Extreme bike clubs, which were once considered somewhat of an underground activity, are working with the Forestry Commission and CTC, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, in the South East to help the sport grow and raise the profile of mountain biking in England.
Iain Skinner, Area Land Agent for the Forestry Commission, said:
“In the past enthusiasts for this high adrenaline sport built unauthorised courses in forests, which were unsafe and had to be dismantled, undoing hours of their work.”
Now the Forestry Commission and CTC are working with extreme biking enthusiasts to set up new clubs in an initiative that has been commended by MBUK mountain bike magazine. It praised their work with local rider groups to authorise the legal and safe construction of parks and the benefits offered to club members.
Bike riders near the south coast can now join two new clubs that give access to specially constructed downhill, free-ride and jump parks, at Rogate Wood, near Petersfield in Hampshire and Tilgate Wood, near Crawley in West Sussex.
They pose testing challenges that are only suitable for advanced riders. Both clubs offer third party liability insurance, ensure the parks are safe and that there are regular trail inspections. The clubs also provide tuition and guidance for club members and riders that are new to the sport.
Ed Rhodes, Chairman of Rogate Downhill Club, said:
“There’s very few places near here where you can take a mountain bike and rip it up on the side of a hill. We wanted to make sure Rogate continued as a legitimate club and was somewhere that we could meet up and have a laugh. It is being set up by local riders and so we need as much help as possible if anyone wants to get involved.”
Ian Warby, Senior Cycling Development Officer (Off-Road) of CTC, was instrumental in setting up Aston Hill Bike Park, next to Wendover Woods in the Chiltern hills, Buckinghamshire, in partnership with the Forestry Commission nine years ago and is also involved at Rogate and Tilgate.
Aston Hill has been so successful it has attracted riders from far afield and is now the premier downhill and cross-country mountain bike centre in the South East.
Ian Warby said:
“The good guys down there are just amazing to watch but the social element is key. It creates that third place - home, work and the bike park, it’s another place to hang out, an alternative to the pub and a lot healthier.”
“I met a lad on his first ever visit to Aston Hill, he was 14 years old and overweight, 15 stone, and he literally couldn’t ride across the car park. He spent time at Aston Hill, became an accomplished rider and much fitter, lost three stone and decided to become a mountain bike journalist and went on to study towards his career goal at university. The local police also know not to worry about the Aston Hill lads, they spend all their time and energy up at the park and are much less likely to get into trouble.”
Scott McLauchlan, of Ride Tilgate MTB Club, added:
“The new clubs are helping to give more credibility to the sport among wider audiences. It is also encouraging a more responsible attitude to the rapidly growing sport, which has the potential to develop like the extreme snowboarding, skiing or surfing scenes.
“The clubs offer a place where riders with a passion and excitement for mountain biking can meet and develop riding skills. There are the benefits for members in improved fitness, weight loss, increases in confidence and a social network for members.”
These clubs are part of an overall strategy by the Forestry Commission to support mountain biking throughout the UK. Scotland has recently been voted as having the best trails in the world with Wales in the third spot in the poll behind the USA. With the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup being held at Dalby Forest, near Pickering, North Yorkshire, earlier this year England is scaling the ranks fast. Its lack of mountains is proving no barrier as the sports continues to grow with projects such as these - and the various trails at centres around the country.
For further information on the CTC, visit www.ctc.org.uk/mtb, Aston Hill can be found at www.rideastonhill.co.uk, the Ride Tilgate MTB Club is at www.ridetilgate.co.uk and you can visit the Rogate Downhill Club on Facebook.
NOTES TO EDITOR
- CTC – the UK’s national cyclists' organisation, with 70,000 members and affiliates in 250 clubs across the UK is the oldest and largest cycling body in the UK, established in 1878. CTC provide a comprehensive range of services, advice, events, and protection for our members and work to promote cycling by raising public and political awareness of its health, social and environmental benefits. For more information see www.ctc.org.uk.
- The Forestry Commission manages over 250,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of woodlands in England. Most of this land is open for public access and the Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in the country. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/southeastengland.
- The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.
- Media Contacts
Jo Spouncer, Press Officer, Forestry Commission South East England
W: 01483 326265 M: 07828 762045
Ian Warby, Senior Cycling Development Officer (Off-Road) of CTC
M: 07776 203803
Scott McLauchlan, Ride Tilgate MTB Club
M: 07843 079 146