BikePark Wales should need little introduction. It’s the biggest uplift venue in the UK, with some 40 trails ranging from green- to black-graded plus two orange pro lines. What it lacks in gradient (there’s only 240m of altitude drop), it makes up for with tons of well-built runs, which are maintained to an exceptional standard by its team of seven trail builders. There really is something for everyone here.
With so many tracks, it’s hard to pick a favourite. There are standout sections among many different trails – like the jumps at the end of ‘Rim Dinger’ on the way back to the uplift. It’s no secret that, as a mag, we use BikePark Wales frequently as a testing venue. It’s fairly close to our Bristol base, rides well in all weathers and it’s useful to be able to compare products back-to-back on trails that are reliably consistent. What’s more, the park’s got everything you need to dish out some punishment to bikes and components.
A few of the tracks you’re likely to find us on include ‘Dai Hard’, ‘Root Manoeuvres’, ‘Willy Waver’, ‘AC DC’ and ‘50 Shades of Black’. These offer a wide range of riding, from smooth flow-trails to gnarly tech. The high-speed top woods on ‘Dai Hard’ are brilliant fun to charge through, with a good mix of techy terrain to keep you on your toes. ‘Root Manoeuvres’ is our go-to for long, rough runs that don’t let up. Even though it’s a blue-graded trail, you can really load a bike up in the flowing turns down ‘Willy Waver’, which isn’t only fun, but also really useful for testing tyre pressures, flex and suspension balance.
BikePark Wales is in Gethin Woodland Park, just off the A470, 20 minutes from junction 32 of the M4. The postcode CF48 4TT will get you
to the nearest roundabout.
Parking, cafe, toilets, shower, bike shop, bike hire, bike wash, uplift service, skills coaching, GoPro hire.
Another name that should be familiar to most readers, this race venue and MTB film location is home to possibly the fastest uplift service in the UK. Dropping you down over 300m on red, black and pro-line trails, this place isn’t for novices and is a full-face-helmet-only zone. The park blends tech, steep downhills and more flowing, wide trails, with plenty of jumps and berms mixed in. You’ll find the famous ‘Vision Line’ and ‘50to01 Line’ there too. It’s also a regular haunt for many UK pro riders such as Tahnée Seagrave, Veronique Sandler and Kade Edwards, and hosted the 2019 UK National Downhill Championships.
While the jump lines here get more media coverage, don’t ignore the plethora of natural trails to test your skills on. A favourite of ours is ‘Ginger Bobcat’, which was the course used to host last year’s Nationals. It’s a fast, tight, rooty, bumpy toboggan run that gives you a massive adrenaline shot and a huge smile. Another techy gem is ‘Colin’s Corners’. We’ll freely admit to sessioning this one on a very wet day to make sure we could clear it without unclipping. It took a few goes! The flow lines are a ton of fun too, and the jumps on ‘Vision Line’ are impeccably built and give you a massive buzz once you’ve plucked up the courage to hit them. Revs has a lot going for it, but it’s not for everyone and is best on a downhill bike or long-travel enduro bike.
Revolution Bike Park
From the south, take the A5 west from Shrewsbury. From the north, take the A483 and A5 around Oswestry. Then go left on the A495, then the B4396. Turn right on the B4391 to Llangynog. Turn left and the bike park is on your left. Postcode SY10 0HJ.
This Scottish venue has been popular with downhillers for as long as we can remember and is undoubtedly one of the reasons the Tweed Valley has developed such a massive mountain bike scene. It’s a classic riding spot that hasn’t lost any of its appeal. Adrenalin Uplift now run a service there, which lets you avoid the 300m-plus push/ride up to the start, although Innerleithen is unlike the other venues in this list in that you can ride the trails without having to pay to use them, as long you’re willing to make your own way up.
There are four official downhill tracks at Inners, although in truth there’s a maze of trails in the dense woodland. You could easily not go the same way twice, even if you were trying to. Another thing that stands out is the very natural feel of the trails. While there are undoubtedly manmade sections, overall the place boasts some very raw terrain.
We don’t think there’s a bad trail at Inners, but often the tracks are notoriously narrow as they snake their way through the tight trees. One of our highlights is the lower half of ‘Cresta Run’, where the woodland opens up a little and the speed increases. It has an enjoyable flow to it, with a mix of loose rocks, roots and drops that spits you through the trees at what feels like warp speed. The final set of switchbacks is a real challenge as well, appearing just when you’re feeling at your most worn-out. There’s enough riding here to keep you coming back and we’re a little gutted that this place is so far away from our Bristol base.
From Peebles, take the A72 east to Innerleithen, then the B709 for Traquair. Cross a bridge with traffic lights and the car park is on the left after 50m. For sat-navs, EH44 6PW is the nearest postcode.
Parking, uplift service (more facilities a short ride away in town).
Four official downhill tracks, plus plenty of others.
While Dyfi Bike Park maybe one of the UK’s newest riding spots, it’s made a big splash in a short time. There’s no denying that it’s quite out of the way though, and if you’re going to make the trip it’s worth making a weekend of it. However, we think the trails here, designed and built by Dan Atherton and his team, are some of the best around. There are currently four black runs, ranging from ‘50 Hits’, a full-on 3.6km jump line, to the ‘Slab Track’, a steep, 600m assault on your technical ability and bravery. These are backed up by two newly-opened reds, ‘Super Swooper’ and ‘El Hippo’, designed to provide effortless flow.
We had the biggest grins on our faces from riding ‘Race Track’, which, as you can guess by the name, is a high-speed rip through the Dyfi Forest. It mixes big jumps with fun tech and some of the most flowing turns around midway down. There really is a mix of everything in that track! This shouldn’t take away from how cool the other runs are though. ‘Slab Track’ is a challenge, but a fun one, and the jumps on ‘50 Hits’ are immaculately built, as are the park’s numerous sizeable wooden bridges.
There are plenty of steep, natural switchbacks and some great off-piste stuff at the end, which is one of the best sections on the mountain. Being in Wales, the Dyfi crew have made the park all pretty weatherproof too. If this is one of the places that’s honed the skills of the Athertons, then it should provide plenty of challenge for the rest of us. The uplift service is nice and quick too. Again, you need a full-face lid and knee pads to ride here.
Dyfi Bike Park
Dyfi Bike Park is located on the southern border of Snowdonia National Park, just off the A487 near Pantperthog, between Machynlleth and Dolgellau. The postcode is SY20 9AS.
5 Danny Hart’s Descend Bike Park, North-East England
The spot where two-time downhill world champion Danny Hart cut his teeth, this place proves that you don’t need mountains to become one of the best riders on the planet. With an elevation drop of around 100m, it’s quality over quantity here in Hamsterley Forest. That doesn’t mean there aren’t many trails though – roughly five upper sections link into at least eight lower tracks. There’s plenty to keep you entertained, and a 4X track too.
Danny Hart’s Descend Bike Park packs a lot in – berms, jumps, roots, rocks and tech sections make up a varied ride. It’s a small hill, but a full-face-only affair, which confirms that this place means business. The top section of ‘Main Line’ links in well with ‘Mini Champery’, which is a favourite of ours, with the steep turns and catch-netting making you feel like you’re on the eponymous Swiss mountainside.
The trails work in all weather conditions and the jumps are safely built. Speaking of jumps, they’re all carefully looked after by the trail crew and are entirely hand-built. There’s loads of fun and challenge to be found on this short but steep hillside and if it’s good enough for Danny, it’s good enough for us.
Danny Hart’s Descend Bike Park
The bike park is off Windy Bank Road, a couple of miles outside Hamsterley village in County Durham.
Toilets, parking, small cafe.
13 trails, graded from green to black (the bottom half of the hill is very steep).
We’ll be bringing you the lowdown on more than 90 of the UK’s best trail centres and bike parks in our 2020 Trail Centre Guide, free with the October issue of the mag (MBUK 387, out 29 September). For now, here are 3 more venues that didn’t quite make our top 5 but are still an absolute blast to ride.
Antur Stiniog, North Wales
A bike park as wild as its surroundings. Located in an old slate quarry in Snowdonia, this park has 14 trails ranging from green to black. It mixes rocky tech with smooth and flowing lines, and there are plenty of opportunities to get your wheels off the ground. Get the lowdown at www.anturstiniog.com.
Pedalabikeaway at Cannop Cycle Centre, England-Wales border
Another MBUK local, this venue in Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean has myriad tracks to test your mettle, from smooth and flowing to rough and technical. They’re short but sweet and it’s a popular venue with excellent facilities. Uplifts are organised by FlyUp Downhill. More info at pedalabikeaway.co.uk.
Black Mountains Cycle Centre, South Wales
BMCC isn’t set in a forest, but along an open hillside on the edge of the Black Mountains. If freeride is your thing, this is definitely one to visit, with more jumps and berms than technical downhills, but there are trails for (nearly) everyone. Details at blackmountainscyclecentre.com.