Mountain Biking at Badaguish
Robin Kyle, March 2, 2011
Located in the centre of Scotland and the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Aviemore has all the credentials to be considered Scotland’s adventure sports capital. Although the town is well known as a one of the UK’s best winter resorts, the mountain bike trails surrounding the town are little known and lesser ridden. In truth, it’s hard to commit to these trails with superior signposting at the 7 stanes or the nearby Laggan Wolftrax, both reputable mountain bike centres in their own rights. Here’s an introduction to Aviemore’s mountain bike trails, on which pro XC racer Adam Craig recently said that he wanted to ride every weekend.
The best trails are found behind the holiday complex of Badaguish, found off the main ski road up to Cairngorm, about 4 miles from Aviemore town centre. The entrance, signposted by a large wooden board, is difficult to miss from the saddle. Turning left into the complex, the driveway ambles through the trees and past the lodges for about a kilometre, before ending at the base of a fire-road climb. This marks the start of the loop.
The trails themselves cater to all tastes, with some lactic-inducing single-track climbs and some adrenaline filled descents that contend with roots, mud and a couple of steep, rocky drops. The lap will takes from 45 minutes to and hour, covering a distance of 4-5 miles. When the course played host to a round of the Scottish XC Series in 2006, elite riders were lapping in 24minutes! From experience, riders will crave a second lap, and a third, so make sure you leave plenty of time! In broad terms, the trails can be graded red in difficulty but there are a number of black elements. Some, but not all, of the steeper drops include chicken runs.
The following instructions can be used to navigate the lap:
1. At the end of the driveway (see above), take the fire-road climb until it evens out at the top. By this point there will be trees on either side. Continue along the flat for 250-300m until you encounter a narrow trail on the right-hand side. This lead onto a steep singletrack climb.
2. At the top, one has the option of turning left or continuing straight on out into the hills. Take the left fork and follow the trail to its conclusion. This will bring you out further up the fire-road.
3. Turn right and look for another singletrack climb on the right-hand side. This can be tricky to spot, so keep your eyes peeled. Follow the trail up and then down, making sure you pause at the summit to take in the views. Continuing after the three rocky drops on the descent, the camber noticeably slips away. Having negotiated this short section (only about 10m) follow the trail to your right.
4. The singletrack descends and then climbs brutally, eventually bringing you back onto the fire-road. Turn right and continue for 200m.
5. Take the first trail on the right, which begins with a small rocky drop. Follow the trail to its conclusion. This will again bring you back onto the fireroad.
6. Turn right and again take the first trail on the right. This is introduced by a steeper rocky drop. Follow the trail. Take care as it is quite technical and riders lacking in confidence ought to avoid the steep drop at the end of the trail.
7. At the bottom, turn left onto (a different) fire-road and continue for 200-300m. The text trail is situated on the left and requires you to double back on yourself, so keep your eyes peeled. This leads into another steep singletrack climb. Be extremely careful of the short north-shore sections. In anything but perfect conditions, these are extremely slippery. Riders are then rewarded with a fast and flowing descent. At the bottom of the descent, cross the fire-road to continue down a second descent.
8. At the bottom, take the first left, following the fire-road for about 800m back to the start.
Finally, in something of an aside, any daring adventurer ought also to have a go at the hanging rings across the river in the holiday complex. From personal experience, I can confirm that a dip in the water is deeply unpleasant!