Juliet’s sneak preview of The Flyup 417 Project

Wideopen’s Juliet Elliott just got the grand tour of the soon-to-be-open Flyup 417 Project.

words by Juliet Elliott // photos by Dave Noakes

Juliet Elliot Flyup 417 Project (7 of 17)
The 417 Project is still a work in progress – but the Blue Trail was a great preview.

The Flyup417 project is a brand new mountain bike trail centre being built on 100 acres of private land in Gloucestershire. It promises riding of all levels with indoor and outdoor trails and the UK’s first MTB drag lift.

We sent Wideopen’s roving reporter Juliet Elliott along to find out more:

Surely those kinds of places only ever get built in the States?

I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical when I first I first heard about plans for the 417 Project. A brand new mountain bike facility with downhill runs, dirt jumps and not one, but two indoor riding barns? Chuck in a 4X track, dual slalom, air bag and a drag lift and it sounded far to good to be true. Surely those kinds of places only ever get built in the States?

The brainchild of the team behind FlyUp Downhill, this year, 417 Project finally got the go ahead to turn what at first sounded like an overexcited dream into a very exciting reality. We were invited to have a sneak preview and see what work has taken place since they first broke ground in the summer. With a chance to be one of the first to ever ride the place, I was pretty excited to go.

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Juliet and her Marin Attack Trail 9 test bike. More on that later …
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It’s not all blue trails at the 417 Project – there’s big jumps too.

“a very slick operation”

Located not far off the M5 in Gloucestershire, the 100-acre site was surprisingly easy to find and with a brand spanking new driveway in place, it was nice to be able to drive up without trashing the car and bouncing all over the damn place. It’s a small thing, but indicative of the team’s desire to provide a very slick operation, something that was apparent in everything we saw during our visit.

Greeted by Simon and Angie from FlyUp on a darkly stormy and rain lashed day, we began our visit with a brief tour of the site. Though much of the project is still under construction, we were able to see the beginnings of the large café and attached coffee bar that will have a viewing window through to one of the indoor riding barns.

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Tom Gethin – one of the smoothest riders in the UK and a driving force behind the Flyup 417 Project.

Tightly coiled lines of table, hips and doubles

I’d heard the other indoor dirt jumps were already rideable so I took the chance escape the worst of the weather and grab a cheeky ride. I was joined by Tom Gethin, who along with Duncan Ferris, has designed and hand crafted both the indoor and outdoor trails. We sped our way round the tightly coiled lines of table, hips and doubles, enjoying a break from terrible weather.

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Just one of the indoor barns at the 417.

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“I switched bikes and headed outside”

When the rain finally eased up, I switched bikes and headed outside to see how the rest of the build is progressing. The downhill trails are being built by Architrail who with nearly a decade’s experience, clearly know what they are doing.

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At the time of my visit, the Red and Black graded downhill trails were actively being worked on so I was unable to get a look at what’s in store for us next year. But the Blue trail was ready to go so we headed over to check it out, having a look at what will become the uplift track en route.

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Blue trails don’t have to be for beginners … pumps, rollers and whoops for miles!

Switchbacks, berms, whoops and rollable doubles

Designed to be rideable by people of all abilities, the Blue trail cuts its way down a broad, open hillside. The fun comes from a design filled with switchbacks, berms, whoops and rollable doubles that can be taken as fast as you dare. From the start, you’re looking at about 4 minutes of riding all in, finishing in the same area as the Black and Red tracks where you can jump in the uplift vehicle for another go or hang out to watch riders on the 4X or dual slalom, both of which will be accessible with the UK’s first ever mountain bike drag lift. The hard packed surface drains extremely well, making it rideable in all weather

The track is quite narrow all the way down, which definitely keeps you on your toes at speed as essentially, you’re forced to take the correct line (and hold it) in the corners – there are no wide banked berms on this track and I suppose in some ways, it reminds me of a dual slalom run, (though just the one half of it!). At the other end of the scale, Angie’s four-year old enjoys rolling his way down, so its clearly a track built with versatility in mind.

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“An enormously fun bunch of trails”

Back up the hillside, we slithered our way over to check out the dirt jump arena on foot. Thanks to some truly horrendous weather it’s been tricky for the team to crack on with some of the build, but over the last couple of weeks, Tom and Duncan have sketched out the foundations of what is definitely going to be an enormously fun bunch of trails, and though they’re clearly unfinished it gave enough of an idea to get me excited.

Both the pro line and intermediate line begin with some nice looking doubles, before diverging and taking in a series of berms, hips and progressively bigger jumps, then there are a set of really wide and forgiving table top jumps for those looking to build up their skills and confidence. As aren’t that many public trails in the UK, I think these ones will be a real draw.

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Juliet Elliot Flyup 417 Project (11 of 17)

“So should you be booking a trip..?”

So should you be booking a trip to Gloucestershire when FlyUp 417 Project opens in March 2016? In a word, yes – if what I’ve seen is anything to go by, this place will be a real asset for the UK mountain biking community with something for riders of all disciplines and all abilities.

What excites me is the thought of spending a weekend there, switching between all the different trails and sessioning different parts of the park depending on what I’m enjoying. Angie and Simon tell me that there will be several kinds of bikes to hire which will make it easy for people wanting to do the same. Get planning that visit!

You can read more on the 417 project website or on the Flyup Downhill website.

And you can read more from Juliet here.