The Top 10 Bike Park Pros and Cons
31 Aug 2013
By David Scorer
OK, so this is not exactly a pure 'Top 10' list - rather it's two sets of 'Top 5s'! But if you add them together it makes ten in total so we're going with it for now! First we've listed the Top 5 factors of a bike park that we as riders look for to keep us happy - the 'pros'. All good bike parks have some of them; the best bike parks have them all! Then we came over all negative and listed the Top 5 'cons' - the things that make you really mad and as a bike park 'customer', you really wish they'd get sorted out so you can get on with shredding the trails. Check if we missed anything and register your vote to see what really matters to the bike park community...
You might not even realise it as you just take it for granted. You probably wouldn't notice until the situation changed and it was suddenly no longer available to you. At that point you'd be like, 'man - that's a super important aspect of this bike park'! The positive factors that all good bike parks can claim...
#1 - Number of Trail Options
You're on the fourth lap of the morning and starting to get a bit of déjà-vu - a funny feeling you've done this before! Trail variety is a huge part of a great bike park. If there are only one or two trails on offer then it's likely you'll get bored after a while, explore outside of the park, or just wander off and get in to trouble (we all do!). If you're arguing with your mates about which trail to ride next, or heading home annoyed that you didn't have time to hit the so-and-so trail on the backside of the hill, then that's a pretty good situation to be in really. If you call yourself a bike park then get digging and put on some serious trail options.
#2 - Well Maintained Trails
This is the whole objective of bike parks. We are talking about a product - purpose built mountain bike trails. You hand over your hard-earned cash in exchange for your lift pass or trail-access ticket, so you are perfectly justified in expecting a certain standard of product in return. It's the winter equivalent of piste-bashing on the ski slopes. If all is well, you won't even think about this. You are entitled to take it for granted. But if standards start to slip, then you and every other rider will be up in arms. Well maitained trails are, or should be, the back-bone of any serious bike park.
#3 - Man-made Trail Features
Trail crews getting creative. Maybe in the past this could have been thought of as the icing on the cake. We have a few features, but our trails are sick anyway so that's good enough... But these days, riders are crying out for more features. Yes, fast tight singletrack in the woods is epic, but it's even more epic if it's linked with the rock garden by some cool wooden cork-screw. Increasingly fundamental in the best bike park trails, 'northshore' style wooden features crank up the fun-factor and possibly even indicate the level of commitment to the trails from the bike park operators.
#4 - Fast Uplift Service
You finish your lap all pumped and ready to go again. Straight on the lift and as you lower the bar on the chair, or the doors close behind you in the gondola, you suddenly remember that your ride to the top involves ancient equipment designed and built in 1823 and it'll be another 3 weeks before you see your bike again at the top of the hill. When you finally get there, as you do-up your helmet strap, you wonder where your lovely new beard came from! As more and more resorts replace their old lifts for nice modern new ones, the speed at which we're dumped back at the top is increasing, enabling more and more laps in a day. Clearly this is a good thing.
#5 - Large Altitude Drop
You've only just got in to your rhythm. Heart rate is up, breathing deeply, and really beginning to feel the flow - at one with the bike, trail, and the demons in your head. You clear another tabletop and then boom, there you are right back at the bottom of the lift again, in what seems like only 20 seconds since you left the top! Off the bike, stand in line, get on lift, rinse and repeat! If you've riden the trails where you have to stop before you reach the end because you physically can't hold on to the bars anymore then you'll understand. Sometimes size is everything. (Note, we put this 5th as really it's outside of any individual bike park's control. Any location can only work with what they have - it's not like we'd demand they carry truck-loads of dirt to the top of the hill to artificially build up the altitude!)
What really gets your goat!? You rock up at a bike park for a day of shredding and something just ain't right. You still have an ace time but in the truck on the way home you can't help having a whinge to the crew about some specific issue which really bugged you during the day. We're gonna bet it was one of these...
#1 - Constant Braking Bumps
You're straight out of the start-gate and pedalling hard - pinning it for that first corner before diving in to the woods. Suddenly the front of your bike is kicking up like a bucking bronco and you start wondering if you've lost all the oil out of your forks. 20ft before that nice smooth berm that's just begging to be railed, the trail appears to cross a well-ploughed field! The ruts are huge, you've lost your focus, and you're cursing anyone and everyone who ever had the nerve to apply the brakes before going round a corner. The fools. Lets face it, there's no getting away from them. But is it really too much to ask for a bike park trail crew to spend a little time taking them away now and again!?
#2 - Long Lift Queues
Have you ever felt like you spend longer in the lift queue than you do on your bike? You want to ride as fast as you can but then you remember that as soon as you get to the bottom you'll be stood around for a few hours just trying to get back to the top. You can't go for another beer as it's not even lunch time yet! Maybe the pumptrack. Done. Jump-park. Also done. Damn it, I just want to get back on the lift but there's a hundred people in front of me who all want the same thing! Bike parks - if there's this kind of demand then work out how to solve it!
#3 - Trail Congestion
You get to the trail head and there's a cluster of riders shooting the breeze. It's no problem, they're in no rush and are happy for you to pass so you weave your way through the middle and set off down the hill. Thirty seconds later you're right up behind someone who is that little bit slower than you are. Again, not a huge problem. They hear you coming and move aside, and the trails are for everyone anyway - they have as much right to be there as you do. Thirty seconds later it's the other way around - there's someone on your tail looking to get past! (For all of you thinking this doesn't apply to you you're wrong - there is always someone quicker than you. Except in my case of course.) This time you move over and let them pass. Again not such a big deal but at this point you're starting to feel like you just can't get going without coming up against another rider. If your bike park is so popular that the trails are rammed, then build more trails please Mr Bike Park boss.
#4 - Poor Trail Sign Posts
Probably only an issue if you're new to a bike park rather than a regular. But that happens pretty often. Apparently 38.5% of riders at any bike park are first-timers there. Also 87.2% of statistics are entirely made-up. Anyway, no matter where you are it's pretty annoying to be riding along at full pace, only to come round a corner and be faced with a fork in the trail. And no signpost whatsoever. You slam on the brakes and fish-around in your pocket for the trail map in fear of taking the wrong option and ending up with a push back to where you meant to be. Flow - ruined. It's not hard really. If in any doubt, hammer a signpost in to the ground so we all know where we are going.
#5 - Expensive Lift Pass
So you expect to pay for a service, and if it's a good service then it's no problem. But even so, in this time of global economic chaos it can get pretty annoying to get stiffed for another 60 bucks just for a day on the trails, especially after you just sold your mom so you can buy that ten-grand DH rig (what financial crisis!?). Anyway, if it's justified then you won't think twice. But if the bike park features any of the other 'cons' from this list then it's likely that the price of the day-pass will stick in your throat. Value for money will always be subjective, but if bike parks get it wrong the riders can vote with their wheels and ride elsewhere.
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