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Clayton Vale’s £864k Mountain Bike Trail

David Blake heads to the National Cycling Centre to trial the trail

Written by . Published on July 22nd 2014.

Clayton Vale’s £864k Mountain Bike Trail

(Update: This article was first published in June 2013 - we've since been told that the signage has greatly improved)

I'VE never really got on with cycling. This is mainly because of one ill-fated afternoon when the seat of my bicycle fell off and I ended up in the gutter in front of around nineteen girls from school.

Since then I’ve kind of fallen out with bikes.

They’d made me look a mug.

Road bikes, BMX’s and Penny Farthings just aren’t going to cut the mustard here. You’re going to need a quality mountain bike in pretty good nick to blaze the trail

But after our greatest ever-Olympian Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley ‘Wiggo’ Wiggins and Chris Froome began turning everything they touched into gold (or yellow), I’ve rethought the whole cycling thing.

Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe we can get on. Maybe it really is the best way to achieve a knighthood.


With this in mind I went down to try out the National Cycling Centre’s newly established 12km mountain biking trail in Clayton Vale’s Nature Reserve. Costing £864,000 to construct the new trail, which has been co-funded by Sport England, British Cycling and Manchester City Council, is expected to bring thousands of keen cyclophiles to the area.

National Cycling CentreNational Cycling Centre

It’s certainly easy enough to get to. If you have a bike you’ll probably cycle (it’s just over two miles from Piccadilly Gardens which takes around fifteen minutes - two if you’re Wiggo), if not then the Velopark tram stop is on campus and you can hire a bike at Evans Cycles next door to the track.

Handy, if a tad expensive at £14.50 for two hours hire (Adults: £14.50, Children £5.50. Helmet included).

The trail does allow unrestricted free access for users; however, I wouldn’t suggest taking any old bicycle along. Road bikes, BMXs and Penny Farthings just aren’t going to cut the mustard here. You’re going to need a quality mountain bike in pretty good nick to blaze the trail. Carting a knackered old bike and buckled wheel 6km back to the centre is fun for no one.

Geared upGeared up

Collecting my gear and map from Evans, I asked the sales assistant how the track had taken off, “Yeah really well, just watch out for the black bits.”

I didn’t really know what he meant by 'black bits' but nodded along like a seasoned MTB’er. “Oh and there’s been reports of…” At this point I thought he might tell me that a gang of tree bandits like Robin Hood’s Merry Men had been holding up cyclists at arrow point and stealing all their valuables, women and mead, “…kids laying logs and glass on the track.” Bloody hoodlums.

Studying the map, it turned out the trail is categorised very much like a ski map. All blues, reds and blacks (for God’s sake don’t go down a black – unless being impaled on a tree branch and ravaged by a horde of squirrels sounds like your kind of afternoon).

As you pass back through reception to begin the trail, note the sign that you almost certainly will never see anywhere else in the world ever:

Allowed on the stairs and in toiletsAllowed only on the stairs and in toilets

The trail is a blast, all tracks and trees, stone and sidewinders, uphills and downhills, logs and drop-offs, nettles, squirrels and twittering birds.

It’s certainly no Velodrome. It’s hairy and riveting, if a little precarious at times. Don’t feel ashamed to hold on to your left brake and tentatively skid down the winding track in parts, as it can get pretty steep and rapid. Even on the supposedly easier segments.


But for a course that claims to be an urban mountain biking trail, it can be delightfully peaceful. At times you’re hurtling past tower blocks and pylons, but for the vast majority you’re in amongst a labyrinth of foliage with not a soul to be seen. For at least three quarters of the trail you really do feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside, which is remedial for us city-dwellers.

However, the track can get a little confusing at times. According to the cycling centre, local scamps have been know to pinch the signs. With so many routes of varying abilities you need to keep a keen eye. You could end up down a black with no way back.

This trail is a great addition to the National Cycling Centre, another spoke to add to the city's cycling credentials. But watch out for those local scamps pinching signs, you may find yourself lost in the undergrowth and fending off squirrels with a tyre pump.


Where's the number?

Follow David on Twitter @david8blake

The trail is FREE, but coaching, bike hire and skills courses can be purchased if you would like to improve.

For all the latest information on the trails, visit The National Cycling Centre website. 

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJune 10th 2013.

The bit about the kids and the glass is a bit worrying given the location. Years ago when I used to race mountain bikes for a hobby I remember a race meeting on the rural outskirts of Middlesbrough being dropped from the calendar because at a previous race there yobs from a local estate leapt from the trees and stole expensive bikes from their owners.

AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

it cost how much???? and what about the people who have used Clayton Vale as a place to walk their dogs and take their children to. Rather too dangerous now - and as someone who has recently been there, it is nothing but mud. Yet another genius way to squander money. Thank you Manchester City Council (yet again!)

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

I expect as with the indoor bmx track the vast amount of the cost has come from Sport England and British Cycling. Do you not think the council should support healthy initiatives like this that encourage people to get exercise?

Don AllwrightJune 11th 2013.

Are these the same 3 Anonymouses or different?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

I wouldn't be anonymous but the registration is unreliable, difficult and stops working for good after a while. And yes, I can work a computer, having been on the web since 1994 and a user of email from the same date. I can't be bothered with it any longer, so anonymous I remain.

AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

There was originally adequate signage all around the trails but the day before the official opening on the last bank holiday we had, most of them were stolen by the local scrotes. oh, and one of the British Cycling organisers at the opening event told me that they'd had to remove a length of wire from the trail that had been tied at roughly head height across the trail between 2 trees. perhaps put there by a disgruntled dog walker who thinks mountain bikers shouldn't be allowed to enjoy his/her clayton vale? it's been known on other trails across the UK so it wouldn't surprise me if this turned out to be the case.

AnonymousJuly 5th 2013.

permanent signs are all up now, plenty of videos on YouTube of clayton vale MTB Trails to view the trails from a bikers perspective , even a facebook group has been set up for local riders to meet up with other riders ( www.facebook.com/…/ClaytonValeMTBA… ) I have cycled on there at various times on different days and had no problems at all , would recommend to go and try the trails , start with the blue trails , and gradually try the reds out , once you have got to grips with them try the black route out, but be warned it is rather technical and requires a decent bike

Mark FullerJuly 22nd 2014.

I love slivers of countryside that remain intact and valued within large cities. They are sanctuaries and worlds within worlds. Clayton Vale sounds like a haven for cyclists, if not for walkers, and I hope it becomes a big success. One gripe though. Why do writers and broadcasters these days use km's instead of miles? I can feel a Ukipesque rant coming on. If you insist on using f******* km's, please give us the equivalent in miles as well. This is Britain not f******* Belgium. Sorry.

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