Thursday 22 September 2011
We talk to the creative minds behind the plans for a brand new mountain bike trail centre in North Wales... this is going to one epic mountain biking location!
Could you give us a brief introduction to Architrail?
Architrail are a team of mountain bike trail designers, led by Phil Saxena and based in Bristol. As a company we have been designing and building trails across the globe for around ten years now, having designed and built World Cup 4X tracks for eight years, with additional input to many of the World Cup downhill tracks. Throughout this time we also completed projects in the UK during the off season and we have now become more UK-centric full time. We are all passionate mountain bikers, and we aim to create trails that enthuse both mountain bikers and people who own a mountain bike!
Has Architrail been involved with the design and construction of any existing Welsh mountain bike trails?
Yes, we designed and built the Cwmcarn downhill tracks back in 2004, as well as the final descent of the Twrch XC trail. More recently, we also designed and built the Afan 4X track in 2010, which was used in the NPS and European 4X series this year. Whilst our Welsh portfolio isn't huge, we certainly intend on rectifying this in coming years!
Where else in the world are mountain bikers enjoying the fruits of your labour?
We have worked all over the world, mostly on the World Cup Circuit, and many of them are now permanent facilities. We have tracks in 5 different continents and many within the UK and a portfolio of these can be found on our website.
If you could be riding any trail in Wales right now, which one would it be?
There are so many great trails in Wales though it would probably be riding down Snowdon for something a little different.
Coed-y-Brenin is mentioned in the projects section of your website. What's happening there?
We partner with a company called Dinsdale Moorland Services. They are currently constructing the foundations for the new skills area there as well as a new section of the Minor Taur trail. We are working with them to help out with the micro design, ensuring the trail reaches its full potential. The developments are part of a two year plan, so expect some great new future developments there.
There's going to be a new trail centre at Blaneau Ffestiniog in the beautiful mountains of North Wales. What can you tell us about this project?
We're really excited about this project and have been working on trail designs throughout the winter and spring for four downhill tracks, a blue grade XC loop and a skills area. The downhill tracks are on open hillside, with plenty of rocky outcrops to get creative with. Two of the downhill tracks are black grade, but will be quite different in style. One will be steep with plenty of corners using the rocky terrain to create challenging features, whereas the other will be less steep, but fast with plenty of drops and jumps. The other two trails will be red/blue grade and will take a longer route down the hill and will be perfect for a six inch trail bike. The XC loop will be routed around Tanygrisiau Resevoir and will be around 10km long.
Will the new trail centre share similarities with any of the existing ones that we all know and love?
Yes and no. The trails will have to be built to withstand plenty of usage, so we will have to use some construction methods used at the trail centres we know and love. The trails are on an open hillside, like Moelfre, have the geology of Betws-y-Coed with the gradient of something like Caersws. However, there is no existing facility in this type of environment in Wales at present, so of course it will be different. We always aim to be creative in our approach incorporating new innovative features and will always try and put our stamp on any trail that we design or create. We do not intend for it to be 'more of the same'.
In addition to the trails, what other facilities will be provided to make the centre a top mountain bikers destination?
As part of our designs, we have also worked with our other partner company Capita Symonds to incorporate an uplift road. It is intended that there will be a dedicated uplift provider on site, which will be great for British downhill. There are also talks of a cafe and bike hire available on site.
Are there any particularly exciting or unique features in the design of these trails which we can look forward to?
Yes. We spent plenty of time on the hill and made sure that each trail exploited natural features to their full potential. We are particularly excited about a steep rock roll we have designed, as well as a certain hip jump...
Is there an opportunity for riders to get involved to help with trail building etc?
This is something that would be up to the building contractors, who have not yet been appointed. The building contractors are currently submitting their tender applications, so we should find out in the coming weeks. As part of the terms of contract, as designers Architrail will not be building the trails ourselves.
And the big question everyone will be wanting to ask: When will we be able to ride it?
This depends on the building contractor, but it should be some time in 2012.
Where do you see mountain biking in Wales in the next 5 - 10 years?
The trail centre scene in Wales is already hugely popular, but we can only see this increasing. We'd expect we'll see more trail centres being created, whilst existing trail centres will expand to cater for a wider range of abilities. The Minor Taur Trail in Coed y Brenin is an example of this happening already, being a blue grade trail which is wide enough for adaptive bikes. On the other end of the scale, more mountain bikers will mean that there is a higher demand for more technical trails, leading to more of these too. We're also sure that we will see more downhill venues like that of Bleanau Ffestiniog in the future.
Where do you see Architrail in the next 5 - 10 years?
Mountain biking is thriving and is still evolving. We certainly want to help drive this evolution, hopefully through working on more of the above!
Many thanks to Architrail for answering our questions.