417 Project – A Winter’s Tale

It’s been a few days now… and I’ve just about dried off. OK, so the mud’s still on the bathroom ceiling but that’s a problem for another day. I’d heard about the 417 project via facebook from the usual places, and didn’t think too much more about it. Another bikepark in the works would be fantastic, but what’s the chances of it really happening? It turns out, a lot! Not only that, but I think it’s fair to say, they’ve done a damn good job, especially considering what they’ve got. With it being only an hour and a half away, it was at least worth a visit on a wet, soggy, bitingly cold Sunday.

The staff at 417 are very friendly and couldn’t have been happier to help, pointing us in the right direction and the inevitable chuckles when we told them we’re riding up, not getting the uplift. The track up to the top is largely rideable, especially early in the day with fresh legs but with the knowledge that we were in for a full day or climbing, we opted to ride the flatter bits and push up when the track steepened – and looking back, probably a good call early on.

The guys at 417 describe it as a downhill pump track and I really don’t think they’re far off.

Start the day off nice and easy, we catch our breath, start the GoPro and drop into the blue run. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden something with so much flow so it takes a few corners getting the body position and feel right; although the track already looks sodden from the morning drizzle, there’s grip… a lot of it! By the end of the first run (and after being caught out by the last few tabletops – man I can’t jump…) the bike’s sorting itself out, the brakes are working and the suspension gives me the nudge it’s in need of a few extra PSI. Another climb and decent on the blue run and the track is really starting to show its grace.

The guys at 417 describe it as a downhill pump track and I really don’t think they’re far off. Its high-sided berms, rolling kickers and friendly tabletops eke out the idiot in you, and even on the second descent, we’re railing the berms higher and harder than I’d imagined possible given the conditions.

Muddy Shoes
Cheaper than a mud bath, and thrice as fun!

Time to hit the red run, Igneous. At the minute all runs start from the same point allowing riders to ride up together and meet at the bottom depending on their comfort levels with the tracks – a nice touch. The red instantly differs from the blue run, with rougher terrain and multiple line-choices; although they don’t differ in the technicality, it gives riders that extra element of choice to lengthen out their day. I’d also recommend to anyone, whether they’ve ridden here before or not, to ride the Cheese Roller (blue run) a couple of times before venturing onto the red. The step up in technicality is significant, and it’s vital to have your head and heart in the right place before attacking this route. The routes were described as blue, very red, and very black.

Most of the red features have a chicken run, either designed into the track itself or scarred into the landscape by riders navigating their way around rocks and drops. Less experienced riders may be put off by some of the features that require some maintenance of pace to clear comfortably. I think particular note should be given to the unavoidable doubles towards the tracks end; if you’ve ploughed through the rest of the track quite happily but suck at jumping (like yours truly) you may find the jumps flow-sucking kickers as you frantically try to scrub off speed. I presume these have been put in place to give the first red run a broad mix of everything and to keep those who prefer 2 wheels in the air appeased. It’s a minor point, but one which did spoil the pace of the run towards the end.

That being said, everything at 417 Project is easily sessionable, with navigable push-ups to the important bits, and even bespoke coaching available for those who are happy to pay. Next time, I think I’ll be spending half the day at the bottom of the tracks trying to clean tabletops and grow-a-pair on the doubles.

steep rough-cut lines, flat muddy corners and rock gardens that’ll shake you loose

Finally, the black run. After seeking the advice of one of the local coaches on the conditions of the tracks, the advice (once the laughing had subsided) was to remove any and all mudgards and prepare for your back wheel to overtake you down the first descent, and he wasn’t wrong. Unlike the grip-friendly surfacing on the other two tracks, the black has been left fantastically unfinished. Now… please don’t assume I mean this in any negative sense. It looks absolutely brilliant with steep rough-cut lines, flat muddy corners and rock gardens that’ll shake you loose; that being said, in anything other than dryer seasons (in the UK… hurr hurr) the track is almost unridable. We made it down the first 10% before everyone’s rear wheel had completely locked up from the clay-like mud building around the tyre. It’s great to see tracks like this that really push the riders abilities and confidence, however realistically, the track should only really be ridden in dry spells, or at least not through winter.

The tracks they’ve created are, in short, fantastic, especially considering the relatively short ride/push-up to the trail-head. Once the tracks dry out, the 4x and dual slalom tracks will be open again, and will be well worth a visit, especially for those with a competitive streak. For now, I wish the guys at 417 the best of luck and will be happily support the trails however possible in the coming years. Oh… and bring spare clothes!


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