Martin Astley stands, arms crossed, outside the BikePark Wales visitor centre, silently watching the empty car park. He looks like a headteacher on the first day an Ofsted inspection, anxiously waiting for tardy students. BPW opened its trails seven years ago but today is arguably more important for the future of the bike park he designed – after months without any riders, he needs people to turn up.
He needn’t have worried. Vans and cars start to arrive, just a few at first and then more and more, quickly filling the parking spots closest to the trails and then the lower car parks. Riders push or pedal to the centre to negotiate the new outside queuing system and register for the day. It’s not the usual crowd I’m used to seeing here. Sure, there are a few groups of men with expensive enduro bikes and full-face helmets, but they’re in the minority today. There’s a new style of rider in town today – kids. Every other group seems to be dads and children. BikePark Wales has long been popular with every demographic of mountain biking, but nothing like this. I start asking people what they’ve come for.
“My brother bought him a voucher at Christmas,” says Nathan Priest of his son Joseph. “Then we had lockdown, so I promised him the day it opened I’d take the day off work regardless and we’d come along. He’s been as excited as at Christmas, bouncing off the walls all week and hardly slept.”
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