Mountain biking is currently the most popular type of cycling in the UK, with MTB sales outnumbering all other bicycle types combined. In recent years, a number of purpose built trail centres have been built featuring cycle routes crossing a variety of terrain, from downhill race tracks and cross-country courses to jump parks and free-ride trails.
Trail centres are usually built by a group of local enthusiast groups who construct features from fallen trees, rocks and other locally sourced materials. Many UK locations now feature ski resort-style colour-coded trails designating the difficulty of each route – a great help if it’s your first visit to the area!
1. Swinley Forest, Berkshire, England
The whole family can ride here as the terrain is so varied, from wide open fire roads (ideal for a leisurely ride) to tight singletrack that twists and turns through dense woodland. There are also plenty of short, sharp downhill sections and even a ‘jump gully’ for the kids!
2. Afan, Neath Port Talbot, Wales
Afan is a fantastic location for a wide range of abilities and ages. Trails are plentiful and testing with rocky sections, sweeping berms, north shore timber and rooty singletrack. Even non-riders can chill out and enjoy the Welsh sunshine on the excellent Dropoff Cafe terrace!
3. Cwmcarn, Caerphilly, Wales
This is one of the best downhill-orientated trail centres in the UK with switch backs, berms, a tunnel, rock steps, a timber bridge and jumps-a-plenty. Best of all, you don’t have to ride uphill – there is a minibus service (CwmDown) that takes you and your bike to the top in a minibus with a custom built trailer every half an hour.
4. Glentress Scottish Borders, Scotland
Glentress is one of the most well-rounded trail centres in the UK and has seen some serious investment in recent years with a £6 million visitor centre and several new trails. It’s a great location for absolute beginners to learn new skills but also for more experienced riders to have a total blast.
5. Fort William, Inverness Shire, Scotland
Dubbed ‘The Outdoor Capital of the UK’, Fort William is a fantastic location for all abilities. You can often feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but actually be just 15 minutes from the nearest café. Once a year, Fort William hosts the UCI Downhill World Championships.
6. Brechfa, Carmarthenshire, Wales
An underrated Welsh location, Brechfa features fantastic man made trails within an area of Forestry Commission woodland. It consists of Green, Blue, Red and Black graded routes from flowing singletrack to massive jumps and wall-rides. This location is guaranteed to put a smile on every mountain bikers face.
7. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England
From the carpark located in Coleford, you’ll find a wide range of mountain biking trails to suit all, from short technical tracks to longer cross country routes, not forgetting of course the numerous top class downhill routes that will suit most ages and abilities. There is even an uplift service (FlyUpDownhill) that will take you and your bike to the top!
8. Coed y Brenin, Gwynedd, Wales
Opening in 1999 close to Snowdonia, Coed y Brenin was one of the first purpose built trail centres in the UK. It features tracks that were hand built by local people using local materials and there’s a cafe, bike shop and visitor centre on site. It has several cross country routes varying in length from 7 to 23 miles and a dual slalom course.
9. UK Bike Park, Dorset, England
The UK Bikepark is a rider built non-profit club modelled on bike parks found in the USA. Run by it’s members, it caters for riders of all abilities with 7 short downhill courses, a four-cross track and north shore trails.
10. Chicksands, Bedfordshire, England
Chicksands is a small area of woodland that packs a huge number of features. There are short cross country trails, a freeride area, northshore balance sections, downhill runs, a dual course and huge ladder drops. Not forgetting the national standard 4X track that hosts a number of races throughout the year.