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Experience | Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is thought to have originated in Marin County, California, during the 1970s, in a specific area known as the Repack Trail. Whether or not this forest hill trail did in fact give birth to the sport is often cause for dispute, but it’s clear this area did play a major role in the development of the sport as we know it today.

Mountain biking can open up a whole new world of adventure and exploration, from discovering new routes, to trying to get your best time over your favourite trail. It really is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy the countryside, whatever the weather!

Cross country riding offers many options for both novice and experienced riders, depending on your level of skill and overall fitness. Forest trails and fire roads are usually fast and these are particularly suited to a group of riders. Here it’s important to gain permission to ride if required. Watch out for forestry machinery such as logging lorries - you and the bike will come the worse off if you crash into one! And if the trail is also a bridleway, be prepared to give way to horse riders. Single track trails can require a greater degree of skill and can be testing. Again, you should always be prepared to stop if required to let walkers or animals pass.

With regards to the bike itself, for cross country riding (XC), the focus is more on quality and low weight and many riders still favour the classic hardtail (front suspension forks with a rigid rear triangle) to the full suspension bikes. A quality off the peg bike from one of the leading manufacturers usually suffices most riders needs, although some opt to build the ultimate rig, with their own mix of frame and custom choice of components, as budget allows.

Mountain biking in its most extreme form is referred to as ‘downhilling’ and as the name suggests, is a combination of downhill speed, corners and jumps over rough terrain. With speeds approaching 60 mph and trails

Devon Outdoors
Devon Outdoors
Devon Outdoors

which, to the casual observer, often look impossible to ride, crashes are inevitable. With this in mind it’s always recommended to wear a full face helmet, body armour and hand/eye protection. These items should be coupled with a bike which is up to the extreme loads which it’s subjected to. For this kind of abuse full suspension, with a high degree of travel front and rear, is a must. Rather than overall weight, the focus should be on quality and strength of components as well as a strong frame.

Devon is perfect for mountain biking holidays in the UK, with both Dartmoor and Exmoor offering a fantastic variety of terrain. Exmoor is a mix of valleys, forest trails and open moorland and Dartmoor is renowned for its granite rock formations and abundance of bogs. Both areas are worth exploring, but be prepared: open moorland is notorious for sudden changes in the weather and these areas are particularly exposed. Whilst stunning in good weather, open moorland can soon become dangerous - many areas look very similar and it’s easy to become lost. It’s always recommended you ride with someone, particularly in areas such as these, wear a helmet and take an Ordnance Survey map or GPS.

Part of The National Cycle Network can also be found in Devon. One particularly well known route is known as the Devon Coast to Coast (officially route 27) and travels from Ilfracombe in North Devon to Plymouth in West Devon. The route is not particularly strenuous and is therefore ideal for families or a casual ride.

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