Black trails, red trails - forget it, it's the blues that see the pinnacle of trail design, old hands and young pups should all pay homage
Blue-graded mountain bike trails aren’t just there for new riders or young’uns. Although they obviously are great for beginner riders who want a great ride without the long distance or intimidating features. No, the latest breed of blues are fun even if you’re an experienced rider more used to red or black trails, or off-piste tech. With their combination of berms, rollers to double up, and flowy speed, you can have a blast whatever your level.
The trails are relatively risk-free and their progressive obstacles can be hit as fast as you like, which should guarantee a grin factor. Whether you use them as a quick warm up for your ride or a fun blast to finish it off, blue trails are always worth the extra effort.
Pwca, Cwmcarn, South Wales
Pwca is a shapeshifting sprite in Welsh mythology, which makes it the perfect name for this little imp of a trail. It’s 2.3km of descent, taking in steep-sided berms and a couple of tunnels under existing trails and making Cwmcarn a more attrative prospect for new riders.
Built by Architrail and designed by Phil Saxena, the man behind the original Cwmcarn downhill track from 2003, the new blue Pwca trail uses the first part of the Twrch trail before detouring off before things get too techie. That creates a 3.3km loop that’s easily repeatable with a 10-minute climb at the bottom, meaning you can session the short track before progressing to the tricker trails.
Blue Doon, Nevis Range, Scotland
Blue Doon is a new blue-graded downhill trail, accessed by gondola and built properly into the hill without resorting to boardwalk. It’s the longest descending blue trail in the UK, and will likely hold that title for a while to come.
The Blue Doon trail has been built by the Nevis Range trail team over the last couple of years, with spanners thrown into and removed from the works at various points by 2020’s most popular virus.
At approximately eight kilometres long and dropping a similar height to the World Cup downhill, it’s far longer than the numbers might suggest. Starting just below the Snowgoose Cafe, with options below the Puggy Line to continue along the blue-graded trails or spice things up with the myriad of other options to get you back to the car park for another lap.
Merthyr Rocks, BikePark Wales, South Wales
Merthyr Rocks is an interesting new blue trail in the mtb mecca of BikePark Wales. Ride it and you might be surprised to find it’s not red as it’s pretty techy in places – rocky, a little steeper than your average blue, and with some serious speed if you want it and if you’re prepared to double up the rollers and slabs. BikePark Wales says the Merthyr Rocks trail is 0.9km long and sits squarely as the highest blue in its pecking order and it’s been designed as an introduction to the red trails. Really though, we’d recommend it to more experienced riders too.
Dare Valley Gravity Bike Park
It’s a clunky name, but Dare Valley Gravity Family Bike Park is smooth and flowy, designed with mellow, swooping berms and comfortable gradients, it hopes to carve out a niche for itself as the best kids mountain bike park – the sort of place you could bring your kids and reasonably expect to drive away from without tears… or stitches.
Not a kid? You can still go and ride the trails, it’s designed for everyone and we loved the mix of flowy speed as much as the next 14 year old.
Minortaur, Coed Y Brenin, North Wales
The Minortaur is made up of three separate blue loops that link together to become progressively longer and more challenging. The longest of these is the Buwch Bren (Wooden Cow), a 9km golden thread that challenges riders with ski-jumps, hips and climbing turns.
While you’re there: Coed Y Brenin is packed full of trails which will probably take you multiple visits to complete. Our favourite? The MBR trail of course!
Glentress blue, Glentress, Scottish Borders
Glentress used to be the place to go for mountain biking in the UK and, although bike parks are more fashionable than trail centres at the moment, the quality of its routes remains untarnished.
Just hearing names like Berm Baby Berm, Electric Blue, Blue Velvet and Good Game can bring a smile to the face of anyone who’s tackled this rollercoaster hidden in the Scottish Borders.
While you’re there: Any visit to Glentress that doesn’t take in the red run’s Spooky Wood is wasted as far as we’re concerned.
Watch us ride Glentress in the EWS
Bodmin Beast, Cardinham Woods, Cornwall
Cornwall may not be the first place you think of when considering a ride in the UK but 1SW, a cycling project based in the South West, is hoping to change all that. Cardinham Woods is one of its most ambitious projects and the Bodmin Beast is its main trail.
There are red options on this route that are highly recommended but you won’t feel short changed by the12-kilometer blue (although Dialled in Dave is probably generously graded anyway). Plus we hear the café is an absolute stonker.
While you’re there: Check out Llanhydrock which is under 5 miles away and also has a blue trail.
Verderers Trail, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
The Forest of Dean may be more famous as a downhill venue but it also has a selection of cross-country trails to keep you amused as well. The longest trail is the Verderers blue that wiggles round 11km of forest singletrack.
The highlight has to be the final descent and with an alternative option coming soon this trail will continue to be fresh for years to come.
While you’re there: The Freeminers red route is good for a quick blast but we reckon if you can hack the Verderers then you should try out the Launchpad all-ability trail.
Terry’s Belly, Bike Park Wales, South Wales
Terry’s Belly is a phenomenal piece of trail engineering. When you’re at the top it’s a continuous 4.2km descent back to the Bike Park Wales car park – that’s more than half the length of some trails here of just pure descending.
As it’s in a bike park expect Terry’s Belly to be a bit more difficult than the other blue trails listed here but for a slightly more experienced rider it will be packed full of smile miles.
While you’re there: You really are spoiled for choice butthe other blue runs such as Willy Waver and Sixtapod should be top of your list.
Blue Scar, Afan, South Wales
Blue Scar is one of Afan’s newest trails and it’s named for the miners who used to work these hills until the 80s, for whom a nick or cut would heal with a blue tint as the coal found its way in as an accidental tattoo.
It’s a decent length for beginners, but new riders will need to take care on it as it will flow very fast indeed. The berms are huge too, and while there is a slow and low line through them they can look intimidating at first approach. It goes without saying, then, that practised riders will be able to absolutely rip.
While you’re there: Afan has a whole host of trails to keep you amused. W2 is a stone cold classic mountain biking challenge.
Quercus trail, Whinlatter Forest, The Lake District
The Quercus may be the shortest trail loop on our list but that just means the fun is packed in more tightly. There is an option to cut the trail down to 3.5km but we’d recommend seeing it through the whole way as there are some humongous berms to hit on the second half of the trail.
Compared to Whinlatter’s mountain top reds, the Quercus trail is relatively low level but think of it as an extended pumptrack with plenty of opportunity to get airbourne especially on its starting descent.
While you’re there: Whinlatter has a red run split into two medium sized red routes or you could try seeing what the rest of the Lake District has to offer.