PWC Bike Park – forever improving your experience
20 May 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Hello and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking podcast. Where all matters mountain biking are the focus of the next 10 minutes or so. As we talk about this great sport to people, we visit places and we find out more about what makes this great sport tick. What makes it so popular in South Africa and the future and where it might be going. Where it might be taking us on our bikes.
Today we’re going to focus on a Bike Park and a Bike Park that has attracted lots of attention over the last number of years, probably over 10 years in Johannesburg. Because it’s a city centre basically Bike Park, the PWC Bike Park, just off Main Road in Bryanston. Commercial Manager Marc Fourie joins me now. Marc, greetings, thanks for chatting to us here on the Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. The PWC has undergone quite a transformation in the last year or so. Just outline that in terms of what’s been going on there?
Marc Fourie: It’s great chatting and catching up Gerald. Over the last, call it 18-20 months we’ve revitalised all the trails. We had Hilton Turvey come up from Karkloof, he’s our trail builder that we use and we have rebuilt all the trails in the park so that you get a lot more flow. But more importantly, we’ve got them graded from beginner through to expert and they’re all designed around progression.
You can start off by riding the perimeter road, if you’re a beginner rider, start riding the green trails as more of a novice rider so that you can get used to the single track. Then move further on to the intermediate and some of our expert obstacles that you get off the intermediate lines.
GDK: You used to have, and I think it’s still there, the BMX track was always an attraction for the youngsters. It was a fairly competitive type BMX track, was that remodelled?
MF: Yes, it was and it’s become even more popular with the youngsters. What we’ve done there, staying with our vision of having that progression, is that you’ve got three different size jumps, all within that jump track. We’ve actually got two jump tracks now that we’ve created from the original one super-cross size BMX track. So that the kids can also ride safely and that they can progress from smaller jumps through to medium and then expert jumps as they get older and more experienced.
Getting the best course design possible
GDK: Hilton Turvey works predominantly down in KZN on a lot of mountains and forest areas and things. So bringing him to the city must have been quite an experience for him to carve something out of the lands, both sides of the highway?
MF: Yes, I think it was firstly, an experience and secondly, a challenge. But he’s got the visionary mind when it comes to trails that nobody else I’ve experienced has. Even though we’ve got a fair lack of elevation, he’s managed to create trails that are fun, that flow, but make you work the entire time.
Unlike big, open single track trail where you’ve got long distances before you get to technical sections. You’ve got to really work the whole time when you’re on the trails at the PWC Park. Because we don’t have that distance.
GDK: Rock gardens, a little bit of drop-offs, quite technically advanced sections, you’ve got those?
MF: Yes, we have, so what we’ve done is, we’ve built little side trails off individual trails so that an intermediate rider riding with a beginner, as an example, the beginner can follow the beginner trail. The intermediate to expert rider can turn off, do a jump, do a table drop off a rock garden, then join back on before they get to the exit. They’re effectively riding the trail together, but just doing different obstacles.
We’ve also got two skill areas. The first being our beginner skills area which has a smaller rock garden in it, it has some logs and berms and turns. So people can get used to riding single track before they go out into the park itself. We have an advanced skills area which has a big rock garden with several lines as well as three steeper drop-offs and table drop-offs. So that we can progress riders through our cycle bike skills programme while we’re doing the teaching.
A well rounded teaching methodology
GDK: Talking about that, it sounds as though it’s a great place for those who are new to the sport, for the youngsters to go and learn about the sport. Recently you brought out a coach from the United States, from Canada, to assist with that, tell us the background to that?
MF: Okay, so we saw that there’s a space in the skills instruction market and for us to progress as a country and with our riders, we needed to start getting more involved. Better international feedback and best practice when it comes to teaching. We partnered up with a professional mountain bike instructors’ association, they’re based in Canada. We started last year where we had six instructors trained up on their level one programme, where we are now internationally certified.
We’re one of the only skills programmes that are internationally certified, that have international instructors. But the key for us was the teaching methodology. Having that access to what’s best internationally and whether industry is progressing, as riders start moving more away from big flat sand road marathon-style to cross country. To more technical enduro riding, we wanted to be able to help develop those riders and also get new riders onto bikes that have never been on bikes before.
GDK: The Bike Park offers so much more as well. You go in there and there are these areas where the families are having parties. There are children’s parties going on there, so it’s more than just a Bike Park?
A venue for the entire family
MF: Most definitely. We look at it as being more a family entertainment venue. We have several bomas that are specifically there for kids’ parties. So kids come out, they have their birthday parties there, corporates come out for social functions, social clubs come and use the venue for their gatherings. Corporates for corporate presentations and corporate skills days. The venue is really a multi-faceted.
We can do a wide range of stuff, including we have a team building programme. So corporates that want to come through and do team building, that’s not necessarily bike related, can come through. We’ve got various exercises for that. We also have a large trail running following that enjoy running our trails, especially during the week for training because of the safety and the location.
GDK: You’ve got a little bit of a shop there, and the food and drink?
MF: Food and drink is available. We have a new restaurant that’s underway, it should be opening mid-June and then that’ll be a full service restaurant. Catering to our clients and our parties and anybody else that’s coming through there. So you can sit down, have a coffee, have lunch, have a craft beer and just enjoy the day.
GDK: In terms of numbers, I think it’s 10 years or nearly 10 years it’s been going, but what’s the numbers you’re getting through there?
MF: So, the park was originally built in 2008, we’re just over eight years now. We have, on an average weekend, we can have anything, like 500-600 people through the door on a daily basis. Not everybody is riding, some are trail running, some are guests just bringing kids to come and ride. But we have built up a big following, a lot of people are really passionate about the park and what we’ve done, especially for newer riders.
Safe and centrally accessible to much of Joburg
GDK: I suppose that’s the thing, it’s so accessible to people living in Johannesburg.
MF: Most definitely. It’s incredibly accessible, it’s central, it’s off major routes. But also we’re open from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening, Monday to Sunday. So there’s no excuse not to be able to find the time to come out and have a ride.
GDK: And it’s safe.
MF: Most definitely, it’s fenced, it’s patrolled by a security team. We’ve got our ground crew guys out on the perimeter the entire time and so far we’ve been very lucky.
GDK: In terms of rider safety, in terms of getting it wrong. When the young man decides that he should do the big double and gets it wrong?
MF: Over weekends we have a fully functioning medical room with our medical services that are on site. @e have service providers that will come through to the park should we have an emergency that we need to take somebody to the hospital by ambulance. We make sure that safety is paramount for us, we make sure we have it covered, so if somebody does get it wrong, they’re definitely looked after.
GDK: It’s a model that works so well and yet, I don’t know them all, but I haven’t seen a similar one spring up elsewhere in the big cities in South Africa. Is there a chance of that happening?
MF: I’m sure there is, as people see that the model is working on our side, but it is unique. A lot of trails don’t have the facilities and are really designed specifically for mountain bikers. Very few allow trail runners to use the mountain biking trails at the same time. They don’t cater for the kids and family component as much as what we do. Where we’re focused on that because we believe getting the kids riding is the future of our sport.
If we can get those kids riding safely and develop their skills at a young age, through them attending a kids party or anything along those lines, we are going to be growing our sport. Growing better riders and developing that talent as they go further.
GDK: Not to mention mum and dad who come along for the first time to the Bike Park and actually see how much fun it is.
MF: Yeah, we have that a lot actually. We often see kids coming, now the kid wants to go out on the trails, but they’re too young to go on their own. So then the parents start getting bikes and start riding with them so that the kids can experience the single track. It’s not long before the entire family is riding.
GDK: Marc, strengths to you and strengths to the PWC Bike Park, it’s a wonderful asset to our city.
MF: Thank you very much, we’re looking forward to growing it and to getting more riders on bikes.
GDK: Absolutely, you know where to go, PWC Bike Park, if you’re Johannesburg that is, it’s out on Main Road, out just before you cross over the N1 highway, the old cement highway. If you cross over that, going out north towards Kyalami, it’s on your right hand side there and you won’t miss it.
Take your bike along and go and enjoy the trails of the PWC Bike Park, you’ll certainly be tested and be sweating when you get off it. Marc Fourie, thanks for joining us, Commercial Manager at the PWC Bike Park. Thank you for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike.