Trail centre: Bike Park Wales
Grade: Blue (trail sections Sixtapod, Willy Waver, Melted Welly, Blue Belle, Norkle, Bush Whacker)
Length: Various – short sections.
Start point: BPW trail head. Turn off the A470 near Merthyr Tydfil, somewhere South of the A465.
Description: The trails at BPW are like short, intense versions of the ones you find elsewhere, and as such are generally towards the top of the trail grading. The blue sections are like the hardest bits of blue trails elsewhere. As such, every one of them is great fun, and definitely worth riding. The blues are typically not terribly challenging, but have plenty of fun for the bad mountain biker, and are without doubt a good place to start at BPW before trying things with more heft. Take them at speed.
Good stuff: All of it! Blue Belle is a particular favourite, thanks to more varied riding and carpets of bluebells (how unexpected…) in spring. Norkle is also a fun short blast to the visitor centre.
Difficult stuff: Nothing hugely tricky. Some places get a bit sketchy at speed, particularly the more intense bits like Bush Whacker. There’s a berm that seems to end early and throw me every time I ride it, too.
Verdict: Excellent, fun, flowy blue trails that offer enough of a challenge to be interesting, but not so much you think you’re going to die.
Trail centre: Bike Park Wales
Length: 4.6km (2.85 miles)
Start point: BPW visitor centre. Turn off the A470 near Merthyr Tydfil, somewhere South of the A465.
Description: Otherwise known as the Beast of Burden, this is in some ways an afterthought at Bike Park Wales. The vast majority of people use the uplift service, and as a result the climb trail tends to be very quiet indeed. It’s possible to climb on fire roads, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The nicely planned singletrack avoids some very steep sections, and makes for an altogether more satisfying ride. There’s little to be said about the trail itself. There are some nice features, but essentially it’s simply a way to get you to the top for the real riding. Worth mentioning that the first time is a bit of a killer, and it gets tiring once you’re tired, but the second and third climbs seem to go pretty smoothly.
Good stuff: Not really what this one’s about, but the woody rooty section towards the top is quite fun.
Difficult stuff: Nothing hugely tricky, although a steep climb on a cold start is a bit nasty, and there’s a steep rocky hump feature between a tree and a crag early on that’s very awkward if you get it wrong.
Verdict: Not thrilling, but does exactly what it says on the tin.
Whereabouts: South Wales
Where specifically: Gethin woodland close to Merthyr Tydfil. Turn West off the A470 opposite the A4060 on a roundabout. It is not currently terribly well signposted, but look for the Cognation sponsored cafe signs.
Trails: An incredible and ever growing variety of trails, split into short and largely interchangeable sections. A list here would be meaningless, and rather missing the point. Don’t go to BPW to ride a specific trail. Go to ride all the trails you possibly can. Range from green to black and on to ‘pro’ lines. See the more specific pages for more details.
Why should I go there? Ah, Bike Park Wales. It’s a new experience in UK mountain biking. A simply unbelievable range of trails has been built up into the hillside, with planning permission granted for plenty more. There’s a single climb trail that takes you to a single trail head, and from there you can choose from the two black, two blue, and one red start to the trails. However, starting on the blue doesn’t mean you have to stick to it, as red trails split off and in any case, once you hit the fire road that splits the park halfway down, you can happily change your mind and pick a different colour – or head back to the top. Pre-booked uplift will have you repeatedly at the top without knackering yourself. It’s also a vibrant community hub for mountain bikers, and you can expect to see young kids with better equipment, more technical skills, and less fear than I’ll ever have, as well as posers with excellent gear and no skill at all, as well as young, old, and everything between riders who’re there for the endless fun. It is, perhaps, more aimed at downhilly type riders than others, but there’s plenty of excitement to be had for cross country mountain bikers as well.
Facilities: Toilets, very few showers, excellent cafe (serving BPWs own beer and outstanding burgers), bike workshop, bike hire, high end bike shop, uplift that can be booked for the day or for single trips, pump track. Other stuff in Merthyr.