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Don't let the wind and rain spoil your fun!

Don't let the wind and rain spoil your fun!

Sponsored rider Fiona RusselI usually rides a Planet X Pro Carbon but has tried something a bit different this winter....

I am not a dedicated follower of road cycling during the winter. I have tried, many times, to grin and bear it but I end up too cold, wet and useless at cycling. So I mostly stick to the turbo and get out into the hills for miles of trail running.

This year I've also discovered the joys of winter mountain biking on an On-One Lurcher 29er. For some reason, the wet and wind doesn't seem to be as bad on a mountain bike and if you're up for a bit of head-to-toe mud, it's actually a lot of fun riding off-road in bad weather.

Scottish forests for mtb'ers

When it's really windy and wet we head to the trails in Scotland's numerous forests. Thanks to the tall and closely planted evergreen trees, these trails are fairly sheltered.

Three great forests rides close to Glasgow

Glen Loin Loop, Arrochar, Loch Lomond: You can choose your own route on big network of forest trails or follow the Glen Loin Loop for ease of navigation. This route has lots to offer including long trail climbs, fabulous single-track descents, water crossings, some technical bits and pieces and fantastic views.

We took Fern the Campervan, plus the 29ers, to the car park at Arrochar. Leaving the car park, we crossed the main road and followed a quieter road to reach the large forest. The first few miles of the MTB route is a long and strenuous climb. Keeping the gears nice and spinny, I trailed behind the boys, G and S, but consoled myself with the stunning views, especially of snow-capped Ben Vorlich and Ben Vane.

I also had a wee smile to myself thinking about how the guys always head off at great speed, only for us girls to catch them further along when they have run out of steam and we have plenty more in our keep-it-steady legs.

The trail offers a few sections of flatter riding before more up and finally, from the top, there is the joy of riding back down again, but this time on natural and winding singletrack. As predicted I found myself catching up with G and S on the higher sections, before they zoomed off again with schoolboy glee to descend on the singletrack. This is a rocky and fast descent and if you're looking for a grade it's around Red. I'm not a practised nor skilled downhill rider so I took my time, making the most of the rolling 29er wheels and enjoyed a cautious but fun ride downhill.

Again, G and S, made the most of their more technical riding skills and rode ahead of me, but I was never far behind and whenever I caught up it was great to see their grinning (and muddy) faces. The route is not a long one, around 15 miles, but it takes two to three hours. This is something that I am still trying to get used to about mountain biking. While you'd polish off 15 miles in around an hour on a road bike, it takes two or three times longer on an off-road trail on a mountain bike.

(Click to see Glen Loin route)

Carron Valley Forest, near Denny, Stirlingshire: More of a man-made mountain biking centre but still with lots of natural features and lovely views, the Carron Valley is a popular destination for riders from Glasgow or Stirling. This is a forest of Red grade trails, with the whole route amounting to about 10.5km. Many riders ride a double or triple loop over a half day's outing.

From the car park, riders start with a section called the Pipe Dream. Enjoy this as a wee warm up before the riding proper begins. This route includes steep climbs, rocky descents, some challenging stone slab drops and a final 'Runway' (this is Orange graded). The route is also infamous for the Black Waterfall (known as Eas Dubh) and Kelpie staircase (rock steps) sections.

If you're brave enough you'll get some air on the Runway, if not you can roll over. The 29er is superb for these types of rockier sections and you hardly notice the rocks and slabs beneath the big wheels.

(Click to see Carron Valley)

Glen Finglas, Callander, Stirlingshire: Part forest and part open moorland, the Glen Finglas route is much loved by mountain bikers for its challenging ups and downs. A route of between 15 and 17 miles, this is an ideal 29er route thanks to the terrain of mainly forest trails and some quiet roads.

From the start at the car park next to the Brig o' Turk tearoom (save this for later when you'll definitely need a big refuel), and past the beautiful Glen Finglas Reservoir, the up just keeps on going up. There are a few short-lived descents as you head through the wild Glen Meann valley but the goal is the 580m high point.

For some of the ride you can see this high point laughing at you in the distance but until you approach this pass you have no idea how hard it is laughing. If you do not have legs of steel there may be times when you need to get off and walk. I'm not telling you if I did or didn't!

But, oh, how the downhill is worth the uphill. To add to the fun (?!) when we rode this route there was snow on the higher trails, which threw in a few giggles to the riding.

Another attraction of this challenging route is the scenery, including atmospheric woods, bubbling streams, stunning glens and the wide and wild moorland higher up the route.

(Click to see Glen Finglas route)

PS. Another mountain biking discovery

Something else that I never knew about mountain biking is how much of an all-over-body workout it is compared to road cycling. There's a lot of abs, shoulders and back strength required for tackling the ups, downs and gnarls of the off-road routes. This means I've stayed in fairly good shape as I embark on a summer of road cycling and it's meant that I am a lot warmer on a mountain bike in winter when compared to the hands, face and feet freeze of road cycling.

8 April 2014

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