Sheffield is fast becoming known as a real hub for mountain biking in the UK – both from a business and from a riding perspective. Numerous bike companies base themselves out of Sheffield, including Cotic Bikes, Airdrop Bikes, Caliber Bikes (GO Outdoors), and 18 Bikes to name but a few.
Sitting within the Peak District region, the wider Sheffield area also has a growing selection of purpose-built trails that are earning themselves a very lofty reputation amongst both local riders and those coming from further afield.
Adding to that reputation, a brand new trail will be opening up this Saturday the 8th of April. Situated within Lady Canning’s Plantation, a new blue-graded trail called ‘Cooking On Gas’ will join the existing Blue Steel trail as a beautiful piece of rollicking singletrack that’s designed to be sessioned over and over and over again – this trail is an absolute hoot!
Yesterday, Singletrack Magazine was invited to come and preview the new trail alongside a host of other riders and those from the Ride Sheffield crew. Local celebrity and a deadset all-round legend of mountain biking, Steve Peat, also came along for a razz, and so too did Olympic XC mountain bike racer Annie Last.
Jon Dallow, one of the key proponents behind the Lady Cannings trail development, was also on hand to sample the singletrack himself, as was Cy Turner of Cotic Bikes. Aside from running a bike company, Cy also a volunteers with Ride Sheffield, and was the man behind the idea to crowdfund the latest trail developments at Lady Cannings.
You might recall having heard of that crowdfunding initiative when we first reported on it back in 2014. The idea was to get local and not-so-local mountain bikers to pledge their donations to help go towards building a professionally designed piece of singletrack in Lady Cannings. The crowdfunding campaign was a roaring success, and Ride Sheffield is keen to help other mountain bike clubs and riding communities around the UK by using their experience as a case study. Hopefully the success of Ride Sheffield’s trail developments will help to inspire others around the country to take the same idea and run with it.
The trail itself is called Cooking On Gas. It sits alongside the existing Blue Steel trail, and both trails are situated within the Lady Canning’s Plantation, which is about a 10 minute drive West of Sheffield city centre. The trail head is just up the road from the Norfolk Arms pub, where we all met before gearing up to head out and get tyres onto dirt.
The way Ride Sheffield describes the trails in Lady Cannings Park is like a micropub. For these guys, it’s all about quality over quantity, and they’re keen to avoid building trail centre-like developments that focus a whole heap of trail into a small area. Instead, they want to develop great trails all around Sheffield, in a way that riders can experience more environments, a greater variety of terrain, and a broader array of trail types. Ideally, riders will be able to link up all these areas into one epic day of riding should they choose to.
With that in mind, the new trails within Lady Cannings park are all about quality and not stacking in loads of trails into the area just for the sake of it. As such, there are currently only trails within the park; Blue Steel, and now Cooking On Gas. They’re both Blue-graded trails, so they’re able to be comfortably ridden by a beginner, though they’re also designed in such a way that a more experienced rider can have just as much fun on them too.
Cooking On Gas is the newest trail, and that’s the one that will be officially opened this weekend. It’s a rollicking rollercoaster of a ride, with a hardpack surface that takes you across a plethora of berms and rollers that you can send it through like one enormous pump track. It’s no secret then that this machine built trail is the work of the peeps at Bike Track, who specialise in developing professional BMX race tracks and community pump tracks.
Sitting amongst a pine plantation, the Cooking On Gas trail will steadily settle in to its environment over the coming months and years as small undergrowth begins to regenerate. The track surface has already packed down well, though with a few more tyres over it in the coming weeks, it’s likely to get even faster.
From top to bottom, the Cooking On Gas trail runs about 1.4km in length. It’s a mostly downhill trail, with a steady gradient that ensures you’re rolling down most of the way. The overall length doesn’t sound like a heap on paper, but you get a whole load of bang for your buck.
Thanks to all the features and berms along the way, the steady gradient ensures you don’t lose all of your elevation straight away, and it feels a lot longer than it actually is.
To get back to the start, an easy fireroad climb takes less than 10 minutes to arrive back up top, where riders can choose between riding either the new Cooking On Gas trail, or the existing Blue Steel trail. The climb is steady enough that any rider of any fitness level with have no troubles chatting away while riding up.
Speaking of the Blue Steel trail, we also had the chance to ride it while we were at Lady Canning’s. Recently rebuilt after some tree felling went through the area, Blue Steel is a similarly well-built piece of trail that offers that same kind of pump and flow that Cooking On Gas has. There are more features on offer on Blue Steel, and it runs with a slightly greater descending gradient in spots. that makes sense, because both trails start and finish about the same spot, though Blue Steel is shorter in length at 1.2km long. The result is a trail that’s slightly faster and a little sharper in its turns.
Ideally, you’d head to Lady Canning’s to ride both trails. And with the cruisy fireroad climb offering repeated access to each trail, you’d have no troubles filling an afternoon of sessioning each trail. That said, your upper body will get a serious workout – after just four laps one after another, we were all feeling pretty weary through those arm muscles that you might not use all the time when cycling.
The beauty about both of these blue trails is that they’re accessible to a wide range of fitness levels and skill levels. During the pre-opening ride day, we had about as wide of a spectrum as you could expect. There was a local rider by the name of Pat who’s been around the Sun 73 times in total, who was absolutely loving the Cooking On Gas trail. On the same day, we also had the Ride Sheffield El Presidenté, Henry Norman, who was accompanied by his 4-year old son Tom. How’s that for proof of accessibility!
For those wondering, the Cooking On Gas trail took just over 2 months to complete. Construction began in January of this year, and was completed just last week. Up until this point, somehow Ride Sheffield has managed to keep the whole thing quiet, with both the top and bottom sections of the trail shielded away from prying eyes by some cleverly placed tree cuttings. As of this weekend however, it’s open to public, and you’ll be able to head along and check it out for yourself.
What’s particularly exciting about the whole Lady Canning’s trail network is the example it sets for future development both locally and further afield. Ride Sheffield appears to be capitalising on the momentum too, with a new trail destined for the nearby RADmires area. This will be a red/black trail that has also been crowdfunded. However, local engineering firm Vulcan has chipped in a substantial portion of the £45,000 cost to build the 1.7km long trail. If you’d like to help Ride Sheffield achieve their funding target for the RADmires trail development, then make sure you donate to Ride Sheffield here.
Otherwise check out the video below to see what you can expect from the new Blue trails at Lady Canning’s. And for further info about riding in the Sheffield region, check out the Ride Sheffield website for all you need to know!