University challenge

University life isn’t all about sweating the books, here’s our favourite universities for mountain biking too.

>>> Here’s why mountain biking makes you happy

The University of Edinburgh has just been named as the best uni in the UK for riders, ranking it number one thanks to its plentiful supply or bike storage, pro-cycling campaigns, riding clubs, bike shops, and its relatively low level of air pollution. The research didn’t take into account the amazing riding you’re within a whisker of too – the Pentland Hills is rideable right from the city, head south and you’ll be in the Tweed Valley within the hour and riding some of the world’s best natural trails. Here’s our pick of the best from Edinburgh’s city limits, and trails from the top four student towns on the list.

Edinburgh, 33.4km (20.8 miles)

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It starts with an easy track-climb to the reservoir. Call in spring or early summer and you’d think you’d just been beamed to the coast, such is the volume of the seagull colony that nests on the lake. Singletrack now takes over, and offers plenty of challenges to anyone hoping for a clean round — especially the narrow bridge that spans the gushing burn at the start. These sections never seem to last long enough, and before you know it you’re plummeting back down again, now on a wide and open grassy track, laden with bumpy log-bridges that are guaranteed to shake out the odd filling. There are a few sweet singletrack bypasses to seek out if you fancy a change from the wooden trail.

The middle-eight is a progression of narrow lanes — easy going and sure to up your average. And then it’s right back onto the rough again, this time with a long, steady pull onto the flanks of the shapely duo of West and East Kip. The climbing’s not quite over yet, but there’s only a short distance to go before gravity offers a hand once more; this time to sweep you along a grassy ridge-top path before dropping steeply through fields to the finish.

A sting in the tail is often bad news, but this one’s different — a short, sharp and very sweet singletrack wraps the whole thing up nicely.

Glasgow, 30.4km (18.9 miles)

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A hike out of town and into the hills, this ride has a bit of everything to get your going. Technical trails around the town open onto moorland grassy trails right onto the tops overlooking the city. If you get the weather right this is a peach of a day out.

Manchester, 16km (10 miles)

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Doctor’s Gate is not for the faint of heart, it’s super techie – a mixture of big rocks and then even bigger rocks you can consider yourself a really good rider to clean it all, which makes it all the more rewarding. For that reason then it gets very few riders, chances are you’ll have the place to yourself. It’s actually possible to include the more famous Cut Gate in this loop, but it makes for one monster ride that’ll tackle your mental strangth as much as your legs.

Bristol, 23.8km (14.8 miles)

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Although they’re often overshadowed by the larger, higher and more extensive Quantocks to the west, there’s great riding to be had on the Mendip hills. Just 20km south of Bristol city centre, the open expanse of Black Down hosts some little-known singletrack gems and offers stunning views from the 325m summit of South Wales, Exmoor and — on a clear day — one of the white horses in Wiltshire.