Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Antur Stiniog Downhill review

Posted by Dandy | November 15, 2012 | 10 comments so far

The people’s downhill centre? Or why Antur Stiniog’s lack of ‘gnarr’ is a good thing.

Dandy at the top of Antur Stiniog

Often, when I write about a ride or a trip, I simply describe the trails we’ve ridden as best I can. However, there’s a wider issue here which I think is quite a breakthrough for UK trail centres. Antur Stiniog has received a lot of good press recently, and rightly so, as it is good. It’s good because it’s not ‘gnarly’.

Wind back 24 hours, and various comments from riders at Llandegla made to Tony and Matt (while they hung around waiting for me to faff about fixing a puncture) suggested that anybody not riding a full-on DH rig at Antur Stiniog was going to struggle, and struggle big time if it was wet. So it was quite a surprise to me to see quite a smattering of trail-oriented bikes while waiting for the uplift.

In fact, the good ol’ Orange 5 seemed to be the most popular bike in the car park, supported by a few Lapierre Zesties, Cubes, etc. Many of the riders were not sporting full-face helmets, either. What was going on?

Dandy enjoys Antur Stiniog

Photo credit – Wayne Shakell

Fun, that’s what was going on. And the people having it weren’t testosterone-fuelled youngsters on big rigs. Women and elderly male riders of the Grand Mole’s vintage were very well represented in the uplift van, which unlike at Cwmcarn was not blaring out Radio 1 distorted by the poor signal due to the surrounding hills. In fact, it was pleasantly quiet.

At the top, the two black routes start from where the van stops, and the red & blue routes require a short down & up to get to the start. Getting on for three-quarters of the riders headed off to the red & blue runs.

RoadMole, Akak & myself headed off with the crowds, and not wanting to overreach ourselves on the first attempt, down the blue we headed. It was fun. As-fast-as-you-dare swoopy berms, with quite a few little lips to pop off for some small, but fun, air. Part way down the red joins it, and later on the blacks do, too.

The final descent is via quite a slippy rock section, which technically was probably the hardest feature in the trail. That was such great fun we headed straight back up to tackle it again, and again.

Tony enjoys Antur Stiniog

Photo credit – Wayne Shakell

Later on that morning, Akak and myself tackled the red route. After a slightly more technical section at the top, it was not too different from the blue, with just some slightly bigger rock sections to merit the slightly harder grading. None of these two runs needed a huge amount of travel on the bike (Akak was on his Cotic BeFe hardtail), or a huge amount of ‘cojones’ (I’m writing this in Spain) to get down safely.

This is why it’s different from the normal uplift, and why it’s so popular. You can fit in maybe 15 very fast and fun descents in a day, for £26. You’d struggle to get that amount of fun if you had to cycle up, and for most of the riders there, the blue & red runs delivered all the excitement they needed. Is this the way for trail centres to go? Several blue & red runs, and maybe a black or two for those that really want to use their DH bikes. We’re told further planned development is likely to be at the blue & red level, not black.

I did tackle the easier black route after lunch, and it was noticeable how few riders were actually coming down it with me. I minced some of it, and the main difference between it and the red was the size of the rocks, and the steepness. It was testing, but fun.

Dandy on the Antur Stiniog downhill course

Photo credit – Wayne Shakell

I’d love to go back and ride it with a few others, as knowing you’ve a mate nearby who can assist if it all goes horribly wrong gives you that little extra confidence. Towards the end, the black route splits into three, with a fairly mental vertical drop off a rock for those with a complete disregard for their own well-being.

We did get a little rain in the afternoon, but the course was not particularly affected by it. The bulk of the trails appear to be made up of crushed rock & slate, and so there was still a good amount of drainage and plenty of broken ground to find good grip. Always best to avoid braking on the wet slabs of rock though, eh, Tony?

Antur Stiniog pump track

Does it really lack ‘gnarr’? No, there’s enough in the black runs to keep good riders happily entertained all day. What Antur Stiniog is best at, I think, is giving a lot of vertical descent for the average rider to tackle. The riders were literally voting with their feet, and the masses were thoroughly entertained by the fast, and largely safe, trails.

Maybe this really is the first of the ‘people’s downhill centres’?


About the author

Having been mountain biking since 1996, you might have expected Dandy to have learnt to ride a bike by now. Several broken bones in the last few years prove the maxim that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In between hospital visits, Dandy rides a brace of much-blinged Pace RCs, the 'green themed' 405 and the silver & gold 506. His winter hack is the Moles' favourite, an On-One 456 hardtail, now converted to an Alfine hub He also dabbles in 'the dark arts', keeping 2 road bikes in one of his seven sheds.

There are 10 comments on ‘Antur Stiniog Downhill review’

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  1. Tony says:

    Yep braking and turning on rocks more slippery than an eel in a tub of swarfega whilst not running super tacky downhill tyres, is not to be recommended. Especially not on your first run. With the stack I left my mojo slightly on the hill!

  2. Andrew AKAK says:

    This place was a lot of fun and a good non-pedally day to add to a trip. It is a challenge to ride well in places, but there is no pressure because you get another go 20 minutes later.

  3. Matt says:

    Having opted not to book the uplift beforehand, thinking I could always pedal up if I wanted to, it turned out that the people in charge are keen for people not to do this, for reasons unclear. To be honest, you’d be mad to try as it’s a long steep climb and in fact I ended up sitting out the day.

    I was quite happy to do so as I was knackered but the message is if you want to do a day there make sure you book the uplift before you go as places are limited and even in mid-November it was fully booked. Which is great.

    I took the chance to chill out and later strolled up onto the course via a roundabout route so I wasn’t getting in people’s way. It was a steep, wet climb but I ended up with a good view of the lower third of the blue, red and black routes.

    Most people were on the blue/red and it all looked emminently rideable from my vantage point, in fact a lot of fun.

    You occasionally saw riders coming down with blown out tyres and you often saw some dodgy lines from people, which underscores Dandy’s point about it appealing to people new to downhill as well as experienced riders. I ended up wishing I could have had a go although realistically I really was too tired to do myself justice.

    Another observation I’d make is that at least 10% of the days’ riders were female and they were obviously enjoying themselves just as much as everyone else, sometimes with a bit more screaming involved! In fact there was a lot of chat and banter among all the riders which helped the atmosphere no end.

    Where I stood at the split between the red and black at the lower third of the trails just past the bridge showed what the whole place is about. There’s a huge rock outcrop on the black but there’s three lines.

    One looked a deal less difficult than Two Headed Dog on Pitch Hill but longer, with a graded surface and a smooth berm, one involved a steep slab which was something you could easily fly over with the right amount of speed without interrupting your flow and one was a six foot vertical drop to a steep transition. Not rideable other than as a launch off and not something I could ever ride myself but the point is there were different options.

    Bike-wise a normal trail bike will be fine but I’d recommend putting some fat sticky rubber on it for reliable running. A downhill bike will be much more suited but very few of us have those available to us.

    A final word on expansion.

    Talking to the bloke running it they have permission for two more trails on the hill and are thinking that blue or red is the way to go as that’s what most people are enjoying. Think the gnarlier end of normal trail centre black runs. There’s also plans to put a blue graded longer XC route in the area but plans are more vague at present, there’s a Dirt Jump track in the process of being built/bedded in and even a long-term/wishful thinking plan to perhaps link with Penmachno across the pass.

    We’ll see but I expect to go back and ride this course next year…

  4. Bazza says:

    sounds great Dandy i do like your “Tour of Duty” Black Ops look……. and Tony looks like he was trying to get the 2 edges of his mouth to touch his chin……Oh! the faces of concentration or was that fear!!!!!

  5. Another great write up and a different tack from the tales told by the guys we know who’ve been (part of the, increasing, big rig brigade).
    Again, good to see you enjoyed your stint in North Wales.
    Cheers Carlos

  6. tony says:

    50% fear 50% concentration! Hitting that jump (yes my wheels were off the ground) and lining up for the next rock garden.

    Damn Antur Stiniog was fun. Just remember to smile for the camera next time.

  7. paul901 says:

    I could cry reading about people sitting in a van or a ski-lift uphill then only riding their bike downhill. I would do it the other way round, lots of laughs!

    Mind you, if you have to watch me ride a mountain bike downhill I think you would find yourself crying too! I’v never forgotten the enema-tic feeling of the drop-off by the viewpoint on Holmbury Hill, or the bit before BKB which are presumably nothing compared with these MAMIL playgrounds.

  8. Related: Mountain biking the Cadair Berwyn Loop in North Wales

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