Protocols and procedures for protecting riders and staff

We grab some time with the man with the plan. And the spades, mattocks and mini-diggers – Dan Atherton talks about reopening Dyfi Bike Park.

>>> Dyfi Bike Park: trail guide

How’s it feel to be back open again?

Yeah, really good. It’s been a long time coming! From when we bought the forest we hadn’t been open very long before we got shut down. Now we’re up and running again it feels like every weekend we’re still learning and making progress. We were all buzzing at the thought of this summer after a long, damp winter. But in a way when we did have to close it was a relief from the constant battling to get to where we wanted to be. Now we had the time to make some really big changes and to do things properly without the constraint of having to be operational every weekend. We’re actually ahead of the plan!

Seeing people’s reactions especially to the new Red trails is awesome. At the beginning a lot of the feedback was “I’m stoked to survive” now its more likely to be “That was so much fun!” Before we closed people were obviously coming to ride “the Atherton’s training ground” and feeling nervous. Now we’ve built these new trails, they’ve ridden the Reds at Bike Park Wales and coming to us feels like a manageable step.

What changes will riders notice when they come to visit?

Obviously when people pull in there is a massive new sign and that sets the scene for the rest of it – you park up and then its up to our new café and sign on – they are a huge improvement on what was there before. When you get to the riding I guess that’s the biggest change of all, the thing I ‘ve heard most is “surprisingly easy!”

And it’s quiet. It’s kind of nice to have reduced numbers in a way – it means I get to talk to nearly everyone and it’s way more personal.

What are your protocols and procedures for protecting riders and staff?

The hardest thing to manage is the uplift, getting the balance between numbers of people and numbers of Land Rovers, those restricted numbers on the uplift govern the amount of people on the trails and in the café so they are naturally pretty empty.

We were really clear that we didn’t want anyone to feel pressured into coming back to work but staff have been amazing. Being part of this community is a huge bonus for us.

One of the good things that has come out of this weird time is that we got together with all the Welsh Bike Parks and worked on a set of protocols as a group so they are the same for all of us – its what you’d expect… wear a mask, don’t travel with a temperature or any symptoms, this is no time for heroics… you can find the full run down on any of our sites.

Economically how is the future looking? Will prices rise to account for reduced capacity?

Yeah we’ve had to put prices up. It doesn’t come close to covering the shortfall but its really important to me that we don’t put our sport out of reach of normal riders. Again, it’s a balance.

The cycling industry has been booming during lockdown – where do you see the future of the sport and specifically bike parks post COVID?

Covid has definitely made people more aware of their health and it seems like mainstream cycling has had a huge boost but I think at the top end where you’ve got a lot of travel to consider, travel to races, travel to bike shows or events, even travel to bike parks it going to be tough for a while yet. We’re hugely grateful to the people who let us hold their cancelled bookings instead of asking for a refund or who bought merchandise. It meant a lot.

How did you coped with the whole Covid lockdown? Did you just ride the time away? Or build? Or something else?

Yeah it was stressful. But on the other hand we didn’t feel the same kind of pressure of having to be ready every weekend. We worked really hard throughout but until the last week or two it was at a different level. Gee and Rach both had a lot of input, way more than they’d have been able to give if they were away racing. We had time to test things and refine them, we’d build, ride, build it again until things were really dialled.