Short and sweet

When daylight’s in short supply try a ride that delivers maximum fun in minimum time and returns you to civilisation before sundown.

>>> 23 best mountain bike descents in the UK

Time might be tight, and keeping warm might take priority over pinning every trail, but no matter how bad the weather is, you’re only ever a quick spin away from a good mood. Move away from the turbo and check out these little loops – custom made for a quick winter workout…

Lairig Ghru, Cairngorms

29km/18 miles
Ride time? 3 hours
Why ride it? Superb sandy singletrack and well sheltered for the most part
Where to eat? The Rothiemurchus Centre, near the start
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A woodland extravaganza that includes one of the best descents in the Cairngorms. From Inverdruie (Landranger36/SH901109), head S to loop around the N of Loch Mor and on to Loch an Eileen. Keep this on your L and bear R to loop around Loch Gamhnan too. Continue due E to cross Cairngorm Club Footbridge, ignore the 1st R – you’re coming back that way – then turn R onto a wide estate road. Climb to Rothiemurchus Lodge and continue SW to t into the Lairig Ghru path. Enjoy the descent then go back for another lap, or head back to the bridge and track N to Coylumbridge.

Elan Valley, Mid Wales

20km/12 Miles
Ride time? 2-3 hours
Why ride it? Year round trails, great scenery, some fun riding.
Where to eat? The Elan Valley Visitor Centre
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It might be mountainous, and it might be remote, but there’s still plenty of winter-friendly riding in the Elan Valley – this loop’s a great example. From the Visitor Centre (Landranger 147/SN930647) take the road NE through the Elan Village then cut back sharp R to climb S. Continue climbing SW then descend to Llanerch Cawr. Take road then trail NW to the Claerwen Dam. Cut back SE on the road, then take the BW E to clamber over Rhos y Gelynnen and drop to the chapel and the bridge over Caban-coch reservoir. Take the Elan Valley trail back from here.

Lonscale Fell, Lake District

17km/10 Miles
Ride time? 2 hours
Why ride it? Year round trails, a few techie challenges and great scenery
Where to eat? The Salutation Inn, Threlkeld
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Great rocky trails and plenty of shelter make this a perfect winter route. Added to which, also feels like it really is in the fells, despite being so close to Kewsick. Start in Threlkeld (Landranger 90/NY318256) and follow the lane W past the Blencathra Centre, where it eventually becomes a track and clambers up into the spectacular Glendaterra Valley. Drop to cross the beck and enjoy the techie climb away again. This leads up to t into another trail. Head S on this and savour the exposed singletrack as it swings W around Lonscale Fell to Latrigg. Descend SW into Keswick (care needed – busy) and turn L then first L to follow the closed road through Brundholme Wood and on back to Threlkeld.

Edale, Peak District

25km/14 Miles
Ride time? 2-3 hours
Why ride it? Bomb-proof winter surfaces and awesome riding
Where to eat? Ramblers Inn in Edale
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Easy to get to, short and sharp, and totally brilliant! A winter route to rule them all. From Edale (Landranger /SK124152) take tarmac SW then S to SK113842, where a good track climbs up to Rushup Edge, missing the boggy bit. Follow this SW to the road, then the Roych track NW, to drop into Roych Clough and out again. Continue around the W flanks of Mount Famine and drop NE into Coldwell Clough. Climb E past Edale Cross to the top of Jacob’s Ladder and enjoy a belter of a descent back to Edale.

Quantock Hills, Somerset

19km/12 Miles
Ride time? 3 hours
Why ride it? Compact loop on great surfaces – loads of fun
Where to eat? The Plough at Holford
GPS download:

Few places do winter riding better than the Quantocks and this is one of our favourite short loops anywhere. From Holford (Landranger 181/ST154410), head S up Holford Combe and break E at the fork near the top to climb to the road. Take a R, then R again over Robin’s Upright Hill, then back off SW to Crowcombe Gate. Climb NW to Hurley Beacon and descend N all the way down into Hodder’s Combe. Keep L to climb back up Lady’s Edge and keep SA at the top into Weacombe. Turn L, then L to climb out via the Macmillan Way and take the ridge track N to the x-roads beneath Beacon Hill. Now head E over Longstone Hill to ST141410 and enjoy a rooty drop into Hodder’s Combe to finish.