BikePark Wales – 1st Year Anniversary

BikeParkLogo

Time to post a updated review on BikePark Wales now that it’s been open for 1 year.

BikePark Wales is possibly the UK’s best mountain biking center. It’s a purpose built facility in the heart of the Welsh valleys.

The center hosts a large number of trails for all skill levels. They even have uplift facilities where they have between 4 and 6 vans constantly taking riders up the 20 min drive to the top of the valley.

I first went to BikePark Wales in it’s opening month back in August 2013. I think it was the second weekend it had been open. The trail center was clean and tidy and the trails were in perfect condition. It was a very wet weekend and whilst I was covered in mud and freezing for 2 days I could not stop smiling. It was probably the most enjoyable time I have ever spent on a bike.

I returned in April 2014 expecting the trails to be a little worn. When you think that 200+ riders had been using each trail multiple times a day in all weather conditions you’d forgive them looking a little tired. In April they remained looking and feeling new.

Happy 1st Birthday

Birthday Baloon

So how are things 1 year on? Well Trails are bearing the burden of constant riding very well indeed.  Some trails have had a few minor changes since opening. Feedback from riders as well as the attention of the maintenance team have ensured that the trails have remained in perfect condition. In fact I’d say that they are better now than when they opened the center.

There are 2 main changes that I’ll cover later. These being the new trail starts and the A470 Line. The smaller changes are also worth noting.

Trails such as Vicious Valley have had minor changes, a rock that resulted in a small drop and the odd crash (Myself included in that list) has been given a way around.

Vicious Valley Crash

My Vicious Valley Crash

This part of vicious Valley has also been modified with the entrance to the start of the A470 line. I’ll go into more on this later.

The start of the Bonneyville run has been given a nicer option. The run used to have a drop qualifier from a large rock that if taken badly was quite unforgiving. Ben who you will see a video from later break his elbow on this in April so I have always been a little shy to take this with vigor. Now you have a left hand stone based step to start the same line. I found it far more enjoyable.

Bonnyville start

Bonnyville start with nice left hand option

The rest of the park is the same. There were some little changes here and there that make the experience much more enjoyable. Things have matured nicely.

As mentioned previously there have been what I consider 2 major changes.

1. Qualifiers at the start of lines.

On the 2 previous occasions when I visited BikePark the top of the valley where the lines start was just clear land with signposted tracks. Now there are qualifiers. If you cannot do the start then the trail is probably not for you.

Sixtapod has no qualifier and is just a raised mount. This is probably due to it being a sweeping turn based trail with nothing technical on it if you stick to the blue line. The red options are clearly signed on the way down.

Dai Hard as a black run has a gap right at the start. It’s very entertaining watching people take this but the cost of failure can be high.

Qualifier on Wibbly Wobbly

Qualifier on Wibbly Wobbly from the top

Wibbly Wobbly has a new raised start into a small drop. The 12″ drop is worse than anything on the trail but as the trail has some nice small rock drops (if you can call a 6″ drop really a drop) then this is a perfect qualifier.

2. A470 Line

First things first. To get to the A470 line you have to start on the Blue Melted Welly trail and then take the Red Vicious Valley option. After a short trail you will be given the option of carrying on or taking the A470 line.

I was lucky enough to be at BikePark Wales when the A470 line was opened on it’s 1st anniversary and had to give it a go.

You are presented with an immediate qualifier of a small wooden drop. This is not a massive drop and is quite forgiving. I have to admit the first time I took the trail I did not take it and pushed over. However upon seeing a 14 year old in my party take it with ease I had to give it a go and it’s fine.

 

Qualifier on A470 Line Start

Qualifier on A470 Line Start

The A470 Line itself starts off in the trees but soon opens up into what can only be considered a jump trail.  It can be fast and you can get loads of air or you can roll over each jump if that makes you feel safer. I guarantee that if you start rolling the humps after 2 or 3 rides you will be jumping. Each crest is very forgiving and there is little cost of failure if you don’t hit them right. It’s great fun and completely different from the other trails.

Below is a video taken by a friend with my GoPro on the jumpy part. As you can see there are no frighteners on the trail and everything can be rolled if you keep the speeds down on the crests.

Ben is an excellent rider and wanted to show off a little.

 

As it was opening day the A470 line was being used by everyone. Over the day the loose hardpack made it’s way to the edges and it just felt ‘better’. I ‘m excited to see how this trail matures over time.

Onsite Mechanic Facilities

Whilst these facilities are not new this was the first time I have had to use them. A tree broke my dropper post trigger and replacing the broken part along with a oil and bleed was a very reasonable £15. Whilst they fixed this they also noticed that my rear suspension shock was loose and tightened everything up. A very professional approach to bike maintenance.

It’s a shame I hit the very same tree 2 trails later and needed to get the part repaired again. Still it shows they keep a good parts selection. Next time I visit I’ll bring a chain saw.

Summary

BikePark Wales has matured into an excellent mountain biking center. I’d recommend anyone in the UK who is interested in mountain biking at some point visit BikePark Wales. I travel 240 miles each way and every mile is worth it.

You can still have many hours of enjoyment at all skill levels. Personally I stick to the Blue and Red runs as the blacks are too much for my skills. If I was travelling there with my children I’d probably stick to the blue runs with perhaps a cursory visit to the reds to test skills.

Remember if you are going to visit the bookings only start 3 months ahead and they do sell out quite quickly. Weather should not worry you as I have been there in rain and sun and both were completely enjoyable.

I’ll be back in Mar and as many visits as possible in 2015

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