Paths of enlightenment Clive rails another perfect berm With the remnants of ideas and experiments to be found at every turn, riding in Mabie Forest is like taking a tour through a trail-building laboratory. Mabie House Hotel has excellent rooms, but also its own camping pods in the grounds, which means you can get up, throw a leg over your bike and hit the trail straight away mabiehousehotel. Marthrown on Mabie is further into the forest and has teepees, yurts, camping and bunkhouse accommodation — you can even climb into the hot tub and look at the stars after a hard day marthrownofmabie. Fixing your bike The bike shop on site has closed for now but there is a long-term plan to rebuild it. The nearest shops for now would be in Dumfries: DG2 Wheels dg2wheels.
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Paths of enlightenment Clive rails another perfect berm With the remnants of ideas and experiments to be found at every turn, riding in Mabie Forest is like taking a tour through a trail-building laboratory. Mabie House Hotel has excellent rooms, but also its own camping pods in the grounds, which means you can get up, throw a leg over your bike and hit the trail straight away mabiehousehotel. Marthrown on Mabie is further into the forest and has teepees, yurts, camping and bunkhouse accommodation — you can even climb into the hot tub and look at the stars after a hard day marthrownofmabie.
Fixing your bike The bike shop on site has closed for now but there is a long-term plan to rebuild it. The nearest shops for now would be in Dumfries: DG2 Wheels dg2wheels. What bike to ride There are a wide variety of trails in Mabie, linked by the theme of flow. For that reason you could get a lot of fun out of a hardtail , swooping the berms and hammering the smooth singletrack climbs. At most, a short-travel full-suspension would keep you right, and would be handy if you are heading onto the unofficial trails.
Pick of the trails The Phoenix is a mix of fast and furious modern trail, combined with the rooty and natural. Mabie Forest, Scotland trail centre guide Article originally appeared in MBR December There is no more rewarding experience than riding a trail with its builder. As you pedal you learn how every jink, berm and rise has a reason to be there. It surges along as each turn and drop falls into place, supporting your tyres in sweeping bends and catching you when sudden rises in the trail throw you skyward.
It flows with speed at some points and challenges your technical ability in others, smoothly transitioning between the two. This is art, not construction. Trails have been narrowed by nature into singletrack ribbons As a trail centre, Mabie predates the 7Stanes, and consequently it stands as a living, breathing demonstration of how trail-builders have honed their eye for a line and developed their skill with a shovel.
Generations of trails exist side-by-side, some that work well and have been absorbed into the trail system, others that have been phased-out long ago and only survive as a grassy, overgrown cutting into the trees you would barely notice without the benefit of a local eye.
The Ridge is a helter-skelter descent of fast, flowing turns For this reason, it has been described, by those in the know, as a nursery for trail-building; where features and techniques are trialled before being rolled out to the wider 7Stanes network.
Ride a section of woodwork anywhere in Scotland, for example, and chances are the design was tried and tested in Mabie. Consequently, nowhere is the development of the trail-building art so clear to follow than here. Rough with the smooth: exposed bedrock breaks up the flow A very civilised coffee in the tranquil, wood-panelled surrounds of Mabie House Hotel is the start of my ride out with Andy Hopkins, chief trail-builder in the area and the man responsible for the 7Stanes Mabie trails.
Natural trails link up with 7Stanes creations for the best of both worlds Andy gives me a potted history of the area as we cruise up the gentle red trail climb. Long before the 7Stanes were even a twinkle in the eye of Forestry Commission Scotland, way back in the mid-Nineties, the locals had discovered Mabie and were riding lines through the mix of plantation and deciduous trees. Attracted by the gradients and good quality soil, the scene here took off in a big way, eventually gaining structure and legitimacy when one of the guys, Rik Allsop, decided to quit his job and start a bike shop at the foot of the hill.
Mabie blazed the woodwork trail for the 7Stanes With the advent of the 7Stanes project, the Forestry Commission stepped in, adopting the trails and pledging to develop them further.
For an avid trail builder, it was like winning the lottery. Since then, the trails have continually developed, and some sections are now are in their fifth iteration. The ridge As we hit the top of The Ridge, we jump off to soak up what could have been a spectacular view, but was instead the inside of a particularly soupy mist rolling in off the Solway Firth. Moisture clings to the rocks as we scramble over a crumbling drystone wall to check out what is left of the original Ridge trail, now just a slightly overgrown parting of the heather.
Beautiful and appealing in its own way, a step back over the wall brings us into another decade. This smooth stretch is safe even for danger-magnet Andy Bang up-to-date, the trail literally launches us off the summit and sweeps us forward. Leaning deeply into sweeping bends, the silence of the mist is broken by the roar of the wind; jumps and flat-out sections generate speed and acceleration in a way that could never have been achieved on the original path without a madman at the controls.
North Shore sections allow the Dark Side to raise its game The pause allows us to look west over toward the old Dark Side. After a trip to Canada in the early Noughties, Andy came back with an inevitable enthusiasm for North Shore woodwork and immediately got to work, feverishly building a black-graded pier of raised timber. From our original Heath Robinson approach, we developed standards that now apply across the whole Forestry trail network. And it all started here.
We had constant maintenance for only the few hundred riders that were using it. A hop and skip through the glorious mix of deciduous and conifer plantation that is a signature of Mabie, brings us to Descender Bender. Without pausing, we dive in and, as I follow Andy, he gives it full beans and disappears over a rise. I prepare to suck up the rise, and scan ahead for the next corner, but my eye is immediately drawn to a wheel. And closely followed by a leg.
Then the sole of a shoe sweeping across the sky. A crackle of snapping ferns and small bushes is drowned out by the honk of my brakes being hastily applied. Then the laughter starts. Once a trail-builder, always a trail-builder; Andy admits he was distracted — at full speed — by a bit of the trail surface. He looked down, he looked up, and then hit a tree stump that launched him out over the edge. Taking the Cake Following Andy makes it obvious why he was the perfect man to throw in at the deep end when trail-building was in its embryonic years.
When no one really knew how it would work out, what was needed was a human guinea pig. Someone with the nerve to just jump in and try, to scrape that first digger bucket and give it a whirl. No one really knew about flow in those early days, or what would truly make a great trail, but someone needed to bull on and make it happen so the learning process could begin. Chasing him down a trail, he clearly rides his bike the same way — he may not have a polished technique, but he has the raw nerve in spades to just charge through.
The result is a fast rider, but one who is nerve-racking to ride behind, as I just wait for the next near miss. Clive, a man of measured skill, just shakes his head with a knowing smile when Andy takes off again, scratches his brakes erratically and nearly launches off a berm into oblivion.
He has been riding with Andy a long time. At an innocuous section of fast trail, we stop again to look at cake mix. Yes, cake mix. Incredibly resilient, it forms the basis of many a trail feature countrywide these days. The cake mix is hardwearing, but even when it does go all you need is a visit with the digger to reform it and you are back on track. No wonder — the sides top out almost vertical and it is clear that the standard stone and whin dust construction would only result in a pile of rubble at the bottom.
It is a work of art, nothing less. As we finally roll back into Mabie House Hotel for a final coffee, it is almost dark. If you groom the trail to perfection, sanitising it to give a year lifespan, no one is going to ride it. Generations of trails that have worked and not worked, sit side-by-side, representing a colourful storyline of how the trail-building art was born.
Today: Any mist and low cloud soon burning off in the morning. Then dry, sunny and quite warm again. Southeasterly breeze keeping the east coast a little cooler. Tonight: Dry with some hazy sunshine this evening.
Mabie Mountain Bike Trail Centre weather map
Great red loop and fun 4x track. Not sure if you can even hire a bike nowadays. Winter night riding is much more rewarding as the walkers paths are available. Facilities From cafe post ride grub to bike wash. There are also lots of natural trials that have been developed by the locals which do offer variation but these are not marked anywhere so local knowledge is required. A skills area with different-graded trails gives a taste of Mabie riding for those new to the area or looing to move up a trail grade.