Equally stunning alternatives

Behind every famous ride there’s a less well known but often equally stunning alternative route to tickle your fancy. Here’s four alt classics.

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1. If you liked The Brecon Beacons Gap, try… The Black Mountains

Britain’s southernmost mountain range conceals a fair few top-notch trails but it’s the Gap Road that wins most plaudits and sees the most tyre tracks too. Yet just the other side of the Usk Valley, and visible from most of the way round the accepted classic, the Black Mountains have got their own gem, and this one’s both bigger and tougher. GPS download: po.st/BlackMountains

What’s it like to ride?

Big. With around 1200m of ascent in 45km, we’re talking Scotland-style big. It’s also technical in places and absolutely never boring, with 3 huge, very different, descents and a corresponding number of lung and leg-busting climbs. Throw in some carrying, some sandy singletrack and some really quite sumptuous views and this one will definitely win a place in your top ten.

2. If you liked the Quantocks, try… The Brendon Hills

The Quantock Hills are awesome, with riding that punches way above their weight as a tiny sandstone ridge hidden away deep in Somerset. The trails are steep, fun and they go in all weathers. But that pocket-size ridgeline has its limitations, so more of the same in a new venue is always going to be popular. Enter the Brendon Hills, bigger and higher yet in many ways exactly the same. GPS download: po.st/BrendonHills

What’s it like to ride?

The climb out of Minehead onto the South West Coast path, sets the tone for a tough outing with plenty of challenge, up and down, and some great views over the ocean too. In places it’s sublime, sweet flowing singletrack that could easily have been built for bikes, and loose, rocky fun interspersed with impressive roots. The high point on Dunkery Beacon is high – 519m to be exact – and that’s a lot of descending back to sea level.

3. If you liked Torridon, try… Beinn Fhada

The Torridon descent to Achnashellac is widely regarded as the best descent in the UK. And awesome it is too. But if you like rocky tech, there are plenty of other contenders, with some, like the amazing ribbon of singletrack that dissects Gleann Choinneachain, seeing a lot less traffic. GPS download: po.st/BeinnFhada

What’s it like to ride?

It starts lovely, but then there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s hard work traversing the southern flanks of Beinn Fhada, and the clamber up to Bealach an Sgairne is no walk in the park either. But from the opening stone chutes, to the tight, tight switchbacks, to the flowing fun trail that follows, the 6-glorious-kilometre drop down the glen makes it more than worthwhile.

4. If you liked the Borrowdale Bash, try… The Duddon Valley

The Borrowdale Bash is one of those routes that has developed its own name. It’s a badge of honour like a celebrity that can go simply by his or her christian name (perhaps Rachel is becoming one?). But it’s short and contains a lot of road work. If you love your rock then check out this bigger, harder and wilder version. GPS download: po.st/DuddonValley

What’s it like to ride?

This is a tough cookie from the off. Steep climbs dominate early on and should be approached sparingly if you want to go the distance. But once you hit that first stretch of rockstrewn singletrack, you’ll have no doubts you’re in the right place. It’s big and rocky to Seathwaite and the pub, and just plain awesome down to Wallowbarrow. The next few miles are transitions really – good news for weary legs – but the final blast will have you right back on your game again and we bet you can’t clean it.