Since picking up my new Cannondale hardtail mountain bike earlier in the year I’ve made limited use of it. The ‘Beast from the East’ is an awesome machine. Huge 3” mid fat tyres and a chunky Reba suspension from Rockshox make for a fun and stable ride. With some free time this weekend I decided to head to the Scottish Borders and the Glentress Forest to make good use of my new wheels.
Hitting the road
A short drive of less than two hours in Harvey the RV saw me arrive mid morning for a full day on the trails. The facilities at Glentress Forest are excellent. Parking is £5 for a whole day and bike hire is available should you require it for reasonable cost. Plenty of clean toilets and warm showers are ready to greet you after your ride. If you’re feeling hungry you can even relax in the plush cafe and have lunch between runs to refuel.
Glentress Forest mountain bike trails are split into different coloured runs. For those who have never visited a trail centre before, you don’t need to be part of the Red Bull stunt team to have fun. Routes range from green rating, which are ideal for family friendly outings, through to full on black and downhill single track.
During the day it was great to see a wide variety of people enjoying the forest paths. Families with small children, who had not long learned to ride powering up hill. Followed by gnarly looking dudes with expensive full suspension frames and full face helmets. Truly something for everyone to enjoy no matter your skill or fitness level.
Big Blue rides again
The joy of camper van life for visiting a mountain bike trail centre like Glentress can’t be overlooked. Having a warm and dry base for a day of cycling is a fantastic experience. Get too hot? Drop a few layers off between runs or pick up a quick snack from the fridge. Should the worst happen and you damage your bike en route. A whole tool kit can be waiting for you at the bottom of the hill for a quick repair to get you rolling again.
Today I felt like taking it easy so checked out the blue routes. The Cannondale is capable of so much more technical ability but it was fun enjoying a relaxing ride down to ease back into mountain biking. The path was kept interesting with small drop offs, faster sections of single track and more technical skill opportunities. By pass options were available at most points for those looking for an even more gentle ride. Great idea as it allows a mix of experience levels to enjoy cycling together.
Confidence is a key element to mountain biking. Think about a section too much and you’ll either psych yourself out or make a mess of it. Being new to Glentress I needed a first run to get me into the swing of things. From then on it became progressively easier as I got more familiar with the twists and turns. Knowing when to brake and how hard to push yourself helps to keep you relaxed going down hill.
Following a few crashes over the years I’ve found that going out properly equipped also helps with confidence. Protective gear such as knee pads and elbow pads can really help make you feel more comfortable on the trails. Don’t be worried about what other people think or say. If it increases your enjoyment of mountain biking give it a try.
Decent quality padding isn’t just for technical downhill racers. It can make those small bumps when you’re learning much less scary and help push you out of your comfort zone. Gaining experience and skill is a tough slog sometimes but feels great when you land those drop offs after a few attempts. Whatever you wear, don’t forget a well fitting helmet up top to keep you safe.
Forest bike sleep over
Another perk of van life is being able to stay on location overnight. Sleeping in the camper van allows for an early start in the morning to get a few more rides in. Hitting the hills at first light is a great experience and made for some smooth descents away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded afternoons.
If you’re planning on sleeping over in a camper van I recommend preparing your heating carefully. There is nothing worst than waking up in the middle of the night freezing and miserable. Fortunately I have a diesel night heater that’s perfect for off grid adventures. Looking for a fitter in central Scotland? Be sure to check out John over @ Revolution Vans. He made a great job fitting my Eberspacher heater and is available for a whole host of VW related projects.
Glentree Forest was a great mountain bike trail centre to visit. Top notch facilities and well marked routes made for the perfect weekend escape from the office. If your a lover of two wheels I recommend checking it out when visiting Scotland regardless of your skill level. You’ll be sure to find a track to suit you and have a cracking day out.
Compared to the Wolftrax facility I visited a few months back in Laggan, Glentress had a larger variety of trails. I enjoyed the red routes of Wolftrax that felt like a decent balance between scary bits and out right fun but preferred the longer distances on offer at Glentress. Runs were typically around 30 to 45 minutes per time allowing for a good amount of time in the forest. Both sites are worth checking out but Glentress may be closer for people looking for a day trip outdoors.
Peebles is ideally placed with close distance from both Glasgow and Edinburgh making it in easy route for most. Traveling up from England to the Central Belt or Highlands? Stop off on your way and enjoy the fresh air and exercise on offer on the way by. I got up early enough to pay a visit to Edinburgh on the way back home and combined city living with gnarly garbage shredding. A fantastic way to end the week in style.