I’ve been away on holiday for the last week in North Yorkshire and naturally I took my bike. I chose the Boardman FS Pro with the intention of riding the full Dalby Forest red graded trail. I’d read plenty of reviews of the trail with popular sources such as Moredirt giving it 4 out of 5. The trail itself is 34.3 km or 21 miles in length but I also rode 6.5 miles in each direction to reach my start point.
I’d already climbed 748 feet to reach the red route but took it easy since I didn’t know how tough the next 21 miles would be. The tarmac road past the last farm before the woodland turned to gravel before I saw the sign for the trail. There was quite a long section of flowing trail to begin with. It fell slightly but wasn’t particularly challenging. I was a little surprised a bit later when the gradient turned downwards savagely round some sharp, rocky berms. I needed to assure myself that thousands of riders had been here before and survived, so I tried to relax, push my weight back and control the speed. After this excitement it was back to flow trail for a while before the second hard part, a series of steep, rocky drops but in a straighter line this time. I stopped for the picture below.
Another example where a picture fails to paint a thousand words. It dropped a long way, was tougher than the picture betrays and needed a bit of nerve. Before a third of the way there was only one more steep section which had some very tricky berms with bed rock protruding from the surface. I saw the visitors centre through the trees but stuck to the trail. I’d been impressed so far with how much of the trail was single track, rather than gravel fire roads. Unfortunately in the second half a long section of gravel was followed by a boring climb through a straight fire break which led to another fire road. Fortunately there was more single track flow trail before a fire road which returned me to the start of the lap.
The visitors centre was around a third of the way around my route and this first third had the only 3 challenging sections of trail. They would have felt like a highlight towards the end of a ride from the visitor’s centre but I met them near the start. At about two thirds of the way around my circuit was Dixon’s Hollow and Pace bike park with a number of skill sections such as jump lines. I was feeling the effort by this time having already covered well over 20 miles with the bulk of the climbing done already.
A good looking jump line, if you have the energy left!
Shortly before this was a really good, slightly downhill segment with some great corners flowing into each other. I was making the classic mistake of trying to go too fast and having to grab the brakes as I ran off line. If you’re off line out of one corner things just get worse as the corners progress. Unless you’re on the right line the corners become much tighter than they would be if you link one to the other correctly.
I covered a total of 34.53 miles with 2,395 feet of ascent. Around 1,500 feet of the ascent were on the 21 mile circuit which suggests it isn’t especially hilly. There are no steep, hard, climbs unless you take the shorter option which was offered late on in my circuit. I didn’t want to short change myself by not doing the whole thing so took the longer trail. I enjoyed a longer ride but wouldn’t give the red route as much as 4 out of 5. I’d say it’s only a 3 out of 5 kind of ride. The thrills are relatively few and far between compared to riding around home. Reviews generally say you will need around 4 hours to complete the circuit and with riding companions I’m sure it would have taken me longer than it did. As it was, riding alone, I took 2 hours 46 minutes including 3 photo stops to complete the 21 miles.
It was typical trail centre riding in many ways which, for me, rarely compares to a good natural trail. For someone new to the sport trail centres offer a decent ride on safely constructed surfaces. Natural trails can take a lot of time to discover, especially in an area you don’t already know and are often far more affected by weather conditions. If you wished to ride Dalby forest I would suggest you do it from the visitor’s centre and spend some time messing around at the bike park area. It was just a bit tame for me.
I’d be interested to hear other riders impressions of the trail. Please feel free to leave a comment. Many of my blog posts cover riding techniques, especially recently. I was doing this before the term “Mountain Bike” was invented!