The Quantocks, Somerset
Mountain bike nirvana is a small ridge just south of Bristol, overlooking the Severn Estuary, where on a clear day you can see the Breacon Beacons in Wales. For such a small area the Quantocks (not to be confused with The Cumquots (fruit) and The Buttocks (rear suspension)) offers a huge amount of singletrack, technical climbs and drops and even bike friendly walkers (what!? - yes it's true!)
The riding is split between flat topped, exposed moorland and steep sided, forested valleys (combes). Also it drains fairly well, so it's not too muddy. However, this means there is plenty of streams around in the combes. As most of the bridleways that wind their way down the combes pass through these streams on their way to the bottom, you better pack your Porrelle Drys unless you're going Mid Summer!
Another thing is, the riding isn't for beginners - the hills really are steep sided and if you don't get your route right, you could be doing a lot of walking, both up and down. However, if you're up to a challenge there are some fantastic tracks that can be ridden either up for a vert challenge, or down for a super fast or super technical blast.
Good tracks include down to Weacombe, down into Hodder's Combe from pretty much anywhere and a track that drops down south of the quarry to a footpath that takes you to Triscombe (v steep). If you prefer challenging climbs, to the left of the pub in West Bagborough, there's a lovely little climb that'll have you reaching at the top! Or try going straight on at Triscombe, all the way to the car park at the top (not a good downhill) - I've got up here on the middle ring when I've been fit, but tend to use granny ring mostly nowadays!
If your looking for a day ride, just follow your nose. There's a track along the top that forms the spine of the Quantocks, and you can use it to get from one end to the other fairly easily, droping into any of the combes down either side and then climbing back out. The only thing I'd say is take some food and drink with you, as there aren't many places to stop and stock up.
Exmoor is just like the Quantocks in many ways, only bigger and rockyer. I've ridden in two areas, the west over toward Bideford (a long time ago and with no map - could have been better) and the east, over near Minehead. I can say that the riding around Minehead is great - the climbs are a real challenge, the descents really rocky and there's plenty of singletrack to boot. If you start in ... and ride up the off road climb to the top of Dunkery Beacon, you'll understand why I say the climbs are challenging! Mostly a granny ring climb, really rocky and loooong! But the views from the top (the highest point on Exmoor) are worth the effort! So is the downhill that follows!
Other good areas I've found are around Horner and above Porlock. There's some really nice singletrack, with steep downhills, the top part being on open moorland, then dropping down into woodland and finishing with a stream crossing or five! Great! I'll definately be back!
On the top of the Quantocks
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