Whatever your level of ability or daring, this new state-of-the-art uplift facility has trails that’ll leave you begging for more. Here's our run-down of the best trails at Bike Park Wales
Imagine a place where you can turn off a major dual carriageway, park up outside a pristine glass-fronted building, enjoy a lazy cup of coffee, run your fingers across all the latest gear, pull your bike out of the car and hand it to a man who puts it on a trailer, sit in comfort as you’re driven to the top of the hill, choose from multiple addictively good singletrack runs back down the hill, and then repeat ad infinitum.
Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? Well, on an unlikely hillside, above the much-maligned South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil, there is such a place.
It’s called Bike Park Wales and it’s the culmination of 10 years’ dreaming, five years’ planning and 12 months’ building.
Before the gates were flung open in August 2013, the concept of a pay-per-thrill bike park (the first of its kind in the UK), in a region of bountiful free-to-ride trails, was a big gamble. But, with over 40,000 visits and more than 10,000 unique riders in the last nine months, it’s fair to say the new venture has been a huge success.
“We were guessing; would anyone come?” says Liz Scaife, one of the directors at the bike park. “We just didn’t know if riders would be interested.” But they were, in their droves, through one of the wettest winters on record. “We’re not being complacent,” says Liz. “This is still year zero. We’ve got an awful lot to do, but we are pleased.”
Liz, as front of house, is the face that most people encounter when they walk through the door. For her, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: “Seeing everyone coming down the hill buzzing, and then chatting away in the cafe, is lovely. We see hundreds of happy riders going home every weekend and that was our dream from the start.”
Intimidation can be a big psychological barrier at purpose-built downhill venues and uplift tracks, so it was critical for Bike Park Wales to feel welcoming and inclusive. We recently spent a week there riding 20 sub-£1,000 hardtails, and we had as much fun blasting down the blue runs as on any of our previous visits aboard expensive full-suspension bikes.
“There’s something for everybody,” Liz concurs. “You don’t need to be an expert level rider with a £5,000 bike to have a good day at Bike Park Wales. It’s all about having a laugh and progressing, and if you enjoy it then my job is done.”
After such a herculean effort to get Bike Park Wales up and running, and following the flood of overwhelming support from the UK riding community, one might expect its creators to sit back and take a well earned rest, the opposite is true.
“In order to keep the buzz at Bike Park Wales and people coming back, we’ve got to tweak the trails and build new ones,” explains Liz. “Currently we’ve got plans for a new blue, a new red and a new black. Hopefully there’ll be new building this year; the diggers are primed.”
Of course, if you’ve already been, you’ll already know how good it is. Chances are you’ve spread the word among your mates and are already plotting a return visit, keen to introduce a friend to its addictive recipe. If you haven’t been yet, don’t put it off any longer. And armed with the information on these pages, there’s no excuse not to get the most from your visit.
The inside line on our favourite trails
7 Steps to a perfect day at Bike Park Wales
1 Book the uplift early
The uplift service is so popular that it gets booked up weeks in advance. If you want to use the service, plan ahead.
2 Check your bike over thoroughly
Don’t let your day be ruined by a silly mechanical issue. Sure, there’s a workshop on site, but you want to be riding, not paying someone to fix your bike. If you have big tyres, chuck them on. Better spending money on cake than inner tubes!
3 Full-face helmets recommended
Hopefully you won’t crash, but accidents do happen, and the ground is very unforgiving at BPW, so wear whatever protection you have.
4 Take wet weather gear
Because you have to book the uplift in advance, you’ll have to deal with whatever the weather throws at you on the day. So, pack a waterproof, a mudguard and eyewear. No need for mud tyres, though.
5 Put your seat down
Sounds idiotic, but we’ve seen many riders tottering around with their saddle at full height. Drop it out of the way and you’ll find you can move your weight about the bike with much greater ease.
6 Don’t ignore the blues
The biggest mistake to make is letting bravado get in the way of a good time, and ignoring the blues because you think they’re too easy. Actually, they’re hyper-fast and ridiculously good fun. And they get the most TLC too, so they’re always in great shape.
7 Staying overnight?
If you’re making a weekend of it and you’re on a budget, check out the excellent Coed Owen Bunkhouse. It’s bike friendly, ten minutes’ drive into the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, and the food in the pub opposite is superb.
See breconbeaconsbunkhouse.co.uk for more info.
Need to Know
- To ride at Bike Park Wales costs £5 per day. Parking is free and you’ll need to sign-in at the reception. The uplift costs an extra £25, or you can purchase single trip tickets for £4 (although priority will be given to day pass holders)
- The on-site cafe is open seven days a week
- Elevation drop at Bike Park Wales is 240m
- To get to Bike Park Wales, turn off the Pentrebach roundabout on the A470, just south of Methyr Tydfil. Grid ref is SO050034 and post code is CF48 4TT
- For more information or to book an uplift visit bikeparkwales.com
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