With the European Cup Rugby final was being played in Edinburgh this year and with the Irish sides going well around Christmas time, match tickets were acquired around Christmas time. It would be nigh on criminal to visit Edinburgh without taking in some of the famous Scottish trails.
So it was on the Friday morning of the bank holiday weekend that we arrived at “The Hub In The Forest” bike shop at Glentress to collect our hire bikes. Glentress is part of the 7 Stanes network of trails in Scotland and being located just an hours drive from the city, near the town of Peebles makes it the most accessible for weekend trips. I’d opted for a LaPierre Zesty demo bike, while my buddy went for one of the well specced Genesis hard tails that make up the shops standard hire fleet.
After a short bit of faffing we hit the trails. Our plan for the morning was jump straight in at the deep and take on the black route. From the main car park the red and black routes share the same climb up the higher Buzzards Nest car park. This climb as we would find with all the climbs is conducted on a very smooth trails with loads of switchback corners, so you simply spin your way up. It’s a very efficient way to climb and a lot of height can be gained rapidly.
The trail designers have also done their best to break up the monotony of the climbs by adding small optional features such as log rides every few hundred metres, a neat and enjoyable trick.
At this point the red and black take separate paths. The black continues with some long flowing singletrack through the woods with some rock drop-offs and rooty sections.
The next section is a long, long climb to the highest point of the trail. We were now out on open hillside and with the clear day the views were incredible. From here the only way is down, and what great sections follow; bermed corners, table top jumps, log steps, rocky sections, rooty sections, everything is crammed in here in quick succession. It was all technical but all rideable.
At this stage we made a choice to skip the Deliverance loop, basically a ten minute descent to the valley floor following by a 40 minute climb back out. Lightweights? Maybe, but it was nearly two and we were starving. Back to the upper car park where we get chatting to a few bikers from Glasgow, at which point we realised that these are the first riders we’ve seen since leaving this car park 3 hour earlier. Amazing.
Then a blast down the final red/black section to the main car park. We would get to know this section very well because it is used every time to get back to the main car park but it is fun and flows so well. We ended up doing it three times over the weekend and each time we we’re quicker. A quick toasted sandwich in the very nice Cafe and we were ready to head out again. Conscious that we had more riding and drinking ahead of us we opted to head for the skills area and freeride park rather than taking on another loop.
The skills area was interesting, without being spectacular consisting of a range of typical trail obstacles of various difficulty. This didn’t stop yours truly managing to have a nasty impact between head and wood whilst demonstrating for the fourth time how to ride a skinny log. Feeling lucky to have gotten away from my scrape with just a graze on my neck from the helmet strap we headed to freeride park.
The freeride park is a complete blast. We spent an hour or so sessioning various features like jumps and north shore. That’s the thing about Glentress everything here is designed to improve your riding skills whilst having the best fun. Where did the day go it was by now nearly 5 and we had to get the bikes back to the shop.
Despite a heavy night on the town we were back for more bright and early at 9.30am. I picked up a nice Santa Cruz Blur for this day while my buddy stuck with the Genesis. With the match kicking off at 5pm this would be a shorter day so we headed for the Red trail.
Again the early sections are mostly about getting you up to a height. At the top the descending begins with the Legendary Spooky wood section. Pretty much every rider we met over the weekend spoke about Spooky Wood with reverential tones. Were they over hyping it? Hell no, we weren’t disappointed. Spooky wood consists of 13 or 14 huge bermed corners linked with singletrack featuring bomb holes, drops and loads of jumps. Less technical than the black meant that you could turn on the style a bit more here. This is without a doubt some of the most fun you can have on a bike. With our confidence of riding this type of terrain sky high now the last few sections were dispatched with ease and we headed back into Edinburgh still grinning from the buzz of it.
So what are you waiting for, get yourself to Glentress. You’ll get the same feeling you had when you were 8 years old on your first BMX. We did anyway.
And for the record the Irish side Leinster won the cup so the weekend couldn’t have been better really.