These were nothing to do with the actual event, but were built after 2012 to replace the Eastway which used to sit on the site of the Olympics and offered urban mountain biking in East London. The trails sit in the shadow of the spectacular Velodrome, next to the BMX track and with the hockey and tennis centre on the other side. This is a weird and unusual mix of the sports I play in one place with the view into the hockey arena from the top of the rises.
So, what is it like to ride there? Well practically it’s one of the few mountain biking spots within real riding distance of my home, with the journey there a not-unpleasant cruise down the Lea towpath avoiding walkers and joggers. This is very much in its favour and means the £5 charge to ride seems worthwhile. Paying is a pleasant experience in the velodrome, with bike racks provided and the route into the trails is a celebration of cycling as part of the Olympic legacy.
The trails themselves are very reminiscent of the Eastway. It’s very much a brownfield set up with tight trails made more technical with what can only be described as embedded rubble. The blue trails are smooth and unchallenging and link the more technical stuff. Moving up to red the trails are reasonably flowing with smooth lightly bermed corners and rolling bumps that challenge you to pump through. To an extent these are the best of what’s there if you want some fast-moving fun. They are tight and narrow and make good use of the limited space. It’s this theme that takes the level up to black with tighter turns, and rougher rubble rock gardens. Early on the blacks offer genuinely sharp turns to negotiate on climbs and rumble-strip rocks. Later in the journey they add in some pretty testing drops onto uneven surfaces.
In one case at least this offered a rough and repeated challenge that I decided to leave for another day. The harsh urban landscape makes getting things wrong a scary proposition and, while the individual challenges in themselves aren’t too big, the tight combination of them is where the trails make their real mark.
So in summary the trails make the most of what’s there and are interesting and fun to ride. They mimic the Eastway trails that were there before in that way. The easiest comparison would be to the Redbridge trails that offered a semi-temporary replacement in the interim. They cost the same and are built for a similar reasons but the difference is marked. Redbridge is wider, more open and includes some jumps and big turns, but only really on half of the space that could be used. The Olympic Park trails are more cross country styled and perhaps more engaging, technical and hard to ride. I think together they offer a good selection of some urban riding in North and East London. They’ll never compete with the trail centres in areas with actual hills and trees but for a quick fix in the city they offer a chance to ride and to hone some skills.