The best British off-road treasures
You don’t need to head to the Dakar to ride your adventure bike just so you can hit your #ride5000miles target.
We relegate our adventure riding to dreams of far-flung lands. But there’s a whole world hidden below the tarmac, right here, on your doorstep. Some of us can’t see it, or have no idea how to find it – so we stick to pondering. And others dismiss it, assuming it’s reserved for men of Dakar calibre.
But that’s just plain wrong – there are three times as many unsurfaced road miles as motorways in the UK – they’re called green lanes and they’re waiting for you. These trails are not ‘off-road’, but old roads and tracks with vehicular rights, making them perfect for adventure bikes and anyone who wants to test their bike in a variety of conditions. Here’s how to find and ride some of the easiest and best lanes in the UK...
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Peddars Way — East Anglia
Time Get it done before lunch
Difficulty rating Easy peasy
What makes it special Peddars Way is the perfect way to get into green-laning. The 50-mile route is a smooth cocktail of beautiful country roads and easy-going trails. It’s flat, in one of the driest places in England and there’s nothing technical – making it the easiest route on our list. You’ll still find a few fords, particularly at Castle Acre, and that’s where you’ll have the most fun. The scenery switches from open heathland to conifer forests and the track itself is well-drained, meaning you can even tackle it on road tyres in the summer.
Best bit Amazing flatland costal scenery at Holme-next-to-the Sea
Watch out for Getting tempted into going faster than you should on the off-road sections.
Sarn Helen South — South Wales
Time A day or a week
Difficulty rating Can be tricky
What makes it special There’s a huge mix of incredible routes in this area. You’ll want to turn up, book yourself into a hotel and spend a week exploring them all. But Sarn Helen South is the one for beginners. The route starts off a little tricky as you’re faced with a slippery and steep climb at first, but once it tops out (at 1546ft above sea level) it’s relatively straightforward as you potter through woodland, post-industrial wasteland and open landscapes. This one is only open from June 1 – August 21.
Best part The route edges into one of the most sparsely-populated and spectacular scenic areas of the UK.
Watch out for Getting lost – the route crosses a motorsport arena and there are plenty hard routes nearby.
High Peaks and Goyt Valley — Peak District
Time Half-a-day’s ride
Difficulty rating Pure fun
What makes it special There’s no better way to spend a weekend than exploring the gorgeous Peak District on your motorcycle. You’ll love this one because of the perfect circular route, which takes in some of the UK’s best and most famous green lanes. It also touches on the legendary Cat and Fiddle, Buxton to Macclesfield road too (if you fancy switching it up to supermoto mode). Some of the trails are peppered with big rocks, so make sure you’ve got sump guard protection and keep your tyres fully-inflated to avoid pinch punctures.
Best part Rolling green hills, beautiful countryside, cracking trails… take your pick!
Watch out for Keep an eye out for the speed traps on the A-roads.
Grasshills Causway, County Durham — North England
Time Short but sweet
Difficulty rating The tough one
What makes it special If the other routes look a little too easy for your liking, then have a crack at the highest vehicular through-road in England. It’s only five miles long, but it’s five miles of rocks and non-stop downhill breaking, which can leave even the toughest of us in a sweaty mess. It’s an easy-going road to the summit, but then it all goes downhill (literally), as it quickly turns into a deteriorated rock strewn slide, making bashplates and confidence in downhill braking compulsory. Remember to switch off your ABS and weight the rear. If in doubt, try something less crazy!
Best part You’ll feel like a green-lane hero once you’ve done it
Watch out for The road heads downhill after the summit, it’s tricky so only attempt in dry weather and take your time.
Salisbury and the Drove — South England
Time One long day or two short days
Difficulty rating Easy – if you’re not being shot at
What makes it special This is one of the few areas in the UK where trail riding is actually encouraged by the landowner: the Ministry of Defence. The vast area (94,000 acres) is crossed by an ancient road network, which is incredibly easy to get lost in, so get a proper map. Below is a very small example of permitted MOD roads. The Plain is used for live firing, so always obey signs and red flags. Other than that, the byways are easy to handle with huge water crossings that’ll slap massive grins on your face, long empty straights and never ending trails. It feels like freedom.
Best part Riding past tank wreckage and deserted villages
Watch out for Live firing and military exercises. Never leave the marked routes or stray into red flag areas.
The Fosse Way — Midlands/South West
Time A weekend away
Difficulty rating Light trails
What makes it special Jump on your bike and spend a long weekend riding an ancient road – which was once a border between Roman Britain and the unconquered Barbarians – through the heart of England, all the way from Lincoln to the Dorset coast on everything from dual-carriageways to inner-city scrambles and pretty green lanes. The only tricky bit is navigating around Kemble Airfield to locate the unsurfaced portion of the route. Other than that, it’s mainly a Byway Open to All Traffic with a few doses of quiet country lanes. This one’s a perfect summer route for a big adventure bike.
Best part South Gloucestershire into Wiltshire is nearly all off-road.
Watch out for Sneaky ruts hidden in the long grass and the odd ford.