Wharncliffe Woods are really renowned for just one thing: being the training ground that brought Sheffield legend Steve Peat his success. The truth is that Steve’s natural talent, dedication and pure determination led him to be one of the most successful and certainly most well-known downhill mountain bikers of all time. However, having a selection of steep and technical trails bang on his doorstep certainly provided the necessary tools to hone his skills and dominate the world stage. Currently living directly between Wharncliffe and Grenoside Woods, Steve can still be found riding around both as he has done for the last twenty-odd years.
The downhill runs in Wharncliffe are very steep and technical, with rock gardens, drops and many trees to keep even the most expert riders challenged and coming back for more. They have been built by a dedicated but transient crew of diggers operating under the rader since the mid 90s. The land is owned by the Forestry Commission and the relationship between the diggers and legitimacy of the trails has not been well managed by either side. In the mid noughties moves were made by trail advocacy group Singletraction to work with the FC to regulate building, and a zone for approved digging and an XC loop were created. However, the accord was short-lived and the woods currently operate on an unofficial basis. It hasn’t always been this way though. Back in the early 90s Sportage were holding XC races in the woods and later NEMBA were using another part of the woods for DH races.
The best way to find the trails is actually to go with someone who knows them – there is no map but most of the steep stuff is in the same area. Failing that, the lower west edge of the wood is boarded by the Trans Pennine Trail and many of the trails kick out onto it. Ride along here keeping your eyes up the hill and you’ll soon find them. Push up them and follow your nose. Once you know where they are, most people will park in the FC car park on Woodhead Road then roll down to the top. At any one time there are more than ten trails to challenge yourself on; from Fast Track to No Human, there’s lots to go at. But be cautious – they are for expert riders only, have not been built by professionals and are not well maintained. They are, however, chuffin' great fun.
Although less well known, there are miles of brilliant singletrack to be found in and around Wharncliffe Woods. However, it’s rarely dry and can be very challenging to ride and find. The XC route built by Singletraction is in a state of disrepair but is ridable. The connecting Wheata and Greno Woods can be used to piece together a great loop if you try hard enough, and if it’s been good enough for Peaty for twenty years, it’s definitely good enough for you.