It’s not dignified. I’m 55 and I’ve gone over the handlebars of a bike twice in the past year.
Fortunately I roll like an 80kg medicine ball and didn’t land far from the track on either occasion.
Somehow my injuries were only skin deep, more importantly my bike was fine and if I’m honest, I’ve got no-one but myself to blame.
One incident was a simple error of judgment, in terms of when to keep both hands on the handlebars (for beginners I’m now advising two hands down a wooded hillside), and the other was an experiment with kinetic obstruction detection which involving a collision with a bollard in the dark.
I could say it’s because I’m a mountain biker but let’s be honest, there aren’t all that many mountains in Northampton.
And mountain biking, as I practice it, has been mostly about cycle-paths, bridleways, woods and farm tracks with a rare trip to a proper bike park.
My life on wheels is not a glamorous Red Bull Rampage – it’s more of an Elastopast Disaster. And far from filming my exploits for YouTube, I am mostly grateful that no-one has seen the stupidity I am capable of.
However, the arrival of Northampton Bike Park has now revolutionised my adventures and it celebrates one year of operation on Saturday with an open day.
Here’s the itinerary:
- Specialist mountain bike demonstrations
- Big Bike Revival – Free bike fixing sessions. Prior booking is essential – https://bit.ly/3ZlR5Mz
- Free adult and junior coaching sessions run all day. The sessions are offered on a first come, first served basis and can be booked on the day, booking opens at 10 am.
- Junior fun races, with trophies and prizes. Prior booking is essential – https://bit.ly/3PqfBI6
- Rides led by expert coaches. Prior booking is essential – https://bit.ly/3ZlR5Mz
- Bike hire
Martin Barnwell, Strategic Director of Operations at Northamptonshire Sport said: “The event is a chance for our wonderful team, volunteers, and visitors to mark our first year. We’ve seen a great summer season with plenty of people visiting, and as we approach our birthday, it’s the perfect time to celebrate.
“The park overcame some early teething problems with the drainage system and other challenges new bike parks often encounter, this day is also about acknowledging how far the site has come.
“In particular, we want to encourage new visitors to try the park. If you’ve never been before you’ll be made very welcome. Bike hire and free coaching sessions are available on the day, so please come and have a go.”
Essentially, the bike park is a network of trails built into the hillside between Brackmills and Hardingstone.
If you’re arriving by car head for the golf club car park at Delapre and take your bike through the underpass to find the trails. If you’re navigating the Brackmills cycle paths to get there, then you are heading for the back of the Criminal Justice Centre.
Each trail is colour graded by difficulty with a sign at the start indicating what you are about to take on. Green is the easiest, blue takes a bit more physical effort, red takes more effort and more skill and black is the highest skill and effort level.
Green and blue trails – as a general rule – can be rolled through meaning that you can get round them with both wheels on the ground although there may be jumpable sections if you choose to do that. Traditionally only red and black trails put obstacles in front of you where there is no option to back out.
When it was first built, the drainage on the site wasn’t quite right and the first heavy rainfall turned some of the trails into rutted porridge. That was fixed however, and now the park offers full whoop-de-woo, 24/7.
The basic experience is going up a hill slowly and coming down quickly in a fun way. There were some weeks in the summer when I was up there every day and, touch wood, I haven’t come a cropper so far taking on the challenges it offers.
If I can iron out some of my basic errors on the way there I’ll be fine…
Northampton Bike Park is operated by physical activity, health, and wellbeing charity Northamptonshire Sport. You can find out more about Northampton Park Bike here –www.northamptonbikepark.org.