Beginner mountain biking weekend in the UK, recommendations

  • This topic has 29 replies, 22 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by  jree.
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  • Beginner mountain biking weekend in the UK, recommendations
  • I’d like to arrange a long weekend away for me and my partner to give as a Christmas present and for some time in April. Neither of us has mountain bikes but it is something we have talked about and want to try (we are experienced road cyclists and have rented and done some offroad stuff in the past).

    Can anyone recommend some good accommodation or mountain biking areas in England or Wales? (Scotland a bit too far to travel) Is it best to go down a DIY route (air B n B near somewhere we can rent bikes) or try and find a mountain bike holiday specialist? I don’t have loads to spend so value rather than luxury is a priority, but it is a present so want it to be nice.

    Any help appreciated.

    Premier Icon andybrad
    Subscriber

    id go to somewhere like sherward pines or grizedale

    Premier Icon stevied
    Subscriber

    Forest of Dean would be a good place to look into.
    Bike hire on site and nice trails to start on.
    Not sure about accommodation in the area but sure there’ll be something suitable.

    Premier Icon rOcKeTdOg
    Subscriber

    right next to the family trail feeder to the FoD trails, two pubs, two cafes, a bike shop and a steam railway on the doorstep and the owner is an MTBer

    https://www.castlemainmill.com/

    Premier Icon oikeith
    Subscriber

    OP what style of riding have you envisaged? if its XC/Trail stuff so singeltracks which go up and down I’d agree and say Forest of Dean for its blue trail. If you fancy some descending Bike Park Wales has a good range of blue trails which are all beginner friendly but is uplifted so no pedaling up.

    Both have bike hire and both have good accommodation nearby via air bnb or hotels.

    thanks for all the replies so far (this forum is awesome).

    So we often go hiking in Wales, the Dales and Lakes, etc… and love the sense of freedom and spectacular views, spending all day outside. I guess we’d like something similar, just on bikes so we can cover more distance. The mountain biking we have done is mostly in the Dales and on gravely bridleways, etc… which has been great.

    We certainly like the physical exertion so wouldn’t be looking for lifts up. The aim is to spend a day in the outdoors rather than specifically to improve/test our mountain bike skills (if that makes sense).

    nickjb
    Member

    I’d be looking at mid wales. Maybe Nant Yr Arian. The scenery on the big loop is epic and the terrain is pretty manageable by a novice (you might have to walk a couple of short bits) and the rest of the trails near the centre are great for testing and improving skill. Or maybe the Mach trails just to the north. Plenty of nice places to stay, some quirky huts and cabins or more conventional B&Bs. Would make for a great weekend away.

    I’d say the next step up from MTBing in the Dales is definitely the South Lakes. Bit bumpier in places, but you can construct a loop to suit pretty much any skill level with stunning views left, right and centre, plus there are lovely places to stay and eat.

    Organised vs DIY, depends on your navigation skills really, you can base yourself somewhere like Hawkshead YHA, rent a bike for the weekend at Grizedale and buy the Vertebrate Graphics Mountain Biking in the Lake District book which has a variety of excellent rides (or ask on here). The two which spring to mind are Claife Heights and Iron Keld/Loughrigg.

    IHN
    Member

    I love how people now default to trail centres (even the FOD is pretty much a trail centre).

    love the sense of freedom and spectacular views, spending all day outside. I guess we’d like something similar, just on bikes so we can cover more distance. The mountain biking we have done is mostly in the Dales and on gravely bridleways, etc… which has been great.

    We certainly like the physical exertion so wouldn’t be looking for lifts up. The aim is to spend a day in the outdoors rather than specifically to improve/test our mountain bike skills (if that makes sense).

    It absolutely does, you sound like you like the kind of thing that I like.
    I’d go to the Isle of Purbeck or the Isle of Wight, grab a map, follow the bridleways. Our the Gap Loop in Wales, bar the very top section that’s definitely beginner doable and a proper mountain day out.

    IHN
    Member

    buy the Vertebrate Graphics Mountain Biking

    Yeah, that’s a point. There are various of these and the routes in them are usually pretty good. Pick one for an area you like the look of and you won’t go far wrong.

    Premier Icon stevied
    Subscriber

    I love how people now default to trail centres

    but it is something we have talked about and want to try

    Ease of navigation, not isolated if you have a problem. Yes, big days out are nice but the last thing you want when ‘trying’ something is for something to happen and be stranded/lost or have a mechanical breakdown.
    At a trail centre you’ll never be far from civilization or support should things go badly.

    As per IHD, do you want trail centre or bridleways? That’s the key question.
    Are you good at navigating?
    If you’ve done fair bit of road biking and your navigation off road is shakey then a TC will get you good exercise and good tech obstacles.

    If you want proper wilderness (to a degree) and like navigation then don’t go to a TC

    IHN
    Member

    FWIW if you can read a map well enough to hike in Wales, the Dales and the Lakes, you don’t need the navigational ease of a trail centre.

    Premier Icon w00dster
    Subscriber

    As a roadie who mountain bikes with similar hiking to yourselves, me and Mrs W will regularely go to North Wales staying in or around Betws-y-Coed (thats if staying for 3 days).
    Your then very close to good walks, great riding (Marin Trail is on your doorstep and Coed y Brennin and Llandegla are both a reasonable drive away and have hire bikes available). Plus some amazing road rides from there as well. Then you get the benefit from being somewhere with good beer and food.
    My first “proper” mountain bike trail was at Coed y Brennin. I was thrown into the deep end and did the beast, had to get off and push on some of the features but a good 95% of it was do-able. Lots of climbing though. My wife who is a full on roadie and hardly ever mountain bikes enjoys the MinoTaur.

    IHN
    Member

    Neither of us has mountain bikes

    Ah, bugger, missed this bit

    nickjb
    Member

    FWIW if you can read a map well enough to hike in Wales, the Dales and the Lakes, you don’t need the navigational ease of a trail centre.

    I’d disagree with that. It’s much easier to stop and get the map out when walking. Stopping at every junction will really ruin the flow of riding and going the wrong way gets you further from where you want to be much quicker. Of course it is a different experience at a trail centre but they are not all BPW style roller coasters. For example the NyA loop I suggested feels properly out in the wild but takes very little navigation (still need to know where you are going and keep your eye out for turnings). Bridleway riding is great but it adds another task that could impact on your fun as a novice. In a weekend you can easily do a bit of both anyway.

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    How about the Quantocks?  Plenty of bridleways to ride on, it’s a smallish area so you can go up & down as many times as your legs can take it and you’re never too far from your start point.

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    Coed Y Brenin.

    Plenty of trails at differing levels including skills areas and blue trails.

    Beautiful scenery, nearby walking up Cadair Idris or similar, fantastic estuary cycle route along the Mawdacch and over the bridge to Barmouth.

    Lots of tourist stuff nearby, Portmerion etc.

    Stay in Barmouth or glamp at the eco camping over the estuary Graig wen.

    Amazing part of the world. 👍

    stevextc
    Member

    I’d disagree with that. It’s much easier to stop and get the map out when walking. Stopping at every junction will really ruin the flow of riding and going the wrong way gets you further from where you want to be much quicker.

    Completely agree… and for countless reasons MTB trails tend to meander or about turn in ways that are often not obvious or might be counter intuitive.

    Especially as a beginner who will be spending longer perhaps thinking about the trail it’s much easier to miss a turn and when you do taking a bearing off something and heading in that direction can be way more challenging.

    I’d highly recommend a couple of short stints in a trail centre before … make the easy progress on learning and what you can and can’t ride that will take the stress away from the big weekend

    IHN
    Member

    nearby walking up Cadair Idris

    Or, indeed, riding.

    I would vote for a trail centre as well to reduce the map reading element and also increase the chance of bike hire.

    A slight twist would be the New Forest in Hampshire. There is a small Single Track circuit at Moors Valley Country Park which has bike hire onsite and about 15 miles of Fireroads as well as the official single track.

    There are then two other big Bike Hire places just up the road in Burley and Brockenhurst and both sites have free route maps for different rides which are primarily Fire Road style of rides.

    The new Forest is hardly extreme and (for some people) can be seen as very restrictive to off road cycling, but for a good long weekend break and a bit of an intro in to offload biking as its got some good options for accommodation, coffee/cake etc.

    There is also the Purbecks a short drive away if you want some bigger slopes…

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    Ridgeway or south downs way surely?

    Stay in Goring, get early train to Chippenham, then cycle back. It’s a lovely lovely day out

    Premier Icon BillOddie
    Subscriber

    Coed-Y-Brenin seconded.

    jree
    Member

    There’s some amazing air Bnb and mtb specific campsites near coed y Brenin. That was the place my Mrs enjoyed the most. Look for a pod there, it is a super pod so has shower, stove, proper bed and bike storage. Oh and a hot tub!

    Yorkshire Dales.
    The Dales Bike Centre has everything you could need.

    https://www.dalesbikecentre.co.uk/

    Accommodation, great trails of various difficulties, hire bikes and even guiding if you want to be shown the trails or get a few tips from a pro.

    And cake. The cake is bloody fantastic!

    APF

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    I’d go for the lakes. You can find trails to suite a wide range of abilities. Lots of trails have the odd challenge but walking the odd section is no problem. Plus there are trail centres if you prefer. Trail centres are less good for views in my experience. I would look into gps navigation as it does make light allot eager

    saxabar
    Member

    Another vote for The Gap Loop, staying in a B&B in Brecon. It’s very easy to navigate, has great views, features one or two very short challenging parts (which are totally walkable), and of a good length for moderately fit people. I’ve ridden it with my partner a few times, who gets off, walks for 30m and then enjoys the whizz down back to Brecon.

    For North Wales, you could base yourself in Betws y Coed. Lots of trails around there, including dedicated MTB trails. Quite a few routes and options here: http://www.bikingconwy.ws/biking-destinations/betws-y-coed

    Premier Icon greenskin
    Subscriber

    Swinley would be a bad place for beginners… not a bad area but isn’t going to compete with the Welsh countryside.

    Why not do a tour and combine a few different locations?

    Day 1 Llandegla. Some nice easy trails to get you started. Bike hire available.

    Day 2 Coed Y Brenin. Next step up with some more interesting trails and nice scenery. Bike hire available.

    Day 3 The Long Mynd in the Shropshire hills. Stay at the pods in Marshbrook and hire a bike and grab some trail maps from the on site bike shop blazing bikes. More natural riding and superb scenery if you get the weather. Better to do this on a Friday or Monday though as it can get busy with walkers and horses.

    Stu

    jree
    Member

    Ooh. Stu mentioned long mynd. If you go on Groupon and search glamping and there’s one that’s £29 for two nights. It’s at the bottom of long mynd and all that’s there is pods, shower block, mountain bike centre and a great pub. It’s ace.

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