This weekend a couple of freinds and me made a return to the Velopark mountain bike trails at the Olympic park. We went about a month ago and loved it so we decided to go back.
After that i wrote a short review on my other site, but now i have been twice and explored a bit more i wanted to give a more detailed review. Hopefully this will be helpful to other riders who are looking to go for the first time.
Getting there, paying, rental equipment.
The velopark is in stratford which is about 10 miles from where i live. The first time we went by train and took our own bikes, but this weekend the trains where cancelled for improvement works so we drove and hired bikes for the day.
Once you get there you go to the reception area and pay the £5 fee to ride. We also paid £12 to rent equipment (but more on that later).
Once we where paid up and disclaimers where signed we went to the equipment hire stall and picked up out rental bikes.
The staff ran through a quick setup with us and then left us too it. Just as we left we made sure to put the car registration numbers into the terminal so we didnt get charged for parking!
After we got our kit we ventured out to the trails themselves.
We followed the path down and under a bridge and then the path stops and the trails begin.
All the trails are man made little ribbons of gravel. They vary between blue (easy), red (intermediate) and black (advanced).
The blue trails are the simplest and fastest. We normally warm up on the blue trail which leads off too the left from the bridge and takes us around the back of the velopark. Its got a few berms and jumps but is very mellow.
Most of the trails flow well at the velopark, but from time to time they take sudden turns due to the space limits.
The gravel surfaces don’t offer much grip. It’s easy to wash out into a corner if you push too hard. When the speeds get higher the bike is pretty much always sliding around under you. It certainly keeps things interesting!
The red routes are more complex than the blue roots. Tougher climbs, sharper corners and bigger jumps.
Much like the blue trails they flow very well for a while then tend to include sudden turns with big rocks on the outside. Compared to a more natural riding spot the sudden turns are annoying as they break the flow, but given the space they had they are good enough.
The red routes start to also incorporate the super bumper concrete slab based “technical” parts. In many ways these sections resemble a really badly laid path.
The red routes are certainly fun. Once you know the route they take you can start to pick up lots of speed.
If your looking for something more demanding, then there are a few black parts.
The black parts take the paving slab based technical parts of the red trails and make them more extreme.
I have mountain biked lots in the past so i have ridden most of the black trails. Generally speaking taking them at speed and carefully picking a line is enough to clear them without much issue.
I enjoy the black parts, they keep it interesting, but they dont really add a huge amount to the bike park. Getting into the black stuff often involves sudden sharp bends so it’s often more fun to just ride the red parts quicker.
The one black part i really enjoyed is the long black decent. It runs beside the road from the top. Getting into the black part is a horrible sharp rocky climb, but once into that section it flows really well.
The hire bikes.
Today we hired bikes instead of using our own. It was good to compare how the bikes faired.
The hire bikes are Whyte 605 models in bright green. They are fun and competent if not spectacular. They roll well and are setup to cover distances.
Like most XC focused bikes they have long stems and bring the rider forward over the front wheel. It’s not too extreme, but it does make the bikes harder to handle over jumps. The bikes don’t have the “planted” secure feeling of my Marin with its longer fork and more relaxed geometry.
You can ride everything on the rental bikes. I made it down every black trail i tried on them, however it’s pushing the bikes hard and things like the fork become overwhelmed. The black trails are possible, but you need to pick lines very carefully.
The rental bikes make sense for the park. They cover most of what people will do.
The rental bikes are also really cheap. At £12 for the day they do a good enough job to be a viable option if getting my own bike to the park is going to be difficult.
All in i had a really fun morning. We spent about 3 hours at the park mostly lapping the red trails with the odd run on the blue.
For the £5 entry fee the park is great value. It gives a great taster for mountain biking while still being affordable and easy to get too.
I am looking forward to going back in a few weeks time. I will probably take my own bike, but i wont be too upset if i cant.