They won't leave you seeing red
Britain’s best Red trails: Trail centres offer some of Britain’s best riding and where would one be without a solid Red trail. Here are the best of the best.
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.
1. Cafall Trail, Cwmcarn
The Cafall a just 15km in length but every metre – up and down – is technical and challenging for riders looking to step-up to Red-graded trails. Besides, that 15km length makes it ideal for sessioning as the trail snakes around, bringing sections of downhill into close proximity with uphills for rinse and repeat antics. And if you’re feeling really strong, two laps are doable for a hefty 1,200m of climbing and perhaps six hours in the saddle.
So what will the Cafall teach you? How to master switchback climbs, for starters, because there are a shed load of them on the big climb up. You’ll also get good at riding slippery roots, something you won’t often find on groomed trail centre runs
2. Upper and Lower Red, Laggan Wolftrax, Cairngorms
The Cairngorms may seem a long way to hunt for a red trail but the Laggan 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.
3. Bendy G, Antur Stiniog
Antur Stiniog is one of the roughest bike parks in the UK, built in the husk of an old quarry and covered in Black-grade trails armoured with stone. The newest track is loamy though, a Red-graded natural-0feeling section of singletrack going by the name of Bendigeidfran (Bendy G for short). It’s made up of half a kilometre of handmade berms that are very much focused on flow. Completely unsurfaced and dug by local volunteers, it’s packed with turns to make the most of the height. The last third is pretty steep, and by the time the uplift trailer is in sight it’s turned all rocky and rooty.
4. 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.
5. Penhydd, Afan, South Wales
The Penhydd trail at Afan Forest 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.
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.
6. The Monkey Trail, Cannock Chase, The Midlands
Cannock Chase and 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
7. 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).
8. The Altura Trail, Whinlatter Forest, The Lake District
The motto of the Whinlatter Forest 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.
9. Dragon’s Back, Coed Y Brenin, North Wales
Coed-y-Brenin‘s 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.