NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies from this website.
I understand
More Info
Two BikersOff-Road
For those who want a bit of adventure at the weekend and like to get their wheels dirty, mountain biking is practically a religion. Rob McKinlay goes off-road




Different spokes

Mountain biking incorporates various disciplines:

  • Cross-country (XC) – a trail that usually runs through forest or more exposed grassland, often including singletrack (narrow trail)
  • Downhill (DH) – fast, technical, steep trails, usually with a specialist bike
  • Freeride – specialist park with jumps, drop-offs, berms (see Trail talk below) or just riding the terrain around you

Mountain biking has been an Olympic sport since Atlanta, 1996, and continues to grow in popularity…

  • Cross-country is the Olympic discipline, with men racing 40–50km (six to seven laps) and women 30–40km (five to six laps)
  • The course is designed to take approximately 2hrs, 15mins for men and 2hrs for women
  • London 2012 will see riders heading to Hadleigh Farm, Essex, a 550-acre site with the backdrop of the ruins of 700-year-old Hadleigh Castle. A technical course with hilly terrain and challenging gradients

Trail talk

  • Berm: banked corner
  • Boulder/rock garden: trail section that is covered in rocks
  • Camel bumps/double: two consecutive jumps with gap in between
  • Drop-off: steep (often vertical) and sudden drop in the trail
  • Full suss: bike with front and rear suspensions
  • Gnarly: rough, dangerous, often steep, section of trail
  • Granny gear: the lowest gear, used for steep climbs
  • Hard tail: bike with front suspension and rigid frame at rear
  • MTB: mountain biking
  • North shore/timber trail: wooden, raised section of trail
  • Pearler: a particularly big ‘stack’
  • Stack: crash
  • Tabletop: plateau with ramp on either side
  • Whoops: series of small jumps


JumpingGrade Expectations

Mountain bike trails are colour-graded in a similar way to ski runs:

Green (easy): length,

Blue (moderate): length, 10–20km; shallow/moderate climbs and short sections of steeper climbs, over unsurfaced roads, bridleways, byways and quiet roads; suitable for children 10+ and fit families

Red (difficult): length, 10–50km; range of challenging climbs and descents over any terrain/trail; suitable for skilled riders who are comfortable tackling moderate trails, using quality, off-road bikes

Black (severe): length, up to 100km, including ‘skills courses’; any navigable climbs/descents over any gradient, often including ‘drop-offs’; suitable for expert riders capable of taking on technical terrain, including challenging singletrack, severe climbs and descents, using quality, off-road equipment

Thanks go to…

…four chaps from Marin County, California, who, in 1974, combined a 21-speed cyclocross bike with a one-speed downhill version with fat ‘balloon’ tyres and thumbshift gears, thus inventing the mountain bike as we know it today, or so they thought. However, a mountain bike concept dates even further back, to 1953, when John Finley Scott designed and built his ‘Woodsie’ bike, sporting flat bars, fat tyres, and multiple gears while studying at Reed College, Oregon.

To get you started, here are handful of the UK’s best MTB spots

Glentress, nr Peebles, Scottish Borders
One of the much-lauded 7 Stanes mountain bike centres scattered across the south of Scotland, Glentress boasts spectacular trails to suit all abilities, including skills area and freeride park. Add top-class facilities and a great atmosphere and you’ll appreciate why Glentress is consistently recognised as one of the best MTB centres in the country.
Swinley Forest, Berkshire
With 2,600 acres of pine woodland available, Swinley Forest is an ideal location to learn to ride. An expert mountain biking area keeps downhillers and freeriders happy, but its wide variety of more moderate trails make it ideal for novices and families.

Coed Y Brenin, North Wales

This purpose-built centre in stunning Snowdonia is a draw for riders from Wales and beyond. The first forest in Britain to be developed specifically for mountain biking includes all-weather singletrack and an exciting dual slalom course, as well as a host of exciting trails for all levels.

Fort William, Scottish Highlands

The annual Mountain Biking World Cup takes place near Fort William. There are trails for everyone, from gentle cross-country to the best downhill these shores have to offer, the only terrain in Britain you need a ski lift to get to!


Share on