Bridleways, BOATs and Singletrack …
Peak District Mountain Biking is a popular pastime. Locals and riders from further afield flock here to experience the magnificent legal mtb routes on bridleways and BOATs. There are no manufactured trails here, other than a few set up unofficially by locals here and there. Unfortunately, there is inevitably some road riding to be done to link together the choice sections.
The mtb enthusiast will find short and challenging routes in the west of the Peak District with long and challenging killer loops in the Dark Peak and the White Peak. You will find plenty of tough climbs and short, sharp, gnarly downhills.
But note at the weekend, you will also find plenty of 4x4s and trail bikes to contend with as they don’t always respect the rules of the road and end up on bridleways with you!
It doesn’t really matter although our preference is for a hardtail, simply because it requires more skill and control than a full susser which will just rattle down at full speed over all terrain, whatever the skills level of the pilot. How do I know? I have ridden both and found the full suspension mountain bike to be a bit boring as there was little to do other than sit there and point it!
Peak District mountain biking is not always well received, there are some ramblers who seem to think we should be banned. There are some mountain bikers who should be banned though – those who blast down at full speed expecting everyone to get out of the way. It is necessary to show respect for others as the Peak District can be a crowded place at certain times of the year. So it is not always possible to blast downhill on your mountain bike at full speed as you have to be alert for dogs, kids, walkers, horses … which is a bit of a waste of a full susser.
But there is something for all levels, families and novices can ride the traffic free Monsal, Tissington and High Peak Trails or the Manifold Track and Derwent Reservoir circuit which have some road sections.
There are a number of mountain bike guide books, our favourites are the Vertebrate graphics books. They are clear, easy to follow and well researched with extras like the top ten mtb downhills and top ten off-road climbs. Here are some links to Peak District mtb books on amazon …
White Peak Mountain Biking: The Pure Trails
Peak District Mountain Biking: Dark Peak Trails
Mountain Bike Rides in the Peak District: Strong, Durable All-weather Laminated Map
Cycling in the Peak District: Off Road Trails and Quiet Lanes
… and a couple a little further afield where we really enjoy the riding …
… and don’t forget the Seven Stanes in Southern Scotland. Brilliant manufactured trails, as good, if not better than the Welsh ones.
Peak District Mountain Biking
There is plenty of other off-road action for both inexperienced and experienced mountain bikers on fantastic singletrack, bridleways and other tracks. Generally, the BOATs (Byways Open to All Traffic) have been pretty well destroyed by the off-road motorists enjoying the peace, quiet and fresh air of the countryside (as have some bridleways and indeed footpaths as well).
There are several cycle hire centres. The routes we suggest are just outlines, it is recommended that you study them on a map before using them.
In brief, those looking for short sharp and challenging Peak District mountain biking routes routes would do well to visit the areas around New Mills and Macclesfield forest. The climbs are often both technical and steep and the routes hereabouts are seldom flat! This is not an area to visit if you are not fit or used to mountain biking on sound tracks, there are some very challenging technical sections indeed.
The same goes for the Dark Peak, although the climbs are generally longer but not quite as punishingly steep. Couple that with gnarly descents and a little rain and you will need all the concentration and skills that you can muster. Having said that, there are a few tracks for example, the perimeter track of Derwent and Howden reservoirs that would be suited to riders who are perhaps not quite so confident on loose and slippery steep surfaces.
Digital Mapping Software
Digital mapping is becoming more and more popular both for GPS systems and on home computers. Here are a couple of the systems available. Both offer free software and make their money on selling the maps. For the flexibility, although it can cost you more initially for a map, in the long term it could save cash – particularly if you are like us – our mountain biking (and winter walking) takes its toll on paper maps. With a digital map, you simply reprint.
Another advantage of digital maps is that you can print off just the area that you need so instead of lugging around the whole paper map, you just take a compact A4 sheet. Great!
Quo Digital Maps
The prices look reasonable for the most of the maps they sell although the National Park digital maps are a little less expensive than Anquet, for example their 1:25000 of the Peak District is a shade over £40 and the entire range of Landranger maps for Great Britain at around £110, or if you just want a few small and specific areas, they sell map tiles at a couple of pounds each.
But I digress – see below for a few of our favourite Peak District mountain biking routes …
A Peak District mountain bike route with some great descents and 3 big climbs to get your legs in shape. Takes in some roads, tracks and a fabulous singletrack descent into Bakewell.
The High Peak trail and Carsington Water.
The High Peak trail is a disused railway line running through the heart of the White Peak offering virtually traffic free cycling. Carsington Water is Derbyshire’s most recent large reservoir which was opened in 1992 by HM Queen Elizabeth II. This ride combines the trail and reservoir using mainly quiet country lanes and bridleways (with just a couple of sections along main roads).
A short or long Peak District mountain biking circuit around Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs in the north of the Peak District. A pleasant day out on tarmac on a generally straightforward track.
A fine moorland circuit for experienced riders, best tackled after a dry spell if you want to ride the whole route.
A short mountain bike circuit round Bakewell, taking in the Monsal Trail, the busy A6 and the local mud …