The ‘trail centre’ is a UK phenomenon. Loved by many, loathed by some, we take a look back over their short +10 year history to see where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going…
From Dirt Issue 137 – July 2013
Words by Tim Wild. Photos by Steve Jones.
My first trail centre experience was on the Red Bull trail in 1998. It was so good to see the investment that had been made, not just money, but people’s time and effort. The surfaced tracks made it a much faster ride with way more flow than the hit and miss trails of Hampshire I was used to. Things grew from there, one man’s vision led to expansion at Coed–y–Brenin and then throughout Wales. Scotland got in on the act and what started as one short trail (by today’s standards) had quickly become an industry. Afan and Coed–y–Brenin were thought to be world leaders with their characteristic slivers of singletrack that blended into their surroundings. The Seven Stanes (7stanes) up in Scotland felt a bit more progressive with a few more jumps and berms appearing, in contrast to the featureless, but flowing trails of Wales. Ten years ago there wasn’t much debate about whether to spend the weekend at a trail centre or not, the question was: which one?
You see, trail centres bought accessibility and convenience to mountain biking. A fuss free weekend riding in South Wales would have been unlikely if you didn’t have a local mate. Now it was easy; you could pick a location, find a bunkhouse or campsite and turn up knowing you’d have some good riding that wouldn’t be blown–out, muddy or knocked down by ‘The Man’. These centres were more than trails; bike washes, showers and cafés all made life easier. A level of comfort came from the ‘Trail Centre’ brand, much like shopping in a Tesco’s in a different city…you knew what to expect.>>