Mountain Biking is Made for the Winter
As winter slowly creeps in with its vice-like grip and the flogging squalls of harsh weather descends on us once more, those with an adventurous streak will be rubbing their hands with delight.
Mountain biking is infinitely more rewarding in the winter months; with loose ground, acres of land reduced to mire and new stretches of bike trails to carve – nature transforms into one’s very own playground.
With that in mind, here are some of the chief mountain biking trails in the UK to try your hand at this winter.
1. Kinlochleven Ciaran Path – Scottish Highlands
Kicking off the list with a true test of ability, this trail is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Nestled amongst the wild and seemingly unforgiving landscape of the Scottish Highlands, this small Scottish town sits at the foothills of the Mamores mountains, which provide a breathtaking backdrop to Loch Leven. Heavy clouds often sit atop the peaks, making for a bleak but beautiful ride.
The 13.3 mile Ciaran Path trail is famed for being one of the best in the country, with steep descents intersected by technical rocky pathways, narrow turns and unforgiving climbs all certain to make for a challenging excursion.
2. Afan Forest Park – South Wales
Afan Forest Park combines a wondrous array of varying terrains, and boasts six different mountain biking trails to facilitate all levels of riders, ranging from 7km to 40km.
The forest is home to exposed single-track paths carved from the ancient hillside, and has built a reputation as one of the fastest growing areas for biking leisure in the UK, equipped with cafes and bike parks to create a family friendly space.
If you are looking for a sterner test, the White’s Level and Blade Trails have some of the most technical sections at Afan Forest Park. Starting on challenging single-track climbs out of Glyncorrwg, they both flow in a thrilling combination of rock drops, step sections, berms and traverses – Whites Level also has an optional black run descent section for the more skilful riders.
3. Cannock Chase
Located between Stafford and Wolverhampton, you will find a mountain biking paradise.
Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has its own weekly team of volunteers that keep the trails in pristine condition even through the winter months. There are two bike trails; the 7-mile Follow The Dog, and the 14-mile Monkey Trail. Both promise a meandering route amongst towering pine forests and luscious heathland. For the latter expect flowing single-track, medium berms, step ups, step downs, rock gardens, boardwalks, rollers, jumps and drop offs.
The Chase offers a range of easier routes suitable for families and less experienced riders, or those on hybrids.
4. The Dark Peak – Peak District
Some of the wildest and most remote moorlands can be found in the Peak District, and the Dark Peak area is characterised by the heather clad gritstone plateaus with extensive blanket peat, and dramatic edges and escarpments.
While the Peak District is essentially one large mountain biking playground, the 70km Dark Peak route explores the ruggedness of the northern part of the National Park, taking in rocky tracks, sleepy hamlets and stooping valleys along the way.
There are more than two dozen different trails to embark on from this particular area, including a brilliant 17.5 mile route from Hayfield to Jacob’s Ladder, which takes riders over the imposing Mam Tor.
There are few places more atmospheric during the winter months, with variable weather conditions giving way to low hanging cloud and bleak, largely untouched swathes of moorland setting the mood for a typically English bike ride.