Mountain Biking in the Lake District

PUBLISHED: 01:16 21 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:14 20 February 2013

Mountain Biking in the Lake District

Mountain Biking in the Lake District

The Lake District is a paradise for anyone with a love of the outdoors. It inspired mountain biker Ian Boydon to write a book

Mountain biking is one of the fasting growing sports in the world. In this country the sport has rocketed in the past decade - thanks in part due to the efforts of the Forestry Commission, which has improved access in its forests and woodlands.

The commission, along with enthusiastic individuals, created trail centres - networks of way-marked tracks that helped to improve accessibility to mountain biking and opened up participation to thousands.

However, despite the appeal of these trail centres, and most of them are very good places to ride, for me the essence of mountain biking is on the so-called natural trails. By natural we mean the bridleways and byways that criss-cross our countryside.

There are many excellent locations in the UK for mountain biking, such as North Wales, the Peak District and the excellent Yorkshire Dales - however, for me, and many others, the top destination for natural mountain biking is the Lake District.

I have been riding in the Lakes for almost 20 years - first visiting on holiday and hiring a bike from a local firm. There were no trail centres in those days (there are now two in Cumbria - at the Forestry Commissions estates at Grizedale and Whinlatter) and all the riding was done on bridleways.

Despite living most of my life in Cheshire I used to make regular journeys up the M6 attracted by the lure of the landscape and the quality of the trails on offer. I have been fortunate in recent years to move to North Lancashire and have the Lake Districts trails within easy reach.
For me the enduring appeal of this area, from a mountain biking perspective, is the regions diversity.

The ability to mix high mountain passes, cracking narrow single track, rocky technical descents with flowing forest tracks and charming
low level lanes means no two rides are ever the same - all this with absolutely stunning backdrops of the Lakeland fells.

Most of the best riding on offer in the Lake District is in easy reach of Lancashire. The topological split between the more dramatic and rugged northern fells and the more rolling, and less steep, southern fells means there are more bike-friendly trails to choose from in the southern half of the national park.

Great places to start your own fat-tyre adventures in the Lakes are Grizedale Forest, Kentmere and Elterwater. Grizedales large network
of forest roads are open to public access and there are some excellent bridleways running through the trees that provide scintillating riding.

There are also many good options on the fells around Kentmere, Longsleddale and Troutbeck. The highlight of these being the serious challenge of Garburn Pass - a Lake District mountain bikers favourite. Steep, long and very rocky this is not a light undertaking - but experienced riders love the stern test it gives their bike-handling skills.

From Elterwater a tour of Loughrigg Fell is an excellent short ride which takes in stunning views of Grasmere, Rydal Water and Windermere. Not too technically difficult this is a good starting point for riders with moderate confidence in their abilities on a bike.

Aside from all the fun that mountain biking in an area like the Lake District brings there are also huge health benefits. Okay there are risks that you are going to fall off - however these incidents rarely result
in injury. And these risks are far outweighed by the fitness benefits
of high-quality exercise, the fresh country air and the mental well-being thats comes as part of outdoor exercise.

I wrote Mountain Biking in the Lake District in order to help other people discover the best trails the area has to offer and I hope that readers enjoy riding in the Lake District as much as I have over the years, and intend doing so for many more years to come.

Top five routes

1. Howtown and Askham
A great ride for relative newcomers to the sport that will be enjoyed by experienced riders too. The height is gained fairly easily and the descents are superb - the final drop towards Howtown on the track overlooking Ulswater is biking nirvana.

2. Tour of Loughrigg Fell
More great scenery on this short route with stunning vistas of three of the regions lakes. The riding is pretty good too, particularly the long descent of Loughrigg Terrace to the banks of Rydal Water.

3. Kentmere Special
A tour of both flanks of Kentmere, which is a particularly favourite riding location in the Lakes for mountain bikers. This route contains four excellent descents that are sure to please.

4. The Dunnerdale Enduro
A long and technically challenging ride that takes in a cracking tour of one of the Lake Districts less visited valleys. Dunnerdale is a stunning riding location and this route is the best way to see it by bike.

5. The Parkamoor, Satterthwaite and Hawkshead Monster
Not related to Bownessie, this is a big full-day ride that packs plenty of punch. Big climbs with equally huge descents are found in this loop that takes in the best trails found in the fells between Coniston Water and Windermere.

As a Lancashire Life reader, you can buy a copy of Mountain Biking in the Lake District (normal price 12.95) for just 10.00 (including free p&p) online from and simplyadd the voucher code LKLIFE on the shopping basket page.

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