No-mountain mountain biking
Riding time is precious and limited, especially in winter. Rides that get to the point (ie the fun stuff) and pack a punch are what we’re after.
1. Doethie Valley, Carmarthen
GPS download po.st/doethie
The Doethie Valley doesn’t mess about. You pedal to the top of the valley on admittedly dull tracks but you are paid back with one long sweet hit of top quality singletrack. We’ve named it Trail Of The Year in the past and every time we ride it we’re reminded why – it just keeps the good stuff coming. It’s the kind of trail you get to the end of and think “And that wasn’t built for mountain bikes?” While the route itself is relatively low level it is in a remote area so still demands respect for conditions and provisions – last time I rode it in the height of summer, I ran out of water and gasped the last mile back to the car. The irony of it finishing at a reservoir was not lost on me.
2. Kinder Scout, The Peak District
GPS download po.st/peakdistrict
Despite the name, The Peak District has plenty of good riding without you having to bag any peaks. In fact there are only three actual mountains in the UK’s most visited National Park. This ride takes you close to the highest of these, Kinder Scout, and despite not being big in outright elevation it certainly has a big country feel.
Rocky best sums up the riding here. Big rocks, little rocks, ordered rocks and random rocks – who needs a mountain descent anyway when you have The Peak. That’s not to say the riding here is one dimensional, though. Moorland singletrack and picturesque bridleways add variety few mountains have, as well as providing a break from the rock-based battering. Despite the heavy rock content, weather and heavy use can take their toll on the trails here, so ride responsibly.
3. Lynton, Exmoor
GPS download po.st/exmoor
You don’t get much lower than sea level without attaching SPD flippers, but this route lets you dip your tyres in the sea if you fancy it. The combes and coves that make up the north of Exmoor are filled with rainforest and fun trails of the steep, rocky, rooty, twisty kind.
Unfortunately that applies for both uphills and downhills, and even though you might not be racking up height in one fell swoop you’ll have gained and lost a lot more altitude than you thought you would. As a bonus the coastal views are stunning, plus this route passes through somewhere called The Valley Of Rocks – worth riding just for the name.
In summer you can finish the ride with a dip in the Bristol channel, in winter a pot of tea and fish and chips is a more tempting option.
4. Long Mynd, Shropshire
GPS download po.st/longmynd
Mynd means mountain in Welsh, although strictly speaking this lump that straddles the English/Welsh border doesn’t quite qualify for mountain status. That said, it’s steep enough that your legs might say otherwise. At 516m Pole Bank is the highest point, and while this is a decent elevation the actual ‘good stuff’ is hidden away lower down on the flanks of the valleys. The great but annoying thing about the Mynd is the number of options for getting up and down it. You are almost goaded into riding back up for ‘just one more trail’, despite the fact that there’s no easy way to the top. It’s worth it though and if you pack an OS OL217 you’ll have more than enough options for a day’s worth of riding.
5. Borrowdale Bash, Cumbria
GPS download po.st/borrowdalebash
If you’re looking for a non-mountain ride then The Lakes might not be the most obvious place to go, but The Borrowdale Bash is a clever loop. It manages to take you around and about rather than up and over the fells. This is a ride with a real big-mountain feel thanks to its grand surroundings. Combined with some great bits of trail it’s possible to feel like you’ve done a proper day in the mountains. Sure, keeping to lower terrain means you’re more likely to bump into other trail users but it’s The Lake District, you have to really go out of your way to find true peace and quiet. Fun fact, I have a wonky nose thanks to a pair of crap tyres and a slab of wet slate on the Watendlath descent.