Belfast biking

I’m 14 and live near Belfast in Northern Ireland. I’m a complete novice at mountain biking but bought a Specialized Rockhopper Pro in January and I’m keen to learn. The problem is, there aren’t too many trails around here where I can practice. Can you suggest anywhere close to me that I could ride? After all, Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. I’ve wanted to learn for such a long time, but basically at the minute I’m crap. Please help me!
Gordon McCracken

Wish we could Gordon, but some things are beyond even our powers. Basically, there’s little legal mountain biking in the province other than some very easy singletrack in Craigavon Park, and a limited amount of volunteer built stuff in Belvoir (pronounced Beaver) Forest in Belfast. Our investigations did uncover a fair few unsanctioned user-built trails in Forest Service forests such as Tollymore, Castlewellan and Rosstrevor in County Down and in Gortin Forest near Omah, but it seems that these aren’t legal so it doesn’t really help you. It may be worth getting in touch with the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) on, as this is the organisation responsible for promoting activities like mountain biking. Also check out, which will keep you up to date on progress being made.

Pennine Path Problems

I am trying to suss out a route starting just off the M62 near Moss Moor. There is a car park at SD983143 and a collection of bridleways that look like they’d go together to make a good loop. The problem is that I’d like to use the Pennine Way to get back to the car park at the end and can’t work out whether it’s legal or not. It is identified on the OS map as a footpath, which I know I shouldn’t ride, but it has a green diamond (lozenge) over the top, which the key suggests means it is a national/recreational long distance trail. Does this make it legal? Or is it still a footpath? I have rung Ordnance Survey Customer Service but they couldn’t answer my question and I have looked on the web, but that has shed no light. What do you think?
Rich, Manchester

Sadly, this section of the Pennine Way is a footpath and the designation of national or recreational trail status won’t alter this. It would be possible to walk your bike on this section, although it’s quite long so I guess that wouldn’t help much. The only other way you could legally ride it would be to ask permission from the landowner, who sadly, will probably be hard to track down.
If you have this sort of query in the future, you’re best off getting in touch with your County Council, which should have a rights of way officer, who will answer any of your questions from what’s known as the ‘Definitive Map’ of the area.

Getting started

I just bought myself my first bike since I was 13, with the intention of trying some XC Trail riding. I picked up a GT Avalanche Pro, a helmet and some gloves and now I’m ready to go! All I need is somewhere to ride. Obviously, I’m going to be at beginner level to start with so I don’t want to be riding anything stupid, but I’m in good shape and I’ve got lots of enthusiasm. Can you suggest any good rides around Aberdeen or Aviemore?
Jamie, email

You certainly live in a good area for mountain biking, although there’s probably not quite so much at beginner level. We’ve printed a few routes in and around Aviemore in the past, the last one a top blast around Rothiemurchus Forest in Jan 2007 that would almost certainly suit. We’d also recommend a great little Scottish Guidebook co-written by our very own Scottish correspondent Macca: Bike Scotland Trails Guide by Andy McCandlish and Richard Moore (Pocket Mountains Limited). Finally, pop into the excellent Bothy Bikes on the outskirts of Aviemore (tel 01479 810111, who are a great source of local information, and you’re bound to need spares, maps and a bit more gear as you go along.

Canaries riding

Do you know whether the Canaries are worth going to for some sun and MTB’ing in the winter? If so, which island is best and which resort? We prefer quiet areas — we’re a bit too old for wild partying!
Lillian, email

Are the Canary Islands worth going to for some winter sun and mtb’ing? Where you been girl? They certainly are. As to which is best, that’s a bit like how long’s a piece of string? Each island, even each resort has its own character. Tenerife’s probably the most developed of the islands so it stands to reason that the infrastructure’s good and it’s easy to get to; but some of the smaller islands like La Gomera and La Palma, have plenty to offer too. Then there’s Fuerteventura, which due to its huge popularity as a wind/kitesurf destination, has some well-developed trails too. We’ve heard good stuff about Lava Trax, who operate out of Los Chritianos, on the south coast of Tenerife, but there are many more companies that head that way; just check out our classifieds for some good deals and start rubbing in the sun cream.