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The Coed-y-Brenin mountain bike trails – famed throughout the cycling world as the ultimate test of man and machine – are set to gain a whole new fan base among beginners to the sport.
A unique new “nursery” trail opens tomorrow (Friday, May 27) alongside iconic routes such as The Tarw (The Bull, in Welsh) and The Beast of Brenin, which means young children and riders with disabilities will be able to join experts and adrenaline junkies at the mountain bike mecca just outside Dolgellau in the south of the Snowdonia National Park.
The new trail – called the MinorTaur – cements the Forestry Commission Wales centre's position as the first truly inclusive mountain bike destination in the United Kingdom.
The ambitious project has been over three years in the planning and forms part of the Gwynedd Council-led Eryri Centre of Excellence partnership, which is part funded by the EU’s Convergence European Regional Development Fund through Visit Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government.
Almost £500,000 will be pumped into the new trail, which is being built to a specific design criteria aimed at introducing a whole new group of people to the thrill of mountain biking in Welsh Assembly Government woodlands.
The first phase of the MinorTaur has two loops which will be added to as the project is completed over the next two years.
Loop one is 3km long with 50m of climbing, heading out from the FC Wales visitor centre along “First Steps” before descending the sweeping multi-bermed “Slipway”, an awesome feat of engineering and design carved into the hillside, and returning to the centre along a forest road in the valley bottom, following the Afon Eden river.
Loop two continues from the end of the Slipway and follows a level forest road out to the Pont Cae’n y Coed car park, where riders can admire the stunning views down the Afon Mawddach gorge before continuing along the “Jurassic” and “Tax Return” singletracks and joining the forest road back to the start, having covered 5km with 90m of climbing.
FC Wales Recreation Ranger Graeme Stringer said, “We tested a wide variety of bikes on the trail to ensure that the widest range of users, from children on small wheeled bikes to tag-alongs and adaptive mountain bikes, including mountain bike tandems, can ride it.
“I believe this design element makes the project unique in the UK in its desire to introduce the fun of mountain biking to as many people as possible.”
A three-metre high giant stainless steel bull’s nose ring designed by world-renowned Welsh sculptor Gideon Petersen marks the trailhead to the MinorTaur (Small Bull), whose name pays homage to the area’s cattle droving past as well as the link to its “big brother” – the formidable Tarw trail.
A number of eight-foot tall iron minotaurs – a mythical half man, half bull figure – were built by Gideon and are hidden along the trail, where silver “hoof prints” provide the only clue to their presence.
The MinorTaur is graded blue (intermediate) but, as Mountain Bike Ranger Andy Braund explained, the special features including the 1.5m wide singletrack sections with a maximum gradient of 5% made it suitable for all abilities.
He said, “It has all the blue grade features you'd expect but they are all designed to be progressive so it's suitable for all riders, from mums and dads who may just want to take kids down on a tag-along, adaptive mountain bike riders with disabilities, to keen new riders who want to develop their skills and aspire to ride the red and black graded trails.
“Beginners will be able to just roll or pedal over all of them but, with tuition and practice, riders will be able to learn how to lean, pump the rollers for extra speed and even eventually get their wheels off the ground for some extra thrills and fun.
“It's all about learning new basic and intermediate bike handling skills and having fun, to then be able to progress on to harder trails.”
The project will take a further two years to complete, with additional funding coming from Forestry Commission Wales, Gwynedd Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Tourism Partnership Mid Wales.
Visitors will be able to keep abreast of progress via the Coed-y-Brenin Facebook page on the Forestry Commission Wales website.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
For more information on mountain biking in Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park, contact Graeme Stringer on 0300 068 0191, mobile 07917 001173 or Andy Braund on 0300 068 0175, mobile 07920 502246.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.