Mountain biking is booming, and the demand for new and bigger riding spots is stronger than ever – step forward the Rother Valley, Sheffield
Under the radar in South Yorkshire, one of Britain’s biggest mountain bike clubs has grown from scratch out of a group of Facebook mates, and now boasts a brand-new trail, council backing and now Steve Peat as a patron. Not bad for a club less than a decade old.
It’s called Rother Valley Riders and is home to hundreds of bikers local to the same-name Country Park where a brand-new trail now complements the existing 7km of sanctioned singletrack. With Rotherham council and a local MP onboard, plus a few grand from memberships and donations, the club enlisted top trailbuilders Biketrack (based a stone’s throw away) to lay down 27 berms and create a super-fast flow trail. With professionally built corners, rollers, drainage and small jumps, the new 650-metre long Digger’s trail completely ramps up the quality and all-season durability, and is the first piece in the puzzle of plans to resurface and redesign other trails threading down the Country Park’s hillsides.
Kicking off in a tightly-wooded copse of young trees with a constant flow of perfectly-shaped turns and rollers, Digger’s briefly breaks out into the open with big views down to the Rother Valley Lake below. The lower section becomes significantly steeper and faster, to the point where more skilled riders can seriously test tyre grip limits leaning into linked, steeply banked berms. The very quickest do the whole trail in a fraction under a minute, but since it’s suitable for all levels at slower speeds, most visitors will likely take almost double that.
An adjacent fire-road pedal takes you back to the top, where multiple alternative trail options start opposite and offer a mixture of more DH-style bucket berms and small jumps to mellower, twisty and flowing singletrack.
Two main players in the Rother Valley Riders are Nick Howarth and Matt Johnson. Park ranger Nick helped build the very first official trail by hand with rakes and loppers, which eventually led to community dig days and sowed the first seeds for the club. A couple of years later, charging subs raised extra cash to pay for surfacing and mini diggers and started the journey to where it is today. Forced into action by a huge boom in rider numbers in lockdown, Matt got the latest trail work going.
“It’s been fantastic going from the slim chance of seeing a fellow club member or riders on full-suspension bikes, to literally queuing at the start on busy days bar-to-bar with school kids, or dads on old bikes dragged out of the garage,” Matt says.
It’s a pure grassroots success story in how local partnerships can grow if keen and savvy bikers get organised, and fair play to Rother Valley Riders and everyone involved. With a PayPal QR code to donate and support at the trailhead and phase two plans lining up more trails in an adjacent wood, there’s every chance this little corner of South Yorkshire will continue to thrive for many years to come.
Rother Valley is where it all started for Peaty
Rother Valley is significant as an original local mountain bike destination, and the place Steve Peat did his first ever mountain bike race back in 1991. Peaty joined the Rother Valley Riders to open the new trail, which uses the exact same hillside he raced on all those years ago – in those days the fire-road climb was the descent, though, and on fully rigid XC bikes it must have been brutal.
“I think it was back in about 1990 I joined a local club, Beighton All Terrain Squad (BATS) and entered my first ever XC race here as a Junior in the Novice category,” Peaty says. “I ended up winning and that was that, I’d got the bug that kicked off all those years of racing and my career. It’s great to be back after all this time and, as usual, it’s awesome what Biketrack has built.
“The gradient’s a fair bit steeper than your average blue flow trail, so you can get some serious speed up and it’s more a case of perfectly timing turns and braking points, rather than trying to find extra pace like many less-steep flow trails. It’s great how in-the-country it feels too, considering how close we are to Sheffield and Rotherham.”