Words: Morgan Hampton
Photos and videos: Pete Newman
Location: Elton, Littledean, Gloucestershire
History of the trails:
Redhill started life as a mountainboard centre back in 2005. In spring 2007, the owner Neil Griffin decided to build a play track to cater for the influx of mountain bikers that were riding there. The track was brought to the attention of Chris Roberts, the man behind the UK 4X series, who asked to hold the UK 4X national champs on the track that year.
Since then we’ve held a round of the NPS 4X series every year without fail, and the national champs were held here again in 2009. I’d go out on a limb and say it’s the favourite 4X track on the UK circuit, and at just over 500m long it’s also probably the longest too. It’s been featured in various race reports for Dirt and MBUK, a trail centre feature in MBR, and has been the location for various magazine photo shoots and test rides.
24Seven originally paid for some dirt jumps to be built in 2008 for their Filthy48 competition, but the competition never happened due to lack of funding/interest. The jumps had various changes over the years but were never very good: poor soil, strong crosswinds and a steep gradient meant that they fell into disuse, and in 2011 were flattened. However, before their demolition we did hold a few rounds of King of Dirt and Dirt Wars on them.
Nike 6.0 paid for a team of diggers to come in and build a crazy dirt bowl for a photo shoot in 2009. Unfortunately, due to complaints from neighbours about constant noise, the bowl was shut at the end of the 2010 season, and eventually filled back in.
Until the end of last year there were several pump/beginner/board tracks that ran down the hill, designed for all abilities. You can hit them as fast or as slow as you like; they’re just great fun to play on! 20 seconds of flat-out flowing frivolity for minimal effort. Thankfully their replacement looks set to be even better.
In late summer 2011 the digger came in again to construct a line of jumps towards the top of the hill, out of the wind and on much better soil. The line was far less “comp style” than the 24Seven jumps and more trails-like in construction. Unfortunately due to it being high summer, we were limited on what we could build, as everything had to work pretty much first time. Small and simple was the key, but they proved to be seriously popular; beyond expectation.
There are always impromptu sessions, BBQs and camp-overs happening, but in 2011 we held our first formal festival weekend: RedFest. It was basically a fun weekend including timed pump racing, head to head grass slalom (old-school style fun), and a laid back 4X race on the Sunday. Obviously there was a lot of sunshine and booze involved too!
Describe your trails:
Quite basic, but fun. Three straights linked by berms and pumps snaking down the hill, with the jumps getting progressively bigger. The idea was that riders can progress down the set as their ability improves.
The line actually starts on the 4X start hill, taking in the first straight of the 4X track which consists of various pumps, tables and rollers, round a 180 berm, two more pumps, then a step up off the race track and into the trails. The first straight is three simple mellow jumps, around another 180 berm into a nice lofty jump, then a fly off landing into another 180 berm! This spits you onto the final straight which is still under construction, but should be a nice boosting up ’n’ downer, and a final trick step up for all the trick ferrets – of which we have loads!
For the 4X and other tracks you’ll just have to come and see for yourself! Suffice to say that the 4X is without doubt our strongest feature, and is fun to ride alone or race with your mates. There are so many lines that no two runs are ever the same!
Neil Griffin puts in a few thousand hours a year running the centre, but then it is his job! Considering he doesn’t even ride bikes, he’s pretty dedicated to the cause! I do a fair amount of digging, as well as “representing” Redhill on the internet and in other media, just because I’ve got the biggest gob and like using computers! Tom Gethin (2011 senior 4X champ, trails boss, and all round hero on a bike) does a massive amount of work with a spade, and his years of digging and riding experience really come in useful. James Barker and Alex Chandler have really put the hours in too this year with the digging, which is massively appreciated. Pete Newman has managed to tear himself away from his super-hot girlfriend to sneak some productive digging time in, as well as continue to keep Redhill supplied with awesome photos and video. I’d like to say Lewis Richards has done loads of digging this year, but he hasn’t, so I can’t. He’s spent all his time riding at Sandbay while we’ve been digging, and then buggered off snowboarding. Cara Murray is considered a local but is yet to do any digging; all she does is stand around posing for the guys and occasionally puts in a few runs on her bike. We let her off though because she’s alright to look at and can take a full on hit-and-run from the banter bus!
That’s quite a small number of diggers considering the size of the centre, and the fact that it caters for a few hundred riders every week for six months of the year. When we build stuff, it stays built!!
Updates/changes for 2012:
The 4x has had some tweaks for 2012, but remains largely the same. Drainage has been further improved, and a few other bits have been mellowed off to make them safer at high speeds.
The trails are just being continued from where we left off last year; they were only roughed out and we had to spend frantic days to get them running in time for the final weekend before Redhill closed for the winter! This year the layout is the same, but we’re making everything a bit bigger than before. The intention is to have something that gets harder to ride as the line progresses, so younger riders have to learn to be smooth and pump properly, rather than throwing shit tricks, casing, and being able to pedal between the jumps.
The pump/beginner/board tracks have been flattened to make way for one long track, which is being built in two stages. Again, it’s been designed with everyone in mind, so you can ride it how you please. It’s already proving fun to test ride, with plenty of manual combo lines possible, as well as loads of opportunity for scrubs and tyre slides.
Long term trails/digging goals:
To continue tweaking and changing everything to keep it interesting yet challenging. If stuff isn’t fun to ride, people won’t come to ride it, Neil can’t make a living from it, and ultimately it will close. It’s a real hard task to keep varying stuff year on year to keep interests high.
Trails wise we’re constrained by space and health and safety being a pay-to-ride spot. We’re never going to have millions of lines and huge jumps, so what’s there has to be fun for everyone. I think the long term plan is just to make the jumps as neat and solid as possible. They’ll be getting hit hundreds of thousands of times over the next year, and it’s difficult to shut the trails to do any maintenance when it’s busy, and because people pay-to-ride you can’t expect them to help water or sweep either.
On a personal level, I myself would like to focus my time on the trails, making them as fun as possible. They need to be suitable for the majority of riders, yet still remain a challenge for more experienced riders. What’s key this year is sorting out proper drainage on the trails. It was infuriating over the winter to see that the jumps were still hard packed and rideable, but the lingering wet spots caused by the proliferation of land drains that were laid in the hill years ago mean that in places the trails are still running slow now, despite all this sun! Those that dig enough to call themselves locals can ride outside of opening hours, so it’d be good to have some trails that ride almost all year round
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?
Redhill Extreme is a public pay-to-ride spot, open usually from April through to the early October. While the trails may not be the most exciting thing for all you experienced trail-bosses, the 4X track and other play tracks provide enough entertainment to keep you riding flat out for a weekend without getting bored. Add the fact that an uplift operates for a few hours on the weekend, and it's easily possible to put in excess of 30 runs of the 4X. The trails and play tracks are built with BMXs in mind, though they may be a little bumpy on smaller wheels. The 4X isn’t really suitable for BMX mainly due to the large amounts of dust/stone in the corners, and the huge speeds it’s ridden at. Having said that, plenty of BMXers do ride it and enjoy it.
Broadwell Dips are the nearest dirt jumps, but they have fallen into disrepair over the years, and are pretty much a series of rolled over 3ft high mole-hills now. Obviously being in close proximity to the Forest of Dean is cool if you ride bigger wheels, as there are loads of DH and XC routes. The new Blue loop at the cycle centre has an epic final decent that’s like being on a massive pump track for three minutes! There isn’t much else in the way of jumps locally; a few hidden kickers built by kids in the woods are about it.
Any jams or contests going on at your trails this year?
The UK NPS 4X wagon rolls into Redhill once again in June this year. With any luck we’ll be hosting RedFest 2012, which should be another very laid back and fun affair. Other than that there’s not much planned. We have difficulty holding anything formal on the trails as the insurance for the centre doesn’t cover anything classed as “competition or situations where people are likely to over-exert themselves”. Bit of a bummer I know. Having said that, when there’s 40+ people all riding together, jams kind of happen!
Anything else you’d like to add?
A massive thanks to anyone that’s helped this year. There have been a lot of changes, and a very short space of time to get it all finished, so any help has been appreciated.
Neil doesn’t get enough praise for the riding nirvana he’s created, so extra special thanks to him.
A wise man once said “if you’re not having fun you’re trying too hard”. I think that pretty much sums up the overall vibe of Redhill. All we really care about is that you’re having fun!
A little salt is good for you: get used to the taste!
For more info head to http://redhillextreme.co.uk or search for “Redhill Extreme” on Facebook.
Also give cameraman Peter Newan some love on http://petenewman.wordpress.com/