7Stanes – Scotland’s biking heaven (Part 3)

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Following lugging a trailer around the Blanchland wilderness on the weekend, I reverted back to the simple formula of merely two wheels to conquer two more of the legendary 7Stanes mountain bike trail centres, notably Newcastleton and Innerleithen.

Newcastleton lies just north shy of the English border in the Scottish Boarders. The red route provides a comparatively easy and gentle 16km loop, comprising 60% single track and taking just under an hour to complete. If one is looking for a fairly relaxed ride, that still provides a real mountain bike experience, then this is the trail centre to visit.

Next stop was Innerleithen a short drive north to what many consider to be the heartland of Scottish mountain biking. What awaited me has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The red graded XC course (with black graded options) measures 19km including 75% of single track and took 1h15mins to complete. Right from the car park just off the bank of the river Tweed, the track starts to wind its way up the steep mountainside. It seemed like a never-ending climb, which lasts for 8km, bar a short 3/4km section of descending after 2.5km, providing only brief respite. The climb was a stark reminder to me of why I gave up the pain and hardship of XC racing in favour of pure downhill many years ago and the remainder of the course only confirmed my sensibly good choice. Thankfully what goes up must come down and so you guessed it, 11km of downhill, with minor undulations, awaits the patient peddler.

It is on the back-end of this formidable XC course where the fun and real challenges begin. A black graded option presents itself in the form of ‘Razor Rock’ and demands a high level of technical ability and poise to master. This is only where it starts to get interesting. The final 2km are shared with the ‘Make or Brake’ downhill course and so it is natural to expect some seriously aggressive downhill features, including rock drops, bomb holes, step downs and table tops, requiring absolute concentration and confident bike handling skills. The exhilaration and pure rush of adrenaline you experience lets you forget the pain you suffered all the way up the seemingly never-ending climb at the beginning. Was the climb worth it? To that, I simply suggest you head down to Innerleithen and saddle up to experience this world-class XC course for yourself!

Air time @ Innerleithen

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