I’ve led a relatively sheltered riding life to date, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that, having enjoyed mountain biking for so long. My local riding spots are usually the finely crafted trails and off-piste areas of Swinley Forest and the more natural, undulating singletrack and unmarked routes across the Surrey Hills. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love these trails and am extremely lucky to live so close to both to be able to session them as and when I fancy tearing up the trails.
Every so often however, it’s good to spread your wings and head further afield and try out some new trails, to help keep the buzz alive and ensure you don’t get too relaxed with your riding. New trails help you learn new skills, techniques and types of terrain, as well as helping you get outside your comfort zone.
The next few blog posts will be documenting my rides at new places, which I hope may help you if you’re yet to experience these venues.
On April 30th, along with a few riding mates, I headed to the relatively newly built Project 417, operated by the great team at Flyup Downhill and privately owned by Simon and Angela Ruskin. For a venue that’s only been open a few months, they’ve done an outstanding job of creating a great atmosphere, incredible runs and a café with some immensely tasty food.
Project 417 has three graded runs, a dual slalom course, indoor jumps and an indoor asphalt pump track (built by Claudio Caluori’s ‘Velosolutions’ team, no less!) all open, with some massive outdoor dirt jumps under construction and plans for a whole lot more in the 100 acres of land they have available!
Our day started at the local Toby Carvery, with the ‘gutbuster’ breakfast, washed down with a few mugs of strong coffee to get us ride ready. It’s always a good idea to fuel pre-ride, and this certainly did the job and hit the spot. Me and the lads were ready for the day, and headed to the venue. We parked up, checked in and looked around the grounds, then jumped on the first available uplift and headed to the top.
Remember, for trail centres – no lid, no ride. It’s always important to ensure you’re well protected when riding, especially when visiting new places. I always ride with kneepads, gloves and a helmet as a bare minimum for protection, but elbow pads are also a good idea if you’re unsure. If you’re curious, I’ve reviewed the Bell Super 2r helmet here.
On the day, we stuck to the uplift and first tested out ‘Cheese Roller’, the blue trail, to get our bearings and an idea of what was in store. The good news is, all three trailheads are in the same place, so you can leave it until the last moment to decide which trail you want to tackle. Cheese Roller was a long track, twisting and turning all the way down with superb views of the Gloucestershire countryside on offer. It was incredibly fast too, with small jumps dotted along the trail. The blue run ended with a section of increasingly bigger jumps, which you can style up (if, unlike me, you have style!), in full view of riders awaiting the uplift service. Cheese Roller was around 0.8 miles in length, which is plenty long enough to keep the legs burning if you want to get the speed up!
The red run, Igneous, was a full on rockfest from start to finish. I’d heard people saying that the red run at 417 is on the top end of red grading, and they were most definitely right about that! Igneous was my personal favourite on the day, with rock jumps scattered throughout the run and some super gnarly rock gardens. I loved this trail so much, I decided to leave some of my skin on the trail after a little tumble (you’ve not pushed hard enough unless you come back bleeding)! Igneous comes out at around half a mile in length, but it feels a lot longer due to the technical elements of the rock jumps and gardens. I ended the red run each time with a massive smile, eager to give it another go.
On to ‘Super Fly’, the black run. I’d seen videos of this prior to riding it; huge doubles, road gaps and even bigger rock gardens looked like the order of the day here. Sadly, I am not at that level technically, but I still gave it a go and tentatively rolled down, opting for the chicken runs where I could (laaaammmeee). The rock gardens and technical areas were great fun, but the doubles and gap jumps were well beyond my ability! George, fellow Bird Aeris rider, had a pretty gnarly off on one of the rock gardens, but luckily sustained no lasting damage! As with Igneous, Super Fly is approximately half a mile of steep, gnarly fun. Here’s a small edit of the runs (you’ll soon learn I’m not that keen on being airborne; drops are all good, doubles are my nemesis):
Overall, Project 417 was immense fun, with spectacular scenery, great facilities (although just portaloos currently) and a decent uplift service, even if we did have to wait a while on occasion. It’s definitely somewhere that I’d return to in the near future and would highly recommend it to anybody that wants fast, technical and challenging trails and a great day out with riding buddies.
Even though it may seem like there’s not enough to spend a day there, my mates and I were easily entertained with sessioning the trails and getting them as dialled as possible. The jumps were a bit out of my league, but that’s nothing some skills coaching and some more visits won’t fix! If you do feel like you’ve sessioned enough, the Forest of Dean is relatively close (The Forest of Dean will be the subject of my next blog post, so stay tuned).
Big thanks to Chris, George, Steve, Dave, Darren and Harry for the laughs on the day, and to the 417 staff for being super friendly, welcoming and always available to answer any questions. Also, thanks to Bird Cycleworks, their Aeris is growing my confidence with each ride. This former XC rider is very slowly beginning to develop wings…
For now, cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders