Downhills? In the south east?
The downhills are the big draw at Aston Hill, providing gravity riders with a variety of fun, challenging trails in the hill-starved south east of England.
Built on one of the steepest slopes in the Chilterns, Aston Hill squeezes in five downhill runs of very different feels and difficulty levels. While not alpine length, there is a definite alpine feel to several runs, and the new Surface to Air all weather track brings a much needed freeride element to the park.
The nature of the trails rests squarely with the designers and builders who have experience from all walks of two-wheeled dirt sports; the Hill combines knowledge gained from racing on the downhill World Cup circuit, designing moto-x tracks and building at Canada’s world-famous Whistler Bike Park.
Surface to Air is the newest track on the Hill and was created to be completely different to the natural, rooty trails Aston is known for. It has an all-weather surface and was designed to be the home counties’ answer to Whistler’s A-Line.
What Surface to Air lacks in height, it makes up for in fun: from the moment you hit the first berm, it’s jumps and drops all the way to the bottom. If you’re not grinning from ear-to-ear by the time you get there, you’re doing something wrong.
The Black Run is the oldest trail at Aston Hill and probably the steepest trail of the park. While Ricochet and the Red Run have steep sections, the Black Run stays steep from the moment it starts right down to table-top at the bottom. On the way down you’ll encounter bermed switchbacks, roots, drops and steep off-camber sections.
Built in 2009, Root Canal was the course used for the Southern Downhill Championships of the same year. Getting progressively steeper as it goes down, the track descends into a series of jumps, loose corners and finally ends up at the infamous J-turns before dropping into the finish.
Ricochet is probably the fastest of the five runs with bigger, sweeping turns interspersed with rooty sections. The top section is a gentle slope through the woods with a few small table-tops, before some big bermed turns into the steeper section of the course. While not as sheer as the Black Run, it still has plenty of challenge with fast off-camber sections and rooty drops, before a set of tighter switchbacks at the end.
The Red Run doubles as the downhill for the XC loop. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s easy. It’s not as steep as the other tracks, but it does contain a few surprises to keep riders on their toes, with off-camber rooty sections, technical switchbacks and a boardwalk section at the end. This run is used by riders getting used to the steeper, tighter riding of Aston Hill and is a great trail to build skills in an environment where you can ride safely and as fast as your confidence allows.