After a long hiatus, slight relocation and a whole lot of digging, Havok Bike Park is back. Welcome to Havok 2.0, still rider owned and rider built.
The story of the new Havok bike park inevitably starts with the ending of the old one. In 2021 Storm Arwen hammered much of the UK, with high winds flattening forests in Scotland and northern England. Despite being tucked away in a narrow valley in Yorkshire, Havok didn’t escape a pummelling. Overnight the park’s downhill tracks were buried under windblown trees.
Previously the team had been happy to deal with any minor incidence of wind damage themselves but the scale of the chaos caused by Arwen called for professional assistance. When the forest’s managers came to assess what would be needed to clear the tracks they decided that it was too dangerous to even attempt to move the trees. The park had to close.
The trail builders who’d created Havok were, effectively, without a home but still keen to keep the spirit of Havok alive. They tried putting their shovels in at a few different locations, seeing if they could progress existing riding spots, but for one reason or another nothing felt quite right. In their minds they knew the only real way forward for themselves, and for Havok, was to find a place they could call their own. The answer came in an unlikely place.
After approaching various landowners with plans for a new bike park and not having much joy, a chance conversation with the owner of local butty shop, Moor Fillings, yielded better results. The owner’s husband owned the hillside directly opposite the site of the original bike park and was interested in helping the trail builders find a home for Havok.
“We told them the story of the woods and with them being local people they understood the importance of the park to the community,” Sam Peel from Havok told us. “It gets people visiting the area and gets people in their shop.”
Things were starting to look up. After a few exploratory digs on the proposed site, and some direction from the landowner on where would be best to build, the team decided to commit to putting down roots and trails within view of the forest they had once called home. With the new site straddling the Yorkshire/Lancashire border they, miraculously, have got support from mayors and leaders in both counties. With a track record, so to speak, for building and managing a bike park and an established reputation in the area they’ve been able to hit the ground running, knowing what needs to be done to build a successful park.
Work on Havok 2.0, as it became known, started in October of 2022 and as of June 2023 there are three trails – a blue, red and black – along with a dirt jump area. Plans are afoot for more trails, an expanded dirt jump zone and more. A 4x track has been mentioned and there’s enthusiasm for running mini-DH races and incorporating the park into an enduro race, too. The builders are keen to make the most of the hill and to create a venue that, like the previous park, has a reputation for fun. “Riding bikes shouldn’t be serious, should it?” says Sam.
Fun needs funding though and building a bike park is not cheap. Despite Sam’s reservations a crowdfunding campaign was set up to help raise money to hire diggers and pay for materials to build the up track, giving riders an easier way to push up the hill now and providing potential for an uplift in the future, something that couldn’t feasibly be done by hand. “I don’t like asking for money and I didn’t want people to think we were scrounging, but we were blown away by how generous people were.” says Sam.
Money came from all over. Riders who’d enjoyed the first Havok and riders who were excited about the new one all chipped in, either way local riders wanted a bike park on their doorstep. The north of England has a lot of great natural riding, a few trail centres and quite a lot of less official riding spots, but it only has one real bike park, Descent Bike Park in Hamsterley forest.
Sam says they are trying to fill that gap and give riders in the north who are after that bike park experience a place to come. The Calder Valley already has a vibrant riding scene, but with Havok the team behind it want to give locals a fresh set of tracks and those further afield a reason to visit.
The contrast between the two sides of the valley, and two Havoks, couldn’t be more stark. The old park was north facing and in a dense and dark commercial forest. The new one is south facing and on an open hillside. Both locations have their strengths, but the new park definitely gets more light, perfect for getting in more laps, especially in winter.
Another upside to the new park is the quality of the dirt. The hillside was once a spoil heap for mines and a lot of the soil is of a much higher standard than you’d expect to find as a result, making building and sculpting work much easier than expected. But the past year hasn’t just been about rebuilding Havok Bike Park, it’s been about rebuilding the community.
After the first park closed the community of local riders who will, hopefully, become the next generation of trail builders. Improving the park but also having the potential to take their skills elsewhere and create something new. One example of how this is already working can be seen with Sam’s co-director at Havok, Huey Walker.
Huey was a regular at the original park, working his way up from barrow boy to trail sculptor and is now making decisions that will shape, in many ways, the future of Havok. Stylish on the bike and keen to pass his knowledge on to the next generation of riders who are now part of the park’s wider family. He’s also appeared on the radar of the 50:01 crew. On the day we visit the park 50:01 stars including Josh Bryceland, Josh Lewis and Craig Evans are here scoping out what’s what and having fun in the process. Judging by the smiles and shouting the trails are hitting the spot – it’s hard to tell who is more pleased, the riders or the trail builders.
It’s safe to say that even riders who are not quite up to Bryceland’s level of skill will have a laugh at Havok. Jumps and turns reward commitment but all can be taken at a mellower pace. Each track can be ridden top to bottom or easily broken into sections and sessioned until you’ve got a particular feature nailed. However you do it, a day at Havok is guaranteed to bring your riding on.
Havok 2.0 as it currently stands is very much just the start. Sam explains that trail building is about levels, you’re always evolving, refining, tweaking. A bike park is no different. As more riders come and new trails are built things will change but, for now, the dig team has made a solid start and riders are reaping the rewards of their hard labour. Havok reigns, once again.
Need to know
Havok Bike Park is located just outside Todmorden in West Yorkshire. The postcode for the park is OL14 8PU
The park is currently open on weekends from 10am to 6pm for non-members and throughout the week for members.
Yearly membership for over 18s is £80. E-bike is £150. For under 18s membership is £60 and £110 for e-bikes.
A day pass for over 18s is £12, £22 for e-bikes. An under 18s day pass is £10, £20 for e-bikes.
Burlish Bike Park
Havok isn’t the only bike park having something of a revival, Burlish Dirt Jumps has been saved from the threat of demolition and expanded to become Burlish Bike Park. The idea is to turn turn the 16 acre woodland park into a spot for riders of all levels, with multiple jump lines, a skills area, dual slalom, flow trail and more, all supported by volunteer efforts.
Cairngorms Mountain Bike Park
The new Cairngorms Mountain Bike Park features green, blue and red graded trails, spread over 3km with the longest descent currently running at 1.4km. It’s designed as a family friendly park and employs two 100m conveyor uplifts to boost you up to the top of the Lower Zone. From there you can lap down on the green or blue, or continue higher and drop into the red trail. There’s bike hire including electric bikes, you can get a bus from Aviemore right to the trails, and entry costs from £10 a day for kids.