Mountain bikers are being given the chance to defy gravity with the opening of a spectacular dirt jump zone in Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire.
The Forestry Commission has unveiled the development as part of a massive £300,000 project to create a National Cycling Centre of Excellence in the historic wood, near Mansfield.
Complete with hair-raising jumps – up to two metres tall – ramps, twists and turns, it has been designed to cater for bikers of all abilities, including beginner, intermediate and expert (denoted by skull and cross bones waymarking to warn the unwary).
Local riders helped in both design and construction work during volunteer “dig days”, when up to 25 off-road fans turned up, giving them a stake in its future.
Chris Bray, Forestry Commission recreation manager, said: “The jump zone is the first element in the Centre of Excellence blueprint to come online. There’s enough to stretch hardcore bikers, but with scope for the less experienced to improve their technique. Our goal has been to create something which is fun, sustainable and offers a real challenge.”
Jump zone features have already been given colourful names, including the “origin of the species” and the “Siamese twins.” The area has been built away from conservation and archaeological sites and will also help reduce possible conflicts with other forest users, including walkers and horse riders.
Chris Bray added: “Dirt jumping is a grassroots sport, so getting bikers involved from the start strikes the right note and allows it to develop organically. It’s already proving a huge hit.”
The National Cycling Centre of Excellence project, which was launched last year, has been backed by £147,500 from the Alliance SSP programme.
Sherwood Pines is already the East Midland’s biggest venue for off-road sport and family cycling, attracting an estimated 250,000 bikers every year. But many existing trails use forest roads. The new network of purpose-built routes will include 13kms of single track and a 10km family trail which will be launched later this year.
Other upgrades will include new bike lockers, shelters and a cycle wash, with more plans in the pipeline for a 2km section of NorthShore, downhill course and a training loop.