Bike Park Wales – Editors’ Choice Awards 2021

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The Singletrack Staffers pick the standout products and locations from their riding year. This article was originally published in Singletrack Magazine Issue 140.

The year has felt a little like approaching that nemesis feature on the trail: you roll up to it full of optimism, then at the last minute pull on the brakes in an attack of ‘nope’. Whether it was a ping that put paid to yet another plan, or a shipping container that didn’t arrive as expected (by now, perhaps, that should be ‘as expected, a shipping container didn’t arrive’), we had plenty of interruptions along the way. However, our northern hills had an unusually dry summer, so we managed a decent spell of short-sleeved riding on our doorstep, and there were a few chances to get further afield that we grasped and enjoyed. Like that trail feature, once we cleared it, the elation at meeting friends, riding new trails and generally enjoying bikes was all the sweeter. 

Mark – Publisher

This year has been about raising my riding skills. I’m a much better rider now in terms of speed on flowing trails, which I’ve particularly noticed at trail centres, but I didn’t set out to do this at the start of the year. It has just kind of happened as a result of riding almost exclusively e-MTBs. I ride more, faster and for longer and I go back and ride sections again, because on an e-MTB it’s not a massive hassle or effort to do that. E-MTBs this year have clarified why I have always ridden mountain bikes. I ride for fun. Getting fit or staying fit has always been a side effect and not the point of why I ride. This year I have become very comfortable with that. Your reasons for riding bikes may differ, and that is totally cool too. It’s all bikes.

Bike Park Wales

I have no idea why it’s taken so long for me to get to Bike Park Wales, but I went for the first time this year. It’s quite unforgivable considering the job I have and for how long I’ve been doing it that I didn’t show up sooner. It’s not because I don’t like uplifts or that I am in some way just an cross-country rider – my favourite place in the world to ride is Whistler. I appreciate a good uplift as much as the next rider and I personally get more joy out of a well-ridden, flowing descent than I do from a lung-busting climb.

I guess I may have been put off by the fact the uplift is by van and not a pretty chair or gondola ride up an alpine landscape. I may even have subconsciously avoided a trip to Merthyr Tydfil as I imagined it not to be a glamorous mountainside resort – I beg the forgiveness of residents of Merthyr if that’s the case. Perhaps understandably the prospect of a night or two in a Travelodge on a retail park never really appealed. Being honest I suspect it was a combination of all of those and some. 

Anyway, I’ve been now – twice. For three days in total. I’ve been a complete idiot for not doing this sooner.

There are trails here that stand up alongside the best of those I’ve ridden around the world and there are trails for every kind of rider. You can even climb up without the uplift if you still think that the downs are best earned by riding the ups. Even the van-based uplifts are fun with each van driver providing a very unique take on what is acceptable music to play for the ten-minute journey to the top. You should definitely hope to ride in the Reggae bus in my view – it provides the right amount of ‘relax-and-chill’ you need to get the most out of the many blue flow trails.

Like all of us I’ve not really left the country in over two years and I am really missing the mountains of BC and the Alps. I know I will get back to them in the future, but in the meantime my belated Bike Park Wales awakening has given me a taste of the best that those very spendy mountain bike resorts have to offer. If you haven’t been yet, don’t be like me. Book a ticket.

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Mark Alker

Singletrack Owner/Publisher

What Mark doesn’t know about social media isn’t worth knowing and his ability to balance “The Stack” is bested only by his agility on a snowboard. Graphs are what gets his engine revving, at least they would if his car wasn’t electric, and data is what you’ll find him poring over in the office. Mark enjoys good whisky, sci-fi and the latest Apple gadget, he is also the best boss in the world (Yes, he is paying me to write this).

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