One of those places that was just made for mountain biking.
Cleeve Common is one of those places that was just made for mountain biking. It’s not exactly lofty — rising to just over 300m at its highest point — but what it lacks in altitude, it more than makes up for in attitude, with some seriously good, legal trails criss-crossing its mainly grassy top. It also stands guard over the Georgian Cotswold town of Cheltenham, offering wonderful views right across the Severn Vale to the hills of South Wales.
This route makes a fairly lengthy tour of the area. It’s mainly classic Cotswold going — a mixture of stony bridleways and the odd muddy field-edge or forest trail — and although it looks like a long route on paper, it’s the kind of ride that slips by at quite a pace, with little in the way of difficulties to drag down the average. Well, until the final stretch anyway.
The opening climb’s a toughie, on a surface that drains well but has seen better days. Once up, you stay up for a while, so you can certainly afford to attack it with some gusto. There are some mixed trails to follow, including one memorable rough and rubbly descent just before you reach Brockhampton. From here, it’s upwards again, where the action really begins.
The first drop’s a peach, and the views over Cheltenham really add to the sense of occasion. Then there’s some great singletrack before a steep climb up onto the common. A long traverse takes over, and then a lovely short, sharp descent with a few rocky steps to test the mettle. It undulates a bit from here, and the surface changes with almost every turn of the cranks. But you’re still a long way above your starting point, and the final drop to Winchcombe definitely doesn’t disappoint.