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UK Mountain Biking Terrain

What's the lay of the land like?
Make me laugh!
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If it's rained all week, what will it be like on differing terrains at the Weekend?
Will the water run off immediately or collect in pools of stagnant stinkers?
You will probably know how the weather affects your local stomping trails.
Where is it worth going when you need a change! Work out what the ground will be like before you go.
  Scottish Highlands C. S. W. Scotland Wales Midlands
Terrain Mainly high
steep and exposed

Best riding
in forest complexes
some at altitude

wet intricate
limited off-road biking
Surface Mainly rocky
but peat in hollows
Forest, grouse
& drove roads
often uneven
Lots of mud,
even on tow-paths
Drainage Good
often flash flooding
usually controlled
Good in some places Poor
ages to dry out
Trails Long
often long tarmac links
Way-marked in forests,
many trails well trodden
Confusing status
changes in many places
not all tow-paths
open to cyclists
Signs Fair/poor
map skills essential
Main through routes fine
but always take
a map with you
Poor over-all
Best Time Apr-Jun, Oct-Nov Apr-Oct May-Oct May-Oct
Pit Stops Spares
And well spaced out
Ample places to stay Quite spread-out,
sparse in some places
Ample places
to stay


  East Anglia Home Counties N. E. England Lake District
Terrain Flat,
agricultural land
Surprisingly hilly

often confusing hills
and forests

Very hilly
mainly steep
Surface Sandy
muddier in Suffolk
often very wet
Peat and sandstone Mainly rocky
occasional bog
Drainage Fair in north
slower in south
Only fair Mainly good, lot's of peaty wheel stopper's Good
water run-off's
worn- tracks
Trails Mainly good
many see little use
Lots of shortest
in the forests,
good through routes
Well defined
Signs Poor
map skills essential
Very good
but will need a map
Mainly good Very good
should not get lost
Best Time All-year
but best in the summer
May-Oct All year round All year round,
summer very busy
Pit Stops Sparse
apart from the coast
very busy in the summer
busy in the summer
Ample places
to stay


  North York Moors The South West South Chalklands Pennines & Dales
Terrain Exposed plateau Low-hills
rolling farmland
Impressive ridges
Very hilly
long hill climbs
Surface Peat, sandstone mix

Mainly soft
peaty mix's

Usually compacted chalk
some flint
Lots of peat
otherwise stony
Drainage Mainly good
big pools in places
Poor to hopeless! Most wet disappears
leaves some big pools
Good but
lingering pools
Trails Mainly straight lines, tarmac links Variable in the extreme Most, well defined
heavy use in summer
well defined
little used
Signs Reasonable
good in popular places
Only fair
map skills essential
Generally very good
Kent is excellent
plenty of
national trails
Best Time All year round
subject to weather
windy in winter
All year round Within reason all year summer is best
Pit Stops Ample places
to stay
very busy in summer
Book ahead
for the summer months
Well spread
book ahead in summer
Different terrain around the U.K.
Hardcore ground Area
Hard rock means big hills, occasional mountains and spectacular riding, and that includes most of Wales, the Lake District, the Central and Western Highlands of Scotland and many of the offshore islands. It also means hard going on steep climbs and lumpy descents, which is why you tend to find that riders from these parts are in a league of their own when it comes to the really rough stuff.

In fact, they don't even think it's rough. Good route-finding is essential in these areas, because coming down in the wrong valley can involve a lot of extra work at the end of the days ride, just as you through you'd finished that epic trail. (take it from the Bicyclemania.co.uk team they know..!)
Different terrain around the U.K.
Peaty ground Area
Peat is part of the hard rock scene too, but usually figures large where an ancient layer has covered granites, Volcanic rock or the great glaciated slabs of the Highlands. But it's not all at altitude. Along with the Pennines, Cheviots and Rannoch Moor, there are considerable deposits in the Somerset Levels, any of the south-western Moors and the Norfolk Broads, which were in fact peat pits before they flooded.

The only times that peat approaches anything near reasonable riding are when it's bone dry or frozen solid, and even, good wide fresh tyres are a must.
Different terrain around the U.K.
Sandy ground Area
Sandy ground is a rarity. Norfolk and Suffolk spring to mind, but there are long sandy patches, such as the Lancashire Mosses, Romney Marsh with its pebble-strewn tracks, Tentsmuir in the kingdom of Fife, and Culbin on the South side of the Moray Firth where a whole agro region, complete with villages, was buried by windblown sand in the 17th century.

These are strength-sapping areas, apart from the main agro pistes, where the sand has been compressed and often creates huge road-width puddles. These areas may be pretty flat, but are certainly not easy.
Different terrain around the U.K.
Sticky ground Area
Clay is sticky, (Under statement of the year!)
It mostly derives from chalk, but the best stuff has an adhesive quality that makes most trail tracks through the Midlands or dare I say 'mud lands' Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire almost out of bounds between November and April.

It takes ages to dry out and all we can do is offer our sympathy to mountain bike riders living in the heart of England and suggest you look for trail opportunities out of your district, like Spain!
Different terrain around the U.K.
Chalk ground Area
Chalk land means mainly rolling hills with some exposed twin tracks. Great when nice and dry, but lethal when its wet or damp.
(take it from the Bicyclemania team they know, & are black & blue all over)

The areas are the Lincolnshire Wolds and the Yorkshire Wolds plus down south and around the Isle of White.


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