No hill, no countryside, no gradient… no problem for the Southampton Bike Park. Checked out this lesser known urban gem and local riding hot spot.
By Rachel Jevons. Pics by Brett Shelfer.
The result of months of planning, nagging, singular determination and sheer force of will – this brilliant community facility draws people from all over to sample the delights of a neat, well designed set of jump lines, glorious switchbacks, and rollable drops.
Reasons to ride at Southampton Bike Park
- It’s free to ride– Yep. Free. Gratis. Zero bunce.
- Free parking – either in the designated sports centre car park, or adjacent streets.
- Facilities – there are toilets (big plus for us women shredders) but also loads of stuff for non-biking family members: dry-skiing, crazy golf, parks as well as nearby shop and pub.
It’s not often I meet a man who can make the earth move; but Nick Clark is certainly one of those. Literally. Identifying land within the local outdoor sports centre which was used as a glorified dog toilet (according to the survey he carried out), coupled with the fact that this centre sits in one of the most deprived parts of the city with the usual lack of affordable activities; he married opportunity with demand and made it happen. Amen.
In short – he demonstrated that all you need to make this work is to move earth around. No metal, no wood, no plastic and crucially – no sharp pointy things upon which to impale yourself. Just good old fashioned dirt.
And what an arrangement of dirt it is too! From the Jungle Run, to the Daisy Cutter, this park has something for everyone.
“We designed this for everyone”, says Nick. “Whether it’s your first time riding a bike and you want to give it a try, or whether you want to perfect your backflips. From little people on their first balance bike, to septengenarians – we get them all here”.
Now, it’s definitely a no frills kind of place – but it’s a free facility, run on the goodwill of its army of volunteers. As Luis Arnold (Nick’s right hand man) says “Everyone wants to do the digging – cutting the grass ain’t quite as sexy”.
So what is there then? SBP is thoughtfully designed. From the three starting points the track fans out into several different runs – depending on how you’re feeling you can send it and drop it or you can roll it and find your flow. There’s a line of tasty tables and doubles – again these are rollable. The bottom transverse section can be a smidge pedally if you don’t get enough speed up round the blissful berms; but that’s unlikely when you get into your groove. What the trails lack in length, they certainly make up for in pure fun factor. And there is such a buzz – it’s always being used.
But that’s the great thing – although it’s small – it’s the ultimate example of how you can make a track work for you. The ‘push up’ is an absolute cinch. Smooth tarmac and a gentle incline, which belies the amount of speed you can get up going down the hill.
You could do a whole lot worse than spending a few hours here. But don’t let the size of this place deceive you – you could spend a whole afternoon here and not get bored.