Tucked away near the small Welsh town of Merthy Tydfil (try saying that after a few beers!) lies a bike park renowned for its trails for all abilities and its willingness to try something new.
With 23 new trails rumoured to be built over the coming years, BikePark Wales is fast becoming the go-to destination for mountain bikers looking for addictive singletrack runs, great coffee and an uplift service that means you can squeeze in more riding time.
As a 2017 sponsor of the park, we managed to get some time to sit down with Martin Astley, BikePark Wales Director, to talk about how the park started, what makes it special, and what’s in store for the future.
#1. Tell us a little bit about the history of Bikepark Wales. How did it all start?
It started as a grand idea between friends. Rowan Sorrell and myself had been travelling the world visiting the best and worst parks out there. It basically became clear that there was a big gap in the market for a true bike park in the UK and we knew we could do a good job of it. We started working on it in earnest in 2009.
#2. What’s different about Bikepark Wales compared to other UK / European bike parks?
Fundamentally BikePark Wales was designed from the ground up with bikes in mind. It isn't a ski resort that converts to cater for bikes in the summer. This means everything from the layout of the site to the design of the trails is 100% bike focussed. We also decided to build the park around trail and enduro bikes rather than DH bikes. That was a big decision in the early days, but we think it was the right one.
#3. What events do you have coming up in 2017?
In October 2017, we will host our second annual women's weekend. We are passionate about increasing female participation so hope to get a great turnout!
#4. How many visitors do you get in a weekend / season?
We get around 70,000 visitors a year to the park.
#5. We hear that there are plans to add 23 new trails to the park. What does this mean for the local mountain biking community?
Yes, we have planning permission to almost double the existing trail network. The aim is to continue as we have been during the last 3.5 years - continually re-investing in our trail network. That way there is always something new to ride! We also have a crew of 7 guys full time, plus machines continually maintaining our trails. We hope that it’s clear in the quality of the trail network!
#6. How has the trail system developed over time?
It's changed a lot! Since we opened in 2013 we have added 7 completely new trails, as well as revamping classics like Insufficient Funds, Sixtapod and, very soon, Enter The Dragon!
#7. Where do you see Bikepark Wales in 2020?
Hopefully bigger and better! We are spending a lot of time and investment on our infrastructure at the moment. We have a challenging site as we are completely off-grid but we are doing our best to increase our facilities offering. The trails always remain the focus though, and by 2020 the park should be unreal!