Ten years ago, a dream was realised – one that changed the landscape of mountain biking in the UK.
Before the gates to BikePark Wales were flung open in August 2013, the idea 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.
It was a new concept: picture a ski resort, remove the snow and replace the pistes with an array of sweeping flowy bike trails meandering to the bottom of the mountain and you are close. Add a bunch of adrenalin and big sprinkle of fun and you are pretty much there.
BikePark Wales is a place where you can turn off a major dual carriageway, park up outside a fully equipped mountain biking hub, enjoy a lazy cup of coffee before pulling your bike out of the car and loading it onto a trailer. Then, you sit in comfort as you’re driven to the top of the hill where you can choose from over forty addictively-good tracks back down the hill. And then repeat ad infinitum.
So it’s been a decade since BikePark Wales introduced the UK to its very first full-service bike park. As we celebrate its remarkable journey, we take a look back at the story of this trailblazing bike park and how it has become a go-to destination for mountain bikers across the nation.
A dream turned reality
In 2013 BikePark Wales was born. The visionaries, Martin Astley, Rowan Sorrell, Anna Astley and Liz Sorrell, wanted to create a place where mountain bikers of all skill levels could come to share their passion for riding and embrace the natural beauty of South Wales.
“It’s phenomenal for Rowan and I as founders to look at what we, our team and the mountain bike community have created, it’s beyond our wildest expectations.” – Martin Astley
Over the past decade, the park has evolved into a riders paradise, boasting a wide range of trails designed to cater to riders of every level. From gentle green-graded slopes perfect for beginners to black runs designed to challenge even the most experienced riders, the park has it all. A meticulously crafted and maintained network of trails weaves through the hillside, offering an ever-changing canvas for riders to explore.
BikePark Wales is constantly evolving and may never be finished… we’ve been regular visitors since it opened and the big takeaway is there’s always something new to ride – usually a trail, and without fail an innovative hand built section or feature on an existing track. It’s a little like the Forth Bridge in that way, constantly being worked on.
But the park is more than just trails – it’s a comprehensive biking experience. Riders can find everything they need, from bike rentals and workshop repairs, to the café where riders can recharge with a brew by the fire on those unavoidable wet Welsh days.
The bike park’s dedicated team has left no stone unturned, on a mission to provide visitors with a seamless and unforgettable biking experience, the staff are the heart of the whole operation. Some have even worked there since the day it opened.
Community and connection
One of the park’s most remarkable achievements over the past decade has been its role in fostering a sense of community. It’s not just about the trails; it’s about the people who share a common love for riding and the outdoors. Regular collaborations with partners, events, and races have brought riders together, forging lasting connections and friendships.
The park has also been committed to promoting responsible riding and environmental awareness, partnering with Trash Free Trails and working with local schools to spread awareness to respect the natural landscape we ride in and minimize our impact on the environment. With solar panels being installed this September in addition to a host of other eco conscious business practices BPW is well on our way to becoming a truly environmentally friendly site.
A legacy of adventure
From the elation of conquering a challenging red, black or pro line run, to the serenity of cruising down Kermit, the longest descending green trail on site, the park has woven unforgettable memories into the lives of countless bikers.
Looking ahead, the bike park continues to innovate and evolve. Plans for expansion, improved facilities, and collaborations with local communities promise an even brighter future for both us and the thriving community it has nurtured.
Not been to BikePark Wales before? Here are some FAQs for beginners
I’ve barely ridden a mountain bike before – is it something I can have a go at?
If you can handle a bike reasonably confidently on normal terrain, then BPW can probably help. While it’s possible to turn up and ride, if you’re a complete novice then you’re going to be much better off with the park’s Ticket To Ride package.
This is the best way for those that are new to mountain biking to experience the thrill of descending the longest beginner downhill trail in the UK. The BPW team will take care of everything from a high-quality hire bike in the right size for you, plus all the protective equipment you need. You’ll get two uplifts to the top of the mountain with a riding host who will give you tips and guide you through the whole experience – and there will never be more than six other riders with your host. Each session is 4 hours long, so you’ll get plenty of riding time.
How fit do I need to be?
You’ll need to be healthy, have a decent level of fitness and be able to handle a bike, but don’t think that you need to be an elite athlete to give it a go. If you choose to the park’s uplift, you’ll arrive at the top of the trail as fresh as a daisy regardless.
What kit do I need?
Well, if you choose the Ticket to Ride package, you just need the clothes that you’re standing up in, but BPW also offers other packages where you can hire bikes and equipment and then choose whether to power yourself up or get on the uplift.
If you’ve got your own bike and kit then you’re welcome to use that – but you will need a decent quality mountain bike and helmet. You are strongly advised to use body armour, goggles and a full face helmet.
Can the kids come along?
Yes, that’s no problem as long as they’re aged eight or over for the Ticket to Ride package, for all other packages there is no minimum age limit. If you want to ride as a family, there is a special family Ticket to Ride deal for two adults and two children (you can add extras too), with high quality kid’s bikes supplied as part of the package. There are kids bikes available with the ‘Uplift & Hire’ and ‘Pedal and Hire’ packages if you would prefer to explore Kermit at your own pace.
Can I still come if the weather’s bad?
The track surface is designed to be ridden in all weathers and the bike park is set up to cope with everything the South Wales weather can throw, short of snow and very high winds. Check the park’s weather warning posts before you set off, dress accordingly and you’ll be fine.
How long does it take to get down the track?
While the current record stands at ten laps in a day, it’ll take from around 15 to 45 minutes, depending on how confident you are on a bike.
Will there be faster riders on the same trail?
It’s possible that you might get caught up by faster riders when you’re riding the green-rated Kermit track, but this is one trail where the slower riders maintain right of way – there are plenty of other trails in the park for hot lapping!
What makes the Kermit trail beginner friendly?
The short answer is a lot of time and effort designing and building it. The longer answer is that we’ve painstakingly set the route of the trail so that your speed is managed with careful changes of gradient that keep you rolling along without the speeds ever getting dangerously high, but still enough to be fun. There’s been plenty of thought to risk management, taking nothing for granted when it comes to designing safety into the trail. That said, like most sports, mountain biking does have a inherent risk, so you need to do your part too…
What do I need to book before I visit?
BikePark Wales has a few different packages available for you to book, from the all-inclusive Ticket to Ride to just the essentials. bikeparkwales.com