In issue four of ‘Women’s Cycling‘ 2013:
Location – Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales
Opening Times –
• Weekdays 10am-6pm
• Weekends 9am-6pm
Difficulty – Something for riders of all abilities including family and beginner trails.
Facilities – Bike Shop, café, bike wash, toilets and shower facilities.
What makes it worth doing? – Great food and facilities with something for everyone. With over 20 trails and combinations to choose from.
It’s not hard to see why Bike Park Wales is so popular. Even on a gloomy Saturday morning the car park was full and the park was busy with riders in the café, checking out the shop or setting off on a ride. There was a certain buzz in the air despite the ominous looking clouds creeping in through the valley. Situated about 40 minutes from Cardiff, Bike Park Wales is nestled on a hillside just outside Merthyr Tydfil. Since opening just a few months ago it’s been a hugely popular location with locals and those further afield with something for everyone. Whether you like downhill, cross country or a bit of both, you can do it all at BPW.
Lots on offer
The visitor centre is located next to the car park. It offers hot and cold food and drinks, toilet and shower facilities and bike shop with bike hire. Each visitor must pay £5 for entry, this fee then goes back to helping maintain and grow the trail network. The café serves hot food until 3:30pm, and offers a mixture of breakfasts, burgers, light bites, and of course cake! The workshop offers help with repairs and servicing as well as having a Mojo technician on hand to help with Fox suspension, it’s reassuring to know that if something happens to your bike during the day it can be taken care of. The bike shop staff are knowledgeable and helpful, they are there to assist with bike hire, maintenance as well as advice if needed. I hired a Trek Slash for the day to take full advantage of the trails on offer. There are two options to get to the top, you can either get an uplift or ride up the start of the trails. Uplifts must be booked in advance and cost £30, this includes the £5 entry fee. There is sometimes opportunity to get on the uplift if it’s quiet, but pass holders take priority. I opted for the cycle up option and made my way up the fire road and not the main climb due to the weather. Aside from avoiding the uplift buses, the fire road is a steady and easy going climb, nothing too demanding and a perfect opportunity to make the most of the surrounding views. The main climb is 4.6km long and it winds up to the left of the trails to the top and takes about 20-40 minutes.
Spoilt for choice
Arguably one of the best things about BPW is the choice, upon reaching the top I checked out the trail map to try and decide which trail I wanted to do first. I opted for a blue to warm up and started on Melted Welly. I made my way down a super fun winding trail with a huge smile on my face. Once I’d made it down to the fire road the heavens opened, despite the rain, the bottom half of Enter the Dragon was still great fun, not a trail for the faint-hearted, it has large berms and a few bigger technical features, graded black it is one of the more difficult tracks, but great if you fancy a challenge. I reached a second fire road, and was torn between trying Willy Waver, Rim Dinger or Coal not Dole, a mixture of grades, blue, red or black. I went for Rim Dinger as I’d heard good reviews. It was a challenge, but I found myself laughing the whole way down, the rain was pouring and yet as I tackled rocks, swooped round berms and bounced into rock gardens I could see why so many people had told me Rim Dinger was a good track. I also sectioned part of Pork Belly, taking me through a large tunnel and out onto more trails! I think one reason BPW is so great is the fact you can mix and match trail sections, trying out different combinations on each run, it’s hard to get bored when there’s so much to do, there is even a pump track right next to the visitor centre. It’s great for everyone too, with trails for all abilities you can ride with your partner or family and know that no one will feel left out.
Back for more
One thing I really enjoyed was the variation, despite trails being man made, most have natural elements; roots, rocks and of course mud. Mountain biking wouldn’t be the same without the mud (in Wales anyway), and I for one enjoyed getting covered in mud on a rather wet Saturday, that was until it came to taking off my kit, but it was nice to know that I could enjoy a hot chocolate in the cafe once I was dry again! The trails are designed with the Welsh weather in mind, so don’t let a bit of rain put you off, most are hard packed and ready to ride. For those who visit regularly, a season pass can be purchased for £75 per year, this entitles you to £5 off each uplift you book. For downhill I’d use a full face and body armour, but as I was trying a few of the other trails I opted for my XC helmet and knee pads. All in all BPW is what you want it to be, it’s hard to fit it all into one day so guaranteed you’ll want to come back for round two, there are plenty of places to stay locally if you want to make a weekend of it, and you can also purchase a weekend pass to the park. The trails are great fun and it’s certainly hard to find something like BPW unless you go to Europe, built with every rider in mind and for all weathers it’s a great day out, I can’t wait for my next visit!
All images by, Kevin Thomas – Bike Photography