The Lee Quarry mountain bike trails near Bacup, Lancashire have recently evolved from an industrial site to a fantastic mountain biking hub. Once perfect for disposing of bodies and walking the pooch, now it’s better known for it’s downhill and XC singletrack with a plethora of blue, red and black trails on offer.
In tandem with our other trail guides to Stainburn Forest and the Forest of Dean, we present the trails of Lee Quarry. Regeneration is down to the financial boost from Rossendale Council (thanks guys!), making it one of the best purpose made mountain biking trails in the country.
Home the singletrack weekender, Lee Quarry’s red trail route is about 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) long, snaking around the edges of the quarry and down the hillside to the carpark. The shorter, steeper, black route is about 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) and accessible only within the central cauldron of the quarry. We rode both of these routes and catalogued our adventure below.
All the runs comprise of rock gardens, rock slab drop offs, tabletop jumps, challenging climbs and some of the biggest flowy berms you will find in the UK. Although for the less adventurous there’s also a very popular pump track and four purpose built cycle trials areas, which are insane.
Getting here – Lee Quarry Postcode
The closest postcode to the Lee Quarry Trail Hub is OL13 0BB. Crag and Lee Quarry sit between Lancashire and Yorkshire with easy access from the motorways, just follow signs for M62 Rochdale and then on to Rossendale.
The red and black routes do sport smooth flowy berms, rollable jumps (for people like us) and wide forgiving runs for when you’re too busy fiddling with your Go Pro to notice the switchbacks. The extensive cross country trails lead across to nearby Crag Quarry if you’re looking for a gentler ride.
Whilst there are currently no facilities, other than a lovely lady with a burger van on occasion (we have sampled it all so you don’t have to!), there are plans for a purpose built Trail Centre in the next few years to rival that of Bike Park Wales.
Parking-wise, there is plenty of space to park your car, though we are not sure how easy it would be to get here via train from Rochdale or Manchester.
Checking out the trails on offer
The day begins with the usual hours of fettling, re-checking, packing, over-packing and re-packing followed by several sandwiches and a thermonuclear hot cup of tea. Once the indigestion settles down its a long ride (or push) up the fire road from the car park to the start of the trail hub. Do not try to drive up here no matter how tempting! On the slog up up you can see some of the red routes culminating in a series of jumps and berms to your right.
There are numerous, short helter-skelter style blasts to be had from the top, though in all instances you will need to ride back up to start again so don’t enjoy yourself too much, you’re going to get to know the fire road very well during the day. We have said it before and we will say again, a bespoke quad-bike uplift service would be extremely welcome … and totally shameful.
At the trail head, there are numerous options graded red and black, our favourite route is the ‘long red’ trail which incorporates stunning view of the trails and Lee Quarry itself.
From here you snake around the top of the Quarry. For those looking to challenge themselves, or simply to destroy their expensive Chris King Bottom Brackets, you should take the right hand path down the black route into the base of Lee Quarry, this is highly technical, scary even in the dry, and takes a few attempts to master.
The long slab sections, not recommended in the wet, lead to the Lee Quarry floor where the route continues through numerous water features and eventually leading to the multiple pump tracks and trails area (does anyone still do ‘Trials’?).
Continuing on the road, on the left hand path, is comparatively sedate and will lead you onto a less technical but just as rocky descent around the far west side of Lee Quarry. Watch out for sheep here (the animal not timid riders!). Amongst the rocks there is, somewhat incredibly, a rock garden which took us out (and never called us again) in the wet.
Tyre choice is a difficult one, the dry, loose gravel and rock sections lead us towards something like Maxxis’ High Roller Tyre or for the XC Whippet a Maxxis Advantage. We were running Minion’s on the DH bike a combo of Ardent’s and Rubber Queens on the ‘enduro thing’ (can you tell we like Maxxis yet?).
Both the Black and Red options open out onto a hillside by a sheep grid, if you can overcome that challenge and haven’t rolled off down the hillside with an angry sheep in tow then the final section is sure to put a big grin on your muddy face. The bottom half of the quarryside runs through fields with smooth flowing hard pack peppered with small jumps and few rocks. The two table tops work well as booters, but trust us, they are very forgiving with lots of wiggle room. It’s worth keeping your speed up going into the final part of the descent to the bottom to get the most from this section.
The next section flows around a wooded section (at last, greenery!) ending on the fire road, we told you that you’d get to know it well. Now is the test of your mettle, head back to the car park or back up for another go. If you are heading back to the car park do not miss the turn off on the right at the bottom of the fire road, a last rollercoaster blast through the trees before you hit the car park.
Back at the top there are plenty of opportunities for fun, there are several flowy routes which can be hit as fast as you like (not a lot of pedalling required) and need to be sessioned to be fully appreciated.
Much like the local groms you’ll find yourself drawn to the North Shore section and the series of tabletops, step-ups and hip jumps which start back at the top trail hub. This ‘fun zone’ attracts a wide variety of riders, we witnessed men who appeared to have been vacuum packed in Lycra hitting the jumps with the same gusto as fearless 14 year olds on borrowed bikes.
We of course fell somewhere in between these two camps (no Lycra but lots of fear!). It seems to be popular to sit and session these jumps and we certainly found ourselves coming back for more again and again.
So who rides here and on what? There are sections for everyone but we think you will get the most out of a day here with a ‘trail bike’ (we have no idea what one of these is either). Whilst you can walk back up it is far more satisfying to pedal up, in fact we think you are actually supposed to pedal back to the top, we will investigate further once we have the electric bike!
In terms of the species you will see; it is mainly Strava-enabled business-types on ‘bike-to-work’ 29er hard tails taking advantage of the link from Lee Quarry to Cragg Quarry. You will see a lot of Monster-energy sponsored teenager’s on Kona Stinky’s and front-heavy hard tails, but these kids are the locals so be aware of them hanging on the landing side of some of the larger jumps.
We have ridden Lee Quarry in the wind, rain, snow and sun (all on the same day sometimes), and whilst the hardpack can drain well, it is extremely exposed with the numerous rocks we alluded to earlier becoming slipperier than a weasel in a washing machine in seconds.
It would be unwise to approach Lee with the optimistic intention of coming home dry, and whilst you can ride here all year around thanks to the hard-pack, the wind will be your greatest enemy on some of the long descents due to the extremely exposed nature of the quarry. On a personal note, if it is sunny, then make sure you pack your sunscreen. The wind can leave you with the feeling that you’re not burning, when in fact, you are. Our fried bacon-esque necks can testify.
All in all, Lee Quarry is a great place to ride, to get the most out of your day try everything and make sure you explore all the hidden tracks around the quarryside as you can easily miss them as we did on our first few visits to the site. Try returning to this smorgasbord of trail riding with a variety of different bikes to experience an entirely different day’s riding. Oh, and make sure to go back and session the best bits.