the name. They’re easier to maintain than full-suspension bikes, and often come with better components for the price compared to them too. They’ll usually be lighter so less work to get moving, and better suited to Green and Blue trails where suspension isn’t really necessary anyway. 

One great example is the Cube Attention SL. It has great quality RockShox suspension forks with 100mm of travel, which can also be ‘locked out’ meaning the bike won’t bob up and down when you’re on a smoother section of trail. 

The gears are from Shimano, with a single chainring at the front and a large cassette at the back. This gives you a great range of gears, perfect for both making steep climbs feel easy and to give you a nice lick of speed on fast sections of trail. 

Man riding Cube hardtail mountain bike

Sturdy, easy to repair, and lots of fun to ride

Geometry, or the various angles and distances on a bike, is a whole complicated subject in itself, but suffice it to say that the Cube Attention SL has relatively modern hardtail geometry that’s designed to make it feel stable and confidence-inspiring on the trails. 

It has hydraulic disc brakes that provide smooth, powerful braking that work really well even in wet, muddy conditions. And the flat disc mount integrates seamlessly with a kickstand mount if you want to stand it up, plus integrated mounting points for Cube’s ACID mudguards and carrier rack. 

And finally, the Schwalbe tyres on the Attention SL are fairly wide, at 2.25 inches, which means they’ll give you plenty of grip over a rough trail surface. 

Get out and ride!

You’ve found where to ride, you’ve got your kit together, and the ideal bike, so the next step is to just enjoy it. The more you ride, the better you’ll get. Try different trails, visit different trail centres, and above all, have fun.