Beauty and The Beast
Rhayader wants to be the UK’s premier mountain biking hub, and its just taken one giant stride in that direction by opening Pump Track Wales (PTW).
The biggest pump track in the UK, we reckon, Pump Track Wales is certainly the first split line pump track — nearly the first in Europe in fact, but there’s one in Austria that just opened. That’s important because it means you can hold races on the track, attract more people and hold their attention for longer, according to Rhys Thomas from Pump Track Wales.
And huge it really is, this is no dirt-scraped bowl. Instead it’s a tarmacked, all-weather track, built by Olympic and UCI track builders Clark and Kent, covering some 400 square metres and able to accommodate 50 riders at one time. There are multiple line options, with eight different ways to ride around the whole track and that makes it endlessly repeatable and like no other pump track, according to Rhys.
“On the opening day there were youngsters on there for five hours with no break, barring a drink and a bite to eat,” he says. “There seems to be enough variation to get people wanting to try different things and keep them coming back for more.”
It’s big then, it’s unique and it’s addictive, but it’s the ambition Pump Track Wales represents that’s even more impressive. Just 2,000 people live in Rhayader but it wants to be the UK capital of mountain biking.
The early goal of the pump track was to provide somewhere safe for kids to ride their bikes, and stem the decline in riding participation, explains Clive Powell, who came up wit the idea. “There were no kids cycling anymore, and what I thought they really needed was somewhere to ride their bikes, and close to the centre of town.”
This grew into the idea that Rhayader could become a home to cycling in the UK, and draw in riders from far and wide. “We want to attract people to the area,” Rhys Thomas says. “We want to be the capital in wales for mountain biking, but also in the UK — we already have amazing natural riding, over 60km of it in the local area, and we’ve got Sustrans routes coming through here.”
Clive worked on the original concept and raised funds early on, but the pump track grey bigger in size and ambition that one man. It’s the strength of the community that’s really built Pump Track Wales then, four years ago Rhayader founded its own Sports Association brining together all sports under one locally managed administration. This gave them the resources to focus on big projects, attract world renowned builders like Clark and Kent, and secure European funding for the project.
“A few years ago you wouldn’t see a bike among the kids here,” Rhys says. “Now they’re everywhere. The whole town is open to mountain bikers, and we want them to come, and they do — from Scotland, Birmingham, Southampton, all over. We have everyone from the 60 year old guys with money and e-bikes, to kids.”
The next stage for the pump track is to develop a competition series, taking in the whole of Wales. But Pump Track Wales is really just the start for Rhayader, Rhys says, next on the build schedule is a brand new manmade section trail in the Elan Valley, which should be open in the new year. At just 1km in length, graded blue, and with an optional 0.5km red descent it’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s a big deal for the Elan Valley where everything so far is natural.
“Up until now we’ve though, why make manmade trails when we’ve got 60km of singletrack already here,” Rhys says. “There are so many routes that bring you back to the town it’s just not necessary.”
The future for Rhayader looks bright then, we’re not sure it’s going to eclipse the likes of BikePark Wales or Glentress yet as the UK’s premiere place to ride bikes, but it’s worth a visit. For Rhys, the pump track is the cherry on natural riding landscape, and for Clive it’s a feature helping put kids on bikes again. For the rest of us it looks like a great addition to one of our favrourite natural trails, the Elan Valley route (download our route).
Here at mbr we’ve long lauded the Elan Valley route, which features one of the best pieces of natural singletrack anywhere in the UK. But it’s by no means the only stretch of singletrack here, according to Clive Powell, who’s been riding and guiding for 35 years
“There are lots of interesting, technical trails, that are not too off-putting,” he says. It’s certainly good for intermediates and beginners, because you can get a good ride in without finding anything too scary or dangerous.”