Words by #TeamRutland member Chris Teagles
Chris recently visited Chicksands Bikepark in Bedfordshire, a location renown for its progressive jump lines and national level 4X track. Local to the area? We think it is a must-ride location for any aspiring mountain biker!
Ideally located just outside of Bedford, Chicksands is a great resource for Mountain bikers in central England. What doesn't seem like much on paper (or a map) is in fact a great resource for locals, and even people from further afield. From providing local loops for surrounding villagers and the very good bike shop BRINK (just a few miles down the road). Chicksands boasts a pumptrack, a dual slalom, a 4x track, and a few downhill runs along with a competition slopestyle line - which I stay well away from! Along with a XC loop that's not officially part of the bike park but I suspect helps extend local loops for those looking for a little more mileage.
The main reason I'm visiting today is progression. There won't be any Strava activities recording, no racing up climbs. Just pure focus on progressing skills, brushing up on technique and having fun. Despite being placed in such a small area of woodland Chicksands really manages to pack a punch with what is on offer. You pay £5 to enter, this gives you a dedicated carpark and access to all of the trails for the whole day. There are benches and picnic areas to relax in and it's clear to see it is well maintained.
There are signs of trail improvements taking place as we ride around the park, money well spent. One of the key areas of today, not only for me but for my other half is drops. Chicksands has us covered, from a very roll-able practice drop through to some big drops into a fast downslope. You can build confidence on the smallest drop before drumming up the courage to hit the big stuff.
Moving on from this to the dual slalom with small drops or steps halfway round. After 20 minutes session-ing the drops my other half hits these with ease and confidence, the satisfaction of building that into a run is great - putting skills in to practice is always the most rewarding part after time spent learning them. This is a good time to mention that the park isn't just for beginners, there are some very serious riders here hitting the downhill runs, blitzing the dual slalom and pulling some crazy tricks on the dirt jumps. It's one of the few places in the world where you see trail bikes, hardtails, dirt jump bikes and full blown downhill rigs sharing the same space - if ever you needed confirmation this place really does have something for everyone.
I really think this place is overlooked by some, progression is an essential part of riding and this is so different to a skills loop at a trail centre. You spend a whole afternoon getting stuff right. You race your mates on the dual slalom, try and clear a dummy gap jump to get yourself pumped for hitting the real thing next time. You nail drop after drop until you can hit them with your eyes closed. You practice pumping on the pump-track and watch this translate into speed on the 4x track. And then after all that there are some pretty serious downhill runs, in the form of the Snake run and the Bull run with some huge gap jumps, some big bomb holes and some dicey drops. You can then retire to the benches, sit in the sun and chat through what you have learnt and start to plan what to do next.
I really love this place, it takes you back to being a kid and mucking about in the woods just having fun. I'm not saying serious 20 mile rides and Strava times are a bad thing but sometimes it's great to not worry about that and just spend time riding and having fun with your mates. Chicksands is the perfect place for this and I urge you to try it.
Want to visit Chicksands bikepark yourself? Find out more on their site here
Riding bikes started two years ago, as a new way to keep fit and quickly it developed into a great way to escape sitting at my desk, and an amazing way to see more of the world. Despite living in the rather flat Northamptonshire I am a keen mountain biker and whenever time allows I am in the car, heading to Scotland, Wales or the Peak district. I love the adventure and variety of a natural ride but it's always great to hit a trail centre and revel in fantastic man-made berms, jumps and drops. Getting on my bike and turning my legs clears my mind like nothing else. I love the connections I've made and the people I have experienced some truly amazing adventures with.
I don't think there is anything quite the same as pointing my bike downhill and threading my way through some sweeping singletrack, rocky bridleways or rooty woodland. It's one of the best things in the world and I love sharing that experience with other people. Over my relatively short time mountain biking I have inspired other people to get out on their bikes - sharing my love for this sport is really important to me and I can't wait to inspire more people to join me. I'm a firm believer that anyone can ride a mountain bike anywhere in the world, it's not all about fancy kit and amazing trails, it's about getting out there and having fun.
View the Specialized Stumpjumper range
Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store
You can browse the entire Whyte range online, or you can get your hands on it in your nearest Rutland Cycling store.
THE RUTLAND DIFFERENCE
FREE DELIVERY OVER £10
30-DAY TEST RIDE