Off-road: mountain biking, downhill, trials and cyclocross

Mountain biking is cycling that makes use of non-paved or rough surfaces.

It's a sport that can require endurance, bike-handling skills and self-reliance, and can be practised almost anywhere, from a back yard to a secluded mountain top. 


Cross country

This, the most traditional form of mountain biking, involves navigation of off-road trails consisting of country back roads, fire roads or single-track - narrow trails that wind through fields, forests and hills.

Since 2006, Cross country mountain biking ('XC') has featured in the Summer Olympics. The course for the London 2012 event was at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, and is open to the public.

Any off road route that's officially a bridleway can be ridden on a bike. You can find out more about these routes through local clubs, bike shops or websites such as bikely, or ibikeride.

You can also visit trail centres, such as Bedgebury which have signed routes and will usually offer bike hire.


Involves navigating steep and rugged downhill courses, in competition done against the clock, starting at intervals, on courses which typically take two to five minutes to complete.


Combining different aspects of the sport, but with emphasis on airborne skills such as dirt jumping.

Trials ('North Shore')

Negotiate man-made (often made from wood) and natural obstacles without your feet touching the ground. Made famous globally by Scottish rider Danny MacAskill. 


Cyclo-cross originates in Belgium where it is synonymous with frites, maynonnaise and beer! Races usually take place in the winter, and are multi-lap, held on short courses with obstacles requiring riders to dismount carry their bike at points. The bikes used are similar to road bikes, but with wider, treaded tyres, and cantilever or disc brakes.

Many road cycling clubs also cater for cyclo-cross, and there is a full series of races in and around London, which can be found on the British Cycling website.

Cyclo-cross bikes are also frequently used for commuting - something which has inspired LCC to organise an Urban Cyclo-cross race at the London Nocturne!