Katherine Moore

Train to trail — Exploring the UK's bike parks by rail

MBUK

Train to trail — Exploring the UK's bike parks by rail

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

7

Tours

27:04 h

196 mi

16,225 ft

For complete beginners to lifelong riders, bike parks or trail centres are fantastic places to spend a day in the dirt. Luckily, in the UK we’re blessed with plenty of them. Typically set in forests or moorland, they feature networks of graded, purpose-built trails that cater for a range of abilities, and usually are accompanied by some great facilities to help you enjoy your ride; bike washes, toilets, car parking and the all-important trail cafe.

Yet one of the aspects that makes these centres so brilliant — their remoteness — can also be their downfall. Suppose you don’t have a car, or want to cut down on using it? Or perhaps you’ve already ridden all the trails in the centre and want to branch out a bit?

That’s why I’ve created this Collection, linking major train stations to these MTB meccas, so you can travel all over the country to sample the best built trails, as well as the natural bridleways, byways, singletrack and gravel roads that lead to them. While there are many, many more trail centres to explore all over the UK, this is a Collection of just a few with some alternative routes to get there, car-free.

The Tours in this Collection vary in length and suitability for different ability levels, though they can all be modified to suit your ambitions. From easy riding like the trails in Cornwall to the more challenging trails of Dalby Forest and Glentress, could you be inspired to try somewhere new?

These areas all boast brilliant riding both within the centres and around them, so I’d really recommend taking a few days if you can to make the most of your trip. You’ll find plenty of campsites and other accommodation options nearby too.

Although a lot of these routes could be ridden with a rigid mountain bike, you’ll definitely be more comfortable on a hardtail. It’s worth remembering that most trail centres offer bike hire, so why not ride to one and then treat yourself to an upgrade for the day?

Although one of the major benefits of trail centres’ purpose built trails means that they can be ridden year-round, the best time of year to ride these Tours is in the summer months when the surrounding natural trails have dried out as some of these areas can be pretty boggy when wet!

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    05:16
    38.2 mi
    7.2 mph
    2,825 ft
    2,525 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Nestled on the southern slopes of the glorious North York Moors, Dalby Forest is a Forestry Commission maintained attraction for many outdoorsy-types. For off road cyclists, you’ll find six different …

  • Intermediate
    04:27
    32.7 mi
    7.3 mph
    2,025 ft
    2,025 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    A loop from the county capital of Stafford, this mega 32.7 mile (52.6 km) takes in some of the very best mountain biking trails in the Midlands and is not for the faint-hearted! Cannock Chase is a well-known area for riding, nestled between Stafford and Birmingham, offering a great network of trails not only for mountain bikers, but for gravel riders, walkers and horse riders too.

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  • Easy
    01:04
    8.88 mi
    8.3 mph
    725 ft
    575 ft
    Easy mountain bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Despite its steep river valleys, unkempt moorlands and incredible coastal landscapes, Cornwall is often overlooked when it comes to mountain biking. Although trail centres here tend to be small, there …

  • Difficult
    05:12
    39.7 mi
    7.6 mph
    3,250 ft
    2,825 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    A mecca of South Wales mountain biking, the Afan Valley hosts no less than two trail centres, both with a cracking range of carefully crafted trails that cater to all abilities, as well as a network of fire roads and natural trails.Although Swansea is closer to Afan, I’ve proposed a route from the major city of Cardiff, where you’ll enjoy some marvellous hilltop gravel roads on the way and perhaps a little less time on the train!

  • Difficult
    03:19
    23.9 mi
    7.2 mph
    1,925 ft
    1,925 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    For anyone living in London or the South-East of England, the gorgeous Surrey Hills are the go-to for cracking mountain biking trails. With a number of built trails on Holmbury, Pitch, Winterfold and Leith Hill, there’s more than enough for a great day’s riding. Besides the built trails, there’s also loads more natural riding, gravel roads and linking bridleways to explore.

  • Difficult
    04:31
    26.8 mi
    5.9 mph
    2,900 ft
    2,700 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    A haven for mountain bikers in the Scottish Borders, Glentress Forest is one of the 7stanes biking centres in Scotland, with trails for everyone from novice to pro. Yet there’s …

  • Intermediate
    03:16
    26.1 mi
    8.0 mph
    2,575 ft
    1,950 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Personally, I think that Lancashire is one of the most underrated off road destinations in the UK. Not only does it boast some corking built mountain biking trails like those …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    196 mi
  • Duration
    27:04 h
  • Elevation
    16,225 ft

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Katherine Moore

Train to trail — Exploring the UK's bike parks by rail