The Lake District…
Apart from the best bits of Torridon and Cairngorms, we think the Lake District offers the best trail biking in the UK. Ok, so the archaic access laws mean you don’t have that amazing freedom that you do in Scotland, but there are plenty of amazing bridleways to create great routes. Gentle bimbles around Langdale, gorgeous technical singletrack along Ullswater, right up to the mega epic 3 Passes, 4 Passes or Helvellyn & High Street.
We’ve put together some notes on some of the best trail sections below. If any of them inspire you then get out the OS Map and a guidebook and get planning… alternatively send us an email saying which ones have caught your eye, and we’ll put together an amazing day/weekend/week or riding for you.
Often done as part of the classic 3 Passes route from Staveley, this provides an almost perfect technical rocky climb followed by a glorious series of flowing hairpins on the descent. But don’t relax too soon, there’s also some very techie rocky sections in there as well.
Fleetwith Pike to Warnscale Bottom –
The first of the classic 4 Passes (unless you start from Wasdale of course) is also the hardest. After a slog up Honister pass on the road, and then another slog up an even steeper track, the trail drops down into Buttermere in a series of very tricky trail sections interspersed with sections of unbelievably tricky rock gardens. Having only just started the ride it is all a bit intimidating, but easy to get off and walk some bits, after all you’ve got 3 times as much still to go.
Staveley Head Fell
The area north of Staveley (the Kendal one!) is infested with great bridleways. As well as the classic 3 Passes route there are stacks of much more amenable trails linking up Kentmere and Longsleddale.
This trail over from Sadgill to Staveley Head Fell is a great example (just don’t go when it’s rained loads 🙂 )
Back down Kentmere
Part of the beauty of the Lakes is how man has moulded the environment. Even on the easy sections of trail, the views and environment are just beautiful.
Styhead Tarn to Borrowdale
Assuming you’ve started in Borrowdale, the Styhead Tarn descent is the final one on the 4 Passes route. Like all the others (except perhaps Black Sail) it is very rocky and very difficult. If you have the energy left though and get into the rhythm it provides a superb finale. Keep your speed up over the rocks, let the suspension take the strain and just guide your bike down the increasingly tricky trail.
Nan Bield Pass
Opinion is sharply divided on this one, mainly dependent on how much you like sharp rocky switchbacks, but also dependent on how much it has rained on the lower grassy section.
If you can clean the switchbacks at the top, and the rocky section below, then you’re doing well.
If you’re going to fall, Don’t Fall Left !
The Lonscale Fell Loop near Keswick is an absolute classic. A gentle start on the recently rebuilt cycle path leads, via the cafe in Threlkeld, up the valley towards Skiddaw House youth hostel. A left turn takes you onto this amazing trail along the eastern flank of Lonscale Fell A couple of challenging climbs, at least one of which is usually pushed, leads to a rollercoaster path high on the valley side. As you get closer to the ridge, the ground steepens above and below and the rock slabs get harder and more exposed. But don’t worry, like all the other rides, its easy enough to get off at any bits you don’t like and just push round them. Just whatever you do, do not fall left.
Helvellyn has no less than 8 bridleways providing a range of ascents and descents in all directions. The north ridge from Matterdale Common past the Dodds and Raise Ski Centre (yes really) is the best ascent if you’re fit and like challenging climbs ( and it’s been very dry or frozen). Sticks Pass (pictured) is the classic descent off the eastern side. Or if you want seriously technical, then Birkside down to Thirlmere is a full on rockfest without quite so many wheel eating waterbars as the classic Dollywagon Pike. If you fancy a long day then up Dodds, down Sticks, up Keppel Cove and down Birkside is an absolute peach.
Over west of Coniston Water lies the much quieter Duddon Valley, which has a number of excellent routes, which are always much quieter than the more popular areas. The Wallowbarrow Crag section (pictured) has some steep rocky switchbacks in the woods as well as some beautifully positioned rocks to get some air. The Stephenson Ground descent to Seathwaite is one of the best descents, and not just because there is a pub right at the bottom.
Combine them both with the Wrayslack descent for an excellent day out… just don’t be tempted to extend it with the Grassguards Gill bridleway as it’s bloody awful!
The eastern side of Ullswater contains some of the best trails in the Lakes. The Cockpit to Howtown descent is simply the best mellow descent we know of. 5km of undulating varied, fast, relaxed fun. There’s another great non technical ride on High Street up above, but it’s a lot longer and higher and the OnlyDryOrFrozen (TM) rule applies double on this hill.
At completely the other end of the spectrum is the Ullswater Bridleway. Although it never gains much height it has some of the most challenging technical riding around. If you’re not up for gnadgery tech, or an occasional push, then be prepared to get very frustrated. Still, look on the bright side, the Ullswater Steamer is always an option to get back again.
Can’t have a overview of the Lakes without including the Bash!
An excellent route which circles Derwent Water and the main part of Borrowdale. The highlights include Birkett’s Leap (pictured) and the Castle Crag Descent.
Four Passes not challenging enough for you?
There is another option from Borrowdale that includes Styhead Tarn to Stockley Bridge but doesn’t necessitate doing the other 3 passes first. Instead head south from Rosthwaite into Langstrath and follow the bridleway past Black Moss Pot (excellent swimmming) and onto Stake Pass. The ascent is a stunning section of beautiful hairpin bends that is probably rideable on an ebike but just a bit steep for us. The bottom of the descent into Langdale is great, but again the top section is too rocky for us.
To add insult to injury, the climb out of Langdale up Rosset Gill is a nightmare. More of a push than a carry, and goes on for bloody miles.
The descent from Esk Hause to Styhead is brilliant, and the descent from Styhead to Stockley Bridge is beyond brilliant, but in our opinion it just doesn’t stitch together to form that classic rout like the 4 passes.