9.30 am, fuelled on a fry-up and loading the bikes in glorious Welsh sun. Who would've thought it this year? Job changes, new flats, travelling and babies presented reasons why this wasn't going to work, but here we were, in the mining town of Merthyr Tidfil, ready for 3 days riding at Bikepark Wales.
As far as anticipation goes, riding here has to be one of the highest. The venue has been compared to Whistler, which is quite a bold statement, especially considering it has only been open for 3 years! In my mind we can't get there soon enough.
The centre has multiple minibuses running so you are never waiting long for your next trip up. These provide a nice opportunity to refuel and consult the map for the next killer trail combo. We have a mix of riding abilities, so decided to start with blue graded trails and slowly build up (Melted Welly to Bushwacker is a good start). I should also mention there is a trail up; Beast of Burden, but we didn't do this as were on the big bikes!
Like Whistler, your trip from the top back to base consists of combining a few trails, all of which are helpfully graded. The maps also specify whether a trail is leaning more towards flow or tech. Many of the trails start with a test feature; basically you can measure your ability for handling the trail ahead by whether you can do the opening feature. These were sometimes a little OTT, but I guess it's their way of keeping casualties down.
Happily we found the BPW hype to be true. The trails are expertly crafted, yet never feel too manufactured to lose their appeal. The ones that are (A470 jump line comes to mind) are an absolute treat to ride and will have you going back for another go. Even the trail to the uplift is a belter!
Obviously the vertical height and sheer scale of Whistler make it an unfair comparison. But there certainly are parallels to be drawn! Plus with the park set to expand you could be sure the gap will close in the future. We were glad to have 3 days to ride Bikepark Wales, and will be back in the future for sure.