The UK’s first family bike park boasts an uplift and a flowy blue trail to inspire and instruct. Dare to flow!
Wales is a land rich in bike parks. From Revolution Bike Park and Dyfi Bike Park in the north to BikePark Wales and Black Mountains in the south, the combination of great terrain, government grants and a strong riding culture has conspired to grow bike parks like bracken.
Now there’s one more to add to the list: Dare Valley Gravity Family Bike Park. It’s a clunky name, but the park is smooth and flowy, designed with mellow, swooping berms and comfortable gradients, it hopes to carve out a niche for itself as the best kids mountain bike park – the sort of place you could bring your kids and reasonably expect to drive away from without tears… or stitches.
“There was nothing in this area for families to ride when we started building the trail,” says Mathew Moses from Dare Bike Park. “You’ve got BikePark Wales just over the way, but at the time we were building the park, they didn’t have a family track.”
Built by Trailcraft – the vision behind Black Mountains Cycle Centre amongst others – the new track is owned by the local council. Pedalabikeaway – which also runs the the cycle centre at Cannop in the Forest of Dean, and Wye Valley MTB guided tours – will run you up to the top of the hill in its Land Rover and custom people trailer for £20, or £12 for under-16s. That’s for a morning session, during which you’ll get four runs in. Or push and ride up and you can ride the trail for free. The opening weekend was 7 August.
A kids’ uplift service? Surely the lazy little tikes can ride up by themselves like we used to in our day? To be fair, kids need uplift services more than adults thanks to their smaller legs and relatively heavy bikes. There’s little more than one descent that’s doable if you’re pedalling up, is the counter argument. Dare hopes to make a family uplift a more affordable option and in a less intimidating environment too.
Why Aberdare? The town is one of the most deprived in Wales, and the logic of locating here is to draw visitors to the area as well as provide the locals with an opportunity for exercise and to reconnect with nature. Its proximity to BikePark Wales – one valley over – can’t have hurt the town’s cause either.
It’s a well thought out plan, the visitor’s centre is new and welcoming, there’s a cafe that actually serves good food, and a pumptrack and ice cream for after the ride. On top of that there’s a new adventure playground for kids who don’t want to ride, and bike hire for those that do.
There’s just one trail, it’s graded blue, and this is a family-friendly venue with grassroots funding. Boring then? Not a chance. The best blue trails are fun and safe enough for new riders to flow down, while still allowing more experienced riders to let off the brakes and ride to their limits. This is just such a trail. From top to bottom this trail swoops and turns, is always fun but never unpredictable or likely to land you in too much hot water, despite the fact we topped out at over 45kph on the fastest section. It’s five minutes of some of the best blue riding we’ve tried. Twice on the way down, the trail splits into two, breaking off into a little pump-track-come-skills-area packed with tables and step-ups. Circle that a few times like you’re stuck in a Cardiff contraflow, break free and head on down the trail again.
Does one trail make a bike park? Yes, we think it does – there’s an uplift, the trail is actually really long and it’s ideal for families. Of course it would benefit from more trails of varying difficulties for riders to switch things up and try something different, but we’re sure that’ll come.