BikePark Wales

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4.8 (123)
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1 reviews with 3 stars

123 reviews

 
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Overall rating 
 
4.8
Grin Factor 
 
4.9  (123)
Trail Variety 
 
4.9  (123)
Skills Development 
 
4.7  (123)
Trail Quality  
 
4.9  (123)
Facilities 
 
4.7  (123)
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Ratings
Grin Factor
Level of fun had, or to be had
Trail Variety
Variety of specific trail or overall trail centre. Mix of obstacles, berms, jumps, drops, shore etc.
Skills Development
Did it develop or push your skills and leave you with more to come back and learn
Trail Quality
Are the trails well built /maintained using sustainable techniques?
Facilities
From cafe post ride grub to bike wash. Did it meet your expectations?
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Ordering
Expected better organisation.
Overall rating 
 
3.1
Grin Factor 
 
2.5
Trail Variety 
 
4.5
Skills Development 
 
4.0
Trail Quality  
 
2.5
Facilities 
 
1.0
I'm a newbie to the trail centre experience, preferring to ride the mountains and trails in my locality, but several friends of mine rave about BPW, as does a lot of print and online media (who may be somewhat reserved in their critiques), therefore with a newly acquired bike, it was a must-do thing to ride BPW. My review is going to be a surprise for some readers, who may take certain things for granted, but be advised that my comments are purely my experience and how I saw things. You can read about the nature and diversity of the trails themselves elsewhere, my comments are more focussed on the non-riding experience.

BPW took the title of number one UK Trail and Bike Park of the Year in 2015 (it was at number two in 2014 [source: iBikeRide] and despite a resounding success in the three-and-a-half years since opening in bringing visitors and investment to the local economy, my two recent (maiden) visits in the last two weeks lead me to believe that it needs to up its game if it wants to retain that spot. It can't just be about building new trails and jumps, or laying claim to being a potential MTB World Cup venue, which is all very well and good, no doubt about the efforts spent there, but I wasn't impressed with several aspects of the operations or facilities at BPW.

The very slow moving uplift queue has to be the biggest bugbear (my visit was Christmas week - holidays for some, sure, but this is a tourist business - they should've not only had the services in place but a contingency to maintain or expand the service due to popular demand, too). I only bought a single uplift pass for the after-lunch trip back to the top, so this meant being in the 'non-priority' queue, which involved needing to wait over thirty-five minutes and for the fifth bus since joining the queue to arrive before getting on board. If you're in the pre-booked priority queue, you must surely feel sorry for all those in the other line as you get to hop on the bus, fuss-free. However, several of the people in both queues I spoke to mentioned how on their recent visits, even with a BPW pre-booked 'priority pass' (at a cost of £32 weekdays, £36 weekends - it's increasing by £1 for 2017, which includes the £7 day riding pass) meant they struggled to get their money's worth in due to a lack of buses and/or drivers. Given that it can be necessary to book several weeks even over a month in advance for a full-day priority uplift pass, it was surprising to me just how slow things are to get moving. I feel that a 16-seater minibus with a hook and dual strap trailer is perhaps not the quickest way to load bikes and bodies into a vehicle. (when I first heard of the concept of an uplift vehicle many moons ago, I envisaged a tractor and a flat-bed truck/trailer full of people and bikes, but I guess the safety police wouldn't like that) but if that's what BPW are running, then at least get a bus on a sub-ten minute window of operation. Having pre-booked £25/£29-worth of uplifts may compel many people to ride right to the bottom to get back on that queue as quickly as they can to get at least seven runs in for the day, which equates to the cost of seven 'on-the-day' uplift passes (eight on a weekend pass!). You might just do it if you time things right (or get lucky) but if you're buying single passes at £4 per uplift (or paying the driver at a fiver a pop - a quid more, sans-pass) you're never going to get seven uplifts in one day, I don't care if you're downhill world champ Danny Hart and can break all records coming back down the hill whichever of the plethora of graded routes you choose, the non-priority queue will never move quickly enough to get that many uplifts in a single day. So, bear in mind that comparing the cost of a single £4/£5 uplift to the pre-booked £25 (plus the £7 riding fee) has to take into account the speed at which you'll get on that bus - if at all. You're paying a premium to be in the priority queue, not necessarily paying to guarantee a cost-equivalent number of uplifts that you can get on the day. (A one-way operation for the buses would be ideal, or a two-lane road to expedite the journeys. Chairlifts, ski-resort style is obviously the ultimate solution with undoubtedly shortest possible queues involved, and I don't see why laying off half a dozen minibuses (or is it a total of ten that BPW have on rotation, plus drivers?) and their inherent annual cost couldn't make that financially viable, and keeping the existing cost for the riders.)

On the subject of queues, arriving at the centre at peak time (by consensus of those I spoke to and the number of vehicles in the overflowing car-park when I arrived at 10:00 a.m. this would appear to be approximately 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. with feet through the door) then prepare to wait well over ten minutes to buy your day riding pass, adding to the painfully slow experience of getting out on those trails. It's here that a lack of foresight in the planning of the park and centre to cater for the kinds of visitor numbers it now receives is very evident (maybe even a sense of a lack of any planning at all): you have one set of double doors to enter the rectangular floorplan building just off-centre, where you're gonna need to hustle your way past a queue of bodies (shuffling their feet and twitching with eagerness to get that coloured strip of plastic which you stick to your handlebars to show observers you're a legit paying customer for that day when out on the trails) if you want to turn right into the bike shop to buy any last minute essentials such as energy gels or hydration sachets - or maybe you've even arrived at BPW with just your bike and naff-all else, here you'll find everything you need to kit up for the day from the aforementioned body fuels to full dress from head-to-toe, even a GoPro if you're keen on impressing your mates when you get home; heck, you can even rent a bike for the day if you even forgot that, although that's something you'll probably want to book in advance) or to turn left to get to the Woodland Café bar and seating area for a pre-ride coffee and a chat with your mates.
However, if you're lucky as I was, one of the more conscientious staff members may make an appearance from the office beside the ticket kiosk (and betwixt that and the bike shop) to announce atop their voice that "pre-bookings are here please" where you can exit the queue sideways and form another queue to give aforementioned staff person your pre-booked confirmation or a copy of your email on your smartphone (I always opt for the latter, who in the hell wants to print off a confirmation at home, and then worry about remembering to take that with you or even remembering to grab input from the car with all your epithet kit just to get that coloured ridge lass?). BPW really needs to invest in e-passes that can be saved to a smartphone e-wallet, scanned into a reader device to print off the ride pass upon arrival. (Hopefully on a portal that involves a much speedier queue, like a theme park system - have distinct and separate queues!) Oh, and by the way, if you're going to pre-book online, and if this is your first visit, make sure you do the obligatory H&S waiver thingy before you arrive, otherwise you'll have to join yet another queue to read and e-sign on one of three terminals beside the kiosk. They look like iPads, so BLW clearly have some technology, even if they're not using the best technology. Ah, the joys of public liability insurance - who knew that riding your bike would involve such in onerous and even tedious set of requirements in this day and age?)

So, once you're booked in, strap that coloured band to the bars, rode off onto the XC "Beast of Burden" blue-graded uphill trail to the centre's right or shoot off left to the uplift queue, where you'll get a sense of some of the 'flowy' trails to come as this is a downwards gradient towards to uplift point to get you into that groove immediately. Alternatively before riding either of these trails, you can make use of the small pump track situated immediately in front of the centre if you want to fine-tune the bike setup or just have a bit of fun. (Incidentally there were no queues for the pump track!)
You'll be given a printed map of the trails which is very informative, but it's here that this reviewer would prefer a electronic route map. I hope that I'm not the first to consider this and some of the more techie-minded visitors or even BPW staff have begun to write and generate a set of Google Maps/Garmin type route-maps or waypoints. In the future, maybe. Just don't try following the printed map too frequently in the rain, it'll fall apart unless you have a hiker's map wallet to store it in.
Post ride, a coin operated £1-a-go hose-wash in a trio of Muc-Off branded wash bays situated immediately behind the centre help you return some of that Welsh mud to the mountain instead of transporting it home (but how long each go is seems a mystery a there are no signs telling you how many minutes you get or a timer or audible warning that the hose is about to cut out). I saw some bottles of that lovely pink Muc-Off spray I have at home laying about, but there's nothing to suggest you can use this gratis or even for an additional fee (some ownership and supervision of the cleaning operation by staff is much needed here), and by this point I was too knackered to bother asking anyone - I just wanted to get that bike cleaned, get myself changed and into the car. Some degreaser or special cleaners would certainly have helped and been welcomed here, especially that I had to pay for the water. (Sure, nothing's 'free' but honestly I'd have expected wash bays and the use thereof to be part of the premium of the day pass - after all, it's just a few gallons of water and a hosepipe, right?)

Lastly, upon exiting the car park - oh, and hopefully you're a responsible and caring human being that takes their littler home, because I didn't spot a single wastebin in the car park, although some less responsible visitors (read as 'scruffy scumbags') clearly think that the Welsh hillside would look prettier by discarding their rubbish onto the ground - I momentarily took my eye off the road trundling down towards the main exit and hit a fairly big dinosaur-footprint-sized pothole. BOW seem proficient at grading and surfacing the trails on the mountain, which are well signposted (even if named with ridiculous sounding names - I'm all for creativity and making uniquely named trails to give the place it's own identity, but some of those trails' names are just plain stupid, sorry), but not so good or bothered about fixing the bloody holes in the road to get in and out. And do NOT attempt to turn right when coming out of the car park loop if you're thinking of going back up to the shop or café - I did because I'd seen a cap I wanted to buy before heading to the bike wash and then back to the car, but my wallet and plastic were in the car (I'd spent the £20 note I took on my person already) - I ground the car on pot it's still be attempting the acute right hander instead of simply riding or walking back up to the shop - doh!

Overall I was probably - no, definitely - disappointed with the basics here. That did put a slight dampener on my visit, because I couldn't help but get all in a tizzy about some fundamental operational opportunities to improve the experience that the BPW management won't see themselves unless they step into a customer's shoes, or read this review and take some of it on board and action the appropriate improvements.

Will I come again? Sure, but don't count me as a regular, it's just too expensive for me to justify for a weekly visit, but once a month, maybe. Couple times a year, definitely, I need to ride these trails in the dry and to see if things have improved!

Value for money: 5/10

User Review

Good Points
Wide variety of trails, something to suit everyone. Good quality trails.
Well stocked shop, everything you could need in an emergency.
Bad Points
Very slow uplift, huge queues. If you buy a 'non-priority' pass on the day, you might wait an hour for an uplift. That's shocking.
Slow to get the tickets, the booth is in the wrong place, no speed queue for pre-bookings.
Very, very expensive.
Would you recommend?
No
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