“Woooooooosh, Woooah, Where does this go, ooooh she’s a tight ‘un, up and over.”
Paul Jones, our now regular guest blogger, has been out there and written a ‘real riders’ review of the new Bike Park at Afan Valley. It seems like it was a tough job… but he got through it!
“The new Bike Park at Afan is a proper little gem of a place!
After a period of forced non-riding due to some ‘so & so’ stealing my bike I arrived at the centre at Bryn Bettws Lodge trying to set aside any expectations. I had some vague memories of what looked like some nice swoopy single track being constructed when I rode y Wall a few months ago but after reading the latest Cognation release my head was filled with thoughts of this new ‘Bike Park’. Surely, ‘Bike Park’ was a buzz word too far, “ I’ve been to Bike Parks”, I thought, they’re magical places that have taken years to mature from ‘riding spot’ to ‘trails’ to ‘bike park’ they don’t spring up over night.* They’re the sort of place you travel for a day to get to, you organise trips to via covert e-mails to your mates when your beloved isn’t looking and day dream about when you’re doing the dishes. They’re not on your doorstep places you can just rock up to when you want and ride, for the price of a pay-n-display, life just doesn’t work that way.
But, I was wrong, it IS a Bike Park, and it’s a belter – from start there are a whole pile of routes down the Mountain, OK it’s not dozens, but there’s plenty to choose from offering different skill levels and challenges, there are jumps, drops, berms n turns, rollers and stuff to pump n jump off and some ‘proper big stuff’ if you really want to fly. They’re long enough to allow even fat old men like me to really rip down top-to-bottom in one go, and my word they keep you busy! No space has been wasted on any motorway cruising sections, you’re kept constantly busy moving from feature to feature, and it doesn’t take too long to ‘master’ a section to the point where it’s just blissful constant flow and it’s only a quick push / ride back to the trail head.
AND you don’t need some million pound, 10 inch travel, fresh from The Rampage monster to ride them, nope just roll up on the same bike you would ride for any of the XC routes at Afan.
We spent a happy couple of hours riding the different sections and trying different things, there are a few little direction choices along the way which allow you to split from your riding buddies and rejoin again moments later. I must give a big thumbs up to the group of lads there that day riding in suits and ties over their riding gear, I’d guess it was a stag party judging by some of the sore eyes on display, and seeing someone riding jumps in tweed is the sort of thing you don’t see everyday!
After we broke for lunch in the Café we checked out the new section of Y Wall across the way from the Park, it’s just what I like in a XC route, it’s smooth, swoopy and woopy and FAST. It’s in the middle of some pretty dense Forrest and after all the harvesting work that’s gone on at Afan in the last few years it’s nice to be back zipping between the trees, it’s gives a real eerie feeling to the place. It’s easy enough to ride on it’s own if, like us, you’re spending a day at Bryn Bettws Lodge.
I really hope as the whole Cognation project progresses through next year we can have more of the same (please), if Gethin turns out to be a bigger, meaner version of Afan Bike Park it’s going to be a real beast!”
*I understand that this comes at the end of years of grant applications, months of planning, months of building and no doubt those three vital trail building materials blood, sweat and tears, which of course is ‘over night’ if they’re not your ‘blood sweat and tears!’
Review by Paul Jones