Swinley mountain bike centre review

Swinley MTB.I

I've had a low bike mojo for some time now; on Tuesday I just could not be bothered to go out at all. So I needed a change. Swinley is only an hour away, so why not?

Getting there.

This involves the M25. Or it did until we got bored of just sitting still. That's the first negative out of the way!

Blue and Red.

Swinley is essentially two big loops; a blue at 6 miles, and a red at 8 miles. Like many other centres like this, Cannock and Dean come to mind, the red is an extension of the blue. The trail swoops through the woods on a hardened trail, swooping through the trees in a wonderful fashion. They've also managed to avoid the common trail centre trait of using fire roads for all of the climbs. You climb on singletrack, which is refreshing.

The other thing being that Swinley is essentially flat. This means that the pedaling never stops. You see a downhill run, and by the time you realise it is a downhill, it's gone. There was one bermed section that was fun, yet the last berm was always a pedal away, which was slightly disappointing. Indeed everything at Swinley is always one pedal away. There's no let up, and it must be a Strava dream. Can I beat my last time?!

And then it got disappointing.

We'd done both Blue and Red, plus the green run. Got to the cafe.

I'm not going to bother talking about it; worst cafe I've been to in a long time, and I work in London. Sitting there, in a dingy corner drinking tepid, weak coffee, we decided to leave and go somewhere else. PP wasn't enjoying himself at all. However, I thought that if we adopted a Strava attitude, ditch the packs and go for it, then things may improve.

We hit the blue, and 32 minutes later got back to the start. 32 minutes. I'm 51, not hugely fit, with limited mountain bike skills.

And there's the rub. Swinley may well have some great trails, nicely maintained, yet it is just too small with an utterly dire cafe. It's just not worth the effort for us. We're lucky to live in the Surrey Hills. Out of my door on the bike, I'm off-road within ten minutes and can pick any number of 50 mile loops. All off-road. I don't really need to load my car up, battle through the M25 for poor food in an indifferent cafe, and ride hell for leather for 32 minutes.

Is it worth it?

Yes, it is. They've made the best use of what they have. You don't get the sense of being in London, and if you up the pace, the trails are fun. The cafe is avoidable. Parking is only £2.

Just that if you live near Dorking, or the South Downs near Lewes, don't bother. You have better riding on your doorstep.