Whistler Bike Park opened when I was 9 and, later, I started riding there when I was about 11 or 12. It was exciting, but pretty low key in those days. The trails were still being developed; there was more dirt than rock and it was ‘ride on’ lift lines. I had some of my first world-class racing there and some of my early successes. I loved it and it felt like the bike park was full of magic. Recently however, to this privileged local, it has felt that WBP has demanded more effort and more patience to find that same magic. It still exists of course, but you have to push a little deeper through the dust and long lift lines. A-Line is the best jump trail in the world, but surely there’s something else to match? Another bike park somewhere with some of this magic? Could it be Revolution Bike Park? Off and on, for years, it has filled my Instagram feed and the feeling has grown- if there’s somewhere to rival Whistler, it could be there.
The Welsh or, as Caleb accidentally called it, Wales-ish, countryside is home to some of the world’s most talented riders. Riders who ooze style, creativity and possess flair that has riders all over the world trying to emulate them. Tahnee, Vero, Kade, Kaos, 3Dumb, 50:01, the Athertons and too many more to list- they are unique and fresh in their riding as well as many being a dominant force on the World Cup circuit. What is it about Wales? Do these “small” bike parks play a significant role?
I have spent my lifetime fascinated by the art of racing and early on it became a goal of mine to master what could be seen as ‘perfect’ form. It is most likely the futile chase of something unattainable that has kept me engaged for so long. I grew up prioritizing cone drills over wheelies. Instead of dirt jumping, I was timing sections of trail. I saw time in the gym as more valuable than riding a skatepark. I grew up feeling that my time was running out and I had none to waste on something like exploring creativity on my bike. Why hit a corner that way, when doing it this way was faster? In the spring of 2021, I realized I needed, and wanted, to reevaluate what could be a ‘meaningful’ bike ride. With a twist of fate I was fortunate enough to be invited to Casey Brown’s inaugural Dark Horse event where I saw a group of younger riders, uninhibited by the seams of self-doubt running through many of my generation. I left Dark Horse vowing to be more like a grom.
What better opportunity to ride Revolution than when already in the UK in the company of a camera man and the amazing NorthShore Freerider, Caleb Holonko? Surely he could show me a thing or two about fun and style? So, after our week racing in Innerleithen, we made the drive to the Wales-ish countryside.
And, amazing wasn’t even half of it. I thought it would be exclusively a story of shred. A tale of finding a buried talent. And yes. We shredded. I hit jumps. I took my hands off the bars for the first time and Caleb threw down an absolutely insane run on 50:01. But also, we stayed in a tiny Welsh village where we had beers with the locals. We rode windy, narrow lanes with banks of wild flowers and interlaced branches overhead. And we met James, who reinforced for me that cycling can help you find your purpose in life. And yet again, in another country, we saw first hand the importance of building community. And this equally became the story.
The Foster family, spearheaded by James, own and operate Revolution Bike Park. Originally from Cornwall, James rode, raced a little XC, and had passages of time when he didn’t ride at all. Somewhere along the way he discovered trail building and realized that this was his Thing. What he was born to do! In need of a change, he persuaded his family to up and move to the Welsh countryside. His parents bought a large acreage, his brother took care of the business part and James got to work building. Looking at James’ work you would assume that he came from a dirt jump background, not an XC. He carved, wound and wove berms and jumps across the hillside creating, through sheer imagination, what he thought would be fun. This translated into amazing pieces of trail that squeeze every ounce of action out of a relatively small hill!
I was most struck by James’ ability and willingness to listen. He is open minded and has laid aside ego in his building. He can progress in his work because he takes feedback and is willing to make changes. James collaborates with local athletes; helping design and build their dream tracks. This has created, in turn, a culture and style of riding. Revolution is revolutionary. It is designed to allow you to incorporate “session” style riding into a bike park setting. Vision Line is now to me what A-Line is to so many others! By offering so many alternatives through different jumplines, Vision Line makes the ability to progress incredibly accessible and so much fun. I could have spent all day there!
Sometimes, when you’re a ‘pro’ it comes with the assumption that you can just ‘do it all’. I’m the first to admit, I have a long way to go in my riding. That is the most exciting thing about my profession. I’m only now learning the difference between having style and form. When I was actually a grom, I just wanted to be an adult. It’s only now that I’m here, sitting in my 30’s that I realize the importance of play, not practice.