Aston Hill Bike Park, just outside of Wendover (Bucks), is very much part of British mountainbiking’s history. It has had the odd nip and tuck over the years, but it remains very much part of our heritage. Josh Lane returns to one of his old stomping grounds to see what’s up.
DIRT ISSUE 141 – NOVEMBER 2013
Words by Josh Lane. Photos by Simon Nieborak
For me Aston Hill has always been more of a training facility than a bike park. Its carpets of roots and blown out corners have served as a wake up call, a reminder of what real downhill feels like, a bit ratty around the edges and steep enough to warrant my slack head angle and massive disc rotors. Perfect for dialling in some mini race runs and developing my downhill skills, but in the end that’s why I left the place alone. My local spot is Woburn and for the last few years I have had head my freeride head well and truly on, tunnel vision for smooth turns and carpeted lips, but recently something changed…
‘Surface to Air, that’s what its called, the new Whistler inspired freeride trail at Aston Hill’, my dad’s shouts at me from the lounge. I wasn’t really listening but three words in that sentence stuck in my head, Whistler, freeride and Aston, I needed to find out more. I hit up the Aston Hill website and it turns out the guys have been pretty busy since I last went there; a new rock garden, berm and table in the Black Run, an entire new freeride track called Surface to Air and even a pretty massive looking pump track. It was time to head back there.
The next day the bikes were loaded and we were on our way. One of the most awesome things about Aston Hill is the fact the car park is at the top of the hill, you can be rolling into a trail within 5 minutes of pulling up.
As you walk into the woods there is a detailed map showing you where all the trails start and end up, there are also signs outlining the skills and bike required to ride down. The Aston Hill crew have done really good job of describing what lies ahead, this kind of trackside detail is crucial to ensuring people pick the right trails on their first visit. Dropping into Surface to Air you immediately get a freeride feel, the berms are long and flowing and there are drops and jumps building up in size the whole way down. As the jumps and drops get bigger and a little more tech there are different option lines, a few steep chutes to miss drops and some smaller roll friendly. At the bottom sits the ‘Ender Sender’, a nice mellow step–down with markers up to 40 feet. Its perfectly built lip sends you soaring and is guarantied to make you smile. This track was quite clearly built to rip not race and is a welcome addition to the hillside.
My next stop was the Black Run, but first I needed to attack the walk up. It takes about 15–20 minutes to walk back to the start of the trails, that’s at a pretty mellow pace and with a quick breather in the middle.
The Black Run has been the main attraction since the gates opened in 1997 and was apparently built by Rob Warner! It’s undergone lots of tweaks and has had some features added since then, but overall it takes the same course down the hill and certainly lives up to its name.
A bomb hole, big flowing berms, singletrack and tech. There’s a brand new rock garden, its been built well and feels solid, a great little suspension tester and serves to loosen you up for the next stage of the track.>>