Interview: Sheffield Bike Park

Sheffield is already regarded as a bit of a mecca for UK based Mountain Bikers, with the Peak District on the doorstep, Lady Cannings, Parkwood Springs, Greno and Wharncliffe Woods and upcoming projects in the the form of Radmires, a possible reuse of the Ski village and now Sheffield Bike Park. We caught up with George French, one of the founders of Sheffield Bike Park to see how things we’re progressing…

So… who are Sheffield Bike Park and what’s the big idea?

Sheffield Bike Park is a community interest company (non-profit) founded by James Folkes, Richard Baybutt and George French (me) to build so weather facilities for non-conventional forms of cycling. So MTB, BMX, trials etc. Our original plan was to get a large derelict industrial building close to the centre of Sheffield and fill it with wooden terrain like Ray’s in the US.

Unfortunately the building we had in mind fell through. But in many ways we are now quite glad it did. During the search for a new location we had time to really look at what else exists and rethink our plans.

So now we are aiming for something much bigger.

The plan now is to build something like a really exciting trail centre but specifically designed to resist the weather and seasons. We will have a network of trails to suit all abilities and tastes, using natural and man made features (including Northshore type features).

Crucially these trails will be surfaced to stay rideable even after months of rain, to shed water and drain really well. They will also be lit, so in the hours of darkness lines of giant fairy lights will guide you through the trees and make night riding much more enjoyable.

And we also intend to install a tow-lift type uplift.

We will also have jump trails, again with lines to suit all abilities, smooth and sculpted to suit BMX and MTB alike.

Pump track? Dirt jumps? MTB Trails? Four-Cross? BMX Park? Slopestyle? All of the above!

Pump tracks yes. Slope style yes. Concrete bowls. Trials area. And as a community interest company we will be open to building anything else people want.

Then, alongside all this we will be adding an indoor section. So full wooden rhythms, bowl, wall rides and other terrain for those days when it really is just too grim to be outside or for when you want to ride plywood.

How far along with the process are you?

We are currently in advanced discussions with a local landowner. He understands what we want to do and is very receptive so far. This site has hundreds of acres of space and over 100m of height variation so offers lots of potential. It is just outside the peak national park and has great road links to the M1 etc. so should make a great accompaniment to the natural riding in the peak. People can head for the peaks and if the weather shuts down divert to us. Or make a weekend of it and have a day in the peaks and a day at the park.

How do you plan to fund and maintain it?

We will be using directors’ own money and asking the riding community to put their hands in their pockets. We will be crowd funding to get the initial build done which will focus on the outdoor terrain. We will then open these trails up and a combination of entry fees, further crowd funding, grants, and loans will fund the later stages.

As a not for profit we will be able to keep entry fees as affordable as possible and there will be significant discounts for repeat visitors. These entry fees will mostly go to paying full time professional trail crews to maintain and extend the network of trails.

Why Sheffield? We have the Peaks, Greno/Wharncliffe, Lady Cannings, Parkwood and Radmires in the works for MTB, what makes SBP different for those riders?

No matter how much good terrain you have you always want more. Public trails have problems with other users, dog walkers who think MTB riding should be illegal and take matters into their own hands putting logs across trails etc. But primarily weather. Riding from November to May is a slog. Trails get waterlogged and keeping riding them is both soul destroying and damaging to the trails themselves.

It has always been our dream to build whatever we want. A giant corkscrew, drops, Northshore, river jumps, curved walls, etc etc. Plus we will have all this in one place so you can go straight from trails to jumps to slopestyle to pump track to a concrete bowl to indoor plywood.

Then there are the lights and the uplift.

What about the proposed development at the Ski Village site? Do you think there’ll be any crossover?

Ski village would be cool, but the MTB will be distinctly second fiddle to skiing and we are probably looking at 3 or 4 years before much happens over there.

There are a number of groups in the region (Ride Sheffield, Peak District MTB etc), have you been in contact for support/advice?

Yes we are in touch with Ride Sheffield and are keen to work with all other groups. We love riding the peaks and hope that our presence will help take some of the pressure off those sensitive trails in the winter months.

So what happens next? Any projected timelines?

We are hoping to start building this winter for a late spring early summer opening of the first stage.

You can keep up to date with the project via their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/sheffieldbikepark/

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