Bike Park Wales

This is what we are here for, sitting in a sweaty transit grinding up a forest road to the top of a soggy welsh hill listening to Guns N Roses and choosing our next mountain bike route.

Bike Park Wales (BPW) is a collection of mountain bike trails down the side of a big hill near  Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. They have all been designed and cut by experienced mountain bikers and then graded so whatever experience level you are riding, there is something you can do. To get to the top, you can pedal yo sweaty ass up there…. Or pay for the uplift where some 40 something year old college drop-out lookalikes drive you up to the top of the hill in a banged up transit playing rock music with your bike being towed on a trailer. Then you spend the whole day going downhill, which is really the only reason mountain bikers put up with the uphill, so it’s an incredible shortcut. 

I’m not going to do a route by route description of the day, because really, they fly by so quickly and we did so many of them, my memory and accuracy would be trash. But, what I can tell you is that it’s AWESOME! 

We started on some Blue graded routes that were Flow biased. This is a moderate grade with some basic features, but nothing that Aimi and I are worried about. We took these routes pretty much at full speed and warmed up. BPW also gives a route a bias towards either Tech or Flow. Technical routes are expected to be more rocky and rooty so perhaps a bit slower, but more interesting terrain and fewer jumps. The Flow routes are predominantly smoother and swoop from one jump to another and around banked corners. These designations are not hard rules, so you will find Tech parts on Flow trails and visa versa but it gives you a good idea. 

Aimi and I are not huge jump fans. They are scary to fly off when you aren’t confident with the trails, and one swoopy jump is the same as the next swoopy jump so it seems a bit repetitive after a while. Still fun tracks, but we prefer the Tech trails where you have to work at the terrain to stay on the bike and descend the hill as fast as you can. Rocks, roots, puddles, logs, gravel, mud, sharp turns, steep descents and drops give so much variation on these routes it’s just really entertaining.

After a couple round trips we stopped for a brief refuel with a sandwich and a cake and discussed our favourite bits so far. There are a few stand out favourites like Merthyr Rocks and Vicious Valley. I also really liked Snakebite because it’s right at the end and seems to be under-used compared to others. Aimi crashed on that one and now sports a terrific bruise on her thigh so doesn’t like it haha!

After lunch we wanted to try a Mix trail that combines sections of Flow and sections of Tech into one route. We set off down ACDC and soon realized that attacking this cold was a bad idea. There were some moderate sized jumps and tricky rocky sections that I’m sure we could have done when warmed up, but not straight after lunch. I came unstuck on one section and a slippery root caused me to shoulder barge and knuckle punch a tree coming to a stop. No harm done, just took it easier down the rest of the route and then found out it was a Red/Black trail. Red being a difficult trail with larger features that do require some skill to negotiate but can be rolled over in most cases. And Black trails being Pro level where there are certain features you cannot roll over and need to know how to tackle them to be able to safely ride. When we found this out, Aimi was not impressed I had chosen it!

Towards the end of the day we were getting tired and Aimi’s spill was causing her wrist to ache. We moved over to the Flow trails which were smoother and just enjoyed cruising the last couple laps doing a few Flows we hadn’t done yet and a few of our favourites from earlier in the day.

By the end, we were knackered and were not about to cook dinner. Pizza, beer and ice cream was the order of the day