Tales from the forest

Inspiration, stories and an insider's glimpse into the world of Scotland's forests

Trail Blazers: Ruari Watt & Andy Wardman

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At Forestry Commission destinations across Scotland, mountain biking is one of the most enduringly popular outdoor activities. Nothing beats the thrill of an adrenaline-charged downhill dash!

Scottish mountain bikers and overseas visitors have a range of different challenges, terrains and organised races to choose from, right in their backyard, from Laggan Wolftraxx near Aviemore and Moray Monster Trails in the North, to the 7stanes Mountain Biking centres dotted throughout the south. Providing a base for the country’s world-renowned MTB culture, the network of trails is constantly maintained, upgraded and developed. Supervising this process are trail grader Ruari Watt, and mountain bike ranger Andy Wardman.

Ruari and Andy and their colleagues post regular updates and videos on their activities over on the 7stanes Facebook page, which offers a fascinating insight into the hard work, resources and volunteer hours that go into this vital trail maintenance. Both advanced trail riders, they offered to give us a few tips and tricks - and a run-down of the races and events coming up at our destinations over the next few months.

What is an Enduro race?

Ruari: An Enduro race takes all the good bits of mountain biking – going for a social ride with friends, exploring new trails, going fast downhill – and rolls them into one event. You ride between several timed sections, have a wee break then race the fun bits of trail.

The good thing about Enduro is you don’t necessarily need to train for it just to take part – it’s just like a day out trail riding with friends. There are enduro events for different levels of rider. Relative beginners and kids can get involved in shorter, less challenging events, while some enduro events have sections not far off full on downhill courses.

What are your three top tips for riding the 7stanes trails?

Andy: Whatever your level, a skills lesson is one of the best upgrades you can get for your riding! Improve your skills, confidence and have more fun!

Ruari: Feeling fast isn’t always going fast – riding smooth is easier on your bike, body and the trail. Watch other riders of all abilities to get ideas on technique and line choice. Third, and most importantly – have fun!

If people are just starting their MTB journey, which course should they try first?

Ruari: Laggan Wolftrax, although it’s further north and not part of the 7stanes network, is a pretty good destination for newer riders – it’s quite low key so not intimidating, and never too busy. The green trail is really good for kids and beginners, while still feeling like proper mountain biking. The orange trail has big berms and safe jumps to build confidence, the red trails have rough rocky sections mixed with flowy singletrack. The black has a tricky rocky climb, followed by a long, rough, rocky, very challenging downhill – definitely not for beginners, but one to work towards!

MTB Events coming soon:

The Tweedlove Whyte King and Queen Enduro, 18 and 19 August at Innerleithen

Taking place at Innerleithen in the Tweed Valley Forest Park<, the annual race to crown the ‘King and Queen’ of the hills has become something of a UK enduro classic, and is always popular with riders and spectators alike. Innerleithen has a huge variety of terrain on offer on its many trails, with organisers Tweedlove promising races that take in “the sweetest descents on the valley’s finest dirt, roots and rock.”

Enter here. Cost: £48/£55/£60 entry fee.

PCC Stage Race, 25 August at Glentress

Aimed at kids, this event from the good folks at Peebles Cycling consists of four stages, and lasts a day. The perfect chance for younger riders to test their skills, this year’s race will follow a new format. This is a group effort, and the organisers are still looking for volunteers. They need marshals, timekeepers, and staff for stalls at Glentress.

Enter and volunteer here. Cost: £26 per race.

PMBA Enduro Rd 4, 9 September at Kirroughtree

A brilliant grass roots vibe makes this round of the PMBA Enduro Series a favourite for many riders. Mixing dedicated trails and more rugged off-piste sections, this is a great way to explore beyond the usual boundaries of Kirroughtree. Expect fun, good times, and a friendly welcome.

Enter here. Cost: £43.50 entry fee

Tour de Ben Nevis, 22 September at Glen Nevis

Promoted and organised by No Fuss Events, this is a 72km route around Ben Nevis that takes riders properly into the hills, and uses an enduro style format of timed special stages, but within a long marathon style event. The course starts with riders being piped up Fort William high street, so offers something a bit different! Our nearest destination is Glen Nevis. Timed stages include rocky downhills, long steep climbs, and a super long hike-a-bike section over a hill.

Enter here. Cost: £60 entry fee.

The Scottish Enduro Series, various dates, Pitfichie and Fort William

Also organised by No Fuss, the Scottish Enduro Series takes place at multiple locations, with riders competing in a variety of time trials, challenges and races. There are two major events still to go this year – the first takes place at Pitfichie on 15 September, followed by another round in Fort William (Glen Nevis) on 13 October. The October round is a part of the Continental European Series, and is a qualifying event for the Enduro World Series.

Enter here. Cost: £62 per Enduro / £52 for Short Course option.

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