Nick Pole, from BikePark Wales, tells us about some new developments that open up the legendary trail centre to a whole new audience.
What is BikePark Wales?
People often ask 'How do you define a bike park?'. It is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, there are so many intangible factors that come in to play to create a unique feel at a good bike park. Of course, first and foremost are the bike trails, of which there is an unmatched variety and quality at BikePark Wales. This is then supported by our uplift facility, Woodland Café, bike hire and bike shop. You can even arrange coaching to get your skills off to a rolling start or improve on your current level.
Something for everyone
We’re always adding new trails. Right now we’re really excited about Kermit, our new green trail suitable for novice riders. It runs right from the top of the site and uses our uplift service, just like our more challenging runs. Where we previously just had a much smaller green trail at the bottom, this new route gives you a real taste of what BikePark Wales has to offer. Even beginner riders can use the uplift and get the whole experience. Being accessible to all types of riders is one the main things we’re really focusing on. We want to welcome people who can ride a bike but might not consider coming somewhere like BikePark Wales.
Get the knowledge
We also offer packages to make things even easier. We’ve got the fully hosted Ticket to Ride package, where you turn up in some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and we take care of the rest. You get a hire bike and all the protective equipment – plus an introductory classroom session where your host runs you through what you’re going to do. Then your host takes you on to the trails for a few runs, providing plenty of tips and hints as you ride.
Our core customers have traditionally been die-hard mountain bikers who just want to turn up and hit the trails, which can be off putting if you’re new to the sport. We’re now trying to broaden things out so that there’s room for experienced bikers and riders who are just starting out.
It’s already had a big impact on the park. When you come here now and you’ll see a real mix of committed downhill riders alongside families and children. It’s been great to see how things have changed. We want to make it a properly inclusive place for everyone.
Mountain biking made easy
The beauty of BikePark Wales is that anybody, within reason can turn up and have an amazing day in the mountains at regardless of the weather. The entire facility has been designed around accessibility, with of every kind of trail for every type of rider (many of them are surfaced for all weather enjoyment too). Alongside Kermit is the green graded Badgers Run, a 1km loop through broadleaf woodland on relatively smooth and flat terrain that’s ideal for families.
There are flowing sections of trail to give a taste of what is available higher up the mountain. Next to the entrance of the family trail and directly in front of the Café is our 'pump trail'. This loop designed to improve technical riding skills can be enjoyed by everybody from a three-year-old on a balance bike to a professional dirt jump rider.
The trails on the mountain itself provide a challenge for even the most confident riders. These trails are graded from blue through to black in the same way as a ski run in the Alps so it’s easy to pick a trail that suits you. We have some of the longest descending trails in Wales, many of which will take up to 15 minutes even for a competent rider. At the more severe end of the spectrum the red and black trails at BikePark Wales are incredibly challenging with large jumps and drops, roots and rocks.
The only way is up
There are two ways to get to the top of the hill at BikePark Wales, which is again one of the things that help create that unique bike park feel. For those wishing to challenge their fitness a singletrack trail will take you to the top of Myndd Gethin at 491 metres under your own steam. Riders wanting to maximize the fun factor and concentrate on descending can use the mini bus uplift service which transports rider and bike to the very summit of the hill safely and comfortably. Riders using the uplift can enjoy up to 15 downhill runs in a day.
The total package
All of the above combines with a vibe and positivity about the place that can’t help put a smile on your face. We’ve recently added a new visitor centre dedicated to check-in and bike hire, which allows everyone to get out on the trails that much more quickly. We’ve also landscaped the entire area around that and on-site Woodland Café, meaning relaxing with a slice of cake and a coffee (or beer!) after a great days riding is even more enjoyable.