As Dan and I were down in Liverpool for the Easter weekend, we decided to fit in a trip to the Ribble Valley on Easter Monday to ride the trails at Gisburn Forest. I’d ridden there for the first time last summer and loved it so much, I’d desperate to go back ever since.
The weather had been glorious the previous day so we were hopeful for more of the same. When we set off at 9am there was a bit of fog around but by the time we arrived at Gisburn an hour and fifteen later, it was starting to burn off and turn into another beautiful day. Rather than parking at the main Gisburn Forest Hub car park, as we had before, this time we left the car at the nearby village of Tosside and joined the trail from there. ‘The 8’ red trail consists of 18km of predominantly singletrack laid out in a figure of eight, with optional black graded sections along the way. It’s an awesome route that has everything from technical rocky climbs and descents, to flowing freeride sections, and some of the most extreme banked turns ever! Click here to view trail map.
From the main car park there’s a short section of descent before the trail starts to climb through the forest, incorporating lots of technical rocky step-ups, dips and rock gardens to keep it challenging and interesting, and distract you from any muscle and lung burn. Unfortunately there are no such obstacles to distract you from the grueling section of steep fire road that follows, unless you count other riders weaving around, desperately trying to maintain their momentum, or those pushing up, having already surrendered to the gradient. At the top you’re rewarded with stunning views, which offer the perfect excuse to stop for a breather. From here you’ve also got the option of riding the Hope Line, a freeride section of rollers, jumps, tabletops, berms and drops. It’s great fun, until, that is, you get to the bottom and have to climb that fire road again!
Continuing on from the top of the fire road, you arrive at the quarry where the trail takes you over some pretty technical rocky step-ups/rocky features. Dan and his mate Dave, who was with us, both used to ride trials back in the day, so they were in their element, hopping up massive rocks at the edge of the trail that your average rider wouldn’t even contemplate. Shortly after, you arrive at the Sheep Hill boardwalk section, which is slightly more technical than your average boardwalk, with rough uneven planks and narrow sections.
Next up is a climb to Whelpstone Crag with its rocky outcrops, massive monoliths, and plenty of good technical black sections to challenge more advanced riders. It’s here you’ll find the infamous Slab, a short, steep descent constructed entirely from, you guessed it, massive slabs. Having given it a miss last time because it was too busy, I was determined to do it this time. However, after climbing up to scope it out and discovering that it looked even more intimidating from the top, I decided to sit it out again. I can generally psyche myself up to get down most things but didn’t think I was quite up to this yet. Next time! Needless to say, it was a piece of cake for the boys though.
After a fun blast down from the crag, you arrive at Gisburn’s most famous section of trail, Hully Gully. This black graded section starts with a “qualifier drop” then straight into a few small, fairly tight berms before you arrive at the main attraction – a series of huge berms (over 30 feet high) that swoop through the gully making you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. After being spat out at the end, you’ve got a few moments to regain your composure before hitting a series of drops and a steep rock garden, eventually coming out through some ruined farm buildings, which herald the end of the section.
For competent riders Hully Gully is one of the highlights of entire trail, and we had so much fun that we rode back up and did it again. However, if you’re not up for it, you can just follow the red trail down to where it meets up with the end of the black section. As you continue on there’s a stream crossing and then a pleasant climb before a fun, swooping descent through the forest. Then it’s up again until you get to a section of trail with boardwalk and a series of log skinnies, some of which are pretty challenging.
Once you’ve negotiated, or at least contemplated, the skinnies, you pop out onto the fire road at the crossover of the 8 before the last section of singletrack that takes you back to the main car park. It was here that we finished our loop, at the same point we’d joined, and headed back to Tosside where we enjoyed a well earned burger and beer in the sun at the Dog and Partridge pub. My second visit to Gisburn was every bit as good as the first, and perhaps even better given that my riding had improved. It’s definitely one of my favourite places to ride and I’m already looking forward to going back again!
Anyone else been to Gisburn? How do you rate it? Share your thoughts below…