Tickets for the best downhill MTB event on the planet are on sale now – here are five top tips for spectating at Fort William this May

Fort William's 'Scotland Arch"
Fort William hosts the opening round of the 2024 downhill season (Image credit: Red Bull)

Spectator tickets for the UCI Mountain Bike World Series 2024 season that gets underway at the legendary Fort William downhill track in Scotland, are on sale now. The best downhill mountain bike riders will be in action from the 3rd to 5th May and tickets are sure to snapped up quickly.

The 2024 season opener is scripted to be bigger and better than ever, with the post-season transfer action and who's riding were merry-go-round being almost as exciting as the season ahead. Greg Minnar will debut the new Norco downhill mountain bike as the GOAT hits the start gates for the first time since leaving the  Santa Cruz Syndicate team after 16 glory filled years.

Greg Minnaar riding at Fort William

Greg Minnaar on track at Fort William (Image credit: Paul Brett)

The men's World Champion – Atherton Racing's Charlie Hatton will also throw his leg over his downhill bike for the first time in the rainbow jersey. The women's World Champion – Vali Höll will be riding for her new team, after returning to the YT Mob, and be hoping to show the same form that seen her claim her fourth World Title at Fort William last August.

I've been a regular at Fort William over the years, in all weathers and if you're going for the first time then here's my five top tips for the best Fort William spectating experience.

1. Go on the Friday

Finn Iles on his bike in pit at Fort William

Practice day allows you to get up close to riders in their pits (Image credit: Red Bull)

Friday is practice day and it's free, it's presents the perfect opportunity to hang out at the pits and team areas. It's also much quieter than the Saturday and Sunday, with the riders being pretty chilled out at this point of proceedings, so always up for chatting, signing autographs and allowing you the chance to grab a selfie with your favourite downhill rider. 

You never know who you'll see either with MTB stars like the Atherton Race crew making a full weekend of it, and usually Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton will be hanging out and keen to chat and show of the Atherton bikes.

The gondola is open, but you'll have to pay for that if you wish to head up the mountain (see why below).

2. Buy a gondola ticket

Fans watching riders from the Snowgoose Cafe

Taking the gondola to the top of Aonach Mòr lets you see the epic views and see riders starting their runs  (Image credit: Lewis Thomson)

The Gondola is the best way to experience the entire Fort William track, and it offers an incredible view of the track, as it heads up to the top of Aonach Mòr. It's a unique take on the track too. If you're lucky, you'll see riders coming down, giving you an incredible bird's eye view, which is pretty special.

You also get to sample the delights on offer in the Snowgoose Cafe at the top, with breakfast rolls, burgers, teas and coffees, and plenty more on offer. It's right next to the start gate, so if you grab a window seat or head out to the viewing area and you can check out riders setting off on their runs. Do keep an eye out who's in the queue as you order – last time I had former World Champion Mariam Nicole waiting for a coffee behind me.

A top tip is to have a casual wander to the far side on the left of the exit, riders like to warm up there, and you get a rare close-up glimpse as they prep. But don't bother them at this stage for autographs or selfies.

3. Don't get take the gondola back down

Laurie Greenland at Fort William

Riders like to warm up at the top and you can get a rare close-up glimpse as they prepare (Image credit: Red Bull)

Aonach Mòr is one of the highest Munros (a Scottish mountain over 900 meters), the scenery is spectacular, so its 100 percent recommended that you wear a good pair of hiking boots, pack your best waterproof jacket, and a midge net, then have a casual meander back down the mountain. The midges can be pretty bad though, so lathering yourself in a midge repellent is well worth doing.

You get to check out the action up close and on practice and qualifying days the riders will be stopping checking out lines, also doing track walks and it gives another unique take and insight to what it takes to be one of the best downhill mountain bike riders. The walk down will also allow you to scope out the best spots on the track, so you're ready for race day. Just don't forget the midge net or repellent, you'll thank me after.

4. Take a camera

Rider on a run at Fort William

Scoping out the track on a walk back down lets you find the best spots for race day (Image credit: Paul Brett)

The chance of shooting the best downhill mountain bikers in the world doesn't come along too often and with the backdrop of the Nevis Range it's probably the best place on the planet to capture the action. Any camera will do and even the best smartphone camera will deliver you some quality images. Just beware of your surroundings when taking photos. It can be easy to get carried away and not be paying attention as a rider races past, and only cross the track at the designated spectator crossing points.

Drones (unless you have prior permission) are a massive no-no and photography (unless you have an official photographer's bib) is not to be used for commercial purposes.

5. Book everything in advance

Mariam Nicole at Fort William

The crowds are huge at Fort William so it's well worth booking everything you can well in advance (Image credit: Paul Brett)

Getting your tickets in advance is a must, the event is usually sold out, with tickets unlikely to be available at the gate, especially on race day. For most. Fort William is a big journey, so having your tickets secured in advance is the best move. That also goes for accommodation, parking and booking restaurants if you're doing the whole weekend. Fort William isn't the biggest of places, so having your table booked for a nice meal after a hard day's spectating is a must. The Crannog Seafood restaurant by the side of the loch at the front of Fort William is highly recommended.

Tickets are on sale now and priced from £25 depending on how many days and the package chosen. I would recommend if you can, to grab a weekend ticket with the gondola pass, but also check out the action on the Friday for a more relaxed rider watch. Check out Ucimountainbikeworldseries.com for all the details – and don't forget the midge net.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm