Mountain biking in the UK is more popular than ever right now, and although MTB Beds have firm roots in Morzine, we want to highlight just how good Mountain Biking in Scotland and the Cairngorms really can be. And what better way than to chat to local guides about what makes each of their areas such a good spot for a mountain biking trip in the UK.
Neil Wilson is a qualified Mountain Bike guide living in Aviemore, Scotland, which sits in the Cairngorms. Known throughout the UK as a ski resort in winter, Aviemore benefits from chairlifts that allow epic mountain bike descents from the mountain tops in summer.
Over to Neil…
I have been riding mountain bikes for 30 years and have been a coach and guide for over 15 years. Why do I ride bikes? It's simple really, it is great fun and the best place to view the world from. Having fun in a coaching session is so important so that riders and coaches keep engaged and get the most out of the session. Being an enthusiastic person helps and I like to expand people's horizons to what can be achievable for them and give them ideas to aspire to in the future. You are only limited by your imagination.
Riding in the Cairngorms is stunning
Why did you start coaching?
I love riding bikes, they have brought so much to my life! A sense of freedom, adventure, happy times and memories, adrenaline and a few sketchy moments. They have given me a platform to view the world in a different way, and slow things down so that I can enjoy the environments I travel through. I got into coaching and guiding as a parent who volunteered to help out at the local bike club. Looking back this was the best thing that could have happened to me. My life changed that day for the better as I now work doing what I love and am able to pass on a sense of fun and adventure to all sorts of riders.
A few years ago I decided to start my own business, Off the Grid Mountain Biking, with a plan that had four goals.
- Get paid to ride the trails I love
- Get people to expand their horizons and realise what is achievable for them on a bike and a wee bit more.
- Get a new bike every two years
- Buy a van
This business ethos worked very well with riders enjoying what I was providing and coming back for more. I always think if I cant have fun on a trail then how can clients so going back to point one in my business plan I take people where I love to ride my bike. Having a smile and a sense of fun is essential for all of my activities. In 2017 I won the Developing Mountain Bike in Scotland - Service Provider of the Year Award in recognition of the diverse services I provided.
I have achieved what I set out to do and now ride my bike all over Scotland and further afield. I also work with other companies that have the same ethos as myself, ride fun trails and have a great time. It is easier doing some freelancing as it gets me away from the never-ending self-promotion and the constant social media pressure involved in running a business. It also means I am on my bike more often, which is as it should be.
And what took you to Aviemore and the Cairngorms
I currently live in Aviemore, which has access to some amazing trails both in the mountains and down in the valleys. So depending on the weather and available time I can ride a Mountain Epic, Enduro, Xc or Gravel…. There is plenty of road riding as well but dirt is where I am happy.
Aviemore is a brilliant base for any rider. There are family-friendly paths and trails and as I have said there are more advanced trails and routes to fit in with any bike-related activity, including the new Velo Solutions pump track at Boat of Garten. If you want a good 30-minute workout try it as it looks super flowy, which it is but wow how pumped you get after 3-4 laps!! Except if you are a kid they never stop!
There are so many areas of outstanding beauty that can be accessed by bike, so a chilled sociable ride in some stunning scenery is never that far away. The only issue can be to remember to slow down and take in what is around you. It is very easy to go from A to B and not take time out to look up and enjoy the journey.
What are your favourite trails in the area?
My happy place is in the mountains and Aviemore has the second-highest mountain in Britain - Ben Macdui as well as Cairngorm, which are both rideable from the town and awesome days out. My favourite quick mountain routes are Sgor Gaoith and Meall a Bhuachaille each achievable in a few hours. You gain height quickly and both have the views and epic descents. I have taken youths and adults up Sgor Gaoith they are generally slightly unhappy with the climb! I always tell them it will be forgotten about as soon as they dangle their legs off a ledge with a 1000 ft drop down to a Loch, they do not believe this place exists as the way up is quite round. I have never been proved wrong…yet.
Mountain bike trail riding in Aviemore is diverse and it is hard to have favourites with so much to choose from but Badaguish and High Burside are my current favourites. Badaguish as they are relatively quiet and so much fun, I built a few of the trails as well, OTG and Covid. The trails are super flowy with the odd bit of tech. Burnside just puts a smile on my face with chilled single track and maybe the only proper Enduro trails in the area.
And where should people visit outside of Aviemore?
If you can drag yourself away from the great trails, pubs, and restaurants then Aviemore is a superb base to be in. The brilliant mountain bike trails at Dunkeld and Aberfeldy are an hour south, Laggan is 30 mins away and if you head north there is Learnie Red Rocks, Golspie trail centres as well as all the natural trails at Contin, Fyrish and the Mast amongst others. If you look east there is the Cairngorms which seem impassable but just over an hour away you can be riding behind them on some brilliant trails in Royal Deeside.
So do I live in the best place to ride bikes in Scotland? I think so but I do like to explore and find new places to spin my tires. Scotland has such a huge variety of trails it would be crazy to limit my options but as a base for a holiday, Aviemore is perfect.
Right time to ride my bike...
MTB Beds: Thanks, Neil. Off the Grid MTB
What Makes Scotland so Special for a Mountain Bike Holiday
From Downhill tracks at Fort William and EWS stages in the Tweed Valley, to epic singletrack trails in Torridon & Isle of Skye, Scotland has something for every type of Mountain Bike rider, be it Enduro, Downhill, Cross County, or Gravel.
Scotland is Unique to other UK Mountain Biking destinations in that Mountain Bikers benefit from the Right to Roam laws in Scotland, opening up any piece of land for trails - other than private gardens - as long as those using it are responsible. Truly a Mountain Bikers dream!