This has got to be one of the best all weather routes in the area – and for me it takes some beating due to it being nearly all decent bridleway with minimal amounts of tarmac and grass. The views are awesome. The climbs are a challenge but not too hard (you can stay on the bike for them all) . The descents are fun and technical but not too technical – meaning a novice could tackle lots of them (protective gear like elbow pads and knee pads are recommended). All in all it has everything I would look for in an MTB ride – there’s even a choice of pubs and cafes in Edale for the end of the ride so you can celebrate with beer or cake or both! –
Allow 2.5 – 5 hours for this ride. Distance is approx 20km and elevation gain is 750 metres. The climbs are tough though. This ride can seem slow going.
The ride start can be anywhere in Edale – we parked at Barber Booth –
Start: Head up the hill towards Mam Tor then take a right turn – the first climb up Chapel Gate is a long one, I think it took 30 minutes. We took it in 3 main stages. It’s a big old test on lungs and legs and a bit of technical skill needed as some areas are sandy and loose.
The views over the valley are incredible and motivate you to keep pedalling. At the top there’s a flat-ish section which is sandy and marshy, in the winter (and sometimes summer) there are huge puddles here so watch out!
Then you descend a rocky track, with irregular lose stones. The stones move around and fly up a bit – be prepared for the sound of rocks bashing your frame! It’s a real bone shaker – be sure that your helmet is on tight and everything is secure!
Once you get to the end of this section (hopefully without a puncture but quite possible if you don’t ride tubeless) a narrow track through a gate brings you out at another fun descent – this one is fun and fast and ends with a bend in the track. You then start to climb again with lovely green fields around you as you follow a track between stone walls.
There’s a brilliant descent to a little stream, after this you begin a fairly long climbing section again. The scenery is always wonderful. The climb becomes rocky again, not all the rocks are fixed so you have to focus and pick your line. There are a few bends and after each one a bit more of the climb is revealed. The feeling when you get to the top is great and the views over to your left and ahead are towards Chinley, Hayfield and Manchester in the far distance.
Lots of momentum and throwing your weight forwards is needed to get you over the humps and bumps. The sheer length of this section is what drained me, and when I finally reached the top I pretty much flung my bike down and sat on the floor gasping for air and gathering my thoughts. The struggle was so real. If there’d been anyone else on the trail they would have heard me yelling and motivating myself to keep going, just one pedal at a time. I find that self motivation really does help me to strive and push that little bit harder, although it probably makes me sound crazy.
The longest and final climb starts with a gateway and goes off fairly steeply. The surface is small stones, they are sort of compacted into the track but they move around under the wheels. There’s slipping and wheel spinning and I find it really hard to get any real momentum or into a comfortable position. I want to stand up but then the back wheel spins, if I sit down I don’t feel like I have enough power. I find myself bobbing between the two positions. It’s flipping painful on the arse. The climb keeps pulling and pulling and I take it in stages, stopping for a breather and then doing a brief countdown “3,2,1 okay lets go” and off I go again, huffing and puffing and struggling to find my best line. After a while the surface then becomes more varied – still climbing but now much more lumpy and undulating, with the need to see your line and really control that front wheel.
The longest climb is the final one heading up before your final descent ‘the big one’ aka Jacobs Ladder. Jacobs Ladder has always had a certain amount of stigma and kudos attached to it. I’ve known a few riders have thrills and spills on there. Bashed knuckles or bent handlebars and fingers when people have been going so fast they can’t make the turn towards the end. Cut knees and scrapes when the rocks have claimed their victims. There are a few drops at the start, so if you don’t know your line it can be intimidating or scary to a rider with a degree of caution. The worst thing for me about riding down Jacobs ladder is the number of spectators (hikers) coming up and down. Firstly they may be taking your preferred line, secondly they are watching in interest and amazement as you try and get down in one piece without providing some You’ve Been Framed worthy entertainment. this time it was quiet thank goodness, I think the quietest it’s ever been and without doubt the best, most flowing route down I’ve ever had. I find it obligatory to cheer and whoop when I get to the end! High fives are also a good idea… even to strangers!
The Jacobs Ladder section has most phenomenal and i mean – PHENOMENAL views. They are world class, movie worthy in my eyes. The valley opens up with a winding path through the bottom. Its a vast open landscape that really needs you to stop and take it in for a moment. The gate half way down the descent is a good point to do this. It’s also a good time for your thighs to get a rest before resuming your downhill stance to the gate that brings you out near the joining of a few paths and a small packhorse bridge with a stream and picture postcard waterfalls.
After you cross the bridge (either so high on adrenaline that you fancy bashing through the water or the sensible route over the bridge) you have a gradual easy fast path back to Barber Booth. I can’t remember a time when this section of the ride hasn’t been filled with exhilarated chatter and enthusiasm.
I highly recommend this route if you want to sample some of the best trails and scenery the area has to offer. You can follow the route using the GPX file (see below) HAPPY RIDING!
Photos by Nick Johnson and Joanna Shimwell
Trail gear by https://www.bikester.co.uk/
Protection: Ion e-sleeve elbow guard https://www.bikester.co.uk/689204.html