Glentress - Dalbeatie - Mabie Road Trip Oct 2003

Some of the best rides come when you see a great weather forecast and go for it , and some happen when despite all the doom and gloom Bill Giles predicts, you strike lucky. With howling gales and sub zero temperatures on the forecast, we went for a road trip to check out Scotland's 7 Stanes trails and struck Gold.
The most amazing morning After the M6 blast and some dodgy moments on the snow covered minor roads we arrived at Glentress and were itching to ride. The Hub runs night-rides on Wednesdays and stays open till 10pm for food, so we rode up to the skills and Freeride area knowing a hot meal was waiting for us whatever time we got back.
The first impression was impressive as we played, then railed our way down from the Buzzards car park in darkness, its amazing how big a drop off you just fly over when you don't even see it.

The next morning we stared out the window, as we scoffed breakfast at nothing but mist, all those great views and we would just about see our handlebars. Back up the climb and suddenly breaking through the low cloud layer reveals strong sun and unbroken blue skies. The most stunning views I have ever seen on a bike ride unfold, the sea of mist below shrouds snow capped peaks, time for breakfast number two, there's no rush.
snow - you bet The Red route turns out to be every bit as good as other riders had preached about, superb flowing trails that have really returned to a almost natural state. The snow at the summit proved a touch tricky to get traction on, then it was full on for the fast and well bermed descents. There's plenty of chances for air time and Its perhaps a good indication of the quality of building that suddenly XC jayboy Adi was getting in plenty of air-miles. The Plush action and sure-footed landing from the SUB fork on test helped, but the Hairy Bear singletrack is a peach.

Buzzing over Coffee and Cake we chilled at the Hub, sitting on a comfy sofa feeding Dillon the dog. Suitably fuelled it was back up the hill to tackle the black Helly Hansen V trail.
Soon the snow the kids in us loved became our enemy as we boiled in the sun trying to plough through, at times, 4 inches of the frozen white stuff. The Tower Ride became the Tower Push as our energy drained fast, the Kipps loops followed, 2.5 Km of singletrack climb. One other solitary track in the snow gave us hope, we plodded on bikes in the rut and our feet in the step like snow holes of our fellow explorer.

After an hour of pushing we questioned our reasoning, at the summit shelter the views made it worth while, any way the downhill was to come. Down Britney Spears (hit me baby one more time) riding was only possible in very short bursts, this was ridiculous. Walking downhill was the pits and we needed a way out of here
The footsteps of our fellow Idiot were still there so hope remained, but after another long push up to the Radio mast at Dunslair Heights a get out fireroad linking us back to the top of the Red trail was welcome relief.
Adi does his first ever double Now we class ourselves as very fit and able riders, having rode (ha!) for 2 hours our average speed clocked in at 4mph. It's worth remembering that even though the trails are marked, all the precautions for exposed riding should be followed in this area.
Shame though it cut the amount of trails we could ride drastically.

Roosting down the red again soon warmed our feet up, then linking up with some of the lower Black rote saw a most Epic moment. Adi cleared his first double............ there it is left, evidence. OK so its not massive but the boy landed it real sweet, the smile is still there I think.
Seesaw at Glentress Ewok village  The Ewok village off the Black run was found. Within easy reach from the Double-X section its superb. Having been to BC the proclaimed home of North Shore obstacle riding, it was impressive to see what the Glentress Trail Pixies have come up with.
The big jump/drop off merchants will be disappointed, but there are loads of log balances, twisting and turning, some really narrow, and signs of many more to come. Again Adi Impressed by getting stuck in and riding the see-saw straight off.

Huge bowls of soup and jackets were well earned today, the Hub really is a major bonus for such a trail mecca.
Our Hotel shower, within riding distance of the trailhead soon recharged the aching muscles.

This place really takes it out of you, there are as many twisting hairpin strewn singletrack climbs as descents, a welcome change from the fireroad ups of some places.
Dalbeatie granite Another day and another full blue sky, the Peebles valley is reported to be well sheltered, and the lack of wind at these temperatures was very welcome. A full on farewell loop of the Red run and a brief return to the Ewok, showed that a loan Trek Fuel is an almost perfect tool for these parts, Adi completed the Core-dude transformation by riding the SanAndreas, (it's for sale by the way) We had more exploring to do though.

Two hours down the A701 after yet another attack on the Hubs cooking, we pulled up at the start of the Dalbeatie trails. Having been spoiled at Glentress, be warned you are on your own as far as this trailhead goes.
Straight from the car park its into a little skills test area, the huge lumps of granite provide a good tester of what's to come.
Following the Red route provides a schizophrenic mix of smooth singletrack and hairy granite rock sections. Its quite a pedally route, you could call it cross-country freeride, it was quite a surprise to see the profile afterwards, as it certainly disguises the climbing here.
The Slab at Dalbeatie Again riding in strong sunshine had us pinching ourselves, were we really in Scotland as the clocks go back, Superb.
The trail twists and turns cleverly through the forest, the base it almost exclusively rock which makes for a very dry run.
Keep your eyes peeled on the marker posts, its fully way-marked but its easy to speed past the black trail sections.
These teasing Granite sections are always off the main route, and Include the legend that is the Slab.

A ladder of rocks form a descent that's called the Qualifier, crack that and its right off the back of the bike for the Huge 45 degree slab of rock. Its crossed with wheel swallowing ruts and if you don't scrub the speed it's a sharp transition at the base. You have to ride it, to say you have done Dalbeatie, but the opt out route to the side of it is a superb little descent, ride back up and do that too.
More Granite provides fun further on, as the terrible twins, two more slab drops test you.

Overall its a cracking trail, we were crawling by the finish in the twilight, a welcome change from the climb, fall format of trail. Its hard work though and to really get the best from it its worth riding on fresh legs. A stop off on route to Glentress would be Ideal, its only a short hop from the M6 just over the border.
Is it really Scotland in late October Its Saturday, must be Mabie then, time to explore the freshly launched Phoenix trail.
The trailhead is just South of Dumfries on the A701, the parking area looks sparse but saddle up and ride up the hill to check out Rik's Bikeshed at the trailhead entrance. The shop is very well stocked with almost every part for Hope brakes, and held a few surprise's in its midst. The first Garry Fisher 'Cake' in the country and other models sporting the latest Pedal Platform shocks were part of the Hire fleet here. We watched slack jawed as Mr. and Mrs. T shirt weekend warrior rode off on brand new 2004 fifth element equipped Hecklers and Orange Sub5's. If we wanted a shot we only had to wait untill they returned from the 16 mile loop, umm that could take all day then.

The red trail markers soon show you this is a challenging route. Its got it all, a steep yet subtle climb soon affords teasing views of the trails you have yet to ride carved into the hillsides. This place seems to have a monopoly on singletrack, there's miles of it. A combination of narrow swooping trails and rock based bermed manufactured stuff connects with boardwalks and log test sections.. Adi soon commented that there were fewer jumps around for his new found skills, didn't stop him losing it big time on a fast bermed section though.
shore_dude at Mabie Mabie was a big hit with us, after a slack photo session loop we fueled up, (Be warned Rik provides an impressive range of Pot noodles, but its a bike shop not a Cafe) and set off for another faster session now we knew the loop.

The route came to life when attacked hard and fast, the centre Descender Bender section is a beauty. Look at the centre of that profile map. After a singletrack steep narrow climb, the forest opens up and you plummet down one great long feast of corners, like a giant dual course. Some rock some mud, but all well made. Some corners are approached blind and really have you scrabbling for grip. The transformation in surface from Dalbeatie's Granite to the Slate here takes some tyre grip re-calibration.

The plummet finishes in a high speed water splash hat really shocks your system at this time of year, it wakes you up for one real granny ring grind up a singletrack climb. The Elevator trail soon gets the height back, yet keeps you entertained with switchback's and boardwalk sections. A well made log ride fits into the trail like a true natural obstacle (pic left) just remember to clip out .
All to soon the final flurry through Rattle and Hum drops you to Rik's again, you speed up through the root laden wood and then struggle to slow in time for the final tight hairpins and drops at the end, a great climax that has you whooping in delight back to the carpark.

Talking with Rik afterwards showed the enthusiasm put into these trails, another map of the Drumlanrig trails (NPS race venue 2003) was shoved at us, too much for our drained bodies, one to explore next time.

A sharp shower here soon showed us the reputation for mud this place is working hard to remove, theres a lot of fresh sections as yet and we did good impersonations of muck spreading tractors at some points.
Glentress - RED
Black summit to red
Glentress - BLACK to RED
Dalbeatie red trail
Dalbeatie - RED
Mabie Pheonix Trail
Mabie Phoenix - RED
The HUB in the Forest The forestry's & Stanes project The Glentress Hotel