The South Pennines lies between the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales and contains a huge variety of mountain biking that equals its two more famous neighbors. The combination of easy access, open moors, steep wooded valleys, ancient packhorse routes, trail centres and an abundance of quaint mill towns overflowing with bike friendly cafes and pubs make this a four season mountain bike heaven.
This guide has a modular format, with most routes having two or more options of varying length and difficulty. As a result the 26 named routes provide over 70 ride options from easy 10km rides to 80km grand tours, offering great value. Also included are details of the four main trail centres in the area and a mountain bike dictionary for those not quite sure what “needing flatties to shred some gnarly shore without a serious stack” may mean!
All the routes are drawn up and photographed by Stephen Hall, a mountain bike guide and skills instructor who has lived in the heart of this area for nearly 20 years.
The routes are plotted on Ordnance Survey maps throughout and show all route options along with a common sense set of “at a glance” map symbols to indicate what to expect along the way. Grading uses the trail centre colour grades.
Published 2010 by Ernest Press.
Author: Stephen Hall
256 Pages. Book Size: A5
Map showing approximate recommended starting points for each route as indicated in the book.
Use the control to zoom about. Click on a marker for route information.
Also use the above map to see how easy the mountain biking routes are to get to from Bolton, Bury, Blackburn, Rochdale, Manchester, Oldham, Preston, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds...
In the guide each route includes a map with the route highlighted and clear text directions.
Quaint ex mill towns including Hebden Bridge and Holmfirth, wide open moorlands and steep, rocky wooded valley sides make for some great contrasts and fun riding. These routes are essential reading for those wanting to get the best from the dense network of bridleways found in this area.
Route 1: Marsden and the Holme Valley
4 ride options from Blue (19km) to Red (43km).
Start: Marsden. An entertaining and not too challenging route with some excellent long downs including an almost uninterrupted 5km final descent.
Route 2: The Marsden Circuit
Black grade, 39.5km
Start: Marsden. An epic ride that crosses the Pennine watershed by some challenging moorland riding with great views.
Route 3: Ripponden
3 rides from Blue (17.5km) to Black (31.5km) plus possibilities to do just the extensions from Mytholmroyd (Black, 9.5km)
Start: Ripponden. More great views from the broad ridge that forms the main feature of this ride. A very challenging climb and descent on the hardest option.
Route 4: London Road
3 rides from Blue (13km) to Red (22km).
Start: Hebden Bridge. A classic Calderdale outing with four season surfaces throughout and some technical extensions on the other side of the valley if you are up to it.
Route 5: Tod Skyline
3 rides from Red (19km) to very Black (37.5km)
Start: Todmorden. Lots of route options up to a full high level circuit of the upper Calder Valley. Includes steep climbs, narrow singletrack and awesome descents.
Route 6: Luddenden, Oxenhope and Ogden
3 rides from Blue (11km) to Black (33.5km)
Start: Luddendon, nr Halifax. From the starting point of a quiet wooded valley this route soon heads out over high moorland and maintains its altitude until the final, almost continuous, 7km final descent.
Route 7: A Tour Around Crimsworth Dean
2 rides, Red (17km) and Black (23.5km)
Start: Just north of Hebden Bridge at Hardcastle Crags. Short but challenging, taking in some of the best singletrack and finest descents in the area.
Route 8: The Big Widdop Ride
Red grade, 38km
Start: Just north of Hebden Bridge at Hardcastle Crags. A Calderdale classic taking in just about every type of riding imaginable, all in stunning surroundings.
Route 9: Widdop Lite
Blue grade, 27km
Start: Blackshaw Head west Hebden Bridge. A different starting point shortens the distance, nearly halves the climbing but allows the less energetic/technical rider to enjoy the scenery on this great high level day out.
Route 10: The Grand Tour of Calderdale
5 rides from Blue (20km) to Double Black (79km)
Start: Todmorden. Either a series of smaller circuits, a couple of train linked linear routes or the full monster day out. Whichever way you approach it you will get a taste of the whole valley, from the high moors of the west to the gentle farmland to the east with a bit of everything else in between.
Heading north the valleys are slightly less steep and the routes tend to be slightly less technical although most will still pose enough challenges for all abilities- both in technical riding and challenging navigation (though not if you have this guide with you). Picturesque towns such as Haworth and Ilkley provide great starting points and are ideal for post ride sustenance too. The Stainburn Trail centre just north of Otley is considered by many to be the toughest in England.
Route 11: Haworth South
2 rides, Blue 17.5km and Red 27km.
Start: Haworth. All season riding around the head of the Worth Valley with some cracking little descents.
Route 12: Haworth North
2 rides, Blue 10.5km and Red (just) 18km. Can also be done with route 11 as they share the same start point.
Start: Haworth. This route visits some picturesque quiet valleys, mainly by easy farm tracks, but with a couple of sections (climbs and descents) to really get the heart pounding.
Route 13: The Bingley Circuit
2 rides, both Blue, 17km and 23km
Starting options: St Ives, Harden or Bingley. A local classic updated (following recent upgrades to the bridleway network) making this route better than ever. Gives novices a good introduction to ‘real mountain biking’ but has enough tricky bits to challenge ‘experts’ too.
Route 14: Baildon Moor
Start: Saltaire. A short pleasant ride on generally gentle gradients but with one short sharp climb at the start and two great descents to finish. Also chance to test out your trials skills on the rocks in Shipley Glen.
Route 15: Ilkley North
3 rides, Black (15km), Red (20km) and another Black (34km)
Start: Ilkley. It’s hard to believe how remote this route gets when you set off from the bustling town. Open moorland, narrow singletrack, tricky navigation and awesome views wait.
Route 16: The Washburn Valley
4 plus rides from Blue 7.5km to Black (40km)
Start: Fewston & Swinley Reservoirs, west of Harrogate. Three linked loops that can be done separately or tagged together, you can even incorporate a lap or two of the Stainburn trails if you feel up to it.
A large area appearing in a guidebook for the first time, this covers the whole western side of the South Pennine watershed from the top end of the Peak District up through the ‘West Pennine Moors’ to the Forest of Bowland. Here you will find deep valleys, open moors, forest and farmland. Some rides have a decidedly agricultural feel and others really do have a surprising sense of remoteness considering their accessibility. Lancashire is also home to 3 (and counting) purpose built trail centres described in the guide – Gisburn Forest, Healey Nab and Lee Quarry.
Route 17: The 4 D’s
3 plus rides from Blue (17km) to Black (36.5km)
Start: Diggle, north east of Odham. The basic route follows the well known Diggle Jiggle but for those after more of a challenge the two additional loops can be added on or done as separate routes in their own right.
Route 18: Rooley Moor
2 rides, Blue (23.5km) and Black (28.5km)
Start: Bacup. The old part cobbled Rooley Moor Road is the main feature of this route, offering fine views and a cracking rough descent to Waterfoot.
Route 19: The Heads of the Valleys
4 rides from Red (16.5km) to Black (38km)
Start: Rawtenstall. Steady climbing accesses a high level route round the hill tops to two choices of final descent, both are good.
Route 20: Rivington Pike and the Western Moors
2 rides, Blue (24km) and Red (45km)
Start: Horwich, north west of Bolton. A shortish spin round Winter Hill or a much bigger circuit that takes in some more great off road and visits the Healey Nab Trails. Both finish with an ascent of Rivington pike.
Route 21:Jubilee Tower
Start: Ryal Fold, near DarwenA short route with with some attractive woodland riding followed by a sturdy climb to the tower, and finishing with an open moorland crossing and fast descent.
Start: Wycoller, east of Colne. The main feature of this ride is the bridleway that traverses beneath Bowlesworth Hill, gradually getting trickier as is goes. It finishes with a fast descent to the historic hamlet of Wycoller.
Route 23: Around Foulridge
2 rides, Blue (17km) and Red (24km)
Start: Foulridge , south of Barnoldswick & Earby. A steady climb over White Moor before descending to Earby before choosing between two climbs (small or big) on the other side of the valley to more good views and hearty descents.
Route 24: A Tour of Pendle
Start: Whalley, north west of Burnley. Does what it says! Despite the length most of the riding is firm and easy although there are several short sections to challenge most riders. The views are expansive throughout.
Route 25: Around the Ribble
Up to 5 ride combinations from Blue (11.5km) to Black (48km)
Start: Sawley or option to start at Clitheroe train station. An unusual ride in that it is mostly over agricultural land. Plenty of route options, some very faint trails, tricky climbs and descents and an entertaining river crossing all make this an unexpectedly fine collection of rides.
Route 26 :Dunsop Bridge
Up to 5 rides from Blue (11.5km) to very Black (45km)
Start: Dunsop Bridge. Some incredible riding over the eastern side of the Bowland Moors. Numerous options means that families can enjoy the easiest route, yet even the hardcore rider could find themselves bottling a couple of the hard route sections.
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