A belated Christmas robin has just flown into the office, and tweeted (original sense; not via its new iPhone 5) that after a few successful years of running an uplift five days a week in the Forest of Dean, FlyUp Downhill is expanding and taking on Gawton (south Devon) as well. Great news for Gawton, which has been uplift-less for over a year now, and for FlyUp Downhill, which has been hugely popular since it first opened its van doors in the Forest of Dean three years ago.

Here’s the official press release from the Gawton guys:

“Gawton Gravity Hub, the best permanent downhill mountain bike trails in England, run by a dedicated crew of volunteers, is teaming up with the country’s best uplift service, Flyup Downhill, to provide an amazing downhill mountain bike experience for all.

The site at Gawton near Tavistock in Devon, offers something for everyone, from fast, flowing, downhill single track to steep, natural, gnarly downhill trails. With the recent addition of a fourth bike park style track, ‘Proper Job’ and the chance to get up to 12 uplift runs in a day with FlyUp Downhill’s fast, friendly, efficient service, riders can make that progression from DH novice to flat out pinner more quickly than ever before.

Simon Ruskin, founder and owner of Flyup Downhill mountain bike uplift service, has established a solid reputation for a friendly and reliable service at the Forest of Dean. He now brings that expertise and ethos to Gawton, resulting in another amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to experience the thrill of gravity fed riding.

Jay Williamson, team rider for Wideopen Magazine and English Expert Champion is one of a very select few to have experienced the service on a recent, secret test day. Jay had this to say, “Cheers...that was a top day, I could not think of any improvements myself, look forward to it! Great work!"

The uplift service will run from Friday to Monday and with the distance by road to the top at just under two miles, riders can expect to get plenty of runs in, with a smooth run to the top, knowing their bikes are being looked after just as well on a purpose built trailer.

The basic toilet, changing facilities and car park at Gawton will soon be expanded to include a small café, shop with parts and accessories and a bike wash. Look out for these developments to come online this season.

There’s enough riding for a whole weekend at Gawton, but just three miles down the road is our other site, Tavi Woodlands, with a variety of shorter, natural tracks, an easy push up and the added attraction of some big booters and northshore. Add to that the amazing single track riding available in the Tamar Valley and on Dartmoor, other opportunities for outdoor activities such as river kayaking and surfing nearby and a great welcome at local hotels and B&B’s and you can see why Gawton Gravity Hub is worth a visit for a day, a weekend or even longer.

Flyup DH Uplift service will start on Friday 1st of February 2013. A new Flyup website is currently under construction, this will enable you to book online for a full days uplift at Gawton. The website should be ready any day now, in the meantime if you want to book on to the uplift for Gawton then give Flyup Downhill a call on 07730217779. To learn more about Flyup Downhill have a look at their current website www.flyupdownhill.co.uk. Timings will be 10am until dusk, with a break for lunch. The service will initially run Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, costing £27, or £32 for non-members. Parking at Gawton is free. To learn more about the tracks and facilities at Gawton Gravity Hub, have a look at our website, www.gawtongravityhub.co.uk and keep up to date with all our news at www.facebook.com/gawtongravityhub"

Here’s some chesty-cam footage from the test day in December:

Here’s a quick interview with the man himself, Simon Ruskin:

So first things first – who is Simon Ruskin?

Simon Ruskin is a chap who wanted something away from the office grind and to become involved in the MTB industry. I am 36, with 4 kids and I'm married to Angela. Angela is the one who runs the office and -if the truth be told - is the real boss!. I first got into DH when I was 12 and now spend 51 weeks of the year counting down to my pilgrimage to the Alps.

Second things second, what is FlyUp Downhill?

Flyup Downhill is a MTB uplift service. We are 3 years old now and always run the service with a personal pride which I hope comes across to the customers. 2012 saw a second bus in service launch at the Forest of Dean as we were booking 5-7 weeks in advance. At the same time we contributed, along with others to the new track at the FoD, GBU. This has proved very popular. We recognise that uplifts are an important part of DH riding and want to help get incredible trails on the map.

You’ve been running at the Forest of Dean for a few years now, right? How’s that been going?

We have had an amazing few years, no interview would be complete without a big shout going out to the Dean Trail Volunteers. These guys beaver away on the hillside every Saturday and some Sundays, developing and maintaining the tracks we all love. We had the customer numbers to put the 2nd bus on within 8 months of opening but knew the extra traffic would damage the trails. We waited until GBU was up and running and then launched the second and employed a full time member of staff, Phil, who also rides DH, and Andy - a part time driver who spends a lot of time on the XC trails. We have a large base of repeat customers and, as clichéd as it sounds, it really is nice to have got to know so many. The distances some customers travel is huge and I am always very grateful for the effort they put in to use Flyup Downhill.

Describe Gawton in three words.

Diverse, challenging, awesome!

Why Gawton then? Other than the benefits of the above!

From the first time I rode at Gawton I was blown away by the trails. At the time it was Super Tavi, Egypt and HSD (High Speed Descent) this was plenty for a good days riding and the way they have managed to grade the trails is superb. It was good then, it’s in another league now. There’s a further track (Proper Job) which really does make Gawton the ultimate place to go. If you have never ridden "bigger" tracks before it flows so well. A couple of runs on HSD to get a measure of the hillside and then on to Proper Job. This introduces some jumps, high speed berms and requires a little more skill for elements like the rock garden. Once these tracks are mastered, the last two tracks, Super Tavi and Egypt can be tackled after lunch. These two tracks are a lot steeper, with more technical skill required and some larger gaps and jumps thrown in for good measure. Gawton also has a keen group of trail builders who are responsible for the fantastic trails, and without these volunteers, the trails or uplift would not exist.

How long has this plan been in the pipeline for?

We have been working towards this with Gawton Gravity Hub for over a year! We pride ourselves on running a safe and legal uplift service and sadly, thanks to a lot of red tape to cross it has taken a little longer than anticipated. As hard and long winded as it is to get the correct licenses to operate, we have been spending time doing so to allow us to expand and take on new locations if they suit our specific requirements.

How are you going to format this? Days, times, runs, bookings…?

To start off, the service will run for 4 days a week, Friday to Monday. First run will be at 10.00 and the last is dependant on light this time of year. For the first couple of months we will be on a limited service and will be able to take 12 passengers. Tests so far have clocked up a solid 10 runs a day with a lunch break on what was the shortest day of the year. In the summer months we will aim for 12 runs a day. Booking will be as easy as it always has been online with the launch of a new website where riders can select FoD or Gawton uplift.

The FoD is a place that’s accessible to a huge variety of riders, but Gawton’s a bit different – do you think it will be as popular?

No one will ever claim that we could hold a round of the WC at the FoD but it is an awesome place to ride for all abilities. There is a huge selection of tracks, facilities, parking etc. The FoD is just one massive playground. In the 3 years we have been running I have seen so many XCers "try" the service. The next time I see them, they are on a full DH rig with no sign of the XC bike. It is a place that has put a huge amount of riders from other disciplines into the DH arena. Some like the short, techie challenge of Mr Rooty, some the bigger air time and longer run of GBU but the whatever track you ride, they are all fun.

Gawton is very different to the FoD, which is what we love about it. I see Gawton as a location for those that want longer, more challenging tracks. It is a awesome place and a gem in the location it occupies. In the words of a World Cup rider who was testing our Gawton uplift with us "this is a two dayer, I have ridden Super Tavi 6 times and only just got the lines dialed." As one of the UK's most popular tourist destination, Devon offers a huge selection of accommodation from campsites to B&Bs, reasonably priced hotels or 5 star luxury locations. If you wanted a weekend of uplifting on a good run down the M5 from FoD will see you at the Gawton in 2.5 hours.

So we had a test run day in mid December with a few guys from magazines and one or two world cup riders – success?

Massively so. I was a little concerned that turn around times would not be quick enough. We are all about riding time at Flyup and I can happily confirm that no one was at the bottom for more than a couple of minutes. Due to numbers in the first couple of months, the turn around times will be a little slower but you can still expect a day with runs going into double figures. Once we are up and running at full strength, there will be virtually no wait at the bottom of the trails.

Any more plans in the Si-Ruskin-brainwave-machine pipeline that you can tell us about?

Lots, some involving the industry, some outside of it. Those that know me also know how much I have enjoyed setting up the uplifts provided by Flyup, It has been VERY hard but very rewarding, the sort of thing I would like to do again...

To finish off, here are a few shots from the test day: