LUBP caters for everyone whilst giving room for progression
Leeds Urban Bike Park is arguably at the forefront of what many mountain bikers want and almost certainly what UK mountain biking needs.
Leeds Urban Bike Park – Red Trail
The red trail at LUBP is not your usual trail centre loop, nor is it meant to be. This is a trail that focuses more on fun and improving skills than covering distance. This means you can do multiple laps and work on going faster, nailing the berms and turning rollers into jumps. Think of it as all the best bits of your favourite trail centre condensed into one rapid fire run. Once you’re done with the red trail you can try your hand on the pump track, BMX track, jump line or just head back to the hub for a top class coffee and bacon sandwich. Perfect.
Commercially-built Trail of the Year
Part of what keeps mountain biking exciting is the way it is constantly changing; evolving and innovating to incorporate new technology and the constantly shifting abilities and desires of riders. LUBP (Leeds Urban Bike Park) is one of the leading lights.
Where our Volunteer-built Trail of the Year, Hamsterley Forest, is slightly off the beaten track Leeds Urban Bike Park is surrounded by a major city. Built on the site of an old golf club it backs onto a West Yorkshire housing estate and the M1 and M62 are within earshot. This might seem an odd place for a Trail Of The Year winner but it says much about how quality will always beat quantity and how accessibility can be just as desirable as the out-there experience.
Turn up at LUBP on a weekend and the place is rammed. It’s free to park and free to ride and with a BMX track, pump track, jump line and a blue and red mountain bike trail it packs a lot of possibility into a relatively small area. The scope of riding on offer makes it popular with families of all abilities and backgrounds. It’s a real mixing pot of people that helps make mountain biking accessible and a more realistic prospect for many. Carbon full suspension mountain bikes rub up against rusting BMX wrecks and it’s fair to say equipment is not always commensurate with ability.
I arrive midweek and it’s reasonably quiet, the usual collection of Transporter vans in the car park, school groups on the pumptrack and mums and kids in the cafe. Jeremy Hayes is the man behind Cyclepathway, the Community Interest Company that runs Leeds Urban Bike Park. He’s a man whose enthusiasm for getting people riding shines through. A handy rider himself with a background in coaching world class BMX racers Jeremy has enlisted the help of coach Jordan and two young locals Oscar and Hamish to show me around the trail.
It’s clear they are all very familiar with the trail and know how to get the most out of it – being stylish on the bike helps too. The tone of the red trail is set from the start. Berms connect berms, lumps become jumps and for such a mellow gradient there’s plenty of speed on offer. Eyes quickly stream in the cold winter air – well they do for me, the fast lads have goggles on…
While Jeremy and the lads are happy to hit everything at speed, clearing doubles, jumping out of berms and generally dishing out style other riders potter by equally happy. There’s a refreshing lack of elitism here and much like the rest of the bike park all abilities are catered for. What are jumps to my four models are rollers for others, there’s no real wrong way of riding the trail, just your way. Of course the idea is that over time confidence can be built up, the trail has been specifically designed to be ridden repeatedly and for each section of trail to be sessioned. Progression is a design feature. It’s safe to say a day riding this trail over and over will bring your skills on – leaps and bounds.
The mould for the red trail was set by the pumptrack and BMX track. Jeremy was keen that anything they did wasn’t going to be a ‘council job’ that held little appeal to experienced riders. This had to be a trail that allowed for personal development and pushed people’s limits.
Jeremy points out that the trail rides just as well in the wet as the dry, a lot of effort is made keeping on top of potential puddles and clearing leaves from the trail and eliminating mulch. It’s a small thing but making a trail that is relatively clean helps encourage people to ride, especially in winter.
LUBP has a bigger mission than just providing a great place to ride though. By opening itself up to the community Jeremy and the team aim to improve the lives and prospects of local young people. Programs such as their Fit And Fed holiday club give kids who might not otherwise get a decent meal that day breakfast and then takes them riding, helping to instill life skills as well as giving them somewhere to go and something to eat.
As well as injecting a bit of the outdoors into Leeds Jeremy is keen to get young people out of Leeds and into the outdoors. There are plans to get a minibus for outings to other trail centres and onto natural terrain so riders can see that the skills they have learned at the bike park work elsewhere.
LUBP does what the best trail centres do, it caters for everyone whilst giving room for progression. That it does this and makes a difference to the lives of many people who might not otherwise have slung a leg over a bike is to be applauded and supported. Mountain biking may be our obsession but it can be an instrument for change. Hopefully Leeds Urban Bike Park is the first of many similar venues that helps make that change an option for more people.