ASTON HILL BIKE PARK, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
We risk dehydration and broken back wheels getting wild at one of the South East’s premier riding spots
Aston Hill is a classic venue. For as long as we can remember, riders have been skidding their way between the trees of this chalky hillside. But have the trails stood the test of time? There’s only one way to answer that – assemble a crew of riders and go for a rip. And today’s crew know this place better than anyone.
In true Wrecking Crew fashion, we throw ourselves in at the deep end. Aston’s original black run seems an appropriate place to start. Steep, twisting and full of rocks and rooty gullies, it’s guaranteed to shake off any early morning haziness. As we’re fumbling our way down, figuring things out, a guy on an Orange hardtail comes barrelling past at full speed, picking up off a rooty step and gapping into the berm beyond with deft precision.
The pilot turns out to be John Holbrook, an ex-downhill racer who’s been swinging a spade around in these woods since forever. That explains how he knows the racer lines. But even so, that was an impressive display of hardtail hooning! Snapper Steve Behr’s eyes light up and his camera comes out. John obliges, hammering into the section time and again, every run displaying the same precision.
But the other riders who’ve joined us today, Pete Robinson and Jack Chapman, aren’t going to let John steal all the limelight. They’re going full tilt into everything and threading the needle between rocks and trees with some super-creative lines. Gapping off one rock, Pete flicks his bike sideways over a stump and leans in to rail the following turn. Seeing our gawping faces, he admits it would be a different story in the wet! Aston Hill’s baked-hard chalk is super-grippy in the dry, but add a bit of rain and it’s like being pushed down an icy bobsleigh run.
Next we head to ‘Surface to Air’, Buckinghamshire’s answer to Whistler’s ‘A-Line’. Pete says there are a few big gaps to be had if you’re feeling ballsy, so we’re keen to give it a go. A string of flowing berms starts things off, but with some big braking bumps on the main line, we cut left and right, searching for a smooth way into the turns. This soon escalates into a challenge for who can pull off the biggest inside line. Pete is winning until he comes in at Mach 10, washes out and spins a full 180 degrees.
Around the next corner, we come across the big double-up Pete was talking about – a pair of rollers that look just about jumpable if you hit the turn at
warp speed and yank up like a maniac off the lip. The entry berm isn’t exactly steep and is full of loose rocks that are just waiting to take you out, but Steve is poised so we can’t back down now!
Ed hits the pedals, lays off the brakes and pulls up for dear life, but it’s not quite enough. He comes down to earth a good few feet short, to the sounds of bottomed-out suspension and twanging wheels. At least the photo was worth the bike’s pain, right? Nope. The image shows a textbook example of a dead sailor, so he quietly asks Steve to make sure it never sees the light of day and we move on before we do our bikes or our pride any more damage!
Next stop is a couple of step-up jumps that are too fun to not session. No pedalling is required – you can cruise in off a drop and boost as high as you want! We egg each other on to launch further and further into the bermed lander. Jack’s really turning on the style here, floating out lazy downturned tables with the back end kicked out sideways and the bar tipped flat.
Our mouths are like sandpaper but we’re not complaining. Sunny photoshoots are a rare treat in the UK and we’re relishing the chance to lounge around and top up our tans. Someone voices the idea of an XC trail lap, but that’s quickly outvoted by a suggestion to hunt out the nearest ice cream parlour. Lazy, us? Maybe. But not riding all the trails today gives us the perfect excuse to return soon.
Pete knows all the inside lines and hits them with full commitment
Ed’s always on the lookout for a good ride. Even when he’s not on Tinder...
THE STYLE, TURNING ON JACK’S REALLY LES NTURNED TAB T LAZY DOW FLOATING OU OUT SIDEWAYS END KICKED FLAT WITH THE BACK TIPPED AND THE BAR