Mountain biking is an incredibly popular extreme sport throughout much of the world, including the United Kingdom. The rugged terrain of Great Britain, Scotland and Wales offers exhilarating challenges for mountain bikers of all ages and experience levels. The UK’s mountain biking routes also provide amazing, scenic views that simply aren’t accessible from the paved streets.
Hitting the Trails
Berkshire’s Swinley Forest offers a beautiful, well-maintained assortment of trails; many are appropriate for beginners who aren’t yet ready to tackle major hills. For a rougher, more technical challenge, many mountain bikers turn to the North Face Trail at Grizedale, in Cumbria. There are over 16 kilometres of trails that offer majestic views; many of the trails offer moderate technical challenges and for this reason are popular with mountain bikers of intermediate skill.
The most beloved and highly regarded mountain biking destination in the entire United Kingdom is Glentress, Scotland. Glentress is packed with over 80 kilometres of mountain biking routes appropriate for riders at all skill levels. The “green routes” are simple and short. More experienced bikers, however, can test their skills on the elite “black routes” that should only be attempted by serious, experienced and well-trained athletes. Adrenaline junkies also frequent the Glentress Freeride Park, which features three “orange routes”. These are the most extreme routes in the Glentress Complex and are rife with jumps, steep inclines, step-ups and tabletops.
Off the Beaten Path
Mountain bikers who want to avoid large crowds and busy trails often head to Kirroughtree in Southern Scotland. Like Glentress, Kirroughtree offers a selection of trails for riders of all skill levels. It is most famous for its 31-kilometre “black route” known as “Black Craigs Trail,” which presents intricate technical challenges and is quite dangerous for inexperienced bikers.
Up, Up and Away!
One of the most unique mountain biking offerings in the United Kingdom is heli-biking which, as the name suggests, involves helicopters. Bikers board a helicopter and fly to the top of steep, precipitous trails, where they disembark and ride back down with the help of gravity. Heli-biking is a more expensive pursuit than other types of mountain biking; an excursion for six people usually costs around $550 per person.
Stacking the Deck
Experience, proper physical conditioning, safety gear and quality equipment all help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, but nothing provides an absolute guarantee of safety. The most common injuries suffered by mountain bikers include superficial cuts and scrapes, twisted ankles and sprained wrists. Accidents on steeper trails may result in broken fingers, toes, limbs or ribs. It’s prudent to purchase mountain-biking insurance, which covers expenses related to these injuries. Mountain-biking insurance is a particularly wise investment for bikers who enjoy challenging, remote trails, because in the event of serious injury they may require helicopter evacuation.
Mountain Biking For Families
Although mountain biking can be a dangerous, extreme sport, it can also be an enjoyable family activity. The most important factor is choosing the right trail; family trails are generally wider and flatter than many others, and are usually shorter also. One of the best trails for families is the Tissington Trail in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, which was formed from an abandoned railway. The Tissington Trail is about 20 kilometres long and is completely free of traffic, which is an important consideration for families biking with younger riders.