When I’m down visiting family in Kent, one of the many things I like to make time to visit is the Cyclopark, located just outside Gravesend. This brand-new facility is an innovative idea to re-use some brownfield land after moving the A2, following long-term construction work on the Channel Tunnel link. I first visited it last Autumn when very little of the site was open other than the main track. Now, the site boasts a cosy cafe, hire facilities, indoor facilities and an on-site shop.
The highlight of the park is a 1.4 mile circuit, with multiple possible routes around. There is also a superb mountain bike track, BMX track and skate park, as well as a safe kids’ cycling area. There is a full map and plenty of images on the main Cyclopark website if you want an idea of what it looks like. Unfortunately, I was having so much fun when I visited the other day, I forgot to stop and take pictures of my own!
The main circuit is a completely smooth tarmac surface – smoother than any other road I’ve ever been on. It’s more like the Herne Hill Velodrome surface than a road, albeit without the race markings. Riding round it is an absolute joy. According to Strava, my fastest speed around the track is around 28mph (pedalling furiously off a downhill section, I might add), but I’ve seen plenty of competitive riders top 40mph. The track is wide enough to accommodate several riders side-by-side (I’d say it’s about 15ft wide), so there’s no danger of a quick rider being held up by a slowcoach like me. There are plenty of hills, twists and turns to keep things interesting, and there are lots of shorter loops you can do if you don’t want to ride the full circuit.
The mountain bike trail, however, is keeping my washing machine busy right now. This goes alongside the circuit, but in the opposite direction. It’s artificial, but entirely made with natural materials. There is a blue run and a red run (thrill-seeking black runners look elsewhere) which caters to most abilities. The blue run contains some gentle bumps, rises, a couple of steps to bounce down and some gentle banked twists and turns. The red run, which I accidentally went down at one point, contains some much bigger and steeper climbs, lots of jumps, rock piles and other obstacles to jump over – definitely not one for beginners! Again, there are lots of loops and alternative routes for the adventurous rider to find.
I haven’t tried the other facilities yet myself, but they seem to be very well used – especially the BMX track and skate park. Most of the facilities, including the main track, can be booked for private functions, club runs, etc. and I’ve seen it being used on a few occasions for teaching cycling skills.
In short, this is an outstanding facility. It costs a very reasonable £3.50 for 2hrs of anything, peak rate – which is classed as evenings, weekends and all the time in school holidays. Off peak is an even more reasonable £3.00 – so it’s probably cheaper than going to your local swimming baths. The parking is currently free – and there’s plenty of it – but this may change in the future. I hope not, because the site is quite difficult to get to if you don’t drive – but there are cycle paths leading to it!
The Cyclopark is a model facility for others to follow. It’s a haven of cycling, where people can ride in whatever style they like in complete peace and safety, with excellent supplementary facilities that everyone can enjoy. There should be one in every town.