Trail centres?

supersonic
supersonic Posts: 82,708
edited May 2009 in MTB general
I still can't make my mind up about them! Maybe I need to ride more.... concept is sound though: ready made trails, fully marked, maintained,with shops, cafes and car parks. All sounds a bit too easy to me, but maybe it always was where I live (next to Wharncliffe - even then I had to ride there and no cafes). I can't help but think that what they promote actually makes our sport just that bit more elitist and detatched - it takes (or at least shifts thinking) away what was so good to start which was to just go and ride. Anywhere, without having to drive miles just to do it.

I hope newcomers to the sport see past the trail centre and view them as an adjunct, like a climber might view an indoor wall.
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Comments

  • craker
    craker Posts: 1,739
    I'm pretty time poor these days (have to seek permission from Mrs Si for a morning ride) and trail centres do tick all the boxes - especially in terms of time to get round, fitness required etc.

    However the chaps I go with haven't got children (ie lots more free time) yet only ever seem to do Cwmcarn. I did take one of them on an all day cross country ride into the black mountains, it wiped him out energy wise (25 miles) and he wont come again :-(
  • Raymondavalon
    Raymondavalon Posts: 5,346
    The best thing about trail centres is the convenience
    The route by road is one you are familiar with, the centre has easy parking and also the peace of mind your car isn't in the middle of nowhere, bike shops (where applicable) and well maintained trails.

    I do like trail centres for convenience, Swinley is 100 miles (either way) from me and that's not an issue, Forest of Dean is 30 odd miles either way but I am not adverse to loading up, driving well over 150-250 Miles to find a new place to explore

    I think loading up and heading off to an area you haven't explored is all part of the MTB adventure. One life, live it...
  • nonnac85
    nonnac85 Posts: 1,608
    I like trail centres for when you want to ride but cant be bothered with a map to ride somewhere new. Most of the time I make loops out of bridleways / byways in my area but some days I wish I could just keep going rather than keep stopping to check a map.
    My Website - Trail Centre info for the UK: MTB Trail Time
  • M1llh0use
    M1llh0use Posts: 863
    well i did my first one yesterday (afan) and drove from bournemouth to do it (150 miles and a 4 hour drive) and found it SOOOOOO rewarding.

    Did the W2 trail with a stop for a pavement slab sized pice of lasagne at the dropoff cafe but the only downer on the day was that the shower block was closed on our return to the carpark so a water bottle was in the carpark it was.

    Hardest ride i've ever done but some of the singletrack was SOOOOOOOOO sweet compared to the local trails down here. And the "Energy" section!!! tabletop-arama!!

    Was a massive day out (got up at 5 got home at 12.30) Will definately be going back for more :twisted:
    {insert smartarse comment here}
  • tlw1
    tlw1 Posts: 21,989
    great for quick rides after work (Llandegla not too far from work @ Chester).

    But at the w.end its all a bit motorway rather than singletrack heaven. The worst thing is the number of shell suits cycling at 4mph :roll:
  • Cheshley
    Cheshley Posts: 1,448
    supersonic wrote:
    I can't help but think that what they promote actually makes our sport just that bit more elitist and detatched - it takes (or at least shifts thinking) away what was so good to start which was to just go and ride. Anywhere, without having to drive miles just to do it.

    I take your point SS, but I don't think that trail centres make the sport elitist, rather that they make 'proper' off-road riding accessible to people don't have places like Wharncliffe on their doorstep. Loading the car and driving miles to find somewhere that isn't my local (flat) woods is something that I do regularly. The Peaks are less than an hour away ( know, not actually a trail centre, but it's somewhere with facilities), we're going to have a look at Sherwood Pines sometime soon and Dalby isn't a silly distance to drive in order to find some hills and the 'grin factor', even for us novices. It doesn't necessarily have to be a trail centre that we go to, but if we're going somewhere new it's nice to know that the car, and all the gear in it is safe, and we can get a cuppa when we're done. Plus, riding around flat woods two or three times a week is doing nothing to increase my skills or confidence for the times when we do go further afield and throw ourselves down something we've not seen before.
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  • shin0r
    shin0r Posts: 555
    I can get in the car and be at Cwmcarn or Afan within the hour, and be guaranteed to have a good time on challenging trails. There will be no walkers, motorbikers or people on horses and afterwards I can have a shower and some food. Excellent.

    You've got to remember that most people don't live right next door to great natural riding and have no interest in reading maps or being lifestyle-mtbers, myself included. Most people have full time jobs, families and other interests outside of biking that also take up the small amount of free time they have, and the trail centres enable us to get our fix.

    The holier-than-thou attitude of (an admittedly small number of ) bikers who claim to be "real" bikers because they won't lower themselves enough to patronise a trail centre is laughable. Get your heads from out of your arses; it's this type of attitude that makes the sport seem elitist.
  • Trail centers are just fun - No nonsense mountain biking for the masses - even though I've never experience overcrowded trails luckily.

    I do however find the au natural riding quite appealing.

    I've got 2 epics lined up for when I get home...
    1) a long ride round High Street
    2) a ride up Helvellyn

    and also have 2 weeks booked at Glentress in august.

    Thats not counting any other rides that may pop up in the Lakes- Grizedale, Whinlatter and more au natural.
  • dave_hill
    dave_hill Posts: 3,877
    supersonic wrote:
    I hope newcomers to the sport see past the trail centre and view them as an adjunct, like a climber might view an indoor wall.

    Trail centres have their place.

    To me, natural will always be the best. There's nothing like the feeling of getting out there, exploring and possibly also knowing that you're the only person for miles around. On a bike at any rate. Plus the UK has such stunning landscapes I sometimes can't see the appeal of hiding away in a forest!

    That said, I do enjoy trail centres too. Some of them I find a bit tame and over-rated (Llandegla being a prime example - I've only ever been once and I wouldn't go again if I wanted a challenge but I would use it if I wanted a relaxing ride or to give beginner a "taster" in a controlled environment), but others are outstanding. I love the 7 Stanes centres, and I was pretty impressed with CyB (although there's too much fire-road labour for too little reward here).

    That said, I sometimes feel that they're a bit "full on" - Kirroughtree I love, but the first time I did it my head was in bits after 20km because I was having to concentrate so hard.

    To me, trail centres are a double-edged sword. Yes, they're good fun, they're (usually) well-maintained and they provide a good controlled environment. But they take the effort out of riding and to me that's half the pleasure. Many people will only ever experience trail centres and they will feel that they are the true essence of MTB. To my mind that's a shame because there's so much more to it, but on the other hand it leaves the natural more open for the fully-enlightened.
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  • Steve_b77
    Steve_b77 Posts: 1,680
    Trail centres are godo for exactly what they are, genreally ammenity filled fun houses when you don;t have to really think where you're going and you;re pretty much guaranted to have fun. From beginners to experienced riders.

    Out in the wilds it's alot harder, you;ve gotta plan things and be very careful, not somewhere for a beginner to head for their first time out, but can be great with all teh correct preparation.

    It's just liek my other hobby, match fishing - commercial fisheris have nice peg (places to fish) cafes, shops, stuffed & safe with car parks, wardens etc with fish beginners can catch, experienced can empty the place.

    natural venues can be very tricky to catch, remote, no facilites, can be a bit unsafe but will always be popular.

    It's different strokes for different folks, some like one style while some the other, the best of us can experience both and enjoy them all.
  • Cheshley
    Cheshley Posts: 1,448
    dave_hill wrote:
    Some of them I find a bit tame and over-rated (Llandegla being a prime example - I've only ever been once and I wouldn't go again if I wanted a challenge but I would use it if I wanted a relaxing ride or to give beginner a "taster" in a controlled environment)

    I can never get my head around the grading system. I've just been watching some helmet cam clips of the black run at Llandegla on Youtube and I cant help thinking that it looks a laugh and even me and my equally beginner mates could go and have a go at it, whereas I rode the Red route at Dalby last year and some of the downhill sections there scared the pants off me!!!!! Is Llandegla the sweet swooping singletrack that it looks in the clips or am I being lulled into a false sense of security and when I get there I'd end up walking again??

    All this talk of riding and watching vids has got me itching to get out and get muddy!!!!!
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  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    i like trail centres.

    reason is that i live along way away from any good natural riding. even if i wanted to do some natural riding, i would have to travel and experiment with routes which could end up being tosh and i expect the "flow" to be very interupted with a multitude of map stops.

    a real bonus with trail centres is the multitude of conditions and terrain all in one place. makes for a nice biking fix for the folk who cant be fussed with map reading.

    i i lived near somewhere with natural riding, i would do it all the time, but until then, trail centres provide me with everything i need.
  • Northwind
    Northwind Posts: 14,675
    supersonic wrote:
    . All sounds a bit too easy to me [snip] actually makes our sport just that bit more elitist

    Heh, sounds like a bit of a contradiction to me :lol: It adds to the sport, I don't see how it can take anything away- it just makes interesting riding much more accessible, but it doesn't mean people can't ride elsewhere.
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  • M1llh0use
    M1llh0use Posts: 863
    can't really see any difference between a trail centre for MTB than doing a trackday for motorbikes...

    not better or worse just something different.

    And i'm all for doing something different from time to time, keeps your mind active innit!
    {insert smartarse comment here}
  • Yeah i dont see them as bad, anything that gets more people out riding has to be a good thing, there a bit like a mc donalds, convenient for a quick fix when your hungry but you wouldnt want to live of them alone.
    My brother rode hamsterly on a hire bike and 3 days later bought himself a bike so i think there great !!
  • jamLCFC
    jamLCFC Posts: 197
    As a complete newbie and family man the trail centers are a great introduction to MTB.

    The wife and i started out with bike hire at Rutland water did 15 miles and both had huge grins on our faces( :shock: . After that short experience we both agreed that we could understand the excitement of off road riding. I appreciate that we are a million miles from the black run at a n other trail center but it gave us an introduction.

    From this small start I have a HT Specialised, the wife is just looking at a new Giant, we have a tag along bike for the eldest and are just sorting out cycle seats for the youngest.

    It even saw me trying out Ae Forest last time i was in Scotland.............love it.

    Maybe its not something to progress onto, maybe they are a superb method of introduction?

    As a place where we can get out as a family for a complete day where we can do something for us as adults and entertain the kids you cant fault em. As a place where you can push your limits, explore new terrain probably not.

    Iether way i want to try more..............please

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  • Surely a trail centre promotes the sport for beginners and encourages take-up? You know that you will be on a loop, you know (roughly) the skill level you are attempting by the grading.

    Whereas, you go out exploring and you have no idea of the terrain, distance and skill level needed.

    Take yesterday for example. We went exploring over Saddleworth moors. Had this been a beginner, or a family, it might have put them off given some of the obstacles and terrain we had to over come.

    I say trail centres are an excellent into to MTB. And also, once introduced, give a good chance to test your skill levels when you try a harder route.

    Just my thoughts though!!
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    shin0r wrote:
    I can get in the car and be at Cwmcarn or Afan within the hour, and be guaranteed to have a good time on challenging trails. There will be no walkers, motorbikers or people on horses and afterwards I can have a shower and some food. Excellent.

    You've got to remember that most people don't live right next door to great natural riding and have no interest in reading maps or being lifestyle-mtbers, myself included. Most people have full time jobs, families and other interests outside of biking that also take up the small amount of free time they have, and the trail centres enable us to get our fix.

    The holier-than-thou attitude of (an admittedly small number of ) bikers who claim to be "real" bikers because they won't lower themselves enough to patronise a trail centre is laughable. Get your heads from out of your arses; it's this type of attitude that makes the sport seem elitist.

    Don't get me wrong here, I don't think that people who ride them are a lower grade of biker - nor count myself as more of one because I do more natural riding: my point was that more and more people I speak to seem the view them as the main part of biking now, especially beginners. Which is fine, if that is what you do, and that is what you like, but with the interest and rise in the centres some people I speak with seem to think (novices, non riders) that to get into the sport then that is where they have to go. I get asked where do I go - Dalby, Scotland?

    "Surely a trail centre promotes the sport for beginners and encourages take-up?"

    I really hope it does, but from my admittedly limited observations for some people it seems to be doing the opposite. I just don't want them thinking to get into MTBing then a trail centre is the only way forward.

    PS The sooner England and Wales have the same laws as Scotland with land the better!
  • Torres
    Torres Posts: 1,266
    supersonic wrote:

    PS The sooner England and Wales have the same laws as Scotland with land the better!

    For me that hits the nail on the head. I have no great love of trail centres, but they do have their place. Since the countryide is so restricted in this country, and everyone else sees mountain biking as a cardinal sin it's hard to ride naturaly unless you are either very lucky in where you live or are not adverse to a bit of rule breaking.

    The more trails [centres and natural] the better!
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  • GHill
    GHill Posts: 2,402
    The problem I have with trail centres is that sometimes they are too busy. If my wife wants to go slowly down a technical section she should be able to, not have some guy come tearing up behind her and then start muttering about how she shouldn't be there. I know not everyone is like that, but it's certainly happened more than once and it's putting her off going.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    GHill wrote:
    The problem I have with trail centres is that sometimes they are too busy. If my wife wants to go slowly down a technical section she should be able to, not have some guy come tearing up behind her and then start muttering about how she shouldn't be there. I know not everyone is like that, but it's certainly happened more than once and it's putting her off going.

    agreed, tril centres SHOULD be excellent places to learn some skills so if you are on the route first, you should be left alone to do your thing, my argument with folk racing up bhind me is that they should get out of bed earlier and they would have been in front of me already.

    that said, i do try to get out of the way asap as i dont want to ruin anyone elses day but i stil beleive, the person at the front should have right of way.
  • amt27
    amt27 Posts: 320
    few questions:

    1. are there any trail centres in the south east or are they all in wales and up north?

    2. are there any centres near cities?

    3. can you get to any without needing a car?

    I have only been to the Forest Of Dean centre, but wouldn't travel more than 30mins to get there unless I knew of all the other routes in the FOD,
  • switchback18
    switchback18 Posts: 617
    supersonic wrote:
    I still can't make my mind up about them! Maybe I need to ride more.... concept is sound though: ready made trails, fully marked, maintained,with shops, cafes and car parks. All sounds a bit too easy to me, but maybe it always was where I live (next to Wharncliffe - even then I had to ride there and no cafes). I can't help but think that what they promote actually makes our sport just that bit more elitist and detatched - it takes (or at least shifts thinking) away what was so good to start which was to just go and ride. Anywhere, without having to drive miles just to do it.

    I hope newcomers to the sport see past the trail centre and view them as an adjunct, like a climber might view an indoor wall.

    Yeh I think I sort of agree. Trail centres are great, but there is more.
    For me, the difference is not as big as between a climbing wall & crag. I was never really interested in indoor climbing, only ever did outdoor stuff.

    What you miss if you stick to trail centres is the sense of freedom, often more challenging trails, and much cooler scenery. It's awesome to bike to the top of something big, then get a huge downhill as a reward.

    I guess, when I started, you had to learn to navigate pretty quick, or at least someone in a group had to, because there weren't trail centres. Now, you can bike without knowing where you are, just follow the signs.

    There's a huge amount of 'natural' trails out there. And more variety than you get from one trail centre to the other. Not that all trail centres are the same, as has been suggested before...
  • grantway
    grantway Posts: 1,430
    With you on that One Switchback18
  • chrisga
    chrisga Posts: 587
    I had not ridden a trail centre until last year, when I got back in to mountain biking. Before that all my riding had been "natural".

    Now I'd say we mainly do trail centres for the convenience. Time constraints and things other have mentioned before such as arriving andknowing there will be suitable riding when we get there, the opportunity to shower and have a cup of tea when we are done all make the trail centres appealing to us.

    My OH also enjoys the trail centres and has said that it may be partly psychological because she knows that all the sections are handmade and therefore ultimately rideable. We did a natural route in the black mountains the other week and she found some sections hard that probably werent too much trickier than what you would find at a trail centre, but because it was only a bridleway she didnt know if it was rideable or not if that makes sense.
  • ratty2k
    ratty2k Posts: 3,872
    Ride them [trail centres] a little.... Used to ride them lots, but once you find natural routes then I found them to be more challenging and just better.
    Once you have a natural trail you can always go back, if they are anything like the ones we ride, they are never the same twice anyway. Trail centres are fun, but not the be all and end all- I'm in the process of building a rigid bike for trail centre use as the trails are pretty smooth (ones I ride- Marin, Penmachno and rarely Llandegla) and rigid will make 'em more fun if a little slower to get round.
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  • projectsome
    projectsome Posts: 4,478
    I've never actually been to a trail centre but I will one day just to see what it's like.

    I'm the type of person that just spots a path (whether it's mud or tarmac) and just rides for hours without a care in the world. unbeknown to myself I rode out of bristol into the middle of nowhere at least 10 miles from home. Didn't have a clue where I was and didn't care. I'm not so sure a trail centre would offer this....
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  • Daz555
    Daz555 Posts: 3,976
    shin0r wrote:
    I can get in the car and be at Cwmcarn or Afan within the hour, and be guaranteed to have a good time on challenging trails. There will be no walkers, motorbikers or people on horses and afterwards I can have a shower and some food. Excellent.

    You've got to remember that most people don't live right next door to great natural riding and have no interest in reading maps or being lifestyle-mtbers, myself included. Most people have full time jobs, families and other interests outside of biking that also take up the small amount of free time they have, and the trail centres enable us to get our fix.
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  • Thewaylander
    Thewaylander Posts: 8,594
    Have to admit i'm a big advocate of trail centers,

    generally the trails a reqard quick climbs(or tough climbs if you want at Cwm) trails that drain well in all weather and i live in Sunny(note the sarcasm) south wales.

    The convenince of a car park, is fantastic ,living in newport i have to drive where i want to ride or i will get run over :p and i don't get that sence of climbing something great then coasting down a dull track after (the chances you take with out of bounds riding if you like) the trail is always generally pretty good with some rocky as descent!

    I think each to your own. I'd like to explore more local trails(i know there are loads) that are not trail center but i have time for maybe 2 rides a week most weeks sometiems 3 and i don't waste them on something i cant say will be great.

    Its a pick what you like thing i guess. and easily accesable cake wins me :p
  • KonaMike
    KonaMike Posts: 805
    When I was 17 (a long time ago,I'm 34 now) We would just go out and ride with just a vague idea of where we wanted to end up,there were no TrailCentres back then !!

    Now I have 2 kids and I cant go out on those kind of all day adventures but I can spare 2 hours a week to drive 2 miles down the road for a quick blast around Cwmcarn !

    If it wasn't for Trailcentres I wouldn't be able to fit Mountain biking into my life at all these days :roll: