Mountain bike heaven near Merthyr Tydfil
Whatever your level of ability or daring, BikePark Wales has trails that’ll leave you begging for more. Here’s our run-down of the best trails there.
BikePark Wales need to know
- To ride at BikePark Wales costs £8 per day (it’s £15 if you want to ride your e-bike).
- The uplift costs an extra £24.50 (ie. £32.50 in total).
- Season tickets cost £100.
- Parking is free and you’ll need to sign-in at the reception.
- Opening times: 9am-6pm in summer, 9am-5pm in winter.
- Uplift hours: 9:30am-4:30pm in summer, 9:30am-4:00pm in winter.
- During summer BPW opens later on Thursdays (9:00am-9:00pm, with uplifts from 10:00am-9pm)
- The on-site café is open seven days a week.
- Elevation drop at BikePark Wales is 240m.
- To get to BikePark Wales, turn off the Pentrebach roundabout on the A470, just south of Methyr Tydfil. Grid ref is SO050034 and post code is CF48 4TT
- For more information or to book an uplift visit bikeparkwales.com
- Bike Park Wales set to double in size
- You can borrow GoPro cameras to record your day’s fun
The inside line on our favourite trails
H indicates a trail we’d recommend for a hardtail. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from riding all of them on a hardtail, but these will be the most fun.
+ symbol indicates a ‘Plus’ trail. Nothing to do with Plus bikes. These are trails (of any grade) that encourage your bike’s wheels to leave the ground.
Green trails: Easy
Badgers Run (H)
Start here to get your eye in and warm up. It’s also ideal if you’re with your kids. Smooth, wide and rolling, it’s all about building confidence.
Blue trails: Intermediate
Probably the most popular and well-used trail at BikePark Wales, Sixtapod begins with a gentle traverse across the hill through a clear-cut field of stumps. There are a few small tabletop jumps and big, banked turns to hold you as the gradient steepens. Once in the woods, a series of rhythmic rollers inserts fresh air beneath your wheels once again and the trees begin to blur as you pick up speed. Smooth and well surfaced, there’s plenty of grip and it’s absolutely brilliant on a hardtail. Highly recommended.
Willy Waver (H)
Sixtapod links into Willy Waver at the mid-point fire road to make a classic combo. Basically Willy Waver ups the ante from Sixtapod, mainly because of a steeper gradient. It’s much faster and there’s no need to pedal at all. Instead, concentrate on keeping momentum through the giant berms and undulating straights. Start to push the speed more, and you’ll find that many of the ups can be turned into jumps.
Melted Welly (H)
Head left from the top and you’ll end up on Melted Welly. With minimal pedalling from the start, it soon turns into a well-groomed, twisty, turny toboggan run. As the trees close in on either side, take the left fork and pump the numerous undulations for maximum velocity. To finish, a sequence of corkscrew bends spit you out at the bottom of a short climb — sorry, it’s not all downhill at BikePark Wales!
Blue Belle (H)
Continue straight ahead across the fire road at the exit of Melted Welly and you’ll find Blue Belle. It starts out tight and twisty through the trees, and without much in the way of berms and a few roots thrown in for good measure you’ll need to get your cornering technique spot on. As the trail breaks out into the open, the speed ramps up and you’ll find yourself skimming a series of crests overlooking Merthyr. Blue Belle joins the confluence of trails that pass under the uplift road, at which point you get to choose one more run to the bottom.
One of the things everyone seems to remark on during their first visit is how good the trail is between the centre and the uplift. That trail is called Norkle, although it actually begins at the uplift tunnel. The real fun starts as you pick up speed parallel with the road; deep compressions and floaty crests give this trail a textbook roller coaster sensation.
Bush Wacker (H)
Short but sweet, Bush Wacker drops you directly opposite the workshop door on a velvety run full of fast turns and a few sharp compressions.
Has the honour of being the longest, non-stop, blue-graded descent in the UK. The trail will provide you with 4.2 kilometres (2.6 miles) of berms, rollers and ear-to-ear grins.
Popty Ping (+)
Supposedly the Welsh word for microwave (although no Welsh person ever says it), Popty Ping is a short but sweet series of table jumps and berms which are ideal for honing your airtime skills.
Red trails: Advanced
Possibly one of the least used trails on the hill, because it starts with a climb. It peels off left towards the bottom of Sixtapod, just before the treeline. Get on the gas for 50m or so and you’ll find a fairly smooth trail with slightly bigger jumps than most of the blue runs. Makes a good taster for anyone looking to progress to the red zone.
Wibby Wobbly at BikePark Wales
Runs more or less parallel with the blue-graded Sixtapod, so the gradients are similar, but you’ll find a much rockier, more natural surface. It’s pretty rough in places, and to keep the flow you’ll need to be comfortable on smaller jumps and drops. Once in the trees, you’ll find it a lot tighter than its neighbour, and there are some tricky roots and rocks that glint at you with evil intent when it’s wet.
Rim Dinger at BikePark Wales
The name says it all really. Directly opposite the exit of Wibbly Wobbly, this is a really rocky trail, incorporating some technical jumps and a constantly shifting surface beneath your wheels. Get it wrong and there’s plenty of opportunity to do damage to both body and bike, but find the speed to float over the slabs and it’s one of the most rewarding trails at BPW.
Take the right fork at the start of Melted Welly and you’ll end up on Vicious Valley. The trail builders have purposefully left much of it as nature intended, including plenty of shiny roots crossing the trail at unhelpful angles. The highlight of Vicious Valley has to be the long, fast chute into a small road gap jump. If it’s wet, the next section turns into a lake, and there’s a bit of a climb just after, but it’s still a thrilling run and well worth spending some time on.
Bonneyville at BikePark Wales
Named after Michael Bonney, Orange Bikes’ well-loved marketing man who suffered life-changing injuries in a crash on his road bike, this is one of BPW’s signature trails and has featured in many a photo session. Go through the gap in a dry stone wall, drop into a series of tight hairpins and search for the elusive fast line over a tricky combination of roots and rocks to join Blue Belle.
Insufficient Funds (+)
It’s easy to come up short — hence the name — on this sequence of step-downs, but get them right and there’s plenty of airtime on offer. UPDATE July 2017: BikePark Wales gives Insufficient Funds another makeover
A470 line (+)
BikePark Wales’ new jump line has more take-offs and landings than Cardiff airport. Starting with a few wooded corners off Melted Welly, the trail soon widens, cutting a lip-strewn swathe across the open hillside. With bigger take-offs on the left and smaller tables on the right, it’s primed for upping the boost levels as your confidence grows. UPDATE June 2016: new Black option splits off and takes in some BIG jumps.
A 1.6km long trail with rocky bits. Joins Terry’s Belly for a short while before splitting off back on to some rocky stuff.
What it lacks in length (450mm) it makes up in bermy wonders. Well worth going back up for multiple runs.
Black trails: Expert
Enter the Dragon (+)
Effectively follows the route of the old Dragon downhill race track. Starts with a couple of step-downs, then some big tabletops and a couple more, even larger, step-downs. You’ll need to pedal hard to clear them and there’s often a wind at the top to add to the difficulty. Big boulders lurk in the trees, and they’re followed by more big jumps — including the Trail X pro line — once you’re back in the open. It’s not a steep track, but it’s rough as old boots. UPDATE September 2017: currently closed for refurb.
Hard Shoulder (+)
A 200m black option off the side of A470. A massive berm slings you into HUGE tabletops before rejoining the A470.
Natural and technical, alpine style singletrack. If you can ignore the burned out Escort at the side of the trail (that gives the trail its name) then there are some great views too.
If you’re determined to ride a black run and haven’t brought a downhill bike, Dai Hard is the one to do. It’s not a huge leap from something like Vicious Valley or Wibbly Wobbly, although the roots are bigger and slicker, the rocks are more like boulders and there are some hefty old hucks if you really want to get up to speed.
Effectively the continuation of Enter the Dragon, it’s equally rough and throws in some banked turns and a couple of tabletops. UPDATE September 2017: currently closed for refurb.
Coal not Dole
Similar in feel to Pork Belly, but not quite as rough. Joins Pork Belly just before the last corner.
One to borrow your mate’s bike for. A Friday afternoon Roman road of twisted, bucked and contorted rock in which the gaps are filled in by awkward, wheel-swallowing holes.
Makes Deep Navigation look like a snooker table.
One of the steepest tracks on the hill, Half Cut is laced with a hefty dose of tricky, testing roots. There’s a lovely big rock in the middle of the trail that’s almost guaranteed to grind a few teeth off your chainring.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Turn right after the stone wall on Bonneyville and you’ll plunge into a quarry on what’s basically a vertical sheep track. Suffice to say you may want to stop and have a look before committing.
50 Shades of Black
As the name implies, this is an extremely varied trail. Varied terrain, surfaces, features. The longest and most technical trail at BPW.
Trail X (+)
Badass, floaty jumps across the open hillside. Bring big balls and a windsock.
Join the Dots (+)
A roolercoaster of rock drops and boulder kicker jumps/launches. More difficult than it looks!
Yellow trails: linking trails and climbs
Beast of Burden
A 4.7km singletrack climb that winds gradually up the hill. It should take around 25 minutes if you’re reasonably fit, and you should be able to manage five or six runs in a day under your own steam. To save time, go straight up the steep initial climb above the uplift road (ignoring the singletrack to the left), then stay on the forest road as it runs parallel to the singletrack.
A short 100m long uphill that means you can session the upper parts of Terry’s Belly, Hot Stepper and Popty Ping.
A470 Loop Climb
600m long uphill from the end of A470 trail back to the jumps. It’s this way you have to go rather than pushing back up the A470 track itself (which is obviously highly dangerous!)
DH Push Up
It’s lengthy (2km+) but it’s still the best way up to the top of the hill if your legs can’t face anymore pedalling. It departs from the Beast of Burden climb on a bridleway, crosses over a fireroad and then steepens for the final push.
South Side Link
700m traverse to all of the southern trails (Terry’s Belly, Hot Stepper, Popty Ping and 50 Shades of Black).
Seven steps to a perfect day at Bike Park Wales
1. Book the uplift early
The uplift service is so popular that it gets booked up weeks in advance. If you want to use the service, plan ahead.
2. Check your bike over thoroughly
Don’t let your day be ruined by a silly mechanical issue. Sure, there’s a workshop on site, but you want to be riding, not paying someone to fix your bike. If you have big tyres, chuck them on. Better spending money on cake than inner tubes!
3. Full-face helmets recommended
Hopefully you won’t crash, but accidents do happen, and the ground is very unforgiving at BPW, so wear whatever protection you have.
4. Take wet weather gear
Because you have to book the uplift in advance, you’ll have to deal with whatever the weather throws at you on the day. So, pack a waterproof, a mudguard and eyewear. No need for mud tyres, though.
5. Put your seat down
Sounds idiotic, but we’ve seen many riders tottering around with their saddle at full height. Drop it out of the way and you’ll find you can move your weight about the bike with much greater ease.
6. Don’t ignore the blues
The biggest mistake to make is letting bravado get in the way of a good time, and ignoring the blues because you think they’re too easy. Actually, they’re hyper-fast and ridiculously good fun. And they get the most TLC too, so they’re always in great shape.
7. Stay overnight
If you’re making a weekend of it and you’re on a budget, check out the excellent Coed Owen Bunkhouse. It’s bike friendly, ten minutes’ drive into the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, and the food in the pub opposite is superb. See breconbeaconsbunkhouse.co.uk for more info.
History of BikePark Wales
Imagine a place where you can turn off a major dual carriageway, park up outside a pristine glass-fronted building, enjoy a lazy cup of coffee, run your fingers across all the latest gear, pull your bike out of the car and hand it to a man who puts it on a trailer, sit in comfort as you’re driven to the top of the hill, choose from multiple addictively–good singletrack runs back down the hill, and then repeat ad infinitum.
Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? Well, on an unlikely hillside, above the much-maligned South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil, there is such a place.
Before the gates were flung open in August 2013, the concept of a pay-per-thrill bike park (the first of its kind in the UK), in a region of bountiful free-to-ride trails, was a big gamble.
But, after nine months of opening it had over 40,000 visits and more than 10,000 unique riders, it’s fair to say the venture has been a huge success.
“We were guessing; would anyone come?” says Liz Scaife, one of the directors at the bike park. “We just didn’t know if riders would be interested.” But they were, in their droves, through one of the wettest winters on record. “We’re not being complacent,” says Liz. “This is still year zero. We’ve got an awful lot to do, but we are pleased.”
Liz, as front of house, is the face that most people encounter when they walk through the door. For her, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: “Seeing everyone coming down the hill buzzing, and then chatting away in the cafe, is lovely. We see hundreds of happy riders going home every weekend and that was our dream from the start.”
Intimidation can be a big psychological barrier at purpose-built downhill venues and uplift tracks, so it was critical for BikePark Wales to feel welcoming and inclusive. We spent a week there riding 20 sub-£1,000 hardtails, and we had as much fun blasting down the blue runs as on any of our previous visits aboard expensive full-suspension bikes.
“There’s something for everybody,” Liz concurs. “You don’t need to be an expert level rider with a £5,000 bike to have a good day at BikePark Wales. It’s all about having a laugh and progressing, and if you enjoy it then my job is done.”
After such a herculean effort to get BikePark Wales up and running, and following the flood of overwhelming support from the UK riding community, one might expect its creators to sit back and take a well earned rest, the opposite is true.
“In order to keep the buzz at Bike Park Wales and people coming back, we’ve got to tweak the trails and build new ones,” explains Liz. “Currently we’ve got plans for a new blue, a new red and a new black. Hopefully there’ll be new building this year; the diggers are primed.”
Of course, if you’ve already been, you’ll already know how good it is. Chances are you’ve spread the word among your mates and are already plotting a return visit, keen to introduce a friend to its addictive recipe. If you haven’t been yet, don’t put it off any longer. And armed with the information on these pages, there’s no excuse not to get the most from your visit.