Well, that’s the festive period out of the way and I at least managed a few rides to offset the weight gained through turkey, mince pies and beer. One of those rides I managed on Christmas day with my brother, when we tackled the Dalbeattie Red trail; one of the longest Reds on the 7 Stanes roster.
It turned out to be a beautiful Christmas morning in Dumfries when Bruce and I set off after opening some presents with the family and we arrived to find a couple of other cars out trying to earn their turkey lunch. I’d been round Dalbeattie once before but my memories were mainly of chickening out of various granite steps and rock gardens as it was back when I first started getting into mountain biking, so I was excited to try it again now that I could actually ride (well, a bit anyway…).
Dalbeattie is famous for it’s granite and it always fails to disappoint. The trail starts off with a quick little section of singletrack that occasionally rolls over a couple of big granite outcrops. It’s a start that makes sure you’re awake, shifting from fast pedalling to concentrated rock navigation. You discover here that the black and the red trail are virtually one apart from little branches where they seperate for a short time, mostly for the black to detour over ridiculously technical rock features.
Next you navigate a long north shore section that takes you through the bog and onto the first big climb up a forest road. After coughing up your lungs on this beast you’re rewarded with some more nice, fast singletrack interspersed with random rocky outcrops that slow you down and test your technical skills. At the end of this first section you’re also treated to a short but mighty hairy descent down a section of granite, mud and stones. Good fun as long as you’re not bounced out of the saddle!
Dalbeattie follows this formula most of the way round, also dipping into the trees from time to time, and offers a really technical challenge should you look for it and take the black detours. The most famous section of this ilk is ‘The Slab’, of which you can find many videos on YouTube featuring various unfortunate individuals maiming themselves and their bikes. The Slab is simply a 20metre high wall of granite, approaching right angles to the ground, down which you’re expected to skite your bike. In reality it’s actually not as bad as it looks and the little rock chute directly before and leading down to it is the bigger challenge! Thankfully it was navigated without losing a limb and we rode on.
One of the most fun sections is near the end when the trail becomes a bit more man-made and there’s a fun wee log ride up onto a granite outcrop, followed by a rock-step down onto another log. Getting a bit cocky I headed straight over only to veer slightly to the right on the log and introduce my face to the grass below. Undaunted though we headed on over another huge granite feature, a few bemps, some jumps and ended up at a 3-log-long ride over a reasonably deep (well nearing a foot anyway…) bit of water. Sadly, Bruce didn’t fall off it as I was filming and we both made it back to the car, as dry as we had left it.
All in all, Dalbeattie is a great trail with plenty of variety and choice of difficulty. The amount of rock features makes it unique among the 7 Stanes I think and there’s plenty of sweeping singletrack to keep the speed-addicts happy. It’s definately a pure cross country trail with few pure downhills but the granite thrills more than make up for the lack of pure speed.