Riding the Stane Way to Heaven|
Monday, June 12, 2006
|Photo courtesy of the 7Stanes
|Fast riding at the 7Stanes
If "fast, flowing and twisty" are apt adjectives for the kinds of trails you like to ride, then bop across the Atlantic to Scotland's 7stanes. More variety than Moab, more beer than Syllamo and more courtesy than Marin, the 7stanes are considered one of the world's premier mountain biking destinations. And there's something for everyone at the Stanes -- whether you're a mountain biking masochist or planning a summer vacation with the kids that doesn't involve a commercial bludgeoning (it's an awfully small world after all). Plus there's haggis, plenty of haggis.
What's a Stane?
No, we're not misspelling the unsightly smudge on the back of your baggies when you ride a muddy trail. Stane is Scots for stone, of which there will be a distinct one at each of the seven biking centers (collectively called the 7stanes --make sense now?) The centers are spread across the southern part of Scotland and are easily accessible by car from any of the country's airports: Ayr, Glasgow or Edinburgh. Built by the Forest Commission Scotland and with unparalleled community support, each of the stanes has a number of trails, carefully color-coded ski resort style (green triangle-easy, red circle-difficult), to take the guesswork out. But of course nothing can stop the ego-run -- a newbie standing atop a double black diamond wondering how in the hell he’s going to get down -- but a slice of humble pie. But don't worry, there's plenty of that to go around at the Stanes, too.
Glentrool: While Glentrool boasts South Scotland's highest peak, Merrick, it's a great spot for family riding. Fifty-eight kilometers of wide-open forest tracks and minor public roads lead to some of the most breathtaking views of all the stanes. There are some solid climbs, the biggest being 200 meters of vert when you're already 40 kilometers with no short cuts back.
Mabie: Just five minutes south of Dumfries by car, there's no maybe about hitting Mabie. While this center entertains all skill levels, it's the masochists who'll find their bliss with The Kona Dark Side. This is the most technically demanding trail on Forest Commission land, with two kilometers of timber trail ranging from 60 centimeters wide down to 10! The Dark Side's got off-camber step-ups, drop-offs, gap jumps and rock features galore.
Kirroughtree: Two miles east of Newton Stewart, this recently added stane breaks it down with two easier routes and two harder ones so everyone's occupied. Plus there's a skills area to perfect feature riding before you're maching down the trail.
Dalbeattie: Craggy mountain biking love. Dalbeattie gets back to Scotland's granite roots with the Hardrock Trail, 27 kilometers of granite-strewn intermediate singletrack with some easier variations.
Newcastleton: Newcastleton may but have the variety of some of the larger stanes, but its short red and two blue trails offer solid riding for intermediates.
Ae: Twenty minutes north of Dumfries, Ae's got an epic downhill track and a line route with steep climbs, fast jumps and berms. You'll be seeing red on both these trails.
Tweed: The Helly Hansen V Trail in Tweed, a steep, technical 30-kilometer cross-country trail, was voted "Best in Britain" by mountain bikers. Riders here will enjoy rolling hills, singletrack and luscious views. Glentress and Traquair forest make the riding in this stane some of the best in Great Britain.
You can easily "hire" a bike if you don't plan to schlep yours. The Hub in Peebles (close to Tweed) rents Giant XTC3s for £18 per day. They've also got Kona Cindercones and full-suspension bikes from Kona, Santa Cruz, Rocky Mountain and Giant. If you're staying closer to Dumfries and venturing out from there, there's G&G, which is only a few miles from five of the seven stanes. They rent every kind of bike you might want, from Jump Bikes to Hardtails, Full-suspension XC, Freeride and DH. Their fleet is mostly Kona and range in price from about £15-30 per day. Both shops offer kiddie bikes, trailers and multi-day package deals.
Staying, Eating and Events
There are B&Bs, Hostels, cottages and hotels strewn across South Scotland, making finding someplace to stay relatively easy. The town of Dumfries is a perfect location for multi-day trips as it is only miles away from five of the seven stanes. Cottages that sleep between five and six in Dumfries can cost as little as £300 per week. B&Bs like Aberdour House, which offer complete Scottish breakfasts to their guests start in the area of £25 per person per night.
When it comes to eating in Scotland you have to try the local delicacies like haggis and black pudding. The Tevoit Smokery near Kelso is a must-do, where you can indulge in all kinds of smoked goodies like chicken, eel, salmon and trout. Other specialties include Cullen Skink, a creamy smoked haddock and Tweed Kettle, a stew made with salmon, white wine and herbs, served with a fresh, hot scone.
There are biking events year-round at the Stanes. If you've got some spare time this fall, try joining the Dalbeattie Hardrock Challenge this October. The Hardrock Challenge is a 26-mile biathlon (10 mile run, 16 mile bike). Individuals and teams welcome.
Buy me a ticket
Get online and start googling those flights. Getting to the 7stanes is the biggest expense, but it'll be well worth it. And just remember to pack your shoes and your rain gear; it is Scotland after all.
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