So Fort Bill has been on my to do list now for quite some time, as it is one of only two tracks in the UK that has a Gondola to the top. The other being in Glencoe which is currently closed anyway! Just incase you don’t know anything about Fort William or as it is also known as The Nevis Range. It is home to the legendary Off Beat Downhill track which is the only official world cup dh track in the UK. This year they also added the Red XC track, don’t let the name put you off. This track admittedly is much smoother and even includes a couple of uphill sections and hundreds of meters of Northshore,but is awesome to ride and a great alternative to the main downhill track.
From the top Gondola station the view (when you can see anything) is breath taking. After a rather damp first day our second day was much dryer with the sun even making a couple of short appearances, The view of the Red XC decent looked very epic with no trees on the top sections there was very little to block your view. The amount of effort that has been put in to build this track is truly epic. The track has four contrasting parts the top fast and wide singletrack with small rock drops and well positioned rock gardens/shoots which take you down into some tight switchbacks. Then onto lots of very wide and fast boredwalk which is very slippy in the rain 🙂 After a long section of this you hit the middle section of the track which has lots of massive bedrock slabs including some uphill sections. Which is mixed in with more singletrack, sections of boredwalk. After passing through a deer gate you hit a awesome section of berms before crossing a stream and connecting back up with the main downhill track. You can then take a red route all the way down to the bottom, which Jeff said was just fireroads or blast down the Off beat downhill.
The Gondola gives you a good chance to watch other riders as it follows the track for lots of sections, which proved to be rather useful when we used it to film large sections of the track. It worked out rather well as we used a walky talkie allowing the riders myself and Shane to communicate with Jeff. Shame the gondolas don’t have windows you can open. Riding a track that is used as a world cup round and in the past for the world champs certainly gave me a renewed level of respect for the guys and girls who ride at the top of our sport. So Fort Bill is also home to a 4X track and XC trails so it really is the complete package and is easy to see why the world cup circuit has stopped off here so many times. We had a go at riding the 4X track but it wasn’t ideal on a DH bike. If I am being honest even on a hardtail that was set up for it I would have felt a little out of my depth.
So overall Fort William is a awesome place and the building of the Red XC Track is a great addition and makes for a nice alternative to the main downhill run. So to help split up the journey on the way back we decided it might be a good idea to ride Glentress.
As it is roughly half way between Fort William and home, apart from riding Dalby I haven’t ridden any trail centres before. They offer an accessible alternative to other riding locations to many people. With Glentress being the centre of the 7 Staines trail centre network. Trying to convert a downhill bike into a XC bike wasn’t going to be easy but I had a go. Narrow 2.35 Highroller tyres (45 psi), 150 psi in my rear suspension and a XC helmet gave me a fighting chance. Shane and Jeff had much better suited bikes for this section of the trip. So the plan was to complete the Red XC loop which included the Spooky woods decent which I had been told was great fun. And I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. As we headed further around the Red loop we picked up the track that links you upto a section of the Black loop called Ewok Village (a star wars link) but after a 10-15min push we were met with a rather disappointing site. All the North shore had been removed and was pilled up at the side of the trail, which was a bit of a blow to say the least. But we headed on anyway mixing up between section of the Black and Red loops and after one final long climb back up to the car park we had completed the loop.
So after eating the Pasta in spicy tomatoes we had made earlier that morning we headed over to the freeride area which includes many tables,berms, drops and jumps of many different sizes which was a good way to end what had been a busy couple of days riding our bikes. Unfortunately Shane damaged his mec hanger which stopped him being able to ride his bike, I let him use mine for a bit. Again Glentress was a great days riding with descents being great fun, on the correct bike it would have been even better. Well there is always next time after all “It’s all about the performance”
The trip in numbers
- 822 miles
- 17 hours driving
- 48mph average speed
- 132 litres of fuel
- 60 minutes trying to find an Asda in Glasgow
- 2 fish & chips with brown sauce!!!
- 1 shower each
- 24 bottles of Powerade (12 litres)
- 3 tins of beans
- 24 sausages
- Â£2.50 spent on drying clothes and gloves
- 162 mentions of “It’s all about the performance”
- 1 puncture (Jeff)
- 2 drive-chain problems
- 5.5 crashes (4 by Shane, 1.5 by Jeff)
- Runs at Fort William: Red: 3, Black: 4 (Jeff: 3, 2)
- Total distance ridden at Fort William: 27.4km (Jeff: 22.1km)
- Total height descended at Fort William: 3849m (Jeff: 2739m)