Pay monthly MTB
Now you can now add pay-as-you-go to riding your bike with the launch of The Summit, a pay-monthly skills venue at Swinley in Berkshire.
Music, TV, phone, car, gym, books, meat, underwear… you name it, you can pay for it monthly with a subscription service. It’s quickly become the default method of spreading costs.
Designed and built by Tom Reynolds, little brother to Sam and freeride pinner in his own right, the new skills park features all the usual obstacles, expertly packaged into a 10-acre site. We’ll get to the details later, because perhaps the most interesting thing about The Summit is the payment plan that could be a first for UK mountain biking.
“It’s super scary for us, as mountain bikers are new to all this, but we’ve tried to find a model that works for everyone,” Tom says.
The model goes something like this. There are three levels of membership, Gold, Silver and Bronze, costing £30, £20 or £10 a month respectively. Bronze membership gets you an induction session and two open sessions per month where you can go along and ride. That’s not the whole picture though, membership also gets you onto one group coaching session a year.
“So that’s £120 a year, which is almost the price of an average coaching session,” Tom says. “We wanted to make the pricing super easy for people.” Gold and Silver allow you greater access and more coaching.
The Summit isn’t a bike park then, it’s a training zone and stage for Tom and his team to teach mountain biking skills, and your subscription really gets you a coaching session per year. Bolted onto that is access to the Summit.
“It’s like anything really; skills coach Tom has a rock climbing membership, I have a gym membership, and this is just taking it to mountain bikers in a really good value way.”
Tom is one of the new school of skills coach, passionate, prodigiously talented on the bike, but also patient and dedicated to teaching people the sport he loves.
“The Summit is for all abilities, it’s not elitist because everyone is here for the same thing, to improve their skills, although everyone’s goal is different,” Tom says.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re capping the membership at 200-300 — compare that to the trail network here that has 400,000 riders on it a year,” he says. “We wanted to call it a destination so people feel like they’re going somewhere, because it’s all about reaching your peak.”
Tom has built The Summit for that purpose. Anyone familiar with Swinley will remember that it did have a new skills area just a few years ago that was completed but never officially opened.
“It was a volunteer project that didn’t hugely follow the plans,” Tom says. “It had to be progressive, but it started too big with an 8ft drop, and the Crown Estate, which owns the land, didn’t sign it off.”
That skills area was unworkable and had to be flattened, and there were two rules for the Summit to follow, Tom says. It had to be progressive, and it wasn’t to be a bike park in the way we think of one, where you turn up and ride what you see. “It’s an SSSI, so there’s a lot of nature they want to protect, and I think having a bike park was just a little bit rowdy when they wanted something managed,” he says.
Tom has big plans for the Summit, with phase two starting in a year’s time with a review of the trails, and reshaping or changing the parts that need it. There will also be a natural gym at the top of the hill with Rocky-style logs and natural weights to work on, while back on the bike a pump track and skinnies are also being muted.
“Phase three… I don’t know. It would be good to have a pro line from top to bottom,” Tom says. “Something like the DMR Line at Rogate that’s got that feel, that vibe of awe. But I’ll be happiest when I’m at the top of the hill and surrounded by people just riding it all.”
The Summit does have a good feel to it, everything we rode felt well made, and despite the rinsing the UK has received recently, it’s holding up OK. It’s not a venue that’ll draw in riders from across the land, Tom knows it and he’s set the place up differently to your average bike park. Instead, we think it’ll attract a loyal membership of Southern riders looking to hone their skills and push their boundaries. It’s more than that though, The Summit could act more like a cycling hub/club, with all the sense of belonging and camaraderie that brings. That’s got to be worth £10 a month.
The Summit trails
Managed means there’s supervised riding, with an instructor overseeing everything for safety, with trails unlocked as and when members ask for them. Those trails start small, with a Fundamentals Zone, “full of small and friendly versions of the obstacles that intimidate people,” Tom says. Then there’s a Dual Zone, 180m of dual slalom track that diverges in the middle before coming back together again for the finish. “I got the inspiration from Crankworx; it adds theatre if you don’t know where the other person is,” Tom says.
The Drop Zone is next, it features progressive drops from 1ft to 6ft, and two lines, all with exit paths if you want to bail out. “That’s a way to really quickly progress to a level that maxes out the UK race series,” Tom says. “You don’t find a drop bigger than 6ft in the UK enduro race series. The idea really was to build everything here that people will come across in other parts of the country. So we have a 40ft table, a 12ft drop and big gaps too.”
Naturally, there are gaps at the Summit then. The Jump Zone has a red and black line, the red features clever split jumps with one side of a take-off built as a table, and the other side dug out to form a proper gap. “That means once you’re happy with the distance you can hit the gap and get over the mental barrier,” Tom says. The Black line has 10ft tables, into 12ft gaps that actually cross the red line and act as a qualifier for the big 40ft table finisher.
You have to earn the trails though, Tom explains. “You pay in ability. You have to show that you can do a smaller line perfectly, then we’ll unlock the next feature.”
There’s also an Enduro Line with more natural feeling features, and a Technical Line loam track that’ll be scraped back in again every six months. And wrapping it all up are the Hero Drops – an eight and a 12ft wooden ladder step down, definitely something for most of us to build up to, and as yet Tom is the only rider to have landed the 12 footer.