At Beyond the Mud we want to enable as much riding as possible! Which is why we started guest blog posts, these blog posts let you hear about riding in new places from other passionate mountain bikers and hopefully give you some ideas on where you could go on your next mountain bike adventure. This latest blog post is by mountain biker Carrianne, we hope you enjoy reading and thank you Carianne for sharing your adventure with us.
Outdoor loving, late thirty-something, Mum to two boys. I got into mountain biking in my early twenties, and I love the opportunity for exploration and friendship riding bikes has provided. From cycling North to South Wales off-road for a friends 50th to adventures nearer to home and getting lost in the woods trying to find new trails! Now I have a young family, mountain biking allows me to occasionally escape and have some all important ‘me’ time as well as having the fun of sharing my love of bikes with the kids and finding new adventures together as a family.
I don’t manage to get out on my mountain bike as much as I would like, and opportunities to ride anything other then local trails are even rarer! So when I had a child free day on the same day that some friends were heading to the Quantocks I was there!
Parking in the lay-by on the A39 just before entering the village of Holford, the first climb of the day was a bit of a challenge for legs still stiff from the car journey! It was 5km and about 320m up to the main ridge of the Quantocks. The reward was the descent down Hodders Combe, 4km of swoopy singletrack heaven and a big smile on my face! It had been a long time since I’d done such a long, natural descent and I was pretty nervous at the start – but I quickly got into the flow and it was a real confidence boost with nothing too steep or technical.
The Hodders Combe descent dropped us almost back to where we started in the village of Holford and from there it was a 3km, 300m climb back up to the ridge where we stopped for a quick refuel before the descent into Weacombe. This was another lovely flowing trail, starting in the open moorland before dropping down into the wood – again nothing too technical or steep just 2km super flowy fun.
The third climb of the day was 2km and 100m to near the top of West Hill and the descent into Smith’s Combe. Smith’s Combe was the shortest, at just over 1.5km, and most technical downhill of the day with a tricky loose rock section in the middle which I was super proud of myself for making it down – it wasn’t pretty but I didn’t walk!
The next section was a bit of a slog, with tiring legs, we followed the contour around the northern edge of the Quantocks before heading up a drag of a fire road climb back up to the open ridge and past Bicknoller Post for the final time. Crossing across the whole of the top of the Quantocks gives you a chance to admire the spectacular views – out towards the Bristol Channel and for miles inland.
The 5km final descent, Lady’s Combe, back to the car was super fun, starting in the woods dropping down to follow the path of a stream – making line choice all important! The trail zig-zagged the stream, taking a right-hand turn, up the final little uphill of the day, before popping out back where we started.
Loved getting out, doing a proper ride on some fantastic singletrack. The Quantocks offer a lot of quality riding in a small area, hopefully won’t leave it so long until we return!
TOP TIP: Take a packed lunch – there isn’t anywhere to buy food on the route.
RIDE STATS: 30.74km | 3:20:22 | 863m
Check out the route on Strava.
Written by Carrianne Priddy
Do you really need to hire a mountain bike guide?
The answer is probably not, whether you use your trusty GPS or map you will find your way round some beautiful trails in the UK. BUT, you knew there was going to be a ‘but’ right?!?
We take the hassle out of your experience so you can focus on the pedalling.
- We find the ‘harder to find’ places.
If you’re looking for the sweetest single track, the best lunch spot with a view, most thrilling descent or climb, we can take you there. Our experienced team know the UK riding spots, like the back of their hands and will take you on an adventure down undiscovered trails, brand new lines and to the best views.
- We take you off-grid.
Our big day rides are full of adventure and about pushing your limits. Safely in the knowledge that our experienced guides will keep you out of trouble and riding all day.
- Time is precious.
Life is super busy, we reckon if you had to opt between riding your bike and planning a ride you would pick option one! So let us do the planning and organising so you can focus on the fun factor.
- We take out the ‘unknown’.
If the weather closes in and you need to dive into a pub which won’t mind soggy bodies, we know where one is. Legs turned to spaghetti? We know a local café serving the best hot chocolate and tasty cakes. Want to push hard all day? We will push you as far as you want to go, as long as you’re having fun we will ride all day long.
- No need to pack the kitchen sink.
Every guide on our trips carries an extensive pack of bike and human first aid essentials. No need for you to carry much more than water, a snack, coat and inner tube. Ride light and save your energy for the miles ahead.
Our weekend trips are now ready for booking to North Wales, South Wales, Surrey Hills and The South Downs.
Anyone can be a passenger on a bike. Like with any sport to become more able it’s a good idea to get professional coaching. Last weekend we headed to the Surrey Hills for a weekend on some of Southern England’s finest Singletrack.
The weekend began with coaching from Leith Hill, using the famous Summer Lightning trail. The aim of the day, increase your ability to flow effortlessly down the trail with minimal excursion. How did we achieve this?
By getting into the right position and being able to move around the bike, keeping movements free and not jerking the bike around, which happens with bad technique and a lack of confidence, because you tend to be more ridged. We also mastered manuals ready to get over those tricky trail obstacles and pop off drops.
Lunch was provided by local chef Joanne Sorg, who served up a delicious packed lunches, no sandwiches in sight! Of course there was also enough cake to keep even the hungriest of riders satisfied.
After lunch it was time to focus on strengthening and stretching those muscles. Lying under the swaying trees, the group worked on their core stability during Pilates specific for cyclists. Pilates focuses on the ‘inner core’ of our bodies, developing strength from the innermost structures and works outwards. Rather than working our bodies through muscle isolation, Pilates focuses on posture, strength, mobility and flexibility from head to toe. Moving the body in complete flowing movements, not isolated parts. Read more about the benefits of Pilates for cyclists here.
Sarah who took part said
One of the best biking weekends I’ve attended! Hannah is a great coach and her confidence inspiring style resulted in great changes in my riding over the course of the weekend. The small group dynamic makes it really easy to learn and at no point did I feel out of my depth, though I was most certainly encouraged to push my boundaries in a good way. Highly recommended! Plus the food is fantastic!
Bright and early Sunday we met with our guide Sean from Marmalade MTB at Holmbury Hill. Sean led the group on an adventure down some of the best trails and up to the best viewpoints in the Surrey Hills including Barry Knows Best, Yoghurt Pots and Telegraphs. Of course, no trip to the Surrey Hills could end without a trip to the famous Peaslake Village Stores for a cheese straw!
After a full days riding we headed to the pub for a pint and to share stories from the weekend and talk about where our next adventures on two wheels may take us.
Thank you to our wonderful clients for a fantastic weekend of fun, we hope to see you on the trails again soon!
If you like the look of our Surrey Hills weekend why not join us in June!
We caught up with Becky our wonderful bike guide on her favourite mountain bike ride in Wales. Becky will be our lead guide during all our Mountain Bike Breaks in Wales.
One of my favourite routes in North Wales is the Pont Scethin. Most of the books will say ride it clockwise, but due to erosion on the tracks it’s actually a nicer ride anti-clockwise starting from Bontddu, which is on the road from Dolgeallau to Barmouth (A496).
The route begins with a steady climb on tarmac travelling up towards a farm track where the real climbing begins. Riding over sheep fields and heading up to the saddle before the descent to Pont Scethin, you experience stunning views over the Mawddach estuary and looking towards Cadair Idris (another great ride!). This is the place that I really love to sit for a while and just take it all in, so peaceful and you rarely see a walker or other cyclists up there.
Then begins a fun, technical descent – a loose rock track with quite a bit of technicality descends down, around the hillside, to Pont-Scethin, a quaint old packhorse bridge over the Afon Ysgethin.
This part feels very remote, and you continue on through a little bit of fun bogginess onto a farm track, where you can pick up a little speed down (watch out for the sheep and walkers!) to your next turn off, but all the time looking out to the expanse of Sea below.
After making the turn onto another tarmac track you eventually head off onto farm land again, with gradual incline – but just stunning scenery and coast line the whole time. Eventually you arrive at your second and last technical ascent – this is particularly rocky and if your skills allow is a great challenge – and if not, it’s only a small hike a bike to the gap where you have fantastic views back down towards the coast, or across to the forest where you are heading.
This descent is a lot of fun, loose, rocky and a few turns as you make your way down towards open land and head off down into the forest. One of my favourite sections of this ride is as you are nearing the end, just before you ride into the trees again, you are blessed with a beautiful view down the Afon Mawddach towards the estuary.
The last descent brings you out directly opposite your car, a perfect way to end. Such a remote feeling ride, and although only around 22km you won’t want to add more mileage! I just love the the remoteness and quietness of the ride, and the challenging rocky descents make it all worthwhile. Also, it would be hard to beat the stunning views across hills, mountains and sea, a great summer ride. As it is remote, make sure you are prepared – you will definitely need those energy balls!
A fitness holiday in London? Going beyond the mud of mountain bike trails however, you would be surprised at what there is to do in the capital city if you’re looking for an active holiday. Don’t believe us? Then rub your disbelieving eyes, book a stay in one of these serviced apartments, and take a look at our ideas below.
Get on your bike
You don’t have to do anything as arduous as Ride London (unless you want to), as there are bike trails for any difficulty level. There’s the Tamsin Trail around Richmond Park, for starters. It’s the perfect place for a ride, with acres of beautiful scenery surrounding you, and assorted wildlife to wonder at, including deer. While that won’t push you to the max, you could step it up a gear, and take the 48 km trail from Putney Bridge to Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, you will need to sort your own drinks flask out as it’s unlikely the Queen will be there with a celebratory cup of tea when you arrive!
Take to the waters
Thrillseekers will be desperate to take one of the high speed boat rides along the River Thames, but no matter how exciting they are, they don’t do much for your fitness level. To push yourself a little further, why not take out a kayak onto the river instead. You will probably get splashed by those erstwhile James Bonds whizzing past you on the speedboats, but you will at least have the satisfaction you are doing more to improve the strength and tone of your upper body than those maniacs. Check out the Hampstead Heath ponds as well, a popular destination for anybody looking for a swim. It’s best to go in the summer, however, as despite the crowds, the waters can get a little cold when the weather is chilly.
Scale the heights
Okay, so you aren’t allowed to scale Big Ben, no matter how tempted you are, and sitting atop the London Eye is a poor substitute for exercise. However, you can see London’s skyline while engaged in a wide variety of fitness activities across the city. You could make like Tarzan and take to the treetops at Go Ape in Battersea. You could scale the heights of the O2 Building, and then (if you’re very brave) take a bungee jump from atop it. And if you really aren’t afraid of heights, you could brave the UK’s tallest freefall, and try the the ArcelorMittal Orbit Abseil. Thankfully, you will be attached to a harness. Finally, no matter what the weather is like outside, you should try the Vertical Chill, an ice-climbing wall situated in Covent Garden. There’s something for every skill level, but you might want to wrap up in something warm before you head in there.
So, despite your unbelief, there is loads to do in London that will keep you fit and active during your holiday time. While the tourists are doing whatever tourists do in the city, you can take a break from the norm and enjoy some of the fabulous and energetic activities that are on offer to you. Phew!
There’s nothing like spur of the moment travel plans to make your working week more bearable. Therefore, it’s time to grab you besties, your partner, or those you love the most, and make the most of those free days you have before Monday morning kicks off another week again. Use your next meet-up at the pub to discuss where you’d all like to go and what sort of break you’d want. Keeping it in the UK will keep costs down, which is always good when you’ve had no time to prepare or save.
A micro adventure to Wales – Glamping Pods
Perhaps you want to continue the catch-up in a different city together, or you’d all prefer relaxing somewhere tranquil to get over all those late nights and overtime. Wherever you decide to go; a trip with your nearest and dearest will be something exciting to look forward to. The sooner you start preparing and planning; the better chance you’ll all have of going to do something you’ll all enjoy, and it will give you last-minute idea a little bit of organisation. The following are some ideas, inspiration, and advice for those who fancy getting away from it all and blowing out the cobwebs with a weekend of fun.
An Escape Full Of Fun And Fresh Air
You might be an action-loving sort of person and you’re not into doing very little, but the thought of a busy city also doesn’t excite you; a countryside escape, full of fresh air and scenery could be the ideal getaway for your group to enjoy. You can drive towards green fields, woodlands or forests, or find a coastal haven by the sea. The UK is full of beautiful environments, so start thinking about the sort of scenic views you’re all craving and go from there. Once you’ve chosen your location; look into some hotels and then you can book to do some activities, or find where you can go walking or hiking. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to stop in local cafes and pubs to fill up on delicious local produce and a well-deserved beverage.
Micro adventure to Wales – Afan forest mountain biking
A New City Or Town To Enjoy
A city adventure, historical tour, or even a shopping trip in another town or city could be just the sort of getaway you’re after. The great thing about travelling to a new city for a spot of sightseeing or shopping is that you won’t be limited to just the one activity. The hustle and bustle of a place means that it’s full of restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, and plenty of history and culture, especially in the UK. You’ll probably need at least a couple of nights in the city you choose to visit; this will allow you to do a range of activities, and you won’t have to cram everything into just one day. Try to squeeze in an exhibition, show, or a landmark so that you feel like you’ve made the most from a place. You’ll need to keep your energy up on a city break, so make sure you research into where the best places to eat are. If you fancy an evening out, dancing the night; see if you’re able to book a booth or a table and treat yourselves to top-notch service. Book a table at a restaurant, or go for an afternoon tea; these will be the perfect addition to your travel adventure, and you’ll have made some awesome memories.