From the rocky sea cliffs along the North Sea to the wide-open spaces of high moorland, plus areas of forest and steep slopes, the North York Moors has enough variety to entertain families, novices and experienced mountain bikers alike. York-base outdoors instructor and mountain biking enthusiast Sarah Allard describes what's on offer.
The Moors combines purpose-built trail centres with some of the very best natural trails in the country. Dalby Forest is well established, but there’s also Guisborough Forest on the northern edge, and the newly developing trail centre at Sutton Bank in the southwest. I’ve highlighted some of the best areas for biking in the wild landscapes across this beautiful region.
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Sarah Allard is the co-founder of Lost Earth Adventures, an adventure holiday and mountain sports outfit that leads expeditions and courses both in the UK and further afield in Asia. Sarah is a qualified mountain bike instructor, trained in whitewater rescue and wilderness first-aid. She leads groups in the UK and Southeast Asia.
Having grown up in Canada, she spent much of her youth exploring...
Where to base yourself: Pickering or Scarborough offer easy access to Dalby.
On the southern flanks of the North York Moors, Dalby Forest is home to 56km (35 miles) of graded, well-maintained trails, ranging from pleasant family-friendly green routes to the gnarly, severe-graded 2010 World Cup Cycle Trail. Dalby Forest has bike hire available and a nice café. Trail centres don’t get any better than this.
Sutton Bank Blast: 14km, 404m ascent, moderate
This short route is a perfect choice for an afternoon ride or post work treat during the summer when the days are long and the sun still shines in the evening. Beginning at the Sutton Bank National Park Visitor Centre, the route takes you along a high ridgeline, before a long descent along the Cleveland Way, through the woods and past part of Gormire Lake. Bridleways and single track throughout, it's best in dry weather though can be done year round. This route is fun!
Dalby Forest Red Route: 37km, 520m ascent, difficult
The Red Route is a fine example of a well-maintained trail that offers length, variety and good flow throughout. Route finding is a breeze as there are signposts along the way. The trail tackles the hilly terrain of the North York Moors, so that you’re never long on an ascent and you’re never bored with the scenery. This is a year-round venue. Try the entire 37km (23 miles) in one go or take on shorter sections – either way you’re guaranteed a good time.
Ravenscar to Whitby (Moor to Sea route): 18km, easy
Explore the grand scenery and cliffside views of the North Sea on this stunning ride from the tiny coastal village of Ravenscar, cycling past Robin Hood’s Bay and finishing in Whitby. Treat yourself to some of England’s best fish and chips or a refreshing ice cream as the fisherman come in out of the bay. The route for much of the trail follows the Cinder Track, which is the old railway line between Whitby and Scarborough.
Pinchinthorp Over Roseberry Common – 14km, Moderate
This route combines a blend of fast forest trails and moorland track typical of the area. The descent down Roseberry Common can be technical, great for pushing your skills and just as good if you’re newish to the downhill scene. Combine the riding with beautiful scenery and you’ve got a great ride, perfect for a sunset ride.
Osmotherly Loop – 25km, 567 metres of ascent, Moderate-Hard
Everything great about biking in the North York Moors combined into one amazing route. This is a perfect introduction to moorland riding. You’ll have to work a little on the ascent, but the descent along fast woodland tracks and technical single track is without a doubt, worth it.
Best times to go:
Mountain biking can be enjoyed in the North York Moors all year round, but you’ll find the best conditions in the late spring and throughout the summer months; it can get a bit busy on the more popular trails on summer weekends and school holidays, however, particularly in Dalby Forest.
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