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Mountain Biking in Glentress. Are We Spoilt?

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.

Glentress is mostly in the forest. But when you get a peek it rarely disappoints.

Glentress is mostly in the forest. But when you get a peek it rarely disappoints.

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.

The view from Glentress' Spooky Wood Bench is always a treat.

The view from Glentress’ Spooky Wood Bench is always a treat.

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!

The Boundry Trail at Glentress is less trodden and a firm favourite of ours.

The Boundry Trail at Glentress is less trodden and a firm favourite of ours.

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.

Hush Hush. Glentress has many secrets off the beaten track!

Hush Hush. Glentress has many secrets off the beaten track!

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.

Time for a rest on Glentress' black route.

Time for a rest on Glentress’ black route.

 

Redemption is the last climb on the black route at Glentress and it's a doozy!

Redemption is the last climb on the black route at Glentress and it’s a doozy!

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.

If you're riding the full black route at Glentress. You should be tired around here.

If you’re riding the full black route at Glentress. You should be tired around here.

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.

-Allan

The highlights of our year

Everyone has the odd day where they feel like they just plod along right? We can tell you that there have been more than a few times that we have looked out the window, sat in the van just thinking that we’d rather be somewhere else than out in the wilderness in the freezing cold, wet weather? But this probably falls into the less than 1% category of days we find ourselves giving skills lessons or guiding people out on Mountain bike rides. We genuinely love what we do.

Offering mountain bike skills lessons in Glentress counts us amongst the luckiest instructors out there. Fabulous facilities, great countryside, great people and the support of the community around us makes our job that little bit more special. When laying on Guided mountain bike rides for big groups, the surrounding hills and valleys have views for miles that change with every season. This is why the Tweed Valley is such a special place to be based. Mountain Bike Skills Tuition has been our tagline for years, but in 2018 the business has wandered all over the map with regards to how we have seen different groups of people react to mountain biking.

Our “bread and butter” has always been MTB skills instruction and theres no end in sight to seeing clients enjoy the new techniques we’ve given them. But this year has seen us reach out beyond the singletrack and try to reach more people than ever with  the message that mountain biking and cycling in general can be fun for almost anyone. Heres a few highlights of the diversity of 2018.

  • Mountain bike Skills Courses.

We’ve continued to grow our scheduled courses at Glentress & Innerleithen. With courses like Enduro-Prep and and our Intermediate skills group courses, we’ve been amazed by the way riders can gain confidence in just 6 hours of riding. We’ve learned so much from these courses as they are totally inclusive and pressure free. Our 1:1 clients continue to grow too. It’s a totally different dynamic and tends to be a little more “colloquial” in its nature. Some of the funniest and most rewarding days on the hill come from our Skills lessons.

 

Ridelines Mountain Bike Enduro Skills Coaching

Ridelines Mountain Bike Enduro Skills Coaching at Innerleithen

  • Guided Mountain Bike Rides.

Fewer of these happen as people get more adventurous on their bikes and learn to be better equipped to travel further into the wilderness. But this year has been a bumper year for our guides too. Stag do’s, work colleagues and just groups of pals up for a holiday can form the basis of a great group ride. W’ve dealt with clients from all over the world too. On one day out this year Allan has a Scotsman, South African, Canadian, an Israeli and a German out on a ride. Truly amazing not that they picked Ridelines, but that they picked Scotland to ride their bikes.

 

We guide hundreds of mountain bikers around Scotland every year

  • Leadership Training.

As most will know, Ridelines is one of the leading centres in the country for training and assessing candidates for the British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader program (UKMBLA) The three levels of MBL awards are very demanding on both the tutor and clients, but the reward for both is very high indeed. We love knowing that we’re helping to create responsible riders that will pass on the the skills and techniques of effective leadership to other riders that may decide to go the whole way to qualifying as leaders themselves. This year, a record number of candidates came through the program and the quality was incredible. From MTB clubs, charities and local authorities to workplace colleagues and independently adventurous individuals, the UKMBLA is starting to appeal to a huge demographic within the MTB community.

 

Ridelines: British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader award.

Every year ridelines create dozens of new MTB Leaders.

  • Kids Camps.

Where do we start? Kids Camp started as a 2 week project in the Scottish summer holidays. A few years later and in 2018 we hosted 8 weeks of Kids Camp in Easter, Summer and the October holidays. That’s 192 kids just on the Scheduled courses alone! A big effort on the part of our instructors is needed to keep these little rippers interested and focussed on the task, which is of course FUN! 2019 Ridelines Kids Camps will see 10 weeks of courses offered scheduled throughout the school holidays. A whopping commitment from Ridelines in response to a very high demand in requests for camps to be held across both Scottish and English school breaks.

Ridelines Kids Camp has 10 weeks scheduled in 2019

Ridelines Kids Camp has 10 weeks scheduled in 2019!

  • Easyriders & Women’s Courses.

Easyriders was a Borders Council initiative to get more women on their bikes in the Peebles and Innerleithen area. Needless to say in we stepped with an offer to run the whole kit and kaboodle! 6 weeks and 54 sessions later and we’d delivered a progressive course to 120 women covering  everything from maintenance to road etiquette. The feedback from Easyriders has been hugely positive and the reward for our instructors has been immeasurable. They actually think that Easyriders may be one of the best things they have ever done. After Easyriders we offered some basic MTB courses for the same women exclusively in a female peer group. Again, the uptake was great and we ever converted a few roadies onto mountain bikers! All of our courses are open to all genders and we coach plenty of women as a matter of course. But next year will bring some real changes to our women’s offering. So stay tuned!

 

One of our awesome Tweed Valley Easyriders groups.

One of our awesome Tweed Valley Easyriders groups.

  • Educational & Charities.

This has been our biggest year for educational experiences. We have led, guided and taught everything from private schools and charities to special needs and disadvantaged groups. It never fails to amaze us how Mountain Biking can be a great leveller in all of these peer groups. Mountain Biking for us can be used as a tool for therapy, whether for mental or physical issues, we have found that a large number of clients with these issues have been overwhelmingly positive about their exposure to the outdoors and riding bikes. In 2019 we’ll be unveiling some exciting new educational and therapeutic products.

 

Ridelines charity and educational mountain biking.

Ridelines is regularly involved with charity groups and educational mountain biking.

  • The DMBinS Scottish Cycling Mountain Bike Conference 2018.

We attended this years bi-annual conference in Aveimore not really knowing what to expect. But what the few days we took off to travel up and soak up the event were very worthwhile indeed. Some of the excellent peer group workshops included e-bikes, trail building, MTB leadership, environmental issues and many other hot topics. There were excellent speakers and delegates from all over the world (and outside) our industry, but the highlight of the conference for us were the new guidelines for unauthorised trail building issued by the National Access Forum in partnership with DMBinS and the leading players and businesses from land management and Mountain Biking. We’re very much looking forward to playing our part in what is to come for Montain biking in 2019.

 

Aneela McKenna and Lee Craigie speak at the 2018 MTB conference

Aneela McKenna and Lee Craigie speak at the 2018 MTB conference

  • The Scottish Mountain Biking Awards 2018

After a great few days at the DMBinS Scottish Mountain Bike Conference in Aviemore. A nice little cherry on top of a fantastic trip away was being afforded the honour of being recognised as the 2018 Scottish Mountain Bike Provider of the Year. At the MTB awards ceremony. It’s been a long journey for Ridelines, seeing people come and go as members of our team, all whom have contributed to the business in their own unique ways. We’d like to thank everyone who ever pulled on the jersey and represented Ridelines out on the hill. The list is long, but very distinguished!

Thanks to everyone at the conference, the delegates, Scottish Cycling, DMBinS, Edinburgh Napier University and the mountain biking community at large for supporting us from the grass roots that started us. It was great to watching Andy try to smile whilst collecting this award. Thank you all so much. Here’s to an amazing 2018 and a better 2019 for all of our clients and indeed our colleagues in the industry.

 

Ridelines: DMBinS Mountain Bike Service Provider of the Year 2018

 

It’s hard to pick highlights, but above is just a few points that stick out as things that we are especially pleased about. Mountain Biking is life at Ridelines. We never tire of it and we’re constantly looking for ways to evolve and improve what we do. Thanks to everyone who supports us on our selfish personal journey to try and keep riding bikes for a living!