Even though it’s still snowing in the Alps, my last turns on snow seem like an eternity ago. Since hanging my snowboard up for the summer, I’ve turned to the mountain bike to get my adrenaline fix.
I’m lucky enough to live within easy reach of Glentress so head up there whenever possible. It’s fair to say that the frequency of outings has been directly proportional to an improvement in weather and increase in daylight hours, although I did earn my stripes on the mud chutes earlier in the year.
As I suspect is the case with many visitors to Glentress, my absolute favourite stretch of singletrack there is Spooky Wood. So, after the Cardle Hill climb with its log skinnies, and a few laps of the jumps above the Buzzard’s Nest car park we tend to head straight up there. The final climb is pretty steep but totally worth it when you reach the top and are met with stunning views of the Tweed Valley and the prospect of an awesome 1.5km descent with berms, jumps a rock drops aplenty.
The rest of the red descent is also great fun, particularly the lower stretches (Pie Run and Magic Mushroom) where there are some narrow bridges and north shore sections thrown into the mix, as well as plenty of exposed roots to negotiate.
After a steep but brief final climb up Sair Fecht and a short stretch of road it’s fun to just blast down the blue back to the Peel car park, but if you want more of a technical final decent, you can opt for the red or black.
I haven’t done the whole black route since my baptism of fire on my first visit to Glentress last summer, as at 29km, it’s considerably longer than any of the other routes and requires a good few hours, but I’ll definitely do it again soon.
Just a few miles further on from Glentress (coming from Edinburgh) is another of the 7 Stanes, Innerleithen, which is famed for having some of the best downhill trails in the UK. We went there a few weeks ago but decided to leave the downhill trails to all the kids kitted out in head to toe padding and full face helmets, and did the red XC trail instead.
Although the 19km trail is only one kilometer longer than the full red route at Glentress, it’s quite a lot harder, with a pretty grueling climb to the top that includes some steep and technical sections. When you eventually emerge from the forest, you’re rewarded with stunning views and a decrease in gradient as you wind along a seemingly endless track through the heather to the very welcome sight of the cairn at the summit of Minch Moor. After that it’s pretty much downhill all the way. It’s a fun and varied descent, which includes everything from swooping berms, jump sections and challenging rock drops, to stretches of narrow Enduro trail.
There are some pretty technical parts, including the option to dip into some black sections, but there are always easier alternatives if you don’t feel up to the gnarly stuff. I bottled some that I could have done and sent myself off ones that I really shouldn’t, so it’ll be good to do it again now that I know the route. The best part is probably the final descent at Cadon Bank, which is a 2km stretch packed with rollers, jumps and rock drops. Some of the drops are pretty hefty (beware the 4ft one near the top and another biggie near the bottom!) but you can always take the easier line.
At the moment I still prefer the more “leisurely” red route at Glentress, which feels a bit more theme park than army assault course, but some of the more experienced riders in our group rated the Innerleithen XC above anything at Glentress.
Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be able to take better advantage of the more challenging terrain at Innerleithen and ride it with a bit more flair, but in the meantime I intend to hone my skills in the fantastic and familiar surroundings of Glentress, and visit a few more of the UK’s top mountain biking destinations.
Over to you…
Where’s your favourite place to go mountain biking?