Just you and the line of dirt

Mountain biker on trail

In our guest blog this month, Pete Catterall from Plas Y Brenin explores just what it is that makes riding off-road such a unique experience...

The only sounds you hear are the gravel crunching under your tyres and the beat of your heart as you take on the next climb. No cars, no buses, nothing but you and the thin line of dirt weaving its way through the forest  that will receive your full attention for the rest of the day.

Biking off-road can take you to some of the wildest places, the best views and to a new level of FUN. The challenge of handling your bike on rough technical terrain will push your riding skills to a higher level.  Climbs that seem almost vertical will test you fitness to the max.

As with all adventure sports, you need to have the right skills and the right gear. A bike that's suitable for the terrain you're heading to is essential. If you're heading to forest tracks then a cyclo-cross bike or any bike with good tyres and strong rims will be just fine. A mountain bike with front suspension or front and rear suspension, good quality disk brakes and fat tyres with good tread is perfect for technical single track riding.

Inevitably, riding off road increases the chances of a crash, so getting yourself protected will make your ride safer. A helmet is essential, as are gloves to protect your hands should you come off your bike. It’s worth considering getting some knee pads too as smacking your knee can mean an uncomfortable journey back to your car! The rest can be your normal everyday riding gear. Heading off into more remote places also means you could be a long way from help, so a mobile phone, a good repair kit, a first aid kit, a map and compass and of course the know-how to use them, will help you sort out any problems and make your day so much better.

What skills do you need? Well, as with all biking, the fitter you are and the better your bike handling skills, the easier your ride will be. Take time to learn new skills like efficient braking and learning the attack position for getting your body in the right place to take on technical sections. Learning how to take drop offs, step ups and hit corners super-fast will make your ride smoother and allow you to take on more challenging trails. 

There are loads of amazing places to try out off-road riding. You can ride on bridleways, forest tracks and one of the many purpose-built mountain bike centres around the country, so get a map and get on your bike and give it a go!

Pete Catterall 


Pete Catterall is a mountain bike coach at Plas Y Brenin national mountain sport centre, coaching and guiding riders on some of the best trails in the country.


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