Everyone agreed; Surface to Air is just like having a little piece of Whistler
in the UK. We caught up with Team Aston Hill
and Team Madison Saracen
, riding Aston Hill Bike Park's new Surface to Air freeride trail and also spoke to the volunteer dig crew about how the trail went from conception to laying the final all-weather surface.
The Origins of Surface to Air:
Through the efforts of the Aston Hill Committee, the designers and trail builders, the past year has seen quite a different trail developing, compared to the ones riders at the Hill are accustomed to. Aston Hill Bike Park
has been more commonly known for its steep, rooty, chalk and flint-based trails. Throughout its history, Aston Hill's trails have inspired a generation both young and old, and has always been at its most challenging in the winter months, given the landscape. With the Bike Park threatened with closure only a few years ago, the Committee has transformed Aston Hill into one the benchmarks for mountain biking parks on government-leased land in the UK.
With the support of the Forestry Commission
- the government entity in charge of managing government-owned UK woodland - and CTC
(the UK's biggest cycling charity), Aston Hill took a giant leap of faith in developing this progressive intermediate-to-advanced level skilled trail, catering for the current and next generation of riders. The result has been fantastic and we are now seeing Surface to Air as being one of the premier freeride trails in the UK.
Matt Wakefield was the brains behind Surface to Air, having previously spent summers in the Alps and Whistler honing his trail building and riding skills. With a willing Aston Hill Committee and a forward-looking Forestry Commission, plans were made last year to come up with a trail based on riders' feedback, many of whom dream of the Whistler-style 'fun' trails like A-Line, Crank It Up and Blue Velvet that they see time and again in mountain biking videos and photos. The trail also had to be able to stand up to the diverse UK climate, so a lot of thinking was put in to the materials used, to ensure Surface to Air would be an all weather track and enable all year round riding. Surface to Air caters for intermediate level riders and up, who want to both test themselves and have fun doing so on the multiple drops, step-ups, step-downs, berms, drifty corners and whippy tables.
The 'Origins' documentary about the building of the trails can be found here
Building Surface To Air:
With a challenging landscape and limited budget, last year the volunteer trail crew, headed up by chief builder Scott Morehouse, started crafting the new line to Matt's specifications. Being on essentially government land, the trail had to be fully assessed and signed off in terms of meeting the stringent specifications for Health and Safety - never an easy balance when our sport contains inherent risks. Working collaboratively in this way sets the precedent for all other trail centers and bike parks in the UK and has been a useful pilot for the Forestry Commission, so much so that the Aston Hill Committee was awarded the Forestry Commission's "Recreation and Public Affairs Volunteer Award 2012", despite fierce competition from ninety other projects.
The Grand Opening of Surface to Air:
The trail officially opened on Sunday 28th October 2012, and thanks to the support of riders and volunteer trail crew, the day was an amazing success and culminated in a spectacular Whip-Off contest. I wonder where they got the inspiration for that...?
What's next for Aston Hill?:
With success guaranteed for Surface to Air, the Aston Hill Committee and trail crew have their sights set on the even more developments; a pump track, additional rock-gardens and training drops. The future is bright for Aston Hill as it is for those riders who are lucky enough to shred the Bike Park, and builders further afield.
About Aston Hill:
Aston Hill Bike Park is a mountain bike venue situated just outside Wendover in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty
. The Park features five graded downhill runs, a 4X track, a two-part cross-country loop and of course Surface to Air, the new freeride trail. The Park is a great venue for riders of all ages and abilities with something to challenge everyone, but is more suited to competent riders during the winter months.