Modest mountain biking
Short enough for new riders yet playful enough for grizzled veterans, these five routes make perfect day-trip fodder.
Skiddaw, Lake District
16.9km (10.5 miles)
This little gem around Skiddaw is like dipping your toe into the shallow end of what the Lakes has to offer: great views and lovely singletrack, just without the infamous macho climbs and bone-shattering descents.
Park up in the village of Threlkeld and head west on the road. Turn off right after half a mile onto a surfaced track and climb up the valley between Lonscale and Blease Fell, crossing the little stream to Lonscale Fell. Descend from here on the brilliant singletrack of Latrigg, but watch out for a narrow, techy ledge of rock above Glenderaterra Beck (see photo). Walk it if you’re in doubt, but it’s perfectly rideable with focus and commitment. Things start to level out when you hit the road at the bottom, cross the A66 and turn left; the next road will lead you back to Threlkeld.
GPS download: po.st/skiddaw
Sheeps Tor, Dartmoor
20km (12.4 miles)
Dartmoor is famous for its long, open descents and heather-topped moorland. It’s also infamous for its boggy trails, but thankfully this route stays drained in most conditions making it a great beginner’s ride.
Start in Princetown and head south on the bridleway from the village centre. It’s straight down from here, over South Hessary Tor. Turn right after 1.4 miles towards Burrator Reservoir, skirt round the south side and then climb up around Sheeps Tor to the start.
GPS download: po.st/tor
Ladybower, Peak District
17.4km (10.2 miles)
The Peak District’s rideable even when wet, and the undulating hills are perfect for new riders. Just as rewarding as nearby Jacob’s Ladder or Cut Gate, this lower Ladybower route is less strenuous.
There’s a car park beyond the dam; head north from there onto Whinstone Lee Tor. Drop down to the reservoir and skirt round it, up the other bank, over Crook Hill and descend alongside the River Ashop on a fun little trail. Then follow the contours of the reservoir home.
GPS download: po.st/ladyb
10.6km (6.6 miles)
This compact loop is all killer, no filler; you’ll either be going up or down. There are countless steep, wooded combes in the Quantocks, offering trails aplenty.
Ride up to the crossroads on the Great North Road, turn left and drop down the tree-lined singletrack into Smith’s Combe. Climb up and round, looping back to that crossroads: turn left there and right after a third of a mile, into another amazing trail along Weacombe Combe to finish.
GPS download: po.st/weacombe
Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
15.5km (9.6 miles)
The Malvern Hills deliver a rare thing in the UK — a hilltop spine of rock and loam, traced with great singletrack. It looks steep to the left and right but it’s actually a contoured flow, and the well-drained soil means it’s never hard-going or treacherous.
GPS download: po.st/malvern
Start from the car park by the Tank Quarry, in North Malvern. Head south climbing up Table Hill, and keep climbing south to the trig point. Descend along the spine, then head home on the ridge.