Trails for Wales: You Can Help Change British MTB Forever

Sep 27, 2017
by OpenMTB  
Wales has always been a big player on the UK MTB scene, from the XC racing boom in the early 1990s and the origins of the trail centre movement to some legendary downhill races and the creation of bike parks to suit all tastes. A big reason for this rich history is Wales' bumpy, rural geography. There's plenty of open space and hills to go around – yet ironically Wales does not have a great rights-of-way network from a mountain biker's point-of-view.

Trails for Wales
Snowdon is the highest peak in England and Wales - and one of the best big mountain rides in the UK (pic: Ian Marston)

Head to the Lake District and it's not difficult to put together a beautiful and technically challenging route in the heart of the national park, yet in North Wales' Snowdonia National Park (for example) it's much, much harder due to the disjointed nature of the trail network. This is not good for MTBers as it means awkward linking sections on roads that can be narrow with fast traffic. And it's not good for other outdoor users either because it leads to a concentration of activity in certain areas while little-used trails that would be perfect for bikes lie neglected elsewhere.

Things could be about to change however, as the Welsh Government is consulting on a forward-looking set of plans which would radically reform access rights in the country – effectively allowing cyclists and horse riders to use the vast majority of the country's footpaths.


To show just how significant this is, at present in Wales riders are restricted to just 21 percent of the whole rights-of-way network. If the reforms go ahead it will be the biggest thing in UK mountain biking since Scotland reformed its access rules in 2003. The Welsh Government has only put forward such bold changes because of the hugely successful Trails for Wales campaign run by lobby groups Cycling UK and OpenMTB in 2015 when the preliminary consultation was launched on the issue.

Already, plans are being discussed that would create epic new rides, linking existing trail centres together and enabling riders to explore more of Wales' stunning landscape. But it will only go ahead with the proposals if mountain bikers (and other outdoor users) make their voices heard again now. Cycling UK has sent a detailed response to the Welsh Gov, supporting the proposals, pointing out a couple of minor flaws and making some convincing arguments in favour of reform. The campaigning charity has also put together an easy-to-use response form which allows people to express their support and to add their own thoughts if they wish.

Trails for Wales
Let's open up much more of Wales for riding (pic: Stace King)

You don't have to live in Wales to respond to the consultation. You don't even have to live in the UK. You just have to be enthusiastic about the potential of the Welsh Government's plans. The consultation closes on Saturday, 30 September - so please don't delay in having your say. To stay up to date follow OpenMTB on Facebook.



MENTIONS: @OpenMTB




54 Comments

  • + 11
 The land access rights in Scotland has been hugely successful. only ever met one twat on the hills/mountains I've taken my bike up and that was a cyclist in full on DH gear. Wales will see a huge increase in tourism if they open the country side up.
  • + 3
 I think the general perception of our sport from non riders is extreme side of the sport rather than XC / trail riding which is what most people probably ride. I guess walkers are scared of meeting someone flying down a trail in full DH gear which is understandable. If we could present a more mild mannered view of the sport it wouldn't hurt.
  • + 12
 @fartymarty: Walkers are scared of meeting any rider that doesn't show them any courtesy, regardless of being in full downhill gear or all over lycra. They meet one dick-head then the rest of us are tarred with the same brush. I don't want to hate on Strava but it can cause people to be a little less polite than they normally would be if they weren't chasing a K.O.M.
  • + 4
 Just back from a trip to the Lakes this week. Lots of cheeky riding! I must have met hundreds of walkers, smiled and said hello to them and every time got the same response (and sometimes some friendly banter) back. Not being a dick pays dividends Smile If you really want to go ride a natural trail at warp speed it's usually possible at a quiet time early morning or evening.
  • + 0
 @dglobulator: KOM shaming is a half truth. Dickheads will act like dickheads regardless of Strava. Incentive is there but please stop with this dumb Strava bitching
  • + 1
 there are lot of countries in Europe which need to do that.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: You are right, I am sometimes a dickhead and don't use Strava now (cause I can't be bothered) but it's at night when no one else is out.

@sideshowb A little courtesy goes a long way... (sh!t i'm sounding like an old fart...)
  • + 3
 Our access in Scotland is great. I think bikers should be more responsible in the mountains though, to the trails and other users. Behave more like a responsible mountain sport and less like a bunch of adrenaline and Strava junkies. Don't get me wrong, if I'm faced with a durable empty trail, I'll be smashing it out, but that is not always the case.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: hellz yeah! I saw that in San Fran, Strava is being sued because apparently it forces people to break the speed limit and run red lights! It's like a gun to the head, that Strava! Always forcing people to do things they don't want!
  • + 3
 @jaame: should we ban strava in certain areas? Or make it where they cant publish results of other users taking the racing element away? I'm on the fence about this issue as I understand both sides. Tough issue. But I think not publishing results in designated areas like in cities or protected wilderness may be the best solution. IDK
  • - 3
 @Boardlife69: I think he was being sarcastic... ban Strava... wow... everybody, round your kitchen knives and forks, NOW!
  • + 1
 given how inaccurate strava can be I'm surprised anyone but roadies pay attention to it.
  • - 3
 As regards to Strava, I just Flag all the stupid dangerous Downhills. It doesn't get rid of them entirely but they're no longer visible.
  • + 0
 @dirty-fecker: dangerous DH?
  • - 1
 @poah: oh yea? So you chase tens of seconds to the best dudes in your area? Big Grin I tell you what, I learned a thing or two by chasing 10 seconds. Also on a few trails once I got to top 10 on some tracks in here and there is an evident time loss in a spot where I don't dare to go brake less. Like that spot on a very popular track where there is a corner tight between trees, when I compare my times with myself or best dudes, that spot is within 1 second error. I call it accurate enough for amateur purposes.
  • + 2
 @Boardlife69: I've stopped using Strava in the mountains, I don't want to encourage others to go out there and race the trails. Plus, going to the mountains is to get away from the pressures of life and technology, I don't want to be thinking about where the segment created by some random guy on the internet starts, or getting something to boast with on FB.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I don't know whether it's Strava or peoples' GPSs or doctored files but quite a few of my local segments have fastest times that can't be right. I'm one of the fastest riders in the area and the times are half mine. Also, having sessioned segments and my worst run getting the best time, I know it's not accurate.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: The problem that has arisen where I live is that people have started altering the trails in order to get faster times, unfortunately the culprits don't seem to have the brain power to work out the rider that was faster than them on that nice twisty, rooty ribbon of singletrack is also quicker in a straight line.
Also, in regards to the accuracy of Strava, it definitely has it's blips.
  • + 2
 @lochussie: I have cases of Strava being accurate to at least 5 seconds, and cases where it's way off. Several riders that I know used Strava on local "Enduro" competition. The Times recorded by Strava are within no more than 10 second error to their race times measured by relatively accurate device. That's a fact and I rest my case about accuracy.

Strava is not a tool to measure exact times. It is an excellent tool to log mileage, measure your own progress and a modest check how you stack up with others. Using it for precise results is silly. I leave self appreciation and self boasting function of it to those who have issues in that area, both hardcore Stravaderos and Anti-Strava crowd. Using it in wildlife areas or mixed trails and logging the rides in public mode is silly to say the least. That's my personal opinion...
  • + 1
 @metaam: not in Gothenburg and not where i lived in Poland. People were always doing cuts just like those who are fkng up dirt jumps to make them easier. Cutting corners, dumbing down features was an issue before phones had cameras in them. Lazyness and cheating is a form of effectivity. It's a feature of a human mind that has positive and negative effects. Positive effects deserve appreciation, negative deserve resentment.
  • + 1
 @lochussie: short sections or small circuits are really bad for timings.
  • + 0
 @jaame: no! WRONG WAY
  • + 1
 @poah: Yeah stupid dangerous dH's where around every corner there's a dog walker or a jogger :-( A D!ck nearly ttok me out walking down a fire road last week. I looked it up and discovered it was a segment. Fasted speed 60 kmh !! There are 3 blind junctions and no way to stop at that speed ... sad really. Gets us all a bad name.
  • + 11
 My first PB post. This is important to all who ride in Wales and those that enjoy other outdoor sports here too. Please everybody answer the relevant questions and respond asap.
  • + 7
 I have already signed the petition, I strongly suggest others do too. we need better access for riders.
  • + 2
 me too have signed
  • + 3
 The problem is usually that walkers think us bikers destroy their precious eco-system by madly thrashing down a trail (bridleway), so when WE show courtesy to walkers that aren’t aware of their surroundings (not letting us pass) we always get dirty looks and sentences like “shouldn’t be on here” or “should have a bell”. In truth a coach load of walkers does a lot more damage to a footpath/trail than 10 bikes a day. I think it can only be a good thing for UK Mtb-ers if we can integrate bridleways and footpaths together in the future.
  • + 1
 I love the bell comments. Can you imagine riding some awesome flowy singletrack with one of those things clanging away on your handlebars. The truth is, I don't think most walkers think mountain biking is actually a thing aside from having a leisurely cruise along a 3m wide track around the local reservoir with your wife following along on her Pendleton, so when they see us out on 'their' paths, even if they're bridleways, we will always be seen as the invaders to their countryside world.
  • + 5
 I just wished the Snowdon mountain train would allow bikes in it ... I'd definitely pay £10-15 to get a lift at the top, and then come down on my own!
  • + 10
 that's the beauty of not allowing bikes on the train, 1/2 the adventure is getting to the top of Snowdon on your steam. It's well worth it (though at the time of going up it def seemed like a daft idea!!!)
  • + 2
 £10, in your dreams! £37 whether you ride back down or not, and that's without the space taken up by a bike!

I was there last month and it was just heaving with tourists, the train was going only halfway up due to wind, and you weren't allowed off the train anyway! Altogether glad I didn't book tickets.

The other issue you've got with Snowdon itself is there's the 'gentlemans agreement' that bikes don't go up the mountain in the afternoons. I completely see the appeal though, I'd love to go up on the train at sunrise and spent a day dicking about up there. The only riding I got done on that trip was at Coed y Brenin, which was great but driving back through the rest of the park... unbelievable riding territory.
  • + 2
 @gkeele: Even that much, it looked so good I wouldn't mind. At least once Wink

Yeah the fact you can't ride your bike between 9am and 5pm is so much a pain in the arse... I wouldn't mind the grind to climb it, but you just can't ! Either walk the whole way during the day and wait for 5pm (and pray the weather holds), or try to climb+descend starting at 5pm ...

Which is why I would definitely pay to get one of the few last train up the mountain, wait 'till 5pm and then ride down.

But I'll keep going back to Wales, awesome trails and lovely people so far Smile
  • + 3
 FWIW You can ride any time of day October-March
  • + 1
 @sideshowb: Yeah, because you'll be going up and down on snow whatever happens! Two colleagues did it in February 2015, they nearly died but said it was fantastic.
  • + 1
 @sideshowb: Good to know! guess I'll have to come back during that time! Usually it's a May or July thing
  • + 1
 @gkeele: As a resident of Wales who owns skis I wish that were true
  • + 1
 @sideshowb: About the snow? It's snowy at the peak for a good five-six months of the year, no?
  • + 1
 @gkeele: I'm not sure you can take your skis up the railway and ski down Wink
  • + 1
 @gkeele: Nah not that long. 3 months snow in small patches right up top maybe, and probably about 3 days when there's enough to ski!
  • + 1
 @Ploutre: I rode to the summit a couple of wks ago, started from Llanberis at 4:30pm and was on the summit at 6pm.
The beauty of riding up at this time of the day, all the train passengers had left the summit, the cafe was closed and I had the summit to myself :-)
Every walker I rode passed were very cheery and quite surprised to see an mtb'er going to the top!
On the ride back down on the Ranger path, I only saw 4 people, who just sat back and watched me ride into the sunset, lol.
It's only a slight pain in the arse in the summer, but worth it to be up there without loads of people.
  • + 1
 @Ploutre: Nothing better than being on the summit for around 8 am on a hot summers day and then riding down before the walkers hit the trails!! However.. we would be able to access so many more summits and be able to put together fantastic loops if we could get access to more of the high ground in Snowdonia and could legitimately ride more footpaths!!
  • + 1
 @Dowhill222: We thought about doing this, but everytime we just didn't have enough time and energy to do it (riding whole days in Coed y Brenin, Stiniog, ...). And the weather would play a big part, not sure it's very safe to ride under the rain or with lots of wind ..

But one day, I'll do it Smile
  • + 1
 Is there much respect for the prow network currently in Wales? Here in south west England there are fair numbers that pay no attention, evidenced by segments on strava - some even topped out by local business owners. I expect that there are fair numbers that respect the prow too.

I only ask, not to catch anyone out, but to consider that this is evidence that there will be little change in the very low levels of conflict that currently exist as some people are riding these footpaths already. The difference a change in law makes is that the area will be able to be promoted legitimately as a biking destination and bring more cash in. This might mean an increase in rider numbers, but this would be spead over a greater number of trails and not just saturated numbers on the bridleways.

Here's an interesting read, though not mountain biking the results are probably comparable, and with multiday routes and bikepacking on the rise this is a market that needs to be tapped.
bicycletimesmag.com/spend-cycle-how-bicycle-tourism-impacts-small-communities

Of course, more bike friendly infrastructure makes a destination more desirable, simples. Sign up now!!!
  • + 1
 Depends on which bit of Wales you're in!

In the Valleys and other post-industrial landscapes it's pretty much go where you like but in the National Parks and parts of Mid-Wales (Elan Valley etc) you have to be careful about the timing of cheeky rides. The whole campaign is all about legitimising riding in lots more areas so that ride guides can be created and there's more space for more riders without clogging up the trails. Plus large areas of Wales will get a massive boost from the extra tourism it will generate.

Oh and I've signed for each step of this campaign. Even some of my non-riding friends have too as they can see the massive benefit it will bring.
  • + 3
 Land belongs to no one. It was here before and it will be here after human civilization. Open land access rights is human rights. #Humanlivesmatter
  • + 2
 It might not be here after the humans at this rate Rolleyes
  • + 2
 I've already signed this and the other petitions and statements requested by Trails for Wales and Open MTB - lets hope for a positive outcome
  • + 2
 Pleeeeeeaaaase can everyone sign this!! It will make a massive difference to Welsh and hopefully, eventually English MTB access.
  • + 1
 Signed, really hope Dailymail Island dont put pay to this. Have to say I cant ever see this happening in the England, get beef riding in the Peak from walkers a fair bit, despite riding sensibly.
  • + 1
 If it happens in Wales then England will be the odd one out which provides more incentive for change... if you'd asked me 10 years ago I wouldn't have seen this happening in Wales tbh so it goes to show what can change.,
  • + 1
 i just wish for right to roam across all of the UK.
  • + 0
 Love to see wales open up to mtb community bpw has helped merthyr economy and its great fun
  • - 2
 How happy are the sheep at this though?
  • + 3
 @poah oh we have ways of cheering up the sheep.

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