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Where to Ride: Bike Park Wales – the story of success with co-founder Rowan Sorrell

Nestled away in the small Welsh Valley of the river Taff, in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons National Park, is the UK’s most profitable uplifted Downhill MTB Bike Park by a country mile. Dug into the slopes of the previous Gethin Woodland, former residence of Welsh Dragon Downhill MTB racing, Bike Park Wales presents uplifted service to a full vary of quick flowing huge bermed trails as well as gnarly, steep, and technical trails, to maintain riders of all talents occupied for greater than just a weekend journey. In Might, we took a two-day trip down to the Merthyr Valley to 1.) See what all the fuss is about, 2.) Catch up with co-founder Rowan Sorrell to study of the grand plan, and three.) To experience bikes!

Downhill MTB at Bike Park Wales

BikeParkWales-Trail-Map-Downhill-Mountain-Biking-Uplift-Gethin-Woodland-Merthyr-Valleys-MTB

You’re going to need a minimum of a full weekend to absorb every part this place has to supply. With a full weekend of uplift, you may squeeze in a single run of all 39 descend trails on supply. Arguably, not every rider will need to attempt the three “no guts, no glory” pro Strains, or hassle with the 1km lengthy inexperienced path “Badgers run”, but that also leaves your common path rider akin to myself with 11 Blue runs (~15 km), 13 Purple runs (~14 km) and 11 Black runs (~7 km) to select from. You’ll feel like a kid at Christmas, I promise.

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The overwhelming majority of riders heading to Bike Park Wales aren’t going there to pedal up. Nevertheless, in case you are one such individual then you’ll have to tame the “Beast of Burden”. It is the one and only XC climb to the prime of the Downhill trails. The four.6 km singletrack climb starts in leafy deciduous woodland at the backside of the valley, with fun rolling undulations to take the sting out of the elevation achieve. It then enters the coniferous plantation forest the place the climb becomes more rooty, tight and technical, earlier than opening out into the final long slog over the exposed open-top mountain.

Bike-Park-Wales-Uplift-MTB-Mountain-Biking-Downhill-EnduroCredit score: Mary Macleod

More probably, you’ve made the trip to get on the Uplift and shred as many trails as your forearms and braking fingers can probably manage. One of the greatest issues about Bike Park Wales is that you simply get to begin your day’s driving with a fast flowing descent to the Uplift Decide-Up Point. It is a extensive clean piece of singletrack with elective senders, and will get your head switched on and your legs warmed up for the day ahead.

Bike-Park-Wales-rock-garden-watts-occuring-mtb-upliftMatilda (as in Robotic Wars) is the new addition to the BPW Uplift fleet, in a position to carry 30 riders and their bikes

The Bike Park has 13 uplift buses that run at full capacity on a weekend. It takes around 15 minutes to get you and your bike to the summit of Mynydd Gethin (Gethin Mountain), at 491m above sea degree.

BikeParkWales-Uplift-MTB-Trail-Head-Merthyr-downhill-mtbA short pedal away from the uplift drop-off level is the trailhead for Vicious Valley, Blackadder, Dai Exhausting, and ACDC, with qualifying optionsThe highest of Mynydd Gethin: View over the younger conifers to a coal ‘slag’ heap, a typical function of the Welsh countryside

The Uplift drops you instantly at the head of 9 trails, with the trailheads for an extra 5 only a brief and flat scenic singletrack pedal throughout the prime of the mountain. Every trail at BikePark Wales, save for the Blue runs, begins with a qualifying function, typically a rock drop. This sets the tone for the relaxation of the path, letting you understand precisely what you’re in for. For those who can’t experience the qualifying function, don’t experience the rest of the trail!

BikeParkWales-Vicious-Valley-Qualifying-Feature-Drop-DOWNHILL-MTBSending the qualifying function of the Pink graded movement trail, Vicious Valley. Credit: Mary Macleod.terrysbelly-bikeparkwales-bpw-downhill-mtb-uplift-blueflow-downhill-mtbSculpted berms of Terry’s Belly Blue Movement Path. Credit: Mary Macleod.

My suggestion can be to begin on Blue Move trails, Sixtapod or Terry’s Belly. Keep in mind that whereas these trails are relatively tame, with no terribly steep gradients, compulsory drops and jumps, or gnarly rooty sections, you will in all probability nonetheless go quicker on these trails than you’ll on another trail on the hill. Sixtapod is 2.2km of fast flowing wide-bermed clean singletrack that may have you grinning like a cheshire cat the entire means down – it’ll feel like your personal personal rollercoaster. A couple of runs on this path will possible see you peeling your fingers off the bars one-by-one. Terry’s Stomach doesn’t get you up to fairly the similar velocity as Sixtapod – its berms are tighter but extra clean and sculpted. If you would like something that’ll offer you a bit of air time, opt for the blue stream path that runs parallel to Terry’s Stomach, “Popty Ping”, the Welsh phrase for microwave, consider it or not. This “+” path options tight carved berms that ship you straight into an extended collection of tabletop jumps.

BikePark-Wales-Downhill-Mountain-Biking-MTB-Uplift-Watts-Occuring-Blend-Trail

Probably the most fascinating trails on the hill are the Blend trails, a mixture of Move and Tech. Quick sections of berms and jumps are combined with tighter, steeper technical driving to make the most various trails in the park, suited to riders with a totally developed talent set. Watts Occuring, named with reference to the the in style Welsh comedy TV Collection, “Gavin and Stacey”, is one such Mix Path which has one thing of every thing you might wish for from a Bike Park run.

Bike-Park-Wales-Watts-Occuring-Blend-Trail-MTB-Uplift-downhill-mtbCredit score: Mary Macleod

It begins out with an open section of 2-Three ft rock drops, earlier than sending you into an enormous sprawling rooty section (thank the lord it was dry that day). It then goes into super flow-mode with huge carved berms, hip jumps, shark fins, step downs and rollers, before its character modifications abruptly, pushing you out into several hundred metres of gnarly rock garden with drops requiring 100% dedication.

Watts-Occuring-Bike-Park-Wales-MTB-BPW-Downhill-DH-Uplift-mtbCredit: Mary MacleodBike-Park-Wales-rock-garden-watts-occuring-mtb-uplift-downhillCredit: Mary MacleodBike-Park-Wales-Watts-Occurring-Rock-Garden-downhill-mtbThe seemingly endless rock backyard on Watts Occurring. Credit score: Mary Macleod.

Fortunately, we visited the Bike Park in Might, the driest and prettiest month of the yr in the Taff Valley. Pink-graded tech trail Surfin’ Fowl starts mid-way down the hill, in the less densely packed deciduous woodland and provides lovely views up the valley in the direction of Pen-Y-Fan, the highest level in the Brecon Beacons Nationwide Park. Regardless of being labelled as a tech path, this trail presents excellent move for those who’re comfortable to hop over the brief rocky sections. The path welcomed us with carpets of bluebells – it was troublesome to put the digital camera away on this one!

Bike-Park-Wales-Surfin'-Bird-Wall-Feature-MTB-DOWNHILL-UPLIFTCredit: Mary MacleodUplift Downhill MTB UK BikePark Wales Surfin BirdCredit: Mary MacleodBike-Park-Wales-Blue-bells-MTB-DOWNHillCredit: Mary MacleodBike-Park-surfin'-bird-blue-bells-mtb-downhill-uplift-ukCredit: Mary Macleod

BikePark Wales additionally caters for those of you partial to extra enduro-style trails. The two.5 km Pink/Black Tech Path, Root Manoeuvres, is the Bike Park’s closest factor to enduro. It is for the most part unsurfaced, and subsequently doubtless to be the muddiest and wettest trail on the hill.

Bike-Park-Wales-Root-Manouvres-Red-Black-Tech-Trail-Enduro-NaturalThis dark woodland part on Root Manoeuvres has 5-6 line decisions, all of which require a committed drop off. Credit score: Mary Macleod.

This trail is narrower than most, taking in rock slab sections, gnarly rooty sections, and plethora rock drops, with sufficient line selection to maintain you interested for several runs. That is one of Rowan Sorrell’s favorite trails in the Park.

BikePark-Wales-Root-Manouvres-Enduro-Trail-Red-Black-TechRoot Manoeuvres Pink/Black tech path presents some fun line selection. Credit: Mary Macleod.

Forking off of Root Manoeuvres, half-way down is “50 Shades of Black”, another of Rowan’s favourites, and the longest and gnarliest black trail in the park. The 1.8km trail starts with a steep rock garden, sending you into a collection of small hole jumps. You’ll also be challenged by large boulder fields, roots, jumps and many of filth. BPW say this one is for specialists only, thus I simply glanced at the entrance and continued down Root Manoeuvres.

Bike-Park-Wales-Root-Manouevres-50-shades-of-black-technical-trails-Fork in the trail: “Root Manoeuvres” leads you into “50 Shades of Black” (right) should you’re so inclined

Prime Trip Ideas

  1. You’ll probably want to run much larger tyre pressures than you’d elsewhere in the UK – we ran 25 psi front, 30 psi rear.
  2. In case you can deliver a spare wheel with you, then undoubtedly achieve this – they don’t name it “Rim Dinger” for nothing. And tyres, convey tyres.
  3. Simply wear a full face helmet. It isn’t compulsory at BikePark Wales, but it is doubtless rockier and quicker here than anyplace else you’ve ridden in the UK – so it’d offer you consolation to achieve this.
  4. Ebook your Uplifts and Bike Rent nicely prematurely!
  5. You’ll not get a Fat Bike on the uplift, the current max tyre width the trailers can take is 2.Eight″.

Bike-Park-Wales-Tunnel-Downhill-MTB-UPLFIT-UKThree trails converge on the tunnel which takes riders safely underneath the uplift street. Credit: Mary Macleod.

Interview with BPW co-founder, Rowan Sorrell

Rowan Sorrell and Martin Astley launched BikePark Wales in 2013, and the Park was an instantaneous success. You’d have to ebook 2-3 months prematurely to get a weekend area on the Uplift. Occasions have modified with the park now providing virtually twice the quantity of trails it opened with, and capability now up to 350-400 riders on a weekend. Throughout our journey, we sat down with co-founder Rowan Sorrell for a quick chat about the previous, current and future of Bike Park Wales.

Bike-Park-Wales-Downhill-Uplift-MTB-Mountain-Biking-Trip-Holiday-Vacation-front

BIKERUMOR: How did Bike Park Wales come to be?

Rowan: So we launched in 2013 however the work to begin the undertaking started in 2009 – 5 years of planning, and we had to tender for the alternative as a result of it’s on public land. The tender course of took around 18 months. Pure Assets Wales personal the land – they undertook a large feasibility research on Mountain Biking in South Wales in 2010. They have been taking a look at the surrounding trail centres reminiscent of Cwmcarn and Afan and making an attempt to work out what the scope for them was. They ear-marked this location [Gethin Woodland] as a possible location for a personal Bike Park. Round 2009, myself and Martin Astley, one of the other founders, and our wives acquired together as a staff and tried to create a Bike Park. It labored out quite properly, the timings, that once we have been pitching our enterprise ideas, we turned conscious there can be a chance to tender for creating a Bike Park right here.

Bike-Park-Wales-Trail-BuildersBikePark Wales now employ 8 full-time trail builders, 9 should you embrace trail canine Loki

BIKERUMOR: What’s the historical past of Gethin Woodland as a Mountain Biking destination?

Rowan: Gethin Woodland had one monitor right here. Dragon Downhill constructed a path which we have now vaguely followed the line of with the “Enter the Dragon” path, which we’re remodelling at the moment. So i’ve been racing here since 2000, so I knew the website along with a bunch of other ones in South Wales. I all the time knew it was a very good website but we had a number of on our radar. It turned clear that if we actually needed to go ahead and make one thing happen for real then this was the location.

BIKERUMOR: Has it all the time been a dream of yours to have a Bike Park?

Rowan: Yeah, to some extent. I feel, the first time I went to Les Gets, once I was 18 or 19, it blew my thoughts. The scene in the UK was nowhere near as developed – to go someplace the place there are uplifts, and everyone seems to be driving downhill bikes – it made me assume “this is awesome” however why can’t we’ve something like that in the UK? That was a long time ago. I then acquired into trail building – I had a company referred to as “Back On Track”. We have been building trails for the Forestry Commision or the native council. It was great and I loved the work but I all the time discovered it slightly bit irritating when leaving the challenge – you’d hand it back over at the finish, and also you’d be proud of the work that had been finished however you’d come back two or three years later and it might be a bit miserable to see how it hadn’t been maintained and taken care of. They definitely didn’t develop issues – they struggled to even keep them. Martin and I had labored collectively in Cwmcarn on a path building undertaking in 2004 – that’s how we met. We stored in contact and attached again, discovered we both had the similar view that it might be nice to have control over one thing and truly put an entire package deal collectively, create a mini-resort I assume. So yeah, the seeds have been planted from that first time I went to France, they usually remained there ever since until 2009 once we stated “OK, we are going to do this”. We dedicated rather a lot of time to it from that time.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your favourite trail in the Park?

Rowan: Is dependent upon the temper. “Root Manoeuvres” is for positive one of my favourites, and “50 Shades of Black”, because I like pure rough technical driving, but equally I really like jumps and berms as nicely, so yeah, after these I’d say “Enter the Dragon” and “Blackadder”.

Bike-Park-Wales-Pro-Line-JumpsBikePark Wales has some critical Pro Strains on supply

BIKERUMOR: Why did you’re taking the choice not to set up a chair raise in the Park?

Rowan: We looked at it, once we have been doing our personal feasibility research of how we might develop the website and put plans collectively. We looked at all totally different uplift options, we checked out second hand chair lifts, new chair lifts, we checked out uplift that runs on a monitor, the place you’d truly get into carts, drag lifts, a funicular, spoke to quite a number of of the ski corporations. It came down to the value – the value is large. That hasn’t changed. The fee is greater than most may assume. To have a carry that may truly serve a function, you’re taking a look at £6M+. It is a critical quantity of money and investment. We felt that having buses was scalable, and something that we might respond to the market with. We didn’t know once we launched that it might be really common or not. We hoped it will. But nobody had achieved it at that point, so it was a greatest estimate. And another thing on that, I feel when individuals ask a few chair raise, I feel they are considering of their vacation experiences, Morzine in the summer season for example or Whistler. It is totally different here – we’re open 12 months of the yr, day by day in the wind and rain, and the bus provides individuals a respite. I genuinely assume the expertise wouldn’t be that pleasant quite a bit of the yr here, as a result of it can be quite uncovered on the prime. Individuals have a tendency to picture that idyllic day the place they’re cruising in a chair raise however the actuality is individuals shivering in a chair carry. We’ve considered all this stuff lots, automobiles offer you flexibility and it isn’t a nasty expertise.

Bike-Park-Wales-Bike-Hire-Trek-RemedyBikePark Wales supply bike hire on website – we took a Trek Treatment to shred the Park

BIKERUMOR: What are your plans round E-Mountain Bikes?

Rowan: We’re watching the area at the second. Once we have been planning out the unique trails, there were fairly a number of spots that had really cool terrain but the form of the hill meant that in the event you went down there it simply didn’t quite work – you’d find yourself with a horrible climb to get back out or you couldn’t get back to the centre. So there are a number of spots on the hill that I know can be good to build trails in but we haven’t thus far – that’s the place I feel the E-Bike trail will are available. We’ll make one thing that goes out to the corners of the park that you simply wouldn’t otherwise find a way to get to.

BIKERUMOR: When are you going to host an Enduro World Collection event?

Rowan: I feel me and Chris [Chris Ball, co-founder founder of the Enduro World Series] may have a chat about that. We are driving together this Summer time at Trans Provence. Don’t get me fallacious, we’d absolutely like it. It is one thing you’ll be able to’t take flippantly. I understand how a lot time and power is involved in putting on a very good occasion. We’ve hosted events here – nothing on that scale but we all know how a lot it demands of the workforce. We don’t want to do something badly. If we do it we would like to do it right, with a bit of backing behind us to do it, from the Welsh Government or native authorities. We’ve all the time stated we’d love to have international degree events right here.

BIKERUMOR: How do you assume an EWS occasion would benefit the native financial system?

Rowan: I feel it will be constructive in the sense that it will create more worldwide tourism. I feel that may in all probability be our foremost profit. Most riders in the UK are conscious of Bike Park Wales or have been to Bike Park Wales. We already add that profit to Merthyr and the surrounding space. With one thing like that [an EWS event] the profit can be extra about rubber stamping it on the world map. That might be the great point.

Bike Park Wales womens weekend katy curd veronique sandler tahnee seagrave Q&ABPW host an annual ladies’s weekend: The Q&A session with Katy Curd, Veronique Sandler and Tahnee Seagrave

BIKERUMOR: Where do you see the Park in 5 years time?

Rowan: Fairly totally different from what it is now. Hopefully with the similar core values and feel to it, rider targeted, but with a lot better amenities. We now have actually targeted on the path network over the last 5 years, achieved what we’ve had to do to hold going. However over the subsequent few years we’re wanting to spend money on the amenities, with a second constructing which shall be the new verify in space and bike rent. We could have a separate rest room and bathe block. Greater Automotive Park. The most important change will probably be including accommodation. Not on an enormous scale but we could have some glamping options on the aspect. Someone can then come to Bike Park Wales and have the entire experience here. Whether it is what they would like they might stay right here, eat here, have beers in the night… And we’ll hold creating the trail community. We would like individuals to feel as though, if they arrive for a day they will’t journey the whole lot right here. That’s the objective. We would like to make it someplace that folks can come to and have a vacation. On this area, there’s so much other great things around here. South Wales might turn out to be a real 1-2 week driving vacation spot. Spend time at Bike Park Wales, then you definitely’ve received Cwmcarn, Black Mountains, and stacks and stacks of off-piste trails and the Brecon Beacons.

BIKERUMOR: Are you planning to put in some other amenities or actions in the Park?

Rowan: No speedy plans for something too activity based mostly. We wish to put in a play area, in order that if individuals are mentioning younger youngsters then mother and father can alternate between looking after them and driving their bikes. We’ve acquired our arms full with the biking improvement really. There isn’t any shortage of things we might do to make it better. That’s what keeps it exciting for people who work here.

BIKERUMOR: Any plans for brand spanking new trails in the near future?

Rowan: Yeah, we’re just going by means of the permissions and consenting course of at the second. It is truly fairly an concerned process to build a brand new trail . It isn’t the case that, as a result of we’re right here, we will simply go forward and build trails. I feel it’s a widespread false impression. We’ve got to go through all the typical environmental and conservation heritage checks, in addition to work with the foresters. This is nonetheless a business forest and we’ve to co-exist. It is challenging at occasions but each events want to make it work. We plan this summer time to construct a pair of new trails, a blue and a purple part. That’s the plan.

Bike-Park-Wales-Trail-Building-MTB-DOWNHILL-BERMS

BIKERUMOR: There are a number of other teams in the UK taking a look at plans for a Bike Park, there’s potential for one to go into the Tweed Valley, and Gravitate Northeast in Aberdeenshire for instance. Would you’ve got any recommendation for these groups?

Rowan: I assume, don’t underestimate the enterprise planning required prior to breaking ground. For us it was irritating. We needed to do it quicker. It took us 5 years and in hindsight, I feel it was the neatest thing that would have happened. It made us really mull over some essential selections, and I feel the Bike Park is best for it. However aside from that yeah, I feel as long as they know there’s a market there, give riders what they want and pay attention to riders – one thing we tried to do all along. We had a number of events the place we learnt a tough lesson – where we thought we have been doing the proper factor and the public has advised us they want something totally different. Sometime you have got to again monitor and go a special path. That’s necessary – understanding what individuals want.

BikePark Wales Want to Know

When you’re going to propel yourself to the prime of the mountain you possibly can access the trails here for £10. If not, you’re taking a look at £36 for an uplift move during the week, £38 on a Friday, and £42 on a weekend. £80 will purchase you a full weekend uplift cross. Throughout the summer time months, BPW supply an evening uplift move operating from 5-Eight PM for £20.

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The Park has a workforce of devoted mechanics on website to maintain you rolling, and an adequately stocked shop. Bike Rent can also be out there at the Park – they run a properly maintained fleet of Trek Treatment path bikes and Trek Session Downhill Bikes. The cafe on website serves up lunch and respectable espresso, and has a tremendous log burning hearth for these chilly soggy winter months!

Bike-Park-Wales-CafeBikePark Wales Data – Can you beat them?

The typical number of uplift-serviced runs in a full day is 8-9. We expect Rowan Sorrell himself has the document for most completed in at some point – round 20 runs! As for pedalling up, it takes the common rider 35 minutes but the fittest riders will do it in 20 minutes. Group Rider James Heaton holds the document for most climbs in at some point – he squeezed in 15 laps in slightly below 7 hours, with a lunch stop!

BikeParkWales.co.uk