Want to get your kids into mountain biking? BikePark Wales' green 'Kermit' trail is a brilliant introduction that left my son frothing for more

Riders at the start of BikePark Wales Kermit green trail
Kermit is a fantastic trail for building skills and stoke levels (Image credit: Rich Owen)

I'm an avid mountain biker (and the editor of this off-road cycling website), so as you'd imagine, a lot of bike activity happens regularly at home. I'm also a father and I figured my son would just naturally fall in love with bikes too. But while a procession of pre-bikes, balance bikes, and mini MTBs with every possible wheel size replaced one another over the years, my lad had a disappointingly casual relationship with getting mucky on bikes. Despite a few excited minutes where he was joyfully smashing his balance bike through muddy puddles in the woods early on, MTB failed to get elevated beyond the likes of family walks. Cue cries of "Do I have to?" beforehand, despite grudgingly enjoying it once out and about (OK, chocolate bribes were involved too).

Yes, much to my disappointment, mountain biking was an activity that didn't rank particularly high on my son's 'fun stuff list'. However, that started to change earlier this year.

A map of bikepark wales trails

Kermit is the longest of the many trails at BikePark Wales, you can see it here marked in green and labeled KM on the right of the map (Image credit: Bike Park Wales)

Looking at BikePark Wales' website (Britain's biggest gravity MTB venue) when planning a riding trip with my mates, I noticed a section marked 'new to mountain biking' with various links, one of which was the 'Ticket To Ride' introductory experience. After further reading, I reckoned that this four-hour gravity taster session using uplifts and guided by a ride-along host could be just the thing to properly ignite a passion for MTB in my 12-year-old son. So after recruiting some fellow family riders (my two nieces and my brother), we signed up and set a date.

Unfortunately, the day we picked was forecast for heavy rain which was less than ideal. We dressed accordingly with MTB waterproofs and warm layers and the weather didn't quell the excitement levels too much on the drive to BikePark Wales' Merthyr Tydfil location. Arriving from England, the drive was straightforward along the M4 and up the A470 dual carriageway.

Young riders wearing full-face helmets

Full-face helmets and pads are provided as part of Ticket to Ride, but you can also hire them separately (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Getting ready to ride

Once parked up, we went indoors to meet our host Colin. He gave us a pre-ride chat, safety video and briefing, then helped us get kitted out in the full-face helmets, elbow and knee pads provided as part of Ticket to Ride and essential safety gear for downhill mountain biking

Bike hire is also included in the experience and bikes are reserved in advance to ensure BPW has the right sizes for your party. Riders must be at least 10 years old and 4'3" tall. All the beginner bikes are various sizes of the Trek Roscoe 8 hardtail. With flat pedals, high-volume 2.6-inch wide tires, a low standover height, dropper post, and confidence-inspiring handling, the Roscoe is a great easy-to-ride option for learner downhillers.

Now that we were decked out with bikes and gear, Colin ran through a few MTB technique fundamentals with the kids then we hit the on-site pump track to put the new skills into practice.

A young rider taking advice from a coach

Colin gave the young riders a number of key riding tips before we headed up the hill (Image credit: Rich Owen)

I've always struggled to get my son to take notice when trying to pass on my riding pearls of advice. "Yeah, dad, I know," is the usual answer before he pedals off mostly ignoring my hard-earned sage-like wisdom. Live "coaching" (nagging would probably be more accurate) as I ride behind him on the trail usually ends in dismal failure and is far more likely to result in arguments than eureka moments.

Advice from a non-parental and infinitely cooler other, such as Colin, worked wonders though. I looked on in jealous admiration as my son turned into a model MTB student while soaking up Colin's straightforward advice. It also struck me how I'd overcomplicated things by giving way too much input over a relatively short space of time.

Trail gradings, what do they mean?

Green: Suitable for riders with limited off-road experience
Blue: Basic off-road skills required
Red: Good MTB skills needed
Black: For MTB experts only

After a few laps of the pump track to get everyone feeling confident, it was time to properly get to business – riding Kermit, the longest green-graded trail in the UK. At 5km long, Kermit takes riders from the very top of BikePark Wales' trailhead right back to the visitor center. To get started, we needed to ride a short section of trail to the uplift pick-up. If you're unfamiliar, uplifts are vans that tow trailers to take you and your bike to the top of the hill. Once the bikes were loaded, excitement levels started to grow as we were driven to the top of BPW's trails. The trailhead is where all the different grades of trail start from and the kids had a look at the wide range on offer.

A MTB coach showing safety information to young riders

Before our first run, Colin explained the trail map and safety info (Image credit: Rich Owen)

First run on Kermit

Kermit has been designed so that minimal pedaling is required but isn't so steep that gravity naturally starts to make speeds uncomfortable for beginners. The features are small and easy to navigate, and there are rest areas to pull into as you make your way down. For our first run, we pulled into most of the stops so Colin could check everyone was OK, give pointers where needed, and tell us what to expect in the next section. He also coached the kids through a few particular parts of the trail. They were mostly on sections with linked berms (banked corners) and he explained how to ride the berms properly rather than just wriggling through – very useful advice as the skill level slowly ramps up on Kermit as you make your way down it.

With the stops and the coaching, our first run took us 25 minutes but our young riders were still frothing with excitement at the end. We then had a break with hot chocolates and coffees included as part of the package. Colin told us we had time for two more runs on Kermit. The kids' ambition was to make a full run without stopping, so we excitedly headed back to the uplift.

A young mountain biker riding a berm

Despite some iffy weather, skill and confidence levels greatly improved during the session (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Over subsequent descents, it was fantastic to watch the kids' skills and confidence massively improve as they got more time on the trail. Colin was watchfully on hand, giving tips as needed. The last run was made without stopping too – achievement complete!

Eventually, it was time for lunch and our time with host Colin was over. We'd signed up to use the bikes, gear, and uplift for the day, so after some food it was back to the hill for more descents. 

We only managed a couple more runs before we ran out of steam. While the pedaling uphill part is taken out of the equation of by the uplift, doing descent after descent still takes its toll and if you've not done it before, you're likely to be surprised at how tiring it can be.

At the end of the day, the kids were tired but stoked about the experience and continued to chat excitedly about mountain biking as we left. After saying goodbye to his cousins, my son continued to talk non-stop about MTB on the two-hour drive home – achievement complete for me too.

A young mountain biker by a blue graded trail sign

We progressed to BikePark Wales' blue trails on our next visit (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Since the trip to BikePark Wales, my son and I have had many more trail center days out together and I'm extremely happy to report that he has been just as up for it as me. The skills he learned from Colin have become ingrained and I've been slowly introducing new ones – while trying to not nag him in the process.

We've also been back to BPW, and after a warm-up on Kermit, we spent the day riding the blue trails together. It looks like the penny has finally dropped on how much fun mountain biking can actually be.

Ticket to Ride booking and pricing

You can book Ticket to Ride over on BikePark Wales' website. At the time of writing, it costs £99 per adult and £85 per child (10 to 18 years old), you can also get a family ticket for two adults and two children for £325 (additional adults cost £85 and children £70).

The price includes the most important gear you'll need for the four-hour session – helmet, pads, bike hire and uplift ticket, but bring your own bike-compatible clothing, eye protection and footwear. The hire bikes have bottle cages, so bring your own water bottles, you'll be burning some calories on the descents so I'd definitely recommend taking some snacks to eat too.

Rich Owen
Editor, BikePerfect

Rich Owen is the editor of the Bikeperfect.com team. He's worked as a journalist and editor for over 24 years, with 12 years specializing in cycling media. Rich bought his first mountain bike (a rigid Scott Tampico) in 1995 and has been riding MTB for almost 30 years.

Current rides: Merida One-Forty 6000, Banshee Paradox, YT Jeffsy Core 3, Saracen Ariel 30 Pro

Height: 175cm

Weight: 69kg