When WideWorld wanted to find the best trails in the country for mountain biking, we thought we’d call in some expert help. They don’t get any better than the Athertons – the fastest family on two wheels. Siblings Dan (27), Gee (24) and Rachel (21) Atherton race for professional mountain biking team Animal Commencal. Rachel and Gee are the current Downhill World Champions. So here it is – the UK’s mountain biking royalty give their top tips on finding the perfect bike trails for exploring the great British outdoors this summer.
Fort William, Scotland
Fort William is a downhill-only trail centre on the Nevis Range. “It’s home to the internationally acclaimed track which hosts one round of the UCI Nissan World Cup Series each year,” says Gee. “You’re taken to 2150ft in a specially adapted gondola, before being left to tackle one of the toughest downhill race tracks in the world.”
Cheddar BMX Track, Somerset
“I have many memories of riding at the caravan park in Cheddar,” remembers Dan. “The team was a big support when we first started racing and always let us train and use the facilities.”
Penmachno, near Betws-y-Coed
“This place is great – it’s a cross country loop and the descents are incredible, rocky, fast and scary.” Rachel also tells us that there’s no centre at this route, so it’s as quiet as the scenery is amazing. “It’s a hidden gem – being nestled in the hillside fairly close to the bustle of Betws-y-Coed it often gets overlooked. We’ve filmed this place for our mountain bike videos a lot – the scenery is perfect.”
“It really is the next step in cross country centre riding,” adds Dan.
Rhyd Y Felin, North Wales
A favourite of Gee Atherton, set in North Wales – and his hometown. Rhyd Y Felin hosts just a single downhill trail, not open to the public except on race weekends. “Last year saw the track hosting the National Championships due to it being one of the finest tracks in the country,” he says. “I know the track better than any other due to it being on my doorstep, but this still didn’t stop me from losing the title after crashing within seconds of the line last year!”
Delamere Woods, Chester
Located just outside Chester, this is an easy commute for the Liverpool and Manchester area. “My dad used to ride in Delamere when he was young, and it always feels like a very family-orientated area,” recommends Dan.
The Ercall, Telford
Right off the M54, The Ercall is easy to get to, and is great fun to ride, says Rachel: “It’s more of a play area than a long trail to ride, there are lots of natural jumps, drop offs, and part of the fun is spotting new stuff to try with your friends. If you are looking to improve your skills then this is the place to go, I love it!”
Crewe BMX track, Crewe
“Crewe is one of the many BMX tracks scattering the country and is definitely one of the best,” judges Gee. “It is national standard for the races, and attracts riders from all over the country to train on it, including BMX World Champion Shanaze Reade.” Dan Atherton agrees: “The guys at Crewe are fully committed to the development of the track.”
Wrexham Pump Track, Rhosllanerchrugog, Wrexham
Rachel’s next pick is: “Easy to get to, and so much fun! This BMX style track is a God-send to the area, everyone I’ve ever visited it with loves it, from building your basic jumping skills or challenging the elite rider to transfer and spot new lines, this track has it all.”
We’re back in Wales for another of Gee’s top courses. “It’s an awesome mountain bike centre with a huge variation of trails, mainly focused on the cross-country side of riding,” he says. “But for downhill they offer training courses as well, the focal point of the Atherton Training days.”
Moelfre, near Oswestry
A mountain bike Mecca, although not yet dubbed an ‘official’ place to ride. “The land owner, Farmer Jack, is famous in the mountain bike world and loves people riding almost as much as the riders themselves!” explains Rachel. Stunning views and perfect tracks for all abilities, races are held more often than not, and for ‘uplift weekends’ keep your eyes peeled on mountain bike forums.
Coed Y Brenin, North Wales
A trail centre situated in North Wales with miles and miles of rough and ready cross country and downhill trails. Gee reckons that it’s “Perfect for a weekend away getting lost, covered in mud, and cut to pieces. The tracks here will challenge the most experienced riders, yet there are still tamer trails for those who want it.”
Foel Gasnach, Glocaenog, North Wales
Rachel’s final ride is a trundle down memory lane as well: “One day sticks in my mind – there were four of us, we rode Penmachno, then we rode some secret downhill tracks in Betws-y-Coed (this place also has fantastic cross country loops) then we ate lunch by the river. Afterwards we cruised to Foel Gasnach and rode until 7pm. It is absolutely amazing, the place has about four or five tracks for all abilities and is fairly short – meaning that you can do so many runs in a short space of time, it is so much fun.”
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