by Tom dB
Tucked away in the Kilsyth hills just west of Denny, Carron Valley lies in the heart of the Central Belt. A small venue, but its 10km of singletrack is neatly arranged allowing the rider to make their own route from multiple loops criss-crossing the hillside.
Easy to find and within that magic “about an hour” from the major cities, has Carron got what it takes to be a little bit of Home from home?
Early November and Winter’s Nimbostratus fire-blanket drowns the final colour from Autumn’s blaze, uniting the mountain biking community in mutual hatred. But this time there’s a common enemy. Rain. Everyone from dirt jumper to XC racer gets tetchy for a hour after work here, an afternoon there. We all need our fix. Just as I was getting desperate, a name came from the gloom like a man in PR shoes and a big straw hat. Carron Valley.
As there’s only one trail at Carron the “red” grading is largely irrelevant. So rather than concentrate on technicality, the big question is how much fun can be had. Straight from the car park there’s a firm, fast rolling surface. The first climb was quick, with a well chosen gradient to warm legs and fill lungs. Switch backs through the trees soon lead to a logging track which climbs to the the top of the first descent, Eas Dubh.
Dropping into the trees, the fast character of the trail makes itself known again. Anyone could ride this place slowly, which is great for encouraging new-comers, but racing a gang of mates is a challenge for body and mind. The tough surface responds well to speedway-style slides while the straights let you bang up the gears like few forest centres can.
Before long we re-appeared at the clearing, faced with a choice of same again or onwards and downwards. Pulling on the Aviators we headed into Cannonball Run, another rut free speed-fest best enjoyed in a Whacky Races stylee. No ambulances were required and as the gradient eased we headed left, rejoining the first climbs of “Pipe Dream” to do it all again.
Second-time down, the right turn lead briefly uphill to the climax. The Runway. A mile of Kylie-esque jumps (small, but perfectly formed), bermed corners and well drained mid sections begged to be ridden hard. Shaped as table tops with a hint of double, the jumps can all be rolled but work best hit with speed, letting the well shaped lips do the sending. With every run-out clear and no consequences of coming up short, this is a great place to practice, compete for style or just have a laugh time and time again.
Like the new AC/DC album, Carron adds nothing new to an established formula. However both provide an hour’s entertainment that leaves you smiling and wanting more. The “three loops” layout allows huge variation making Carron greater than the sum of its parts. If you’re the type to endure six hours of motorway to get your bike fix, look elsewhere. But if you live in the Central Belt and want to keep fit through the winter, introduce friends or family to bikes or just have an evening’s blast with mates, it’s well worth a look.
- Food: Nearest pub at Carron Bridge (2 miles).
- Parking: Plentiful and free. Toilets in the day. Picnic site
- Accomodation: B&B at the pub and nearby.
- Spares/Bike Shops/Bike hire: Nearest bike shops in Stirling
Leave M90 at Junction 4. Take A872 North into Denny. Turn left onto B818. Follow for 8km to Carron Reservoir car park.
Postcode for sat navs: FK6 5JL