Where ped­allers get high

The buzz gained by bik­ing up and down moun­tains is all nat­u­ral, says James Flint

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Wellbeing -

Low­down: a lovely 14-mile cross­coun­try run through the Bre­con Bea­cons, with some of the best sin­gle track trails in Wales. Would suit: a fam­ily out for the day. It’s pretty enough to sat­isfy Mum, there’s enough tough stuff for Dad to feel like a man and a cou­ple of short-but-speedy down­hills where kids can test their skills. Do: get off and push for the big­gest climb, ap­pro­pri­ately named The Wall. Don’t: chicken out of rid­ing over the nar­row bridge near the end. In­sider tip: take the lo­cal bike bus ser­vice if you want to try the down­hill cour­ses – no point wast­ing all your puff hack­ing up the hills. In­for­ma­tion: Afan Ar­goed For­est Park is five miles north east of Port Tal­bot on the A4107. The vis­i­tor cen­tre (01639 851900) has a large café. Low­down: a fast and fu­ri­ous de­scent (with plenty of fun fea­tures) that can be done in an hour. Would suit: friends out for a bit of a race, or se­ri­ous bik­ers in­tent on hon­ing their com­pet­i­tive skills. Do: wear am­ple pad­ding, in­clud­ing a hel­met with bot­tom jaw guard. Don’t: spend a whole day on this. It’s a short route, best done be­fore or af­ter one of the longer trails in the area, such as the Pink Heifer or the Kar­ri­mor (see fol­low­ing list­ing). In­sider tip: pause to take in the view af­ter the first half mile of roller­coast­ers – it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to catch your breath be­fore the big climb com­ing up.

Moun­tain-bik­ing is a great way to get out­doors, have fun, keep fit and stay car­bon neu­tral, too. New routes are be­ing es­tab­lished all over Bri­tain and, with bike hire widely avail­able, you don’t even need your own ma­chine. This is just as well for first-timers, as a well de­signed bike can cost £500-plus.

If you’re tempted to try a black run rated down­hill course, you will also need a face guard and maybe even an ar­moured suit. But for most cross-coun­try routes, a hel­met, gloves and el­bow pads are more than ad­e­quate. Oh, and some padded shorts – what­ever you do, don’t leave home with­out those.

ON­THE RIGHT­TRACK Afan For­est

Red Bull Moun­tainTrail

In­for­ma­tion: Coed-y-Brenin For­est Vis­i­tor Cen­tre off the A470, about seven miles north of Dol­gel­lau, Gwynedd (01341 440666).

Kar­ri­mor

Low­down: best com­bined with the Red Bull (above). This has the same start­ing point but quickly di­verges to wind through 20 miles of stun­ning scenery. In­cludes many dif­fer­ent types of sur­face and track, and com­bines longer, slower sec­tions with more ex­treme tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. Would suit: ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers look­ing to im­prove their fit­ness. Do: take food and wa­ter. This trail can take up to five hours. Don’t: make a race of it. Take time to en­joy the views. In­sider tip: ask at the vis­i­tor cen­tre about the short cut. This clips four miles off the route with­out los­ing any of the good bits and will mean you will still have time at the end of the day to ride the Red Bull. In­for­ma­tion: see en­try for Red Bull.

Leith Hill (North Downs)

Low­down: not a sin­gle route but a whole net­work of sin­gle-track bri­dle­ways run­ning down from the high­est point in south Eng­land. Would suit: all kinds of rid­ers, from be­gin­ner to ex­pe­ri­enced, but es­pe­cially those liv­ing in Lon­don. Do: ex­pect to get muddy if it’s rained in the past few days. Make a note of a garage with a jet-wash on your way out to the trails, so you can rinse your bike off be­fore you come home. Don’t: for­get to re-lu­bri­cate your bike once it’s been jet-washed. In­sider tip: the Na­tional Trust café on top of neigh­bour­ing Box Hill is a good place for a snack. In­for­ma­tion: take the train to Dork­ing and head south out of town to­wards the vil­lage of Cold­har­bour. A trail starts at the rear of the pub. Keep head­ing up and you’ll even­tu­ally ar­rive at the gothic tower at the top. Once there, ex­plore the sandy tracks that lead down the north­ern es­carp­ment. Call Nir­vana Cy­cles (01306 740300) for guided rides.

The Peak to Peak

Low­down: a 23-mile, un­sign­posted route mapped by en­thu­si­asts, head­ing out from the vil­lage of Peak For­est in Der­byshire. Would suit: those who like to mix their cy­cling with ori­en­teer­ing. Do: go to www.mtbbri­tain.co.uk/ peak_­to_­peak_route.html, to get a full de­scrip­tion of the route (in­clud­ing grid ref­er­ences). Don’t: be afraid of get­ting off to push ev­ery now and again. The guys that set this route were se­ri­ously fit. In­sider tip: park your car on the side streets of Peak For­est, not in the vil­lage pub car park. In­for­ma­tion: drive to Peak For­est, on the A623, just north-east of Bux­ton, then get out your copy of OS Out­door Leisure 1 The Dark Peak and a GPS satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion de­vice. Then play join the dots us­ing the grid ref­er­ences from the web­site, above. More trail in­for­ma­tion at www.mtbbri­tain. co.uk and www.moun­tain-bike-guid­ing.co.uk.

Sad­dle soar: two cy­clists crest the ridge on a tough route in the Lake Dis­trict

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