Stainburn Forest mountain bike trails near Leeds offer three red runs and a killer black. Perfect for an afternoon downhill blast.
I thought I’d take advantage of some relatively dry April weather and visit Stainburn Forest. It’s had a bit of a makeover in recent months with swarms of trail builders being a regular sight on weekends. They were actually all over it whilst I was there, improving the trail surface and building new lines. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is one of the most technical trails in the UK. There are short (10-15 minute) black and red loops routes here too, so its great for a quick riding session if you’re in the Yorkshire area and only 15 mins from Leeds city centre.
Take note of where the trails start and finish though. The first time I came here I was completely lost and went to the wrong (non-trail) car park with only dog walkers for company. Pop the postcode LS21 2QU into sat nav, head down the hill on the B6451 and you’ll see the Norwood Edge Car Park on the down slope.
If you’re coming up the hill from Leeds, then the car park is on your left – remember to turn in quickly on the crest of the hill. It’s not well signposted so you might miss it (like I did…) Not fun seeing riders everywhere whilst figuring out where you’re supposed to park.
You can have a go on the pump track too. A little bit rubbish and needs renovation…but it’s OK for a warm up before hitting the trails.
There are 3 places to start riding from the Stainburn Forest Norwood Edge car park:
- Head up the road to the beginning of the long decent down on the red run.
- Head straight down from the car park into the forest and the technical black run.
- Cut across from the park onto a red run and join the main line going down.
The red descent route is the most popular. First time I came here I actually went down the track you push your bike up. I did think it was a bit devoid of obstacles…
Heading up the road to the start of the long red run. It starts at the top of this other section of trees.
The route long decent starts here, the road is just behind where I’m taking the photo. You can also go left and do a short loop back, meeting the red run again about 1/3 of the way down.
Tight, low berms and trees here make it difficult on turning. It’s a bit rutted and hard to turn, but gets faster and flowy just before the end of the trees.
A couple small table tops here lined with wheel-stopping rocks. You need to be going at speed to clear them but this doesn’t give you much time to recover and turn the next sharp corner before you hit the bottom of the forested red run. The trail opens up to a clearing, lots of rock slabs here and a nice log to fall off if you try to take the technical route. I’ve actually cleared it a couple times but no witnesses were present…
This section turns into nice snaking turns and freshly gravelled berms. There’s also few rock drops here. Most of them have a chicken-line option with a smoother descent so you can easily avoid any tumbles.
This is about ¾ of the way down, take note of the arrows. Unfortunately I didn’t and my Lapierre X-Control couldn’t handle the drops! (I’ve since taken this on with a better suited trail bike)
The trails gets nice wide sandy berms towards the bottom, felt good whipping past the bushes and clearing some rock-drops. The end of the red here is also the end of the black run. Norwood Hall should be visible, but is just behind me in the photo below. Sure there must be a gap in the market for an uplift service here…
Unfortunately the only way back is a long push up. I saw a kid flying down then being picked up in a van and driven back to the top. Alas, not for me. Any sponsors?
Back at the top you can see the middle red route. Just turn left instead of going straight down on the long descent. I didn’t do it at first as there were some trail builders working on it, but I did a have a chance at the end of the day, it’s really fun. Not all downhill though, there’s a bit of pedalling when coming for the loop back and joining the main red line 1/3 of the way down.
Here’s the entrance to the dense forest near the car park and the start of the notoriously difficult black route. It is mainly tight bends round trees and rocks all over the place, with far more pushing, stopping and falling off than smooth riding here.
Check out those scrapes…Watch your cranks!
I actually got lost here and just rode through a smooth section after being smacked in the face and snagged by a few low branches. Eventually this (wrong) line broke out onto the bottom of the black run. Thank god the trees are planted in rows.
There’s actually a North Shore section here. Unfortunately it’s in the most inaccessible part of the trail…maybe it’s a reward? It’s actually so far away from the rest of the trails that it’s fallen into disrepair. Would be great if it was part of the red descent.
I actually cleared this. Again there were no witnesses.
There’s a cool see-saw there but I didn’t try that. I stood on it for the photos though. Maybe you can have a go?
Look at those ruts…
Lost a small chunk of mine there…
Cannot wait for some of the repairs to be complete and see what’s new! (Note as of 2016: there isn’t much new)
This place is only about 30 mins from Leeds city centre and the car park is easy to get to, always easy to get something from your car after a session, rather than having to interrupt your riding.
There isn’t anything at the car park in regards to food or drink; the tiny villages of Pool and Norwood do have cafes and a couple pubs if you are in need of liquid refreshment though. Failing that then there’s always the garage for a nice plastic sandwich and instant coffee.
Oh… as I don’t have a GoPro Hero 3 (YET) – here is a link to a great video of both the red and black runs! (Note: this is not me, I’m absolutely terrible)