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Mountain biking around Clapham and Austwick Photo by Paul Harris

FAQs about mountain biking

What are the trails like?

The trails open to mountain bikers have developed over centuries. They include old packhorse routes, drovers roads, monastic ways and Roman roads. There is everything from walled lanes with firm stone surfaces to grassy single track. You can take on rocky descents and climb high over the moors. Most of the area is on limestone which drains well. But after after heavy rain it is best to avoid areas of peat bog high on the moors.

What is the technical level of the riding?

We have easy routes on hard stone tracks, through to gnarly single track descents. A grading system on route maps indicates the level of difficulty.

What do the grades mean?

Routes are graded using a ski run system.

Green: Easy trails including surfaced tracks or tarmac roads. Suitable for novices and young families, although tarmac sections may be steep.

Blue: Moderate trails. Un-surfaced tracks with limited gradients and reasonable surface. Suitable for occasional cyclists and older families.

Red: Difficult. May include long climbs and descents, and being considerable distances from a road. May include technical elements including steep or rocky sections. Suitable for cyclists with off-road experience. You should be competent in navigation, and capable of carrying out basic repairs.

Black: Severe. Technically challenging and/or physically demanding. May involve long and exposed crossings over difficult terrain. Suitable for experienced mountain bikers.

The overall grade takes into account distance, height gain and remoteness.

What should I ride and what should I wear?

Any regular mountain bike is fine. A suspension bike might make you faster down some bits and a hardtail faster up others, but it’s more a question of skill and fitness. The same applies to tyre sizing or any favourite tread patterns. Most local riders run tyres at higher pressures to avoid pinch punctures. Just make sure the gears are working and there’s plenty of life left in your brake pads.

Do I need anything else?

You should carry basic tools and the means to sort out a puncture, as well as spare clothing, food and water. A mobile phone can get you out of trouble, but don’t rely on it as the coverage in the Dales is patchy.

What about the weather?

The Yorkshire Dales forms part of the Pennine chain up the spine of England. Its weather is part of its wildness. You can find yourself riding in glorious sunshine and worrying about slapping on the suncream, or putting on those layers to keep hypothermia at bay. Come prepared. Because loads of the trails drain well you can enjoy biking here year round. A cold winter’s day with the tops covered in snow can give an unforgettable experience.

Do I need to be able to map read?

The Dales is not like a forest centre. Working out the routes is part of the experience. To make life easier use our selection of routes. If you are going up high you should still know one end of a map from the other and be able to take a compass bearing if the cloud comes down.

Are the routes ever closed?

The only time routes get closed is for major essential maintenance work. 

What is the Pennine Bridleway?

The Pennine Bridleway is a National Trail in the north of England, designed specifically for horse riders, off-road cyclists and walkers to enjoy. It will eventually run from the High Peak Trail in Derbyshire to Byrness, Northumberland, a distance of 560km (350 miles). The National Trail enters the Yorkshire Dales National Park at Long Preston and weaves through the Dales via Settle, Malham Moor, Feizor, Austwick, Selside, Newby Head and exits the park at the Cumbria County Boundary above Garsdale, a total length of approximately 52 miles. For more details visit the Pennine Bridleway website.

Who else uses the trails?

You will probably meet walkers and possibly horse riders. You should slow down and make sure they know you are coming, particularly if you are approaching from behind. A friendly ‘hello’ is all it takes!

Are the routes all off road?

Unlike forest centres you have to spend some of your time on tarmac when you ride in the Dales. Most of our roads are pretty quiet, but there are some sections that can be busy, so keep your wits about you.

Who can I contact for more information?

Email us at:, with MTB the Dales in the subject of your message.

Call us on 0300 456 0030 – our reception team will make sure you are then put through to the right person.