Promised lands

Dirt Factory in Manchester and Sheffield Bike Park have tantalised us for years with visions of indoor bike parks, but both exist still only on paper.

>>> 5 reasons the UK needs an indoor bike park

The UK should be the natural habit of the indoor bike park: it rains a lot, most of us live in cities, and every town has plenty of disused industrial buildings.

If trampoline-land, toddler soft play and paintball can make it work seemingly everywhere, then why not mountain biking?

Well, it’s not as simple as that.

Dirt Factory raised its funds over a year ago, but still doesn’t have a venue. “We’ve looked at over 18 buildings trying to get a building that’s the right size and height,” Dan Makin says. “We’ve come really close on two separate occasions and we were either outbid in the first case or we didn’t get the customer car parking we needed on the second. So even though we’re champing at the bit to get going, we’ve got to put on the Dragon’s Den hat sometimes.”

It’s the venue that’s holding up SBP too. It wants the old Eagle Foundry in Sheffield but hasn’t been able to secure the lease yet.

“It’s a hard thing to do,” says James Folkes from SBP. “Bear in mind the scale, the building we’re looking at is 35000 sq ft and even then it’s only just big enough for everything we want to put in there. And finding a build is hard; those big old industrial buildings get flattened because it’s cheaper for the owners to do that than to pay the business rates for 10 years.”

Getting a landlord to lease a building to a start-up mountain bike park is a tricky business then, because there’s no history of it working in the UK, no precedent to explain the proposals.

It needs vision and faith from a landlord, something that’s hard to find with Brexit looming and the economy still on a go-slow.

indoor bike park

Flyup 417 Project

There is somewhere we can all go right now though, if you want to ride indoor jumps when the weather is crummy.

Though not a dedicated indoor bike park, the Flyup 417 Project near Cheltenham has a series of blue, red and black uplifted trails outside, and two indoor barns with dirt jumps and a pump track.

Here’s hoping the 417’s success can help Dirt Factory and SBP find their new homes.

The parks’ promise

“We want trails — wider tracks and make multiple lines so people can pass, but they’ve got to be proper trails. The building we wanted is very high and there’s a chance for some really hairy descents and some long gentle stuff too. Then there will be a pump track, a dual track, rhythm sections and box jumps in the style of dirt jumps that are accessible for everyone. We’d like to have a bowl, too. ” – James from Sheffield Bike Park

“Our mission is to open an indoor mountain bike park that’s big enough for a range of different trails that accommodate different age groups: pump tracks, flow trails with gravity, dirt jumps and trials sections. And we’ll make it progressive so people can go from zone to zone, from blue to red — we’re not building for the top 10 per cent of skilled riders who can backflip a gap, we’re building it for the mass market, but skilled riders will still have fun.” – Dan from Dirt Factory