Could you ride Dyfi Bike Park? Could your kids? We set out to find out what the new Red trails are like.
When Dyfi Bike Park opened it quickly gained a reputation for being a place for only the best of riders. These were Dan Atherton’s trails, built on his doorstep as his playground – the kind of things he’d want to ride. Everything was graded shades of Black. That’s changed now though, with new ‘Red’ lines being added. We had the chance to go down for the day and check out these new trails.
It’s a decent drive into the mountains to get there, but not too far from other ride spots if you want to make a multi-centre trip into Wales. As you head to Dyfi Bike Park, keep your eyes peeled – at the roadside there is what might be the smallest sign ever to point out the whereabouts of the park. The set up is quite basic – we were lucky to have a warm and dry day, and conditions would feel tougher in the wet, not just out on the trail. That said, there is a big open shelter with giant wood burning stove, a small shop, and a cafe serving food that is in part made by Dan’s mum. A bike wash is being built, and for the moment it’s still portaloos in the car park – though these were very clean when we visited.
Uplift is via Landrover and trailer. Dan and the team have started to modify the Burtech trailers by adding ATV shocks and tyres, and have found that this makes them survive the punishing haul up and down the track much better. That said, they’re still out welding repairs on a regular basis. Dan also says he needs more Landrovers, and whenever one comes up for sale he’s out there looking at it to see if it can be added to their fleet. With COVID-19 restrictions reducing the number of riders they can handle to just 50, the uplift queue didn’t seem too bad to us, but Dan seemed frustrated by it and it appears a focus of the improvements he wants to make to Dyfi Bike Park. It sounds like in an ideal world he’d like to have a chair lift like bike parks elsewhere in the world, but for now he’s stuck with trailers and Landrovers. There’s no push or ride up option (yet), even for ebike riders.
Starting out with Black trails was a deliberate move to allow them to open the bike park only to more experienced riders, but with the Red trails they’re now ready to welcome a broader range of customer. There are no drops or gaps on the red lines, so in theory it’s all rollable, but there are sizeable jumps with takeoffs that you’d struggle to get up at low speed. The gradient is mostly fairly gentle, with some steeper corners, but it’s enough to pull you along and if you tried to drag your brakes all the way down you’d have some very hot stoppers by the time you made it to the bottom. The sweeping corners and berms also encourage a bit of commitment and speed – take a slow or low path and you’ll fine the trail something of a shale pit. What you really want to do it let the hillside carry you down, enjoy the speed, and focus on making the jumps.
The runs down the hill feel long, taking enough time to make it feel like you’re tired by the bottom. There is the odd spot on the way down where it feels a bit like there could be more features – like the trail is more of a transition zone than a fun one – but these also give a bit of a rest on the way down. Also, Dan is still building, and he’s there riding and listening to feedback to make the trails and park as good as they can be.
For Red route riders, the main attraction is Super Swooper. This starts right at the top of the hill with the Black lines, and mixes up table tops, berms and twisty woodland sections. There’s very little woodwork along the way, and what there is has a layer of chicken wire for grip. The other Red route is El Hippo. This starts on its own separate hill top and is reached via a separate uplift route. It’s a shorter route, but feels bit steeper than Super Swooper. And be warned: it ends at the giant jump by the uplift queue, so you’ll have an audience as you face the huge wall of a takeoff.
Officially graded as a Single Black Diamond trail, the other route to consider is the ’50 Hits’ Jump Line. From the top it has some sizeable jumps and can be a little exposed to the wind, but if you start off at Super Swooper then take a sharp right at the first tunnel you’ll join it further down. It is a jump line, but there are still sections of singletrack through the trees. If you’ve ever ridden Flat White at the Golfie some of the non-jumpy sections has quite a similar feel to this.
If you’re not sure whether you’re up to the trails, there’s always the option of signing up to a coaching day. Bookable through the Dyfi website, there are options for one-to-one or small group sessions with Al Bond, former World Cup and Red Bull Hardline racer. Even if it turns out you could ride the trails without coaching, it’ll probably turn out you’re doing something wrong and have something to learn.
Full face helmets and knee pads are mandatory, and elbow pads are advised. If you’re going to be flying fast and clearing the table tops, you’ll probably want a bike at the enduro end of things, though a trail bike will certainly get you through. The trails are reasonably groomed, so a hardtail isn’t out of the question, but with all those jump landings your body will likely tire rather quickly. If you’re stepping up to the Black trails, expect bigger drops, bigger rocks, and the desire for a bigger bike. We saw a lot of sacrifices to the Gods of Rubber, so consider packing for likely punctures and even potential tyre replacement. In the longer term, Dan hopes to have a test fleet of Atherton Bikes to try out too – though that’s a way off yet and there’s no bike hire available.
In our experience it’s well worth the trip to the area to ride Dyfi Bike Park. Depending on your confidence and fitness levels, consider planning a day to work on the Reds, taking a couple of runs on each to learn the trail and get your speed up, with either a later follow up visit or second day to move on to tackling the Blacks. Have you been? What did you think? Dan is keen for feedback, so let him know what you liked, and what you’d like changed!