Building work at the much-anticipated BikePark Wales is nearing the finish line, with just weeks to go before the first lucky riders get to throw their steeds down its stunning new trails.
Directors have revealed that the groundbreaking centre – the UK’s first large-scale commercial bike park – are aiming to open to the public at 10am on Saturday 10 August, a full month ahead of the September date mooted previously.
They also revealed they will host the Welsh Downhill Championship in October this year, and said discussions were in progress to bring a round of the iXS series to BikePark Wales in 2014.
"Hopefully we can prove ourselves and the venue by hosting some national contests. We’d like to think that by 2018 we’ll be in a good position to host a world cup," said trail builder and BikePark Wales director Rowan Sorrell.
He hopes to give his new lines a hammering, and some names, in the next fortnight. He confirmed the trails – initially two each of blue, red and black runs – will have the distinctive Sorrell hallmark combining fun, speed and flow, but said he had worked hard to ensure they cater for a broad range of riding tastes and styles.
Speaking at a visit to the site at Gethin Woodland Park, on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, on Monday, Sorrell said: "Eighty percent of the trails are cut, but there’s still a lot to do before we can ride them. In the next two weeks we’ll do some test runs and see what areas still need to be tweaked.
"We do have flowy trails with berms, but I was really conscious that I didn’t want everything to feel the same, so I’ve tried to mix it up in the design. Hopefully, as the park develops and we build more trails, there will be room for some more experimental stuff. I definitely want to bring in some tight, twisty and technical riding.
"This project has been a dream come true for me. Usually you build something and then walk away from it, but with BikePark Wales we’ve got the time to react to the market and the tastes of the riders as we move forward – it’s so exciting to have that flexibility."
An architect's impression of the visitor centre at BikePark Wales
Pricing and trail information
Entry to BikePark Wales – already being dubbed the Welsh Whistler – will cost £5, with a full day of uplifts on offer for £30, which will include the entrance fee. There is also talk of a very attractively priced season ticket.
Minibuses will ferry mountain bikers to the top of the park, which boasts breathtaking views over Merthyr Tydfil and beyond to the Brecon Beacons, with uplifts taking around 10 minutes.
A total of 14 trails are planned over the next five years, with 40 percent graded blue and 30 percent red. Battle-hardened downhillers are also catered for, with 20 percent of the planned trails graded black. Quick riders should be able to nail a blue run in about eight minutes, and the steeper blacks in two-and-a-half.
"We wanted to get the ratio right between riding and uplift time," explained Sorrell. "Sometimes, with uplifts, you can come away feeling like you’ve spent the day on a bus. We’ve invested a lot of time and money building a new road with a more direct route to the top of the park. It means quick riders could get in as many as four runs an hour. And there’ll be four uplift vehicles running constantly, to minimise waiting around at the bottom."
The pedal-up option is a 5km climb that should take able bikers 30 minutes.
The park’s website goes live at www.bikeparkwales.com in three weeks’ time, and will include online advance booking for uplifts. Riders are encouraged to check the BikePark Wales website ahead of the proposed launch date as it is still subject to change.