Roving snapper Sim Mainey picks his most potent doses of pedalling Prozac to help you deal with the tail end of this seemingly endless winter…
1. Howgills, 37km
The first time I rode in the Howgills was with mbr web editor Benji. He kept referring to it as the Howling Howgills, which I thought was just some neat alliteration. It turns out it was more a statement of fact. Never before have I been so glad to have a Buff to cover my ears from the wind. The first grassy climb out of Sedbergh didn’t exactly endear the Howgills to me either, but once we dropped into the Bowderdale valley I got it. Beautifully isolated singletrack that just went on and on, finishing with tea and crumpets in Ravenstonedale. The return leg wasn’t as dramatic but that hardly mattered, I was dreaming about that singletrack.
2. Yorkshire Dales, 34km
Big landscapes and big skies — the Yorkshire Dales is the obvious place to go for big rides. Exactly how big is up to you, and while this ride is ambitiously long, it runs as a figure of eight so there’s the option to duck out half way round – although you’ll be missing the best bit. Plus, can you really call yourself a mountain biker if you’ve not been on top of the Dales pedalling and cursing into a brutal headwind? Post-ride cake at Dales Bike centre is obligatory and likely much needed.
3. Jacob’s Ladder, Peak District, 28km
Whether The Peak District’s infamous Jacob’s Ladder should be ridden as a climb or a descent will depend on your tolerance for – and enjoyment of – lactic acid build up. Even if, like me, you prefer to tackle it as a downhill there are plenty of other climbs on the loop to test your legs. This is classic Peaks riding with lots of chunky rock, stunning views and the potential for the weather to batter you as much as the trails. For those with e-assistance, try riding it one way and then the other.
4. Pont Scethin, North Wales, 32km
Barmouth and the Welsh Riviera – the place to come for sun, sea and spaceports (yup, really). Starting by the sea before heading inland and into some of the quieter parts of Snowdonia, this ride takes in some big vistas over the Mawddach Estuary towards Cadair Idris, skirts Coed y Brenin and drops you back down to the coast where fish and chips, ice cream and arcades await. It’s not the most technical of riding, but it has a real out-there feel, making it a perfect pairing with CyB for a full weekend’s worth of riding.
5. Hound Tor, Dartmoor, 29.96km (18.6miles)
Mixing hills, dales, woodland and moorland, Dartmoor is the complete package, and the riding is as diverse as the weather, which seems to change every 10 minutes. Fog and bog can make navigation tricky in parts, but there are plenty of landmarks, like the hulking Hound Tor, to see you right. Old sunken drovers roads and woodland trails round out the full set of trail types and mean you’re never likely to get bored. Being Devon a cream tea is easy to come across, just make sure you put your cream and jam on in the right order.