If you hate the idea of miles of fast swoopy singletrack through
tightly packed trees, if the thought of two miles of continuous slippery, rooty drop
offs with partially hidden tree stumps and twisty off-camber turns gives you the
willies, if half a mile of rock strewn descent doesn’t make you moist, if you don’t
like spectacular views, if the occasional uphill technical challenge makes you dream
of the internal combustion engine and if you can’t abide flies on your teeth then
stop reading now and get on with your knitting.
I’m back from my holiday in sunny Dumfries and Galloway. The weather was kinder than
it has been for the last few years and we had 10 days of glorious current bun-ness.
Those of you who followed the Coed-y-Brenin thread in the forum will know that last
year I was rescued by an AA bloke when my ageing Cavalier took a turn for the worse.
He turned out to be an avid mountain biker and he invited me to join his mates in
the forests of Dalbeattie for an evening of thrills, spills and cake. The rest is
a happy memory. This year I joined up with them again, met some new faces and sampled
the delights of the new trails they’re creating in the Dalbeattie forest and a couple
of circuits of Rik’s Red Route in Mabie forest, just outside Dumfries.
We were staying in a place called Rockcliffe near Dalbeattie, which is about 20 miles
west of Dumfries. Once we’d struck camp on the Saturday we went to Mabie forest which
is home to Rik’s Bike Shed and is the start of all the routes in Mabie. That weekend
saw the opening of the newly created jump park and the official opening of Rik’s
Red Route. We missed the jumping (story of my life) but managed the beer drinking
and jiving to the live music blasting out of the shop itself. Acquaintances renewed
we went back to the campsite having arranged a Sunday trip to Dalbeattie forest.
BORDER=”0″>Sunday was glorious, off into the forest we trekked, Heckler, hardtail
DBR, the obligatory Marin full suspension and Len on his favoured rigid Saracen Kili
Team. The trails are roughly hewn and have great names like ‘The Big Eezy’ a long
gradual descent with lots of hidden dangers (I think I’ve hit or fallen down them
all now), ‘The Widowmaker’, steep, off camber descent through the trees, ‘Adder Alley’,
‘Wull’s Way’ and ‘The Slabs’. The phrase of the weekend was ‘It still needs a bit
of work’. They do, but they are great technical fun now so they can only get better.
Tuesday evening we went back for more. Both times we ended up back at Len’s for the
post ride laugh, tea and buns.
Come Friday we called in and had a chat with Rik at his Bike shed on our way back
from a trip to Dumfries. I’d planned to do the route on the Sunday with the rest
of the guys, but after talking to Rik I couldn’t wait until Sunday. So a quick blast
down the fast swoopy coast road to Rockcliffe, quick bite to eat, load bike on the
roof, another quick blast down the fast swoopy coast road to Mabie and got on with
As some of you know I’m not the fittest person right now thanks to a spell in hospital,
so there was a bit of puffing and panting and a lot of sweating but I reckon it’s
generally fairly easy climbing. The first climb on the fire road is deceptively draining
but after that you’re nicely warmed up (I was actually warmed up before I started
but it was a hot afternoon). One thing you can’t do on this route is admire the view
and ride at the same time, the single track is very single and the views very admirable
but do one or the other or it’ll end in tears. After the climbs come the best bits,
a wide rocky descent, across a fire road and into swoopy single track with off camber
turns. Brilliant. More fire road and into very fast swoopy downhill descent into
the ‘Burn Splash’ and up the rocky, rutted, ‘Scorpion’. Rik reckons anyone who can
manage this climb has reached a new level of technical ability and fitness. That
won’t include me then. I pushed and it was bloody hard work. Great sign at the top
though which warns you to slow down ‘cos you’re approaching a fire road and there
may be traffic. Slow down? Great thing is though, you can miss this bit out if you
want, just carry on the fire road. I can’t remember which order stuff came after
that (must’ve addled my brain) but there was a ‘Rollercoaster’ which was very fast,
very singletrack and very steep. I was a bit wary as it was my first time (said the
actress to the bishop) but I reckon once I’d done it a couple of times it would get
scary fast. More singletrack a dab of fire road and then even more woodland singletrack
led to the final two miles of non-stop rocky, rooty, uphill, downhill, technical
singletrack with narrow, man-made, bridges and drop offs. I came back with a sweaty
grin and a vow to get fitter and return later in the year.
Rik asked me how it compared to Coed-y-Brenin, it doesn’t. The only thing they have
in common is trees, bikes and enthusiastic people.
In my humble opinion Coed-y-Brenin is rockier and the trails are wider where Mabie
is rooty and has lots more singletrack. The initial climbs in Coed-y-Brenin are not
good, the initial climbs in Mabie are much easier I thought. I’ve been riding for
around 12 years now and would class myself as an average rider with good technical
abilities. I like technical stuff, I don’t do stuff to prove anything to other people,
I’ve tried that and hurt myself doing it. I’ll do it if I think I can do it. I’ve
scared myself silly down the rocky sections of the Karrimor, got to the bottom wondering
how I did it and with the biggest grin in the world. I scared myself silly in Mabie
because I found myself on the edge of ‘out-of-control-ness’ because I was going too
fast through the trees on unknown, narrow singletrack.
Had the same daft grin at the bottom though. Different terrain, same grin. Bloody
Get yourselves up there, the Scots don’t bite. Rik, his staff and the locals will
welcome you with open arms. It costs a quid to park so take the family if you’ve
got one, kids can play in the adventure playground or visit Mabie farm while you
get on with the biking. Perfect day out. Tell Rik Colin sent sent you, I might get
a free t-shirt out of him!