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Scotland – a back country enduro playground!

“Aye, there is some great mountain biking in Scotland”, little did I know that this simple statement from a good friend of mine 6 years ago would result in our relocation from the sunny surf battered beaches of Devon, up to the wild and vast highlands of Scotland!  After a number of epic ‘no frills’ camping trips, staying in the luxurious confines of the back of a VW T4, Scotland was well and truly on our radar as one of the best enduro locations in the world!  With tough technical descents needing to be earned through long climbs, it is the perfect playground for the latest breed of 160mm enduro bikes.  Even though I have been lucky enough to ride all over the world, Scotland still occupies a unique place in my heart, and for those with an adventurous spirit Scotland offers truly world class riding!  

Here is a mini rundown of some of my favorite locations to ride, if Scotland is on your riding bucket list, what are you waiting for?

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The Isle of Skye is a unique location to ride, offering a concentrated selection of great trails!

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Scotland is a year round destination if you have the experience and equipment!

The growth of enduro

Scotland has perhaps been slow to catch onto the growing enduro scene, but over the last few years things have been changing.  Innerleithen now hosts an annual enduro series with tough climbing, super steep and rooty descents and top level racing from the local rippers.  Last year’s Dudes of Hazzard / No Fuss enduro held at Kinlochleven showed the world that Scotland has the goods when it comes to international level enduro, and with the 2013 Bluegrass UK round being held in Kinlochleven, perhaps we will see an Enduro World Series event in 2014?

Scotland is currently pumping out a steady stream of top level enduro racers with riders like Joe Barnes, Gary Forrest and Katy Winton lighting up the local and international scenes.   “Growing up in Scotland for me was the best thing ever. The landscape, right to roam laws, culture for adventure and the banter all make it a brilliant place to grow up! In Fort William we have got a really good scene for riding bikes. It’s pretty small but everyone is great friends and works together to build qnarly trails and have fun riding them.  If you don’t mind putting in the effort with the pedals Scotland has got endless singletrack to explore.” states Joe Barnes, riding for Canyon Bikes and taking a solid 9th at the opening Enduro World Series event in Punta Ala.

With a passionate riding scene and proactive organisers like the teams behind Tweedlove, No-Fuss Events and the current god father of enduro Chris Ball, Scottish enduro can only go from strength to strength!

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It does rain a fair bit in Scotland, but the trails are always super fun to ride!

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Riders practicing for the Dudes of Hazzard / No Fuss Enduro at Kinlochleven

Trail Centre Perfection!

If trail centres are you thing, your in luck!  Any trip to Scotland would not be complete without first checking out the Tweed Valley where you can spend a fair few days tearing around the legendary trails of Glentress, with its legendary fast and jumpy descent from Spooky Wood, this is perhaps the seed that all other trail centres grew from!  If you speak to the guys at Alpine Bikes in the visitors centre (cake works well) you may be pointed in the direction of some excellent off-piste trails too.  Innerleithen is just down the road and is home to not only a great trail centre for those of a more DH orientated persuasion, but also for those in the know, some of the finest, steep, natural and muddy enduro trails in the UK.  Heading North you will find Laggan Wolf Trax, a jewel in the crown of Scottish trail centres, the tough an technical black trail is a work of art.  Way further north Golspie offers the longest singletrack descent in Scotland and makes any road trip complete.

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Steep and slippy, Innerleithen offers some amazing off-piste trails for those that can find them!

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Scotland offers riding for all abilities but to make the most of the big mountains, a decent enduro rig is a must!

Backcountry in the Highlands

However, for me, and many others, Scotland is all about the big mountain wild trails of the Highlands!  Far from the way markers, car parks and cafes of the trail centres, you will find a world class riding destination that rewards with truly epic natural descents.  You could spend most of your life exploring Scotland’s highlands and still experience new trails daily and for those that are prepared to do a little hike-a-bike to reach far flung descents it really is an enduro playground.   The land is vast and there is far too much quality riding to cover in a short article but if you are visiting Scotland for the first time any visit to the wild classics like the Isle Of Skye, Fort William, Kinlochleven or Torridon will reward with quality enduro trails and leave you amazed by the lands rugged beauty.  There is nothing better than pedalling out on a crisp morning, taking in stunning views of hidden lochs as you climb through saddles and over ridges before linking into long, rocky and natural descents!  In stark contrast to the machined and maintained trail centres, the wild trails of Scotland will make you work, but when you drop into the descent, every turn, rock garden and majestic view will be forever burnt into your memory!  Savoring some post ride pub grub with a pint and a dram of whiskey to finish is the perfect end to the perfect day!

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The mountains above Kinlochleven are a ‘must ride’ for the visiting rider!

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Many descents in Scotland have to be earned with some hike-a-bike!

Doing it right

Scotland has always been proud of its outdoor heritage, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its ‘right of access’ laws allowing you to take your bike basically anywhere as long as you respect private property.  This unique access right allows you to explore to your heart’s content into the remote mountain ranges of the highlands!  All you need to do is open a map, look for a trail and head out and ride.  However, in the days of internet based GPS route sharing, and sanitised trail centres, It is important to remember that large areas of Scotland are remote, wild and can quickly become dangerous for those unprepared for bad weather.  It is vital that before embarking on any mountain epics, you ensure you are prepared, self sufficient and experienced enough to navigate safely in mountain environment.  If you want to experience the best of Scotland whilst letting someone else handle the logistics then you should give one of the excellent local guides such as Andy McKenna a call at www.go-where.co.uk to help find you not only the best riding, but the best accommodation and Scottish culture (whiskey!).

So do you and your bike a favour, get yourself over to Scotland, scour the maps and link up some of the roughest, toughest descents for your enduro rig!

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Dropping into another remote descent (Loch Muick), Scotland is the perfect holiday destination for those with a sense of adventure!

Words and photos: Trev Worsey

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