A big day out in the saddle, this one. Plenty of climbing, plenty of descending, a bunch of road work, lots of high-grade tracks, and just enough spice to keep it interesting! As the majority of the off-road riding is on well-surfaced tracks, it's also a good one to ride if the weather is, shall we say, somewhat less than clement.From Hawick, the route strikes west along the road, and past Alemoor Reservoir, before doubling back on itself and exploring the depths of Maryland Forest.This privately managed woodland, which is a relatively recent plantation, has the unusual distinction of possessing a variety of named roads - but whatever the reason for this, they provide good (if somewhat overgrown in places) going, as the route heads first south and then east.After a few stiff climbs, fast descents and at least one spashy water crossing (although a bridge is available for the hydrophobic) you'll find yourself back in Hawick for tea and cake.There aren't many amenities on this ride - it's a good idea to pack all the usual snacks - but although the route is long, it's not especially remote. That's not to say you shouldn't be wary, but ice axes and crampons are probably unlikely to be used. The ride starts and ends in Hawick, although there are other places dotted around the route that would serve (there's parking at Alemoor Reservoir, for example). Elsewhere, though, there are few amenities on offer, so you'd be faced with a drive to get the frankly necessary post-ride victuals. Hawick also has the benefit of accommodation and ale houses aplenty, but sadly no train station.
February 12, 2020
Hawick Upon Tweed, despite being the largest town in the Tweed Valley, tends to be somewhat overlooked by the mountain biking fraternity because of the bright lights of Innerleithen and Peebles to the north. Nevertheless, there is some damn fine riding to be had if you know where to look.This is a relatively straightforward route: despite some remote riding, and the distance involved, there's relatively little climbing - and the what the terrain lacks in technicality it makes up for in all-weather riding (apart, perhaps, from deep snow).From Hawick, the route takes the road south for a few miles (which is rather more pleasant than you'd think) before heading off-road at Shankend Farm, and the impressive (but sadly disused) viaduct.From here, though, it's good off-road tracks all the way around Stennishope and Burn Crag, as the track meanders back north. The likely military provenance of many of the tracks hereabouts is given credence by the disused World War One internment camp at Stobs, which lends an eerie and sombre note to proceedings as the trail heads back, via some singletrack slivers, to the town.This route is probably just as good on a gravel bike, but it well suits poor-weather mountain biking too. And the history you'll uncover more than makes up for any technical shortcomings. Hawick, being a large town (as Tweed towns go) has all the amenities one could wish for, from accommodation to a bike shop (Hawick Cycles, 01450 372631) – apart, as usual, from a train station.
February 11, 2020
This Tour takes in a little of everything - it wanders up and over the glorious Gypsy Glen, before popping over the river for a quick blast on some of the built trails in Glentress Forest. It's a pretty stout ride though - although it's not high in miles, you'll definitely feel them in your legs by the end!Starting at the Glentress Trail Centre (why wouldn't you? There's plenty of parking, showers, changing rooms and even accommodation and bike hire), the route initially eschews the delights of the man-made stuff, and heads east along a dismantled railway before starting the climb through Cadrona Forest. Off-piste trails abound in here too, if you're feeling super frisky.But don't forego the climb altogether - the Gypsy Glen is touted by many as the finest 'natural' descent in the Tweed Valley, and it's not hard to see why. Dropping relatively gently, it's a trail that picks up speed as it does technicality - at times fast and open, loose or rutted, it'll keep you on your toes - if you're not distracted by the astonishing view as you drop into Peebles, that is.From here, after a swift refuel should you desire, the route wends its way back to the car via some of the more entertaining parts of the Glentress Forest; stiff climbs and swoopy descents abound. Post-ride snackage will definitely have been earned!The Glentess Trail Centre is an obvious start point, but you could equally start in Peebles. Innerleithen, too, is a short ride away. All of these options are equally easy to get to if you have a car; sadly, public transport options are limited (ie nonexistent) - there are no trains, and bussing everywhere would limit you to rental bikes. But there's plenty of accommodation on offer, and Peebles offers a convenient mid-ride refreshment point. The Glentress Forest website is glentressforest.com
January 24, 2020
What's a mountain biker to do when the weather's so wet you'd get drookit (Scots for 'drenched') from just opening a window? Well, they'd go out anyway, of course! This is a low level ride, which still gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline coursing, but not at the expense of colossal height gains or ultra tech.From the centre of Galashiels, the route heads along the base of Meigle Hill (there's not huge amounts of climbing on this one, don't fret) before wandering through the peculiar landscape of the Meigle Pots, where sedition and rebellion was plotted in ages past.After travelling through Cloverfords (for a spot of refreshment, perhaps) the trails the other side of the valley are plundered towards the fascinating Torwoodlee Tower House before heading back into Galashiels for coffee and waffles. The perfect way to end a ride like this.Galashiels is blessed with accommodation, a train station and a host of other amenities which make it a great place to start the ride from, although you could use Cloverfords for this purpose if you fancied. It's not a long, or a high route, and it should be pretty rideable in most conditions - so there's no need to pack for a huge expedition, although it always pays to carry the essentials!
February 10, 2020
The eagle eyed amongst you may note that there is another Tour elsewhere in this Collection which encounters the Three Brethren, but fear not! This route encounters the brothers from a completely different direction, and a completely different starting point.It's also a very different ride - there's little that's technical en route, but there are some absolutely fabulous views and quite a different feel to the terrain from the north. From Selkirk, the trail heads out along the Corbylynn road, an easily navigable double track - with a spectacular waterfall half way along - before slowly climbing steadily up to the Three Brethren. The route back doesn't go the same way - instead it tracks around Pete Law and back down to Selkirk with a few pleasant diversions along the woodland that skirts the town, before ending up back in town for coffee.This ride, although relatively non-technical, swiftly ramps up the gnarliness when it's wet - it's best enjoyed during a dry period, as the return can become somewhat moistened in the winter months. But it's a rewarding route, all the same.Selkirk is often overlooked by mountain bikers lured by the bright lights of Peebles and Innerleithen, but it has a quiet charm all its own - and some excellent coffee houses, as well as the usual accommodation options. Sadly, though, as with so many places, it's only really accessible by car.
February 10, 2020
This route is something of a doozy, throwing in some of the more technical challenges of the region along side some enormous wide-open space riding; this is truly an all-around challenging ride!Starting off from the centre of Innerleithen, a brief and pleasant spin along the Walkerburn serves to warm the legs up before the relentless and brutal climbing begins (sorry) all the way up to Cairn Hill. While there are some very (very) entertaining off-piste trails from here all the way back down again, this route then continues the purgatory (sorry again) up to Scad Law, before starting the slow but languidly magnificent descent back down to the valley floor.And what a descent it is! The route takes in some of the finest Tweed Valley singletrack, which means steepness, divine catch-berms, and enormous fun on every level. Even when the trails are sopping wet, there's something magical about the Golfie trails which still provides grip. Truly, the mud in the Tweed Valley is better defined as the Scottish 'liquid sunshine'.Once you've sated your desire for clenching singletrack, the route then heads northwards over the hills, and meanders up to the eastern reaches of the Glentress forest, before hitting some of the older (but no less fun) singletrack there. Wide open spaces then make a reappearance leading to a steep, wide, screamingly entertaining descent back down from Lee Pen to Innerleithen.Innerleithen is the obvious starting point for the ride, although a moderate diversion could see you start it from Peebles, which is perhaps slightly better served for accommodation, although Innerliethen has plenty. There are camping, B&B and hotel accommodation options, and everyone is used to accommodating muddy bikers.From a public transport perspective, unfortunately the area isn't well served; there's no train station – the nearest one is Galashiels, about 15 miles (25km) away.This ride can get pretty remote, and it covers some pretty technical ground – so pack accordingly. A waterproof, plenty of snacks and a basic first aid kit are all a good idea.
February 10, 2020
This ride is a must for folks who want to experience what the Tweed Valley has to offer besides the groomed trail centre, or the high-octane tech-fest.From Innerliethen, the climb up through Traquair Forest is enough to disabuse you of the notion that this will be a snooze-fest, as it scrambles up a surprising amount of height gain through a variety of switchbacks. But the eventual summit of Minch Moor makes it all seem worth it, with delicious views aplenty. From here, the route contours up and over Brown Knowe before landing at the Three Brethren - three closely placed cairns signifying the borders of three enormous estates. The descent from here through the Yair Estate (one of the ones signified by a Brother) is also a treat, and the final descent from Craig Hill is also an absolute hoot.From here, there's a spot of road work to get back to Innerliethen - but even this has its scenic charms, and it's a great way to wind down before you kick back with coffee and food at the No.1 cafe.Innerliethen, having reinvented itself as a mountain biking Mecca well over a decade ago, is positively festooned with opportunities for the curious biker - trails, shops, accommodation; it's got the lot. Apart from a train station, that is. You'll be after Galashiels and a bit of a bike ride if you're not coming by car. It's totally worth it, though!
February 10, 2020
Here, then is the final final leg of the South Downs Way. It's an easier day than the previous one; slightly shorter, although there are still plenty of ups and downs along the way, as you meander (or manically hurtle, if you like - but the view's not as nice through all that red mist) into Eastbourne.First of all - Ditchling Beacon! It's a hardly lofty 248m (814ft) above sea level, true, but it's the highpoint, and the views are awesome (in a flat sort of way) in pretty much every direction.After a little more riding the trail takes a sharp turn south - keep an eye out here, otherwise you'll eventually end up in Lewes riding past Her Majesty's Prison. But if all is well, you'll soon be experiencing Loose Bottom and a variety of other innuendo-prone places before dropping down to cross the River Ouse.Having climbed back up to Firle Beacon, the trail drops to Alfriston, where caution is needed - the footpath heads south along the coast, but the bridleway heads east, above The Long Man of Wilmington. The trail then skirts the west side of Eastbourne before dropping to join the footpath once again and heading to the beach and the finish.Eastbourne is a fine seaside town, with all of the amenities you could wish for as a result, from accommodation of a variety of stripes all the way through to train access, donkey rides on the beach and soggy, vinegary chips in paper cones. You can savour the latter with a feeling of accomplishment as you survey the sea and the knowledge of a job well done.
August 19, 2019
The final leg of the West Highland Way starts off with a doozy - the Devil's Staircase as a challenging (to say the least) climb, and a descent that will entirely possibly put steam in your shorts.The fun doesn't let up there, though. After another stiff (but eminently doable) climb from Kinochleven, the trail skirts the Mamores, and ends up in the Nevis Forest for a final blast into Fort William, and a well deserved rest, before you figure out how to get home again. Facilities are in abundance at Fort Bill, as it's affectionately known. Shops, hotels, campsites, there's a train station and pretty much everyone else you'd need. If you're still in need of mountain bike excitement, there's the world-famous DH run up the side of Ben Nevis, or there are a variety of excellent XC loops available there too. More info can be found here: nevisrange.co.uk/activities/bike
July 26, 2019
The third section of the West Highland way is relatively straightforward compared to the some of the previous sections. Although the trail runs close to the railway at the start, it soon becomes more remote and expansive. Plenty of wide doubletrack, singletrack which for the most part lacks the technicality of some of the trails along the east side of Loch Lomond, plenty of space to overtake or avoid walkers, and some truly incredible views. Of note in particular is Rannoch Moor, which can provide some of the most awe-inspiring scenery of the whole Way, if the weather's good. Because it's so exposed, though, it can become a real battle if the weather's poor. It can get *very* windy, and the rain can more than earn the adjective 'stinging'.But it's well worth battling through regardless, not least because the weather is so changeable in this part of Scotland that you can be assailed by hail one moment and stripping off to your undies in the heat the next.And if you still fancy a challenge after all of this, then the Glencoe mountain resort a mile or two before Kingshouse is also home to some fine XC and DH trails, accessed by lift.Accommodation options are somewhat more limited on this leg, but they're still available. The Bridge of Orchy offers an astounding wild-camping spot, but camping on Rannoch Moor isn't a great idea - it's pretty humid and as previously mentioned the weather can get pretty nasty! There are campsites, hotels and b&bs dotted all over, though.
July 26, 2019