Innerleithen XC Stats
Grade: Red - Difficult
Estimated Time To Ride The Route: 2 - 4 hrs
As befits one of Scotland’s foremost downhill centres, the Innerleithen XC cross-country trail is not for the faint hearted. It includes a leg-burning, lung-busting climb to the summit of Minch Moor and then some thrilling singletrack descending, with jumps, drop-offs and optional features that are well-deserving of their black grading.
From the car park, you are immediately on to singletrack, with a switchback climb through the forest bringing you out on to a bridle path.
Stell Burn Climb
The first half of the ride is predominantly climbing, all the way to the exposed summit of Minch Moor at 570 metres. After the initial climb through the forest, the trail turns tricky at Stell Burn Climb. Over the road, the climb continues with more rock features as well as rooty bits to keep you on your toes. The climb then ramps up for the final section to the start of Taniel Hill.
Taniel Hill Contour Trail
This trail takes you along the side of Taniel Hill and is a cracker! Here you’ll find the first evidence of the downhill influence, with fast, flowing trails bringing you out at the top of an old gravel quarry. Here the trail dives down through the sweeping turns before coming to a split in the trail: straight on takes you down a steep face that sets you up nicely for a step jump, or keep left for a more mellow route. The trail then splits one more time with two short ways to finish the section off - both fun!
Lead Mine Climb
A shortish forest road climb then leads into another singletrack climb, near old mine workings, this time into woodland and over one or two tricky obstacles, including rock steps. The trail joins a shared right of way at Archman’s Bog, so watch out for walkers here, before heading towards the Minch Moor Climb.
To climb or not to climb?
Just before the Minch Moor Climb, the trail forks. Head right to carry on with the climb, or if you don’t fancy tackling it, head left onto the shortcut link. This cuts out all of the climb to the summit of the Moor, but it means you’ll miss the cracking view at the top, and the bermy singletrack descent off the top, complete with easy jumps. The link brings you out at the foot of the Minch Moor Descent, onto the fast, descending Enduro trail singletrack.
Minch Moor Climb and Descent
This is a grinding and seemingly never-ending ascent to the highest point of the route, the summit of Minch Moor, by way of narrow, winding singletrack. It can appear relentless, but the climb is steady rather than steep, and you are rewarded at the top with stunning views over the Tweed Valley, and the prospect of a swooping singletrack descent.
From the summit cairn the trail descends across open moorland and can feel rocketship fast depending on which way the wind's blowing. Look out for cheeky rock step options before the trail dives into the trees through series of fast interlinked berms.
You're soon at the Southern Upland Way where a newer section of trail starts. Littered with tabletop jumps, doubles, rock drops and bermed corners, this fast, well-surfaced section of trail will definitely get the adrenaline flowing. This then links into the older Enduro Trail - classic foot wide singletrack, that drops elevation just enough to keep you flying along!
A steady descent then climb on forest road brings you to start of Plora Craig. It's a technical masterpiece that starts off weaving through open pine trees before doubling back across open hillside with tricky rock features, slippy roots and tight turns to negotiate.
There's also the option of an even trickier black-graded section of trail - Razor Rock - to attempt. Tough rock gardens, steps, drop offs and chokes, as well as a healthy degree of exposure in places, await to undo your good riding! If you don't fancy the black option, the main trail continues into Oh Deer, a beautifully flowing piece of singletrack that's a little mellower but still serves up plenty more rock features.
The two options then rejoin for the final part of Plora Craig - a fast descent, followed by a steady, though quite strength-sapping climb through a lovely young mixed woodland. From here, the route follows the forest road, climbing steadily to the final descent (and many people's highlight) of the route Cadon Bank.
Cadon Bank is utterly exhilarating - a 2km rollercoaster of a descent. After a couple of rocky steps you're onto the first of three (black-graded) rock drops in a row, each requiring mandatory air (i.e they can't be rolled over). The final one is over 4ft! These can be avoided, however, with an easier line to the left of each. Round a 180 turn, over a cheeky rock step and it’s into a series of 10 big rollers – like being on a rollercoaster, but on your bike! Check contents of stomach are intact, then it’s across a bridleway and into the lower section.
Down a rock chute and over a couple of smaller jumps you soon pick up speed. Two small rock drops fly quickly by then it’s into a big 180 turn, through some massive bombholes, then three doubles back to back. From here, things can get ridiculously quick over several wide step-downs, the last of which fires you into a big tabletop.
Through two turns, then a couple more rock steps follow, then a huge bombhole, which spits you out over two more tabletops. Two final turns, a couple of jumps and you’ve made it to the finish!
Note: apart from the rock drops at the top, everything else can also be rolled over at a more mellow speed.