ANTUR STINIOG - UK DESTINATIONS
Originally established in 2008 Antur Stiniog is well known amongst the Downhill community. Eleven years on and the spades are out again. We headed over to check on how the tracks are running and to see what new trails are coming soon!
The mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales are home to some of the most stunning scenery in the UK. Nestled deep in the National Park you will find Blaenau Ffestiniog, known by many as ‘the town that roofed the world’. This stunning town is famous for its history of slate mining, however in the world of Mountain Biking it is known to have one of the best trail centres in Britain, Antur Stiniog.
What to Expect
Antur Stiniog has tracks ranging from blue to double black with even more coming soon. On top of its great trails it boasts the quickest, most efficient uplift in the UK. There's no faffing around, you'll barely have a chance to catch your breath before you're on the next bus up. If you're feeling up to it you can expect to have around 20 runs in a day. With smooth roads direct to the top, it’s a well run shuttle that won’t batter your bike before it’s even on the track. Extra care is taken by the staff to make sure even the longest 29er DH bikes are safely secured on the trailer. Once you’ve reached the top and taken in Blaenau Ffestiniogs unique but beautiful landscape, you’ll have a choice of routes to take down which vary in difficulty.
Antur Stiniog has just about every rock feature you can think of from rock gardens to rocks rolls, loose rock to sharp rocks, scree and lots of fixed boulders. If you’re not a fan of roots, these can be avoided but if you need to hone your skills with technical rock features then this is the place to go. There's lots of variety between the tracks. Some are surfaced, others are unsurfaced, some are just bare, solid rock. Then you've got parts that are as natural as you like with a sneeky loamy cut through if you know where to look. A couple of the tracks are mellow and fast with a boulder here and a slab drop there whilst others are steep, loose and technical.
The center has played host to many races including Britsh National Downhill and Borderline events. It also held the 'BDS Legends Race' a few years back in 2015 where you may be familiar with the story of Rob Warner losing a bet with Lee Bertrum that resulted in him having his ass tatooed with Lees winning time. No-one takes themselves too seriously at Antur. It's a relaxed vibe from signing in to loading the bikes onto the trailer, everyones just out to have a good time and ride bikes.
Most people who have visited this place before will know it for being hard on your body and your bike. However few people know of the work that has recently been done to revamp the all of the existing trails. Amongst our favourite tracks to ride, Black Powder has had a touch up too and is even better than before. The track is graded as black but after a lot of use it was becoming as difficult to tackle as the double black with lots of sections that could catch you out. A few of its overly chewy parts have been smoothed out a little meaning the track still has plenty of gnarlyness to its name but is just that slightly more forgiving.
Added to the existing 7 tracks, four more will be completed by September 2019. Included in the lineup a red jump line has been put in with 35 jumps in total, it’s fast and fun with big sweeping corners. Ideal for beginners because everything is rollable, yet it has enough fun features and larger jumps to keep the more experienced riders happy too. Next in the line up is another red. This is a totally new track that has been painstakingly carved into the other side of the mountain. This track has a big smile factor. Steeper than the other reds it snakes its way down, crosses the uplift road and continues to wiggle its way to the bottom where it eventually joins up with the other trails. The new red is a great stepping stone for progressing onto the more technical black trails. Both new red trails are open for riding now but there is still more to come. Joining them very soon will be a new green line as well as another more challenging black.
Some bike centres mellow with age, some get more agressive as time goes by, but Antur Stiniog has nailed the balance just right. It still lives up to its reputation for having tracks that take no prisoners, but with the new additions it has opened its doors to a wider audience of mountainbikers. With a family friendly green line expected to be finished later this August all the way through the ranks to tracks worthy of the Pros. Blood, sweat and tears have gone into making Antur even better than it was before but now there truely is something for everyone to ride.
Antur Stiniog has all the facilities you will need for your visit. It boasts a Cafe, toilets and changing rooms. There’s showers if you need them and also a bike wash. Parking is at the bottom of the trails near the cafe and there’s plenty of room for everyone. It is here that you will find the pump track which is fun to have a spin on if you have any energy left before you pack up and head home to lick your wounds. The centre offers Nukeproof bikes for demo and hire, as well as a small shop with the essentials just in case you need a tube or two. If you are keen to stay over then check on their website where you’ll find a list of accommodation in the local area.
The staff at the Centre are a great bunch who are really friendly and happy to help. If you need advice on which track may suit you best or how to change a tyre then just ask. Alternatively if you want a horror story of who's done what to their body on which part of the mountain, they've got all the gory details, but it's better to leave that conversation untill the end of the day. No matter who it is you are talking to, there's always a bit of banter to be had and despite the amount of times the uplift driver has been asked "So, which one's Snowdon?"they are more than happy to point it out again. You definitely get a sense of pride amongst the team here. All the guys are fluent in Welsh but lucky for us they speak English too. It goes without saying, don't be a arse, even your best sheep impression won't be funny.
What to Ride Nearby
It’s certainly worth heading into the mountains of North Wales to visit Antur Stiniog. Whatever road you take to get there you will see some beautiful views and you won’t be disappointed with the tracks when you arrive. If you fancy making a weekend of it or even a week for that matter, there is plenty of riding to do while you are in the area. Check out Coed y Brenin trail centre, great for complete beginners and those with more experience, or if you fancy more of a challenge then there is some great riding around Betws y Coed if you know where to look. Not too far afield you’ll find One Giant Leap Llangollen. Steep and technical, this place is a must visit, but you’ll need to get in touch as uplifts don’t run every day. Coed Llandegla is another trail center not too far away, similar to Coed y Brennin, it’s unshuttled and XC/enduro territory. If roots are your kind of thing and you fancy some time on the DH bike then you might want to visit Revolution Bikepark Llangynog but be warned, it's not a place for the faint hearted.
Not only is this a great part of the world for mountain biking but also a fantastic place to enjoy with the family. Antur Stiniog itself is not only home to one of the UKs best mountain bike centres but just next door you'll find Llechwedd Slate Caverns and Zip World. A place where heritage and adventure combines, there's something to suit everyone which makes the small town of Blaenau Ffestiniog perfect for thrill seeking individuals and families aswel.
Planning Your Visit
Bikes - Antur Stiniog is suitable for bikes that have full suspension but it is mainly aimed towards Enduro and DH bikes. If you are sticking to the easier tracks then an enduro bike is perfectly suitable, but if you're spending the day on the tougher stuff then you’ll probably have more fun on your DH bike.
Puncture Prevention - as mentioned this place is full of rocks from top to bottom with varying degrees of savage-ness. It is no surprise that people pick up a puncture or two whilst here and perhaps even a rim ding. The best way to avoid this is to make sure you use a good heavy duty DH tyre with thick ply. It’s better to have a little more pressure in than you would normally run to protect that rim, you can always let a bit out but you can’t put any in if your pump is in the car. If you are running tubeless, bring extra sealant just in case. Regardless of what your set up is, it’s always handy to have a spare tube at hand too.
Weather - Perhaps the most unpredictable weather in the UK is at Antur Stiniog. This place is known for having a micro climate of its own yet it is fantastic to ride in all conditions. Between Ieuan and I, we’ve seen it all at Antur. The tracks are well accustomed to the varied weather and hold up well in the rain and sun. It’s a great place to ride in the wet as well as the dry and there’s always a fire on in the cafe for those cold soggy days. If the forcast predicts sun then take wet weather gear just in case, and maybe even prepare for snow. But whatever the weather you'll still have a great day.
Costs - To be able to ride at Antur Stiniog you need to book onto the uplift. Prebooking is definitely advised but occasionally you can show up on the day and still get a space however priority is given to those who have booked in advance. The uplift starts at 10am and runs until 4:15pm. A full face helmet is compulsory. Its £33/£36 for a full days riding depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend. With an average of 20 runs in a day that’s £1.65/£1.80 per shuttle…..bargain. Half day passes are also available. -The trails are open 5 days (Thursday to Monday) April to August then 4 days (Thursday to Sunday) from September to March and the centre is open all year around unless the weather conditions are life threatening.
On the 14th of September 2019 there will be an official opening to celebrate the completion of the new tracks. The new additions have yet to be named but they will be announced on the 14th. The atmosphere will be lively and everyone is welcome so book your place now. We look forward to updating you on the lastest progress on our next visit when all tracks will be open and running. In the mean time check out the videos below to get an idea of what there is to look forward to. See you there on the 14th! Exciting times ahead folks!
For more info visit - http://www.anturstiniog.com/
Words - Alex Hunter
Photos - Alex Hunter and Ieuan Williams