We’ve covered some of the best trail centres in Wales and Scotland already, so now it’s time to turn our attention to England. While it can’t compete with Wales and Scotland for that ‘out in the middle of the wilderness’ feeling, and there isn’t the same difference in altitude, there’s still some quality riding on offer in England.
These are my personal favourites:Gisburn Forest
I think Gisburn is one of my favourite trail centres in England. There are three way-marked trails; a blue, green and red. ‘The 8’ is an 18km trail that features the brilliant Hully Gully as its core feature, a whooping roller coaster trail. Best of all, it’s easy to follow a fire-road back to the top so you can ride it to your hearts content. There’s loads of other cool sections of trail, especially some of the optional black sections that will test even the most experienced trail riders. If only they could move Gisburn a bit closer to London…
More here.Dalby Forest
The venue of a UCI World Cup race in 2011, the trails in Dalby Forest are firmly of the world class variety. The trails lean towards the cross-country end of the scale but if you’re a trail rider there are still plenty of technical features to get your eye in on. The long 23 mile red trail ensures a good solid ride of a few hours, and the shorter World Cup Cycle Trail is a black-graded 4 mile route that has some tricky highlights. It’s a long drive for many, but it’s definitely worth it.
More here.Cannock Chase
Unarguably one of the most popular trail centres in the UK. Even on a Wednesday afternoon the trails can be littered with riders enjoying the excellent singletrack. Its location, close to large populous metropolitan areas like Birmingham, Manchester, Coventry and Sheffield make it a draw for many mountain bikers in the area.
So it’s easy to get to, and when you arrive there’s the brilliant Follow the Dog, a 7 mile trail, and the newer Monkey Trail, a 7 mile extension to the former trail. They’re both red-graded trails but there’s plenty to challenge mountain bikers of all ability levels. As the trails get a lot of traffic, some of the braking bumps can get pretty bad.
More here.Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean has long offered good riding but in the last couple of years, along with the addition of a cafe, bike shop and expanded car park, it has risen to become one of the hottest riding spots in the UK right now.
There’s the slickly organised Flyup Downhill uplift service that makes accessing the myriad of downhill tracks and techy singletracks easy, and there’s some well routed cross-country trails too. The latter includes the Free-Miner’s and Verderer’s trails, 3 and 7 miles respectively. The Verderer’s Trail is one of the best XC trails in England with berms, rollers, drops and a great final descent.
Easy to get to, good cake in the cafe and a great sense of community, if you’ve not ridden FOD yet, make 2013 the year you do.
More here.Thetford Forest
While on the map it shows few contour lines, Thetford more than makes up for its lack of altitude with insanely fast and in places, extremely twisty, singletrack. I raced one of the hardest marathon events I ever competed in here, it’s just relentless. It’s long been a very popular riding spot, with races organised all the time and it’s good to see local club Timber (http://www.timbermtb.org) looking after the trails and organising regular group rides.
There are four trails, the Shepard and Poacher are both easy to moderate, while the Lime Burner and Beater are both described as hard. Both the latter trails combine fast flowing singletrack and plenty of ups and downs. They’re both about 10 miles. You can purchase a trail map from High lodge Information Point for £1.50.
More here.What are your favourite English trail centres? Let’s hear them…