Thinking up your list of bike-based adventure for the year ahead? Can you picture yourself riding in the alps, flying through berms in Bike Park Wales, or whistling through the night on your local trail?
If you’re looking for ideas, we’re here to help. We’ve got 9 experiences that every mountain biker should try in 2014. There’s some big goals, there’s some challenges, but most importantly there are loads of things that are completely achievable, and that you don’t need tonnes of kit to do.
Don’t forget to keep checking Total Women’s Cycling for more ideas and inspiration, not to mention all the information you’ll need to make those ambitions a reality.
[part title="1. Go for a night ride"]
Mountain biking at night is a special experience. Even the most familiar trail is transformed when cloaked in darkness and lit only by the twin beams of your light and head torch.
Your speed feels different, the noises are different; it’s exhilarating and thrilling and something every rider should experience. It's also easy to do - you just need bright enough lights, and all your regular kit. Some places even rent out lights, or you could borrow some from a friend. Give it a go!
If you’re not sure what to expect, what to bring or how to prepare, we’ve got all the info you need - check out our articles on night riding.
[part title="2. Try riding au-naturel"]
No, we don’t mean naked. That would probably hurt. We mean breaking away from the blues, reds and black routes on trail centres, and heading out into the wild!
You’ll have to do a little bit of research into where you can ride, but there are literally thousands of miles of natural trails waiting to be explored. The Peak District, Lake District, Scotland and Surrey Hills are just a few of the places you could try.
Natural trails are different to trail centres trails in a number of ways. Although there may be a clear track, it won’t have been designed and built, so won’t be groomed and gravelled in the same way as a lot of trail centre routes are. Expect roots, rocks, technical features and thrilling views.
This kind of riding will push you, help develop your technical riding skills, and provide a mental challenge as much as a physical one.
[part title="3. Ride down Snowdon"]
It’s a majestic mountain in the north of Wales that thousands of walkers summit every year. For them, it’s all about the climb. For mountain bikers, it’s all about the descent. Though obviously you have to get to the top first.
Riding down Snowdon is an incredible experience, not least because you have to work so hard to get up there in the first place. Although you can cycle part of the way, after a while it becomes hike-a-bike territory. Once you get to the top, you can enjoy stunning views if you’re lucky with the weather, and an epic, long downhill to savour.
Obviously, it's huge popularity with walkers means that it’s not a good idea to ride it for most of the year, and in fact there’s a voluntary agreement that mountain bikers won’t ride there between 10am and 5pm from the 1st of May to the 30th September. Stick to it!
We think this can make it all the more special, as if you want to get a ride in, you’re looking at a dawn start. This means you’ll be riding back down with the early sun shining, just in time for a tasty full Welsh breakfast. Perfect!
[Even Rachel Atherton has given it a go! Though she managed to get a lift up - surely that's cheating :) ]
[part title="4. Go on holiday with your bike"]
Imagine it; you, your trusty steed, the sun shining down, dry dusty trails, and several mountain worth of trails to explore or park to play in. Sounds like bliss, right?
There’s a whole world of mountain biking out there to explore, and heading overseas will not only satisfy your wanderlust, it’ll broaden your riding skills too. Plus give you the chance to sample a lot of tasty food.
The French and Swiss Alps are a hugely popular destination for a lot of UK riders, and rightly so, but there are other options too. If you like wild and rugged, with added volcanoes, try Iceland. Fancy visiting a legendary location? Head to the Whistler bike park in Canada. Want a break in the sun combined with coaching from a pro? Pure Mountains in Spain have Katy Curd providing instruction and guidance on their Skills for Women holiday.
[part title="5. Enter an event (or two!)"]
Whether you like lung-busting cross-country, white knuckle down hill, the ups and downs of gravity enduro or a long ride with like-minded women, there is an event out there for you – and usually more than one!
So why do an event? It can give you motivation to train or push your skills, it’s a fun day out, it’s the chance to meet other likeminded women, it’ll give you the opportunity to ride somewhere different and new, the list goes on.
The added joy of joining an organised event is that everything is set up for you; you don’t need to worry about your route, you’ve just got to get yourself and your bike around the course. There’s usually an event village packed with info, support, mechanical assistance, not to mention the odd shop and plenty of eating opportunities.
[part title="6. Try a multi-day adventure"]
Mountain bikers have a habit of going round in circles. To be fair, it’s easy to see why – trail centres have circular routes, you might have a set ride that takes you from home to trail and back home again, and so on.
Why not try something a bit different? The MTB equivalent of bicycle touring. It doesn’t have to be a long trip, just a two or three day point-to-point ride. Carry a tent or bivi bag, your food, a little stove and sleep out under the stars, curled up next to your beloved bike.
If you don’t fancy carrying your gear, or you want a bigger adventure, there are several companies offering week long point to point rides in various locations like Scotland.
[part title="7. Book an uplift day"]
No longer solely the domain of the downhiller, an uplift day is something every mountain biker should experience this year.
Uplifts involve literally getting a lift up to the top of the trails, usually with you in a truck, and your bike strapped securely on a trailer at the back. The result is the chance to get lots of downhill runs in in one day out, plus the chat and banter in the truck on the way back up!
Most modern full-suspension bikes have good enough suspension to deal with a lot of DH tracks, which opens up a lot more riding opportunities too. Places like Bike Park Wales, One Giant Leap at Llangollen have uplift services, and also check out FlyUp Downhill.
Uplifts are perfect if you want a day to practice particular skills, if you just fancy riding downhill - or don’t fancy riding uphill!
[part title="8. Go watch a world-class event"]
This year, you’ll have the chance to watch the top professional mountain bikers in the world do their thing at the highest level of competition right here in the UK. That is pretty cool.
Scotland is where all the action is takes place. Good old Fort William (aka Fort Bill) is, as ever, hosting a round of the UCI Downhill World Cup, and it’ll be your chance to see riders like Rachel Atherton, Manon Carpenter and Tahnee Seagrave in high-speed action. Take a walk around the pits and you might even get the chance to say hi to the riders themselves.
A little further down the country, and Innerleithan will be hosting Round 2 of the Enduro World Series this year, as part of the 2-week Tweedlove Festival. Briton Tracy Moseley was crowned Enduro World Champion at last years inaugural series (check out the video from the final round in Italy last year); can she do it again this year?
Both events are renowned for their festive atmospheres, so expect a lot of fun as well as a lot of riding. There’s also plenty of incredible riding to be had in both locations – so you can watch the pros shred the trails, then do a little shredding of your own. It could be the perfect weekend.
[part title="9. Visit Bike Park Wales"]
Newly opened in 2013, Bike Park Wales aims to bring the style and substance of parks like Whistler to the British Isles…and it’s looking good!
On a hillside in Merthyr Tydfil, they’ve packed in loads of downhill tracks, miles of single-track on graded trails, a trail centre and shop with an impressive rental fleet. Care has been taken to vary the terrain too, so you’ll find smooth and groomed trails side by side with rocky, natural stuff too. There should be something for everyone.
You can book on the uplift service if you want to pack in the runs, or ride back up for the workout. Be warned, it can get pretty busy, so we recommend booking in advance!