A mid-week stay in Stirling presented the golden opportunity to revisit some of my favourite trails from my uni days. As fate played out, Pete an old classmate from uni has recently set out on an adventure in the form Flying Fox Bikes, in the small town of Alva nestled on the edge of the Ochil hills only a short distance from Stirling. I visited the impressively stocked shop for the first time since its inauguration. The last time I visited, I had witnessed the final touches being administered for the grand opening. Pete aka Pedro informed me that he would be leading a group of local mountain bikers around the trails behind the uni and up the back of Bridge of Allan after work and I would be most welcome to join them. I accepted without hesitation, since my memory was a little hazy regarding the trail networks I had last ridden nearly a decade ago and this would be a great opportunity to take the guess work out of navigation.
A 7 o’clock start led from the university grounds up into Hermitage Woods, a magical little woods clinging to the hillside overlooking the campus. From there it was on up into Pendreich Woods overhanging Bridge of Allan, where more fast, fun, flowing single track awaited us and awakened fond memories of former bike trips from days gone by. As light began to fade, the challenge level increased, especially at speed. Deer were a plenty, with regular sightings along the trail, but thankfully none decided to jump out into our pathway.
The following morning I decided to cycle up Dumyat for old times’ sake, one of the Ochil hills overlooking the Forth valley and the Firth of Forth. Standing at 417m, it gives a climb just short of 400m total. As I ascended I spotted a couple of mountain bikers up ahead and set out to chase them down. As I finally summited Dumyat, it turned out to be none other than the main man at Flying Fox Bikes, Pedro himself on his titanium On One hardtail with a friend out for a morning spin. We descended together back to Hermitage Woods and went our separate ways, as I had plans to ride in Glentress later that afternoon.
After lunch it was back on the road and a short drive down to Peebles and the 7Stanes Glentress trail centre. Never one to do anything by half measures, I naturally went for the 30km black graded trail which included 80% on single track. A small section of the trail was closed due to the large number of fallen trees blocking the trail and thus resulted in a slightly shorter distance of 27km covered in just over 2 hours. Snow drifts remained from the harsh winter and still lay deep between kilometres 14-15 along the ‘Boundary Trail’ section and together with more fallen trees, made riding a distinct challenge of a more unusual nature. With over 800m of vertical ascent over the full distance, there is no other way to describe it, but as an epic ride. I can categorically state that Glentress is without a doubt my favourite 7Stanes trail centre of the lot!