11 great socially-distant UK mountain bike rides
Perfect for getting away from it all
Lockdown measures have been eased a bit and those of us living in England are now allowed to travel to the trails and ride with a mate, but social distancing is still important, to avoid catching or transmitting the infection. So why not forget about riding busy manmade trails and think about heading out into open countryside instead?
These 11 rides around the UK have been selected for their sense of getting away from it all. Some are properly wild, like our route in the Cairngorms; others are quite near to civilisation yet still retain that quiet, secluded feel, like our South Downs loop. Our routes specialist Max Darkins has chosen rides that aren’t overly technical on the whole (no one wants to be ending up in A&E anytime soon), yet have some cracking views to lift your spirits.
We've focused on England, where there's been greater lifting of restrictions, but included routes in Wales, Scotland and on the Isle of Man too, with details of the current lockdown rules in each area. For more information on all these rides, check out issue 382 of MBUK, out now.
Routes: Rough Ride Guide
Pics: Russell Burton
Lockdown latest: Allowed to travel anywhere within England to do unlimited amounts of exercise (although we'd recommend not driving too far, to minimise the risk of spreading infection), but must return home the same day. Can exercise with members of household and/or one person from outside of household (increasing to five people from 1 June), as long as a distance of at least 2m is maintained at all times.
1. Chilton, Chiltern Hills, Oxfordshire (Medium)
A long ride amid serene farmland, mostly on gentle tracks that offer wonderful views, but with some fun singletrack too.
- Distance: 38.8km
- Climbing: 580m
- Time: 2.5-4hrs
- Start/finish: Chilton Village Hall car park (grid ref SU 490/860, postcode OX11 0SH)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767274
2. Codford St Peter, Wiltshire (Medium)
The rolling hills of Salisbury Plain are perfect for long, fast summer rides.
- Distance: 45.2km
- Climbing: 650m
- Time: 2.5-4.5hrs
- Start/finish: Codford St Peter, streetside parking (grid ref ST 968/399, postcode BA12 0NE)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767611
3. Firle, South Downs (Medium)
A mix of open hilltop riding with far-reaching views tempered by fast lowland tracks.
- Distance: 38km
- Climbing: 980m
- Time: 3-5hrs
- Start/finish: Firle village car park (grid ref TQ 469/075, postcode BN8 6NS)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767574
4. Princetown, Dartmoor (Medium)
Challenging trails and remote sections punctuate this fun ride across the moors.
- Distance: 25.7km
- Climbing: 550m
- Time: 1.5-3hrs
- Start/finish: Princetown visitor centre (grid ref SX 589/736, postcode PL20 6QQ)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767246
5. Rievaulx, North York Moors (Medium)
Savour the sense of space and explore this imposing moorland landscape at pace.
- Distance 36.7km
- Climbing 960m
- Time: 2-4hrs
- Start/finish Greenfoot car park (grid ref SD 820/633, postcode BD24 9QS)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767429
6. Sedbergh, Howgill Fells, Yorkshire Dales (Hard)
A quiet day out in big hills with big views, but with no escape route there are some technical sections that are best left for another day.
- Distance: 38km
- Climbing: 1,450m
- Time: 3-5hrs
- Start/finish: Sedbergh car park (grid ref SD 658/920, postcode LA10 5AB)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4740437
7. Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales (Hard, with shortcut options)
A varied and challenging ride out into the stunning scenery of God's Own Country.
- Distance: 32km
- Climbing: 920m
- Time: 3hrs
- Start/finish: Dales Bike Centre, Reeth (grid ref SE 046/988, postcode DL11 6AW)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767359
Lockdown latest: Exercise must start from your home (no driving), be limited to a "reasonable distance" (unspecified) and only be done with members of your household. An announcement is expected on 29 May about these rules being eased slightly.
8. Elan Valley (Hard, with shortcut option)
This beautiful region of Mid Wales boasts fantastic riding amid big hills and tranquil reservoirs.
- Distance: 37.2km
- Climbing: 1,070m
- Time: 2.5-5hrs
- Start/finish: Rhayader village (grid ref SN 970/678, postcode LD6 5BP)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767648
9. Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon Beacons (Hard, with Easy and Medium options)
A tough and hilly ride exploring the valleys in this beautiful area, but with some shortcut options to avoid the more technical trails if you want to minimise risk.
- Distance: 36.7km
- Climbing: 1,100m
- Time: 3.5hrs
- Start/finish: Talybont-on-Usk Bike Hub car park (grid ref SO 113/229, postcode LD3 7YQ)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767509
Lockdown latest: Exercise must be done "close to home" and the government's "strong advice" is to not go further than eight miles, so we'd hold off riding the route below for the time being. You can now meet with one other household outdoors each day, up to a maximum of eight people, as long as social distancing is practised.
10. Glen Tilt, Cairngorms (Hard, with Medium option)
Spot deer and plane wreckage, even swim in a loch, on this back-of-beyond foray into the pristine wilderness of the southern Cairngorms.
- Distance: 53km
- Climbing: 1,375m
- Time: 4-6hrs
- Start/finish: Old Bridge of Tilt car park, near Blair Atholl (grid ref NN 874/663, postcode PH18 5TP)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767541
Isle of Man
Lockdown latest: Allowed to travel anywhere within the island to do unlimited amounts of exercise, but only with members of your household. The island's borders remain closed.
11. Douglas, Isle of Man (Hard)
Enjoy big climbs, long descents and amazing views on this cross-country foray into the Manx hills.
- Distance: 44.8km
- Climbing: 1,145m
- Time: 3-5hrs
- Start/finish: Douglas ferry port (postcode IM1 2BY)
View the route on OS Maps: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4767327
This article is an edited version of a feature that appeared in MBUK 382 (June 2020). Lockdown information was last updated 28 May 2020.