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Chipps offers a Lake District loop that has great views and challenging trails, but which keeps to a lower level and is rideable all year round.

The gravity pull of a marked forest centre trail can be very strong. Leaving the warm confines of the café, you simply need to follow the siren call of the coloured arrows and you’ll be guaranteed a circular, predictable and repeatable ride. There’ll be no unannounced drops or sudden corners, very little in the way of multiple line choice (or any line choice for that matter), no livestock or gates, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll only have to put a foot down when you finish the ride, back where you started and in time for pudding.

Sometimes, especially when the weather isn’t all that great, that’s exactly what you need – a ride where you know precisely what you’re going to get. It’s the mountain bike equivalent of a McMeal; go anywhere in the country, pick a red route and you’ll know roughly what you’ll find.

Not all of us are after that level of predictable consistency though. In the same way that no good stories start with someone eating a salad and drinking a bitter lemon, it’s rare that a mountain bike centre is the subject of an epic riding tale. They never really seem to get properly ‘outdoors’, leave the canopy of the forest or offer up any decent views. By all means park there if you want, trail centres have great car parks and cafés used to the ways of the mountain biker. Sometimes they even have showers and heated changing rooms.

But where?

Where do we go to find this mystical ‘outdoors’ though? The lure of the coloured arrows is strong. Quite often, though, the freedom you seek is closer than you think. Just miss out a turning and carry straight on and suddenly you’re in a new part of the forest, far from the built trail (and other riders).

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About Singletrack

Editorial: Old Friends UK Adventure: Ochils the Noo Classic Ride: All Weather Lake District Column: Jason Miles International Adventure: Revelstoked Tech: When Did It All Get Good? Editors’ Choice 2019 Pete’s Pros: Jamie Nicholl Bike Test: Bling Bikes Still Going: Lucky Shorts International Adventure: Davos On The Cheap Interview: David Cachon International Adventure: Greek Highland Hopping Last Word: Unhealthy Obsession