We highlight some of the best places to ride in Devon
Words by Rebecca Parker
Everyone knows Wales as a mountain biking hotspot, and most will have read articles based on the Highlands, Lake District, Peak District and Yorkshire – but few will have realised the many wonders on offer in the sleepy southern county of Devon.
More often mentioned for its sandy beaches, traditional cream teas and hordes of retirees that flock here to retire in milder climates, Devon actually has much more to offer. Few realise that bubbling under the surface is a thriving mountain bike community making the very most of Devon’s 2 national parks (Dartmoor and Exmoor) and many vertical forested hillsides.
Here’s a look at some of the best places to ride in Devon…
HALDON FOREST CENTRE – EX6 7XR
Haldon is the most well-known of Devon’s riding spots, and with exceptionally flowy all-weather surfaced trails, it is the perfect introduction to mountain biking for all levels of ability. The forest hub is well set up with a cosy café, toilets, showers (!), bike hire, mechanics, bike wash, pump track and skills area as well as Segway hire, a Go Ape centre and many walking trails for those who don’t ride.
Haldon offers a green Discovery trail (1.5 miles), Spicers blue trail (2.3 miles), Kiddens blue trail (4 miles) and the red Ridge Ride trail (6 miles) with an optional 0.5 black shoot off. The grading here is fairly generous with all the trails proving doable for any moderately confident rider. For those after a slightly more ‘enduro’ challenge, any of the unmarked singletrack trails that riddle the forest are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
GAWTON GRAVITY HUB – PL19 8JN
Looking for something a bit gnarly? Gawton is a downhill venue, so all the trails require a competent level of mountain bike skill and an even higher level of confidence. It is not a suitable venue for beginners or young children.
Gawton has 4 trails, each around 1 mile long with a long (though rideable) push up, or an uplift service is available through flyupdownhill.
HSD is by far the easiest with a 1 dot red grading, it is a fast flowy track with rollable features and flatter sections that allow you to regain your composure. Proper Job is a popular 2 dot red trail which is renowned for its high sided, tight, switchback berms. Super Tavi, 1 black dot and Egypt, 2 black dots are extreme downhill trails for the very experienced rider featuring unavoidable large drops, doubles and steep, rooty technical sections.
Membership is required – but this costs just £40 for an adult, £15 for an under 18, or you can get a £5 day pass. You can purchase online or from Dartmoor cycles in Tavistock. Membership covers Gawton and Tavi woodlands.
TAVI WOODLANDS – PL19 8PB
Tavi is the ungroomed yet friendlier version of Gawton – and membership to Gawton covers access to Tavi Woodlands as well. The trails are rougher with not a sign in sight, but the locals are always happy to point you in a safe direction. There’s lots to choose from with several fire road crossings on the way down so it’s easy to mix and match, or just session one section. Jumps, drops and roots abound making this a great place to progress your airtime skills.
SCADSON FREERIDE PARK – TQ1 1RN
The postcode is for Occombe Farm which is the nearest secure parking and facilities. Membership is £21 annually through British cycling website.
A fairly new bike park situated in Scadson woods between Cockington and Paignton which is run by a small group of volunteers called TQ3 riders. What this venue lacks in size it makes up for in fun with tons of features packed into 3 progressive runs. The first one is manageable by most competent riders, smooth and flowy with small drops, rollers and optional kickers off to the side. The second is tight and twisty, and the third has a few bigger features but again all with chicken lines making this a great place to session particular features.
TRISCOMBE MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS – TA4 3HG (Triscombe Stone car park)
The definition of enduro, Triscombe has got tight, twisty and steep covered! There are around 20 different trails spread over the forested hillside, though there a few man-made features, the real challenge lies in negotiating the roots, gullies and natural drops as the trail gets gradually steeper. Again there are no signs or facilities here, but the locals are friendly and half the fun is in the exploring, just be sure to look before you leap first time down! If downhill isn’t your thing the Quantocks offer a wealth of cross country riding, with a little prior planning and a good map.
Admittedly Triscombe is in Somerset but it’s only just over the border!
DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK
If downhill days are not for you and you prefer the challenge of an all-day epic cross country adventure then look no further than Dartmoor National Park. Renowned within the biking community for its long gruelling climbs, technical boulder strewn descents that make you feel like Danny Macaskill and big open desolate panoramas. The best technical riding can be found around the Lustleigh Cleave area, but for beginner and family friendly riding head to Princetown where you will find the fully surfaced and signposted Granite and Gears routes.
EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK
Exmoor boasts some of the most varied cross country riding in the UK. With coastal, wooded and open moorland trails, there are some truly challenging roller coaster bedrock descents that may even distract you from the lung busting climbs! The general consensus seems to be that the village of Porlock makes the best base for big singletrack rides, whilst the Wimbleball reservoir is the most popular family/beginner ride. With over 260 square miles of bridleway and a little help from an OS map, you’ll fine some great riding in Exmoor.
WOODBURY COMMON – EX5 1JL (Four firs carpark)
The lesser known, Woodbury common, is a beautiful spot just outside of Exmouth offering a great escape into wild open heathland. Though it may not offer huge climbs and descents, there is a fun little roller coaster path that skirts most of the perimeter, as well as a hidden set of downhill trails with jumps in the forest near Yettington. The appeal lies in the fun of being able to have a quick, no fuss cross country blast around without ever being too far from the car.
While this sleepy county may not have mountains, it sure does have hills. After a trail blazing day, it would be rude to not sample a cream tea, or one of the local real Ales.
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