Bolehills BMX track
Words: Dave Camus and Phil 'Hudu' Charnley
Photos: Dave Camus
Name of trails:
Bolehills BMX Track. Maybe technically not trails, but as close as BMX track gets. Steep lips, side by side action, no pedals.
Bolehill Road, Sheffield. S6 5DE. We're a marked location on Google Maps!
History of your trails:
I'll let Hudu, the legend of the hills take this one...
I think the first time I remember going up there was probably 83, maybe 84? Who knows – so many years invested on the hallowed ground that lies up that steep hill off Bolehills Road, Walkley. Sheffield City Council had built 20 ‘tracks in 20 parks! Imagine that now? They were all shite, but Bolehills got adopted by a club and riders who built on it, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Back then the track was a tight twister with about five jumps with the start hill where everyone now gathers to pin the legendary car park straight. Think about heading off that backwards and the current start hill was a 180 berm. So many changes over so many years.
Way back then all BMX clubs had dodgy names Pirates, Buccaneers, etc – This was home of the Bolehill Bandits. Legends up on the hills back then were The Bartimote Brothers, The Barker Brothers, Will Longden and Ben White (the most talented riders ever out of the club?) and The Helders Brothers (one of whom is now bashing drums for the Arctic Monkeys. Incidentally the last time I saw him was backstage at a Festival where instead of banging on about fame and money like most rockstars he was talking about finally getting time out from touring to nail the back straight – Respect Matty)
The club churned out British, Euro and even World Champions over those years and was a big call on the circuit. They even did the first ever Pro Rider Club Sponsorship for yours truly, backing me on the circuit in return for coaching and repping. All good.
Roger Bartimote was the DADDY of the Hills, he was the main man behind the club, the track, the whole scene. His should be one of the statues we put up there one day.
The track was revamped in 88' and the start hill moved to where it is today – but the first generation of BMX had grown up and drifted out – found cars and girls and beer.
Early 90s and the place was growing over. About the time VHS stuff first started coming in from the States and we all saw trails for the first time. Big diggers up there where the Carve House of Death crew, led by George G-Sport French. Out Went Bandits and in came The Bolehills Dirt Society. The place was littered with jumps, concrete transitions were built onto the lips Jumps like the feared KONG with transitions ripped from the jump box at Wakey Skatepark.
As the street scene took off the place saw less and less of those guys up there and late 90s I decided to give the place a bit of a revamp in the hope of stoking a new scene up. I started by clearing the grass off the track and nailing an old jump, then the next one, then the next one – it turned into an obsession and over a year of sometimes 14 hour dig days the track started to come together. I have no idea how many hundreds of tonnes got shifted – but slowly new people would turn up and help out. Jonno Holloway and Si Fagg became regular diggers, Paddy Baker and the Taylors arrived on scene. One day we had a whip round for a JCB for the day and after about an hour this little figure rushes up to me demanding we stop wrecking the place. It was Roger Bartimote – I hadn’t seen him for years but he was still protecting the place! He was chuffed to find out we were not the council ‘dozing his hard work! He was back and helping out again. legend! We grafted like hell and put on a race – about 200 people turned up! Curfew Soundsystem Rig showed up fresh from last nights rave, the sun shone and the King Of Dirt went off. The Bolehills was back.
The Sheffield Dirt Society was born – the first club to shed the old Bucca/Pirate Bandits type names, the first to be billed as a ‘Bicycle Supercross’ club (should have copywrited that one) and to welcome the new breed of MTB riders. First to have a modern Euro style ‘no-pedalling’ track.
So many sessions have gone down, so many digs, so many events, so many good riders pushing the envelope. DC Dan Clifford was the soul and digger and lover of the place after I moved over the border. But new passion always comes in and the crew up there are on it – ever progressing and changing stuff.
There ain’t enough words in the world to say what the place means to me – but if you’ve ever been up there on a dusty summers day with the car park rammed and stereos blaring tunes and trains bowling down the back straight – you have felt it too.
Bolehills is coming up for 30 years, but Bolehills is Forever.
To everyone who ever lifted a spade, busted a move, grazed some skin, done the ‘Bolehills Stare’ and made stuff happen – way too many over the years – you know who you are – respect is yours.
Keep the Dream alive.
Since Hudu provided his history lesson, times have moved on ever further - Malco (John Malcomson) stirred up the passion yet again in 2010 and the now legendary 4th Jump on the back straight was created and 3rd straight revamped. Dirt jump sessions went off, and many low key pump track races were held, and through Phil Reed at Dirt Mag, loads of mag coverage.
Skip to five years later, Malco had moved away to NZ, and the track was falling into a massive state of disrepair after not being properly surfaced for a good few years. I had finally finished Uni and had some free time and needed to get my teeth in a good project. So myself along with the help of Richard Baybutt, long time digger and rider of the hills, grafted like hell through the winter of 2014 and widened the track back to full width. This consisted of about 10 weekends of clearing grass (possibly the dullest and hardest graft job ever) until it was ready for Jordan at Biketrack to come in with the digger and make some changes. We re-surfaced the whole track from scratch, which was 250 tonnes of dirt mostly hand barrowed and laid over two weekends with the help of 50 people. Bolehills went from one of the most fucked tracks in the country to the best. Bolehills was back (again!)
Since then the track has gone from strength to strength, maintenance being kept up and lads like Josh Bryceland and the 50-01 lads coming down to session.
It's my favourite place to ride, and always has a fun and inclusive vibe. Like trails, but not trails.
Describe your trails:
Steep but flowy, kicky but cruisy. Tight rollers, slack rollers. The sickest pumptrack going. Backset is 4 jumps no-one gets tired of, can cruise or scrub or pop and all combos seem to work.
Probably me (Dave Camus) with some help from Richard Baybutt, Monk twins, Marco, Moonboss, Jordan @ Biketrack and too many other volunteers to mention. We had 50 people grafting on the main dig day!
Updates/changes for 2017:
No major changes, just a few tidied lips and nicer edges on backset.
Long term trails/digging goals:
We're planning on some big changes for next year, including pushing the berm after back straight out so it's less tight and so you have more speed going into the third straight, like a big hip into it after the 4th. Loads of other stuff too, like an additional line in the pump track around the back so we can have dual pump track races... We're also planning on launching a big crowdfunding campaign to pay for it so watch this space!
I would like to ride your trails. Are they open to the public or private/invite only? Is there a local I can contact to ask to ride? And does it matter whether I ride a BMX or a MTB?
They are public and open all year round. We just ask that you go steady on the lips and respect the hard work and take your litter home. Usual stuff really. No wheel size hate here.
Charnock pumptrack is pretty close, Monkey Bumps too.
Any jams or contests going on at your trails this year?
Our yearly jam Helltrack just happened and went OFF. Proper crazy. Check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfHqinxcaa8
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just come down and check the place out for yourself. It's not like any other BMX track you've ever ridden...