08 Feb So You Want To Venture Elsewhere?
So, you have been to the park and have been well and truly bitten by the bug!
You now want to explore other places near and far but have no idea where to start. What gear do you take? What to expect? Will you be out of your depth?
Those are all valid questions but the answers vary considerably.
If you have enjoyed Northampton Bike Park and are fairly confident and proficient at the trails that you ride then there is no need to worry about checking out other places around the UK and even abroad.
A quick google search for bike parks and places to ride will bring up many, some fairly close like Chicksands and Aston Hill, others a little further like Forest Of Dean, Cannock and Twisted Oaks, and others a good few hours away like Flyup 417, Bike Park Wales, Afan, the Peaks and many others. If you are feeling really adventurous you could even jump on a plane to places like Morzine (French Alps) Sierra Nevada (Malaga) Pila (Italian Alps) and Whistler (Canada).
WHAT GEAR DO I TAKE?– This depends on how far away you will be from civilisation when in the park!
If going exploring and if you are fairly close to your car/van then we would suggest just your normal riding gear of pump, spare tube, tyre levers, multi tool, knee and elbow pads etc. If you will be an hour away from your car/van then we would suggest the above plus a phone, cable ties, spare clothing in case of weather change, spare mech hanger, extra drink, snacks, small medical kit. If you’re going to be a few hours away from your car/van then all the above in fairly large backpack, a power bank for your phone, lights, cold weather gear, extra food and drink, What Three Words app on your phone.
If at a Bike Park then you are usually not far from your car or somewhere you can get help as there is usually a few people around. Most people tend to ride light just the bare essentials to keep you going such as multi tool, spare tube, tyre levers etc. A full face helmet is a good idea. You can keep any bigger equipment that you may need in your car or base. For the bigger bike parks like BPW or the Alps a little more self sufficiency is needed. Appropriate body protection of full face helmet, elbow and knee pads, back protection etc. is a good idea. Spare mech hanger, cable ties. If you are going for any length of time then spare brake pads, more robust tools, change of clothes, track pump etc. This is by no means an exhaustive list as everyone is different. Some riders prefer to take as little as possible and others would rather “have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”
WHAT TO EXPECT Different places offer different experiences. Example – Bike Park Wales has a varied selection of green to double blacks, smooth jump lines to wild and techy root lines. With most bike parks there is something for everyone. If you are comfortable and confident in hitting the Red line at NBP then you should be fine with the reds at other parks. If you are looking at venturing abroad the choice is even bigger, you could spend one day just doing blues alone in Morzine. Some parks will even have an uplift, this could be a transit van to a purpose built cable car! All the fun of riding down without the lung busting to go back up. One of our Bike Park Officers loves an uplift, that’s why he rides an E-bike.
WILL I BE OUT OF MY DEPTH? Probably not, unless you want to be. All UK trails are graded the same. A red in Wales is the same difficulty level as a Red at Cannock. There will be different features, surfaces and steepness but should be fairly similar. This is also open massively to interpretation. If going abroad the general consensus is that they are graded slightly higher. For example a red in the UK might be graded as a Blue in the Alps. There will always be something to challenge you regardless of what level you are.
HOW WILL I GET THE BEST OUT OF MY TRIP? simply enjoy it, have a go at whatever you feel comfortable with, you dont need to jump that 20ft gap on your first visit. Go with mates, the more the merrier. Do your research, look at the parks website, what is there? is there food? car parking? limits on uplifts? Directions? Plan your travel time etc.