A few weeks ago we woke up to one of those crystal, clear, crispy mornings that we’ve been waiting for all winter. The ‘work’ or ‘bike’ decision didn’t require much debate and pretty soon we were packed up and good to go. We’ve been meaning to head across to the new trails at Ashton Court/ Leigh Woods, in Bristol for some time now – it’s funny isn’t it, how sometimes you end up driving right on past some of the riding that’s closest to you. Today was the day we veered off the M5 and stopped for a change.
Designed and sculpted by Phil Saxena and his Architrail crew, these new trails have been developed under the auspices of the 1SW project, which you’ve probably heard of if you live in the South West. If you haven’t, head over to www.1SW.org.uk for all the info.
To be honest I didn’t have great expectations of these trails. I’m generally a head for the hills kind of a girl, and my rides need at least one aspect – preferably more – from an ingredients list that includes: ‘big hills; great views; rocky downs; rocky ups; tree roots; and cake stops in remote places’ for it to have felt like riding for me. I’d read up on, and absorbed the various comments on these new trails, so I also had random bits of ‘locals angst’ and ‘media praise’ rattling around in my head before we’d even committed rubber to dirt. With the gift of pure blue skies I expected to see more people on the trails, but wasn’t complaining that it was only the odd solitary rider, and the obligatory ‘What MTB’ photoshoot that we encountered on our laps.
And it is with some surprise that I can report that these trails are actually quite a good crack! Think speedy, fast rolling scalextric track, which sounds horrid but actually is properly fun once you get up to speed. There are some ‘red/ technical’ offshoots in places but actually these are more like ‘flow breakers’ and you are better off sticking to the main trail and keeping the momentum going.
My suggestion, pack a light weight hardtail, a friend – maybe two – wind down the forks and spend a happy hour or so chasing each other as fast as you can round laps of pedal, pump, manual, pump, pedal. It’ll make for a good workout and your flat corners, berm riding and pumping skills will be pretty sorted by the time you’ve finished. No doubt this trail will rough up over time, so if you want to experience the smoothness, go now while it’s still young.