Miles Davis knew a thing or two about jazz music. Scotland knows a thing or two about incredible trails, seven precisely. Much like one of Miles’ albums, the world class 7stanes trail centres have something for everyone, and after trucking up the M6 from London recently in a van packed full of all the equipment you could build a small adventure empire with, the 7stanes trail centres were just waiting to be ridden. But why trail centres, and not some mega off grid adventure?
Ten years on
I’m a relative newbie to riding mountain bikes ‘properly’. My first initiation was riding my brothers ‘Palisades Trail’ Marin from the early 90’s almost ten years ago. Fast forward ten years, and I’m now 32 years old, mostly hanging out in gritty damp bibs, warm down jackets and bobble hats and riding better bikes makes me feel like a child again. I have really fallen in love with riding MTBs, probably because of the beautiful and fun places I get to ride, so it didn’t take much to persuade me that the 7stanes were worth a trip. 7 trail centres in 7 days? Sign me up.
Now I’m usually one for a more rugged adventure, bikepacking or day tripping, finding new routes or really getting off the beaten track. Riding trail centres is nothing like this. What it really is is pure, unadulterated, fun with (normally) a brew stop at the end. Being able to just purely concentrate on deciding which line to take down the run and letting out a few shrieks of delight as you feel like you’re flying through the air (likely more a couple of millimetres off the ground) over table top rollers is pretty damn rad. Don’t get me wrong it can sometimes be seat of your pants stuff but as once explained to me, if a trail builder has done their job correctly and you are technically able to ride that level of trail, the trail should not trip you up- but make you a more confident and faster rider.
The word ‘Stane’ is a Scots word for stone, and a different stone sculpture reflecting a local myth or legend is found at each venue. The trail centres are dotted around Southern Scotland, and each one had something pretty different to give. I was pretty nervous that the trails would be way above my ability, but this was totally unnecessary. Riding them with Chris who had ridden them several times before put me at ease and enabled me to just go with the flow, which is kind of the point. Each centre has a mix of different trails for each ability, and after an evening sortie on the blues at Glentress to warm up the MTB juices I felt able to take on the reds for the rest of the week.
Each centre was so quiet we could take our time and revisit some technical features to ride if we wanted, looking at the lines or how we could have ridden it better. On other occasions we were able to just let the brakes go and find the flow, usually followed by a few insane grins at the end.
There were a mix of facilities at each centre, some ranging from the super fancy visitor centre at Glentress where you could eat jacket potatoes the size of your head, bike shops at Ae and Kirroughtree, to the quieter Dalbeattie where the small cafe only opens between Thursday and Sunday. Most have bike wash facilities and there is usually a toilet. Take a few coins for parking.
It’s pretty cool to be able to ride your bike for a few hours in what can feel like the middle of nowhere but feeling confident that you’re on a well marked trail with help nearby if needed. Can’t wait to get back on the trails again. North Wales is next on the list and I’m hoping that in the next ten years I will have taken in quite a few more trails in much the same way, gritty damp bibs included.
The van full of gear really boiled down to a few key items for each day.
- Don’t leave home without the down jacket. I’m a 12 months a year wearer, and the Rab Microlight Alpine is one of those jackets that I certainly won’t be taking off much for the 2018/2019 12 month stint. Cosy, lightweight and so damn warm it’s a winner.
- Burglar hat. Rarely seen without this perched on my noggin in some way the NorthFace Salty Dog Beanie appears to be the best warm headwear ever made (in my biased can’t get it off my head opinion).
- Rapha bibs, base layers, and merino tops. Stick to the best.
- Over the top baggies, something like Haglofs or Norrora (slight Nordic gear obsession, they do kit well).
- Fox Flux lid with MIPS. Look after your noggin.
- I use the Fox Launch Enduro knee and elbow pads for some light protection in case of a sit down.
- Some gloves.
All images by Chris Goodman. Hit up his Insta here @uninspiredramblings