BikePark Wales in Gethin Woods is the latest addition to a host of new range of mountain bike venues and trails in the South Wales Valleys.
Anna Walters describes how this suberb facility has broken the mould and taken mountain biking in the UK to the next level.
What is BikePark Wales?
People always ask me '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 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.
Is it just for adrenaline junkies?
The beauty of this site is that anybody, within reason can turn up and have an amazing day in the mountains at BikePark Wales, regardless of the weather. The entire facility has been designed around accessibility; there are trails of every kind for every type of rider and many of them are surfaced for all weather enjoyment. For families there is the green (easy) graded 'Badgers Run' a 1Km loop through broadleaf woodland on relatively smooth and flat terrain. 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 3 year old on a balance bike to a professional dirt jump rider.
Is there something for the more advanced?
The trails on the mountain itself are a step up from the Badgers Run in length and difficulty. 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.
Getting to the top of the mountain sounds tough...
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.
All of the above combine with a vibe and positivity about the place that can’t help put a smile on your face. Relaxing in the on-site Woodland Café with a slice of cake and a coffee (or beer!) after a great days riding is one of my favourite things to do anywhere in the world.