A short blog on trying to decipher why there’s an element of Scottish mountain biking that loves to hate Glentress.
Our guys have cycled everywhere. In our Ridelines Instuctor pool we have career mountain bikers, World Cup racers, long distance lovers, XC stalwarts, wild-country wanderers, National Series champions, eminently qualified and experienced guides, tutors and coaches. So sometimes it just seems so amazing that we all ended up living at, working in and ultimately loving this quintessential Scottish trail centre.
I was out on a ride around the boundary trail the other day and the sun was splitting the trees. It was in the second week in February and I was in short sleeves. Even just buzzing around Teenage Kicks and Berm Baby Berm I was reminded that no-one had to build this place, but they did it anyway.
In its earliest incarnation, it was born from people with a passion for it, and whatever the past opinions of what has happened since those often talked about days, it’s still here. From just picking our way through the woods, to the much loved Hub in the Forest putting Glentress on the map. Then came the development of the Peel and MTBCoS. Now, over the next few years, we can look forward to further improvements at the bottom of the hill with the inevitable arrival of Forest Lodges.
Sure, there’s some blown out trails, but the chances are that the normal visitor to Glentress has no clue about how this happens or how it’s generally fixed, who pays for it and what constitutes the need to repair something. At this point feel free to jump out and get involved in the Glentress Trailfaries facebook page!
But just take a ride around, explore the black route, some un-waymarked trails and you’ll begin to fall (back?) in love with the place. We spend a LOT of time within Glentress and in the routine of parking vans and preparing for a days work, it can often become very normal for us too.
But now and again, like my ride on Friday you can just have a wee moment, an opportunity to remind yourself that someone came out here years ago and did it all for you. In the February sun I’d struggle to put my finger on another place I’d rather be that would be so easy for me to access.
If you’re sick of climbing up Cardie Hill, you can also get in and around Glentress from the Peebles and Innerleithen directions too. Trying these routes means that you can get in and out via some different trails. Ride up Janet’s Brae and head straight into the upper trails, get up to the mast then head back to Peebles via the off-piste trails like Trailfairy Plan and Fairy Liquid. One for the more technical rider for sure, but a cracking joined up descent.
From Innerleithen you can ride straight to the mast via the old Leithen Road climb. It’s a gut-buster but it literally takes you straight there. Then you can descend the whole remaining Black route and take the cycle path back to Inners.
If you want a quick ride in Glentress there’s loads of ways to mix up the trails so you don’t lose too much altitude. Once you’re up there, it’s actually relatively easy to get a ton of descending done. Equally, you can have a huge day out if you know when to zig and zag onto the right trails.
Happily at the end of it all there’s the much improved Glentress Peel Cafe. It’s had its fair share of problems if we’re honest and the shadow of peoples great memories of The Hub Cafe looms over it like a spectre of expectation from years past. But the place has gone through a massive re-working from the very bottom. Good food, friendly staff and a great experience now awaits you at the end of your ride.
Now think about the fact the folk piss and moan about a £5 parking charge for all of this and more. 100’s of Km of trails, a great Cafe, bike shop (Alpine Bikes), showers, free bike wash, toilets all on the doorstep of the town of Peebles. You’d pay more for 2-3 hours parking in a Glasgow shopping street.
Glentress is about to go through a major upheaval with Forest Holidays arriving. Loads of new trails and features will be introduced and some old favourites will be lost. But the name will remain the same.
So the header of this blog was with good intention, I wanted to put across a short argument for Glentress. I think I’ve probably done enough to convince a first timer. I know why some people hate Glentress, but I’ve realised whilst writing this that I mostly don’t care. There’s room enough for all opinions and room enough in this great country for everyone to ride what they like most.
In closing, with Forest Holidays arriving in 2020 I’d say why not go up and ride some of these “tired old trails” feel them under your wheels for the last time and try to remember the first time.