Like an unsigned band, or the quickest guy in your club that never quite made it pro, here’s five trails that have never achieved the status they deserve.
1. Conwy Mountain, North Wales
If it didn’t have to share the top left hand corner of Wales with Snowdon, Pont Scethin and the Marin (Gwydir Mawr) Trail, Conwy Mountain and that hills that tower above it would be on everybody’s hit list. Start just below the Sychnant Pass (Landranger 115/SH759768) and follow lanes SE then S then SW to St. Celynin Church. Techie descent E then road S to Rowen, where you climb W past the hostel onto open mountain. Continue W to the x-roads (SH693722) and drop NW to Nant y Felin. Lanes and the North Wales Path then lead E past Maen Esgob, N over the pass, then E to SH765777, where you loop back to finish.
2.Duddon Valley, Lake District
It’s tough trying to compete with England’s tallest peaks, not to mention Grizedale and the Walna Scar Road that are both in spitting distance too. But this delightful little rockfest in the western Lakes is as good a short techie loop as you’re gonna find in this part of the world. Some accolade. The road leads N from Duddon Bridge (Landranger 96/SD199883) deflecting off road NE then NW then N on a lane to Whistling Ground and E on BW to SD217932. BWs lead N to Seathwaite and tarmac continues N to the picnic spot at Hinning Ho. Forest roads climb S to Grassguards and a top-notch BW continues S to Wallabarrow. More lanes lead S to Millbrow, and track takes over to cross Ulpha Park. More lanes lead SE then SW and another BW hurdles the fell to the E to finish.
3. Bowderdale, Howgill Fells
Ok, so everybody has heard of this one so isn’t it already a classic? No. It seems most mtbers may have heard of it, but few have actually sampled its delights for themselves – so now’s the time. From Sedbergh (Landranger97/SD657921), take tarmac N to Howgill then follow the trail heading E. Hike-a-bike up the Calf – painful though it is – and enjoy the respite of some flat riding NE over the summit. Now descend N to Wath and take tarmac E to Ravenstonedale and S to Adamthwaite. From here. Decent tracks now take you around Ben End and S back to Sedbergh.
4. Beinn Fhada, Scotland
The descent from Bealach an Sgairne really is one of the best alpine-style Singletracks you’ll ever ride. Yet you’ll seldom see a tyre mark on it. Why? So close to Torridon and a few other big hitters, this intoxicating combination of tight switchbacks and rocky steps just gets overlooked. There’s parking at Morvich (Landranger 33/NG945202) and lanes lead E to the activity centre. Take the track SE to Glenlicht house, then E to the junction W of the Alltbeithe Hostel. Now struggle W to Loch a’ Bealaich and carry up to the col. All that’s left is pure unadulterated pleasure…
5. Lustleigh Cleave, Dartmoor
Dartmoor mtbing is totally unique and never seems to get the plaudits it deserves. This little loop, which starts at the iconic Hound Tor (Landranger 191/SX739792), serves up a short, sharp dose of everything we love about it. Keep the tor to your L and head E to Greator Rocks then N around Black Hill. Tarmac then BW loops you S of Yarner Wood, where you climb steeply into Houndtor Wood. At the top break R to Water and enjoy a steep, rocky descent that’s definitely worthy of classic status, then cross the bridge and climb to join the Nutcrackers – a super techie traverse that leads to Foxworthy. Now work your way up to Manaton and hurdle Hayne Down to finish.