Riding the new Commonwealth Games MTB trails

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 is now
only around 44 weeks away and there have been many changes within the Scottish
city that show a major sporting competition is on its way.

In Glasgow’s east end, the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is well established and people, from kids through to grown-ups, have been trying out the indoor cycling track. A number of prestigious competitions have also been played out at this exciting venue, which is one of only three such velodromes in the country.

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In the south of the city, another Glasgow Commonwealth Games venue has taken
shape. The Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails are an exciting new addition to
Glasgow’s sporting landscape. During the Commonwealth Games the trails will
host the Mountain Bike competitions.

New city
mountain biking trails for all

The Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails have been built
with both the Games and the “Games Legacy” in mind. The trails will be be the
focus for 50 male and 30 female riders next August when they take part in a
range of Commonwealth Games MTB competitions.

And the "legacy" is that the cross-country (XC) trails are also open for
public use. Already kids and adults have been riding the network of
country-style singletrack trails located amazingly close to the city centre.

Set against a backdrop of ancient woodland, steep slopes
and open spaces, world-renowned
course designer Phil Saxena, of Architrail, has created a great MTB trail in Cathkin Braes. There are miles of snaking singletrack,
swooping berms, drop offs and plenty of larger obstacles to offer a challenge
for a wide variety of riders.

If, like me, you’re not so hot on the
technical riding but want to enjoy a variety of trail, there are lots of "chicken
runs" (escape sections) that allow you to keep on pedalling but avoid the most tricky obstacles. And you can always get off to walk short sections like I did on a number of
occasions.

For more expert riders the obstacles and
features provide lots of fun – and you can always work on finding the perfect
line for maximum speed or the best jump point for “making air”.

So, overall, the trails offer something for all
and there are plenty of places where families of mixed ability could enjoy a
few hours of exploring on mountain bikes.

Riding the XC course

The XC trail that will feature in the Commonwealth Games
is a 5.5km figure-of-eight
XC loop. The singletrack route heads through a variety of landscape including
open moorland, pretty woodland and hills.

It
felt amazing to be riding at speed on sweeping trails so close to Glasgow city.
And every time I stopped the panoramic views over the urban sprawl below took
my breath away. Glasgow from this high up is stunning.

There are lots
of climbs and descents on the route so I found myself changing up and down the
gears on frequent occasions. Since the bike was hired, I sometimes found I was
in the wrong gear, which usually meant I came to a standstill halfway up a
hill! I then needed to get off and push uphill. (If you’re looking for a
workout, pushing a full-suspension mountain bike is a great calorie burner!).

And
the features offered further challenges. These include the brilliantly
named Brig O’Doom, Broken Biscuits, Clyde Climb, Double Dare and Rest and be Thankful. I found myself happily
riding along, testing my skills on the bermy corners and snaking trail when all
of a sudden a major drop came into view. With practise, few of the features
would pose too much difficulty but on my first time I often came to a halt at each feature simply to survey the drop-off below.

Some of the
features had several routes of descent, from easier to extreme. I chose the
easier route whenever I could. And when I wasn’t brave enough to go for the
descent I simply got off and walked around. Some features also had handy
chicken runs, which meant you could ride a far easier trail around the
obstacle.

Riding just one
loop of this 5.5km loop was fairly tiring. Doing it a second time was fun but
muscle-zapping. At the Games 2014, the competitors will be doing some six laps
against the clock. Good luck to them all!

See the Cathkin Braes trails
map here

XX (20th)
Commonwealth Games
takes place from 23rd July to 3rd August 2014.

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