For this installment of our 'Through the eyes of local' blog series, we asked local rider Jacob Martin what he loves about riding the Pembrokeshire National Park and why it is definitely worth a visit with your bike.
From all across the county on any day the cloud has lifted high enough you can see a long set of unique hills. The highest point stands at 536m above sea level and one of the rocky outcrops about half way along was found to be the origin for some of the stone used to build Stonehenge.
The Preseli Hills, or Mynyddoedd y Preseli as they are known in Welsh, are the home to some amazing cross country mountain biking which ranges from fast flowing natural singletrack to technical rocky climbs. This riding is on the bridleways and forest tracks that lace the hills and nearby Gwaun Valley. For those of us lucky enough to live nearby there are some great rides to do for an evening but there are also plenty of longer rides that can fill your day. The ridge ride is a nice ride that takes you from one end of the Preselis all the way to the other with views all the way to Snowdonia and even Ireland on the clearest days!
As a local, where would you recommend a visiting rider to go for an awesome day's ride?
If you want to ride the Preseli ridge it is best to start in the small village of Rosebush taking the bridleway past the old quarry, through Pantmaenog forest and out onto the hills. You can then follow another bridleway obviously marked on an OS map (OL35) east along the full length of the hills towards Crymych. Alternatively for a shorter ride you can turn off at the halfway point.
There will be amazing views North across Cardigan bay and up to Snowdonia and one of the spectacular rocky outcrops you pass by is where the stone for Stonehenge came from as I mentioned earlier. You can then take the small and quiet country lanes back to the start where you can have some food in the small village pub called Tafarn Sinc. This ride is a total of about 15 miles and is great for any rider with mid level fitness and experience.
If you have a mountain bike then you're probably wondering where to ride it next, maybe dreaming of Whistler bike park or other such adventurous locations. Unfortunately most of us have to make the most of riding in the UK, which is actually pretty great, and after reading this you'll hopefully think about visiting Dartmoor National Park.
There are a few reasons one would consider Dartmoor to be an exceptional place to ride mountain bikes*.
One, space and variety. An expanse opens up before you on Dartmoor, as far as you can see are hills, tors, rivers and forests all waiting to be explored. Bike down the side of any tor and there's a plethora of line choice; miles of unscathed single track, drops and natural rock gardens just wait to feel the bite of a tyre and the wind of your passing. There are trails on Dartmoor on par with many bike parks I've visited, and not only that but there is the freedom of mixing up paths and trails occurring so frequently that it's your own bike park to create. There's no chosen route for you, merely a destination, it fills you with a sense of freedom and excitement which I genuinely have not felt when riding anywhere else.
Freeride ain't dead. Here is a place where you can drop into gulley's, off tors, hit gaps created over thousands of years, there are even abandoned quarries if you're ballsy enough. My point is if you want to get radical you can, and easily. It's a playground for the brave and there's plenty of apparatus. The sheer brilliance of it is that how crazy you get is really down to how crazy you want to be, envision it and you can probably find it!
Downhill exists too, in the form of Gawton Gravity Hub. 5 tracks are on offer in this rock studded descent of the Tamar valley, flowing a path of adrenaline all the way to the bottom. Where from Thursday to Sunday the uplift service will whisk you back up to ride it all again. The team and tracks here are simply fantastic, care and love are put into this place all year round to change the tracks up and maintain them for everyone who rides them. A jump run co exists with the downhill tracks so there's really something for everyone here, be sure to visit it if you're in the area.
Yet another virtuous trait expressed by the open moorland is that one can ride for almost any length of time. I'm not saying you must embark on gargantuan epics across the moor, you could go for a 20 minute spin instead; or literally anything in between. Because there is such a density of paths it means you can customise your ride length to almost any degree, whilst finding specific trails is harder you're almost sure to come across single track, free ride and everything in between on any one tor. Wide open paths provide the perfect carpet to practice your wheelies, and rock drops can help test your suspension.
The final reason is that Dartmoor is simply a beautiful place to ride a bike. In the summer beautiful flowers erupt from the ground and explode out of the plants, creating a truly brilliant scene on the moorland. Autumn will bring a dull purple grey to the wilds of the national park, this brings a sombre mood and it'll start getting muddy up there. Whilst winter can bring snow, and it's great fun if it does, it will more readily bring lots of mud and can make some paths useless. Spring will start to dry out the trails for what will hopefully be a summer of shred. Views from the top of tors can have you looking at lakes or forests, or rolling hills tailing off into the distance ; the variety in the landscape is spectacular and makes riding on Dartmoor a really special occasion. You're riding on land that has survived thousands of years in a relatively unscathed way, most of Dartmoor was originally forest (the riding would be even better!), and you can feel the energy of the place motivating you to push your riding.
It's a truly special place for mountain biking and it simply cannot be praised highly enough, I hope this has you stoked to ride it!
For more information on the riding in Dartmoor then get in touch, we're more than happy to point you in the direction of some good trails, suggest a guide for the day or let you know about our up coming trips to this beautiful National Park!
This piece was written by local shredder Mick Turner McKinnel. If you fancy writing about your local spot then get in touch.
* Please only use approved routes for mountain biking.
The first time I was asked to ride in Exmoor I laughed and said "Isn't it flat there?" Promised that it boasted the second highest point in the South of England and that I was about to ride some hardly ridden single track that flowed forever, I packed my bags and hit the M4 to Porlock. A 1hr 45min drive from Bristol and I was there. Apparently once home to the most Elderly population in Britain in 2010 I wasn't expecting much gnar but boy was I wrong... After setting up tent in this awesome little campsite hidden away in the hills we built up our bikes, met with our guides and headed out for our first ride. Straight out the campsite, we were delivered with a flowy single track that winded its way alongside a majestic stream. We hit our first climb, passing ancient English Oak forest and a family of wild ponies.
We reached the top of our first climb and were treated with some amazing views across the sea to Wales. We began our descent, flowing down a field of flow with natural kickers and ruts to play around with. It was hard not to get distracted by the views as we skipped and brushed past bushes. We dropped into the woods and were met with banks you could flow up and down. The soil was so grippy you could just rip turns and pop back into the single track. The natural berms were so perfect to carry your speed round and there were plenty of roots poking out the ground to keep you on your toes. We got to the bottom and everyone was buzzing, high fives were flying and we were all laughing where Tom nearly landed in a ravine as he shot up the bank before a berm but ripped in and held it pinned at the last minute.
We got back on the saddle and climbed the old toll road that weaved its way up the hills with spectacular sea views. At the top, our guide, Dan French of Exmoor Adventures, had a big old grin on his face and we knew we were in for some fun... It was time to tame some fresh loam. We flew down a fireroad for about 50m then Dan disappeared into a bush, unsure on his path I followed and on the other side was greeted by a trail flowing between the ferns. The track was littered with loamy turns and berms, as we flew down the trail it steepened out and we flew down the bank and into the most amazing ridge line which floated between huge Oak trees that hung to the ridge. What a descent! That's why getting a local guide is key in locations you don't know much about, without Dan we would have no idea where we were going. Dan's also pinned so riding the trails at the speed they should be ridden adds a whole new element to the trail. After that we kept lapping the tracks that littered the hills above Porlock, there was so much variation, roots, flowing rocky descents, fast single track, steep shoots. We rode back into our campsite and were greeted by Crossed Anchors Brewery who gave us a free keg because their beer festival was rained out.. how unlucky for them but boy were we happy. Thanks again guys, you rule! We shared some good memories around the campfires and laughed about the days ride and the good times we had.
Exmoor has it all and I can't believe how unridden it is. After travelling around New Zealand riding my bike and living in Rotorua for a year i've been looking for a location that offers the vibes and trails that match that of Rotoruas and I genuinely think Exmoor has it. Exmoor has the potential to be one of the best riding locations within England. Although part of me wants to hold onto this secret that Exmoor has the most amazing trails... the other part of me wants to share the good times and show others how good this place is. For that reason we are running all inclusive weekend trips with local guides to showcase these beautiful trails so you can get a slice of the action! Just drop us a line and we can sort any riding trip to Exmoor for you, see you soon!
Hugo and Tom are trail hunting fanatics, travelling around the UK to find the best and most beautiful wild riding locations for their mountain bikes. We write about our findings and provide professionally guided mountain bike trips to our favourite spots. We're also big believers in outdoor education for children.