Nick Ball is the owner of independent Caerphilly bike shop BikeShredz. He’s a been vocal supporter of the Trails for Wales campaign from the beginning, so we caught up with him to ask why.
Hi Nick. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
My name’s Nick and I am a bikeaholic! My background is engineering, however my passion has always been riding bikes.
I have only ever ridden for fun, Living in South Wales we have always been blessed with amazing scenery and natural trails to play on, so growing up we were very rarely seen without an old BMX or a slightly large mountain bike, spending as much of the day as possible riding to and through forestry. Now I’m a lot older and less daring, the forestry seems to be further away but the bike finally fits!
I am now the owner of BikeShredz Ltd, a small independent bike shop in Caerphilly, South Wales, and witnessing the highs and lows of cycling as a whole.
What do you think of the current access system in Wales?
The current system needs to be looked at for sure; any recreational use is good use in my book.
If all users except cyclists are able to use certain paths, it just creates issues. I believe these access routes need to be opened up for everyone to enjoy.
We also seem to be losing a lot of land and forestry here in the south, so enjoying everything we have available just makes sense!
You’ve had some problems with conflict and trail sabotage in Caerphilly, most notably when a former MP apparently tried to block some of your trails. Do you think the current rights of way system makes this worse, or gives people the wrong idea about where’s appropriate to ride?
Needless to say this is a still pretty hot topic here; the trail sabotage we have experienced is absolutely bonkers.
There are a few areas around Caerphilly where you get people shouting “you can’t ride that bike through here” when in actual fact you can!
People seem to assume certain areas are for hikers only, but these areas are actually used by so many different groups of people. It just seems easy to target someone riding a bike.
If there were a clear and open access system in Wales all of these issues could be avoided and eliminated. In the past 10 years motocross was always the big issue and to be honest it seems to have almost completely died out here, if not moved on to other areas, but in my opinion mountain bikers seem to be the next best target.
You’re a bike shop owner – do you think it would help your business if access was opened up for mountain bikers?
The more places to ride the better. Yes it’s better for the rider, but it’s also better for the local shops, and not just cycle related shops – I mean business as a whole within the local community.
I have customers coming in weekly on the bike and foot asking for places to ride locally. Not everyone wants to drive to a trail centre to ride their bike, especially when you have amazing woodland and hills literally on your doorstep.
If you visit any town that embraces cycling you will see how busy the local independent shops are. A huge proportion of that business will be due to riders passing through, people that probably never drive to visit that area, but on a ride it’s that perfect spot. The valleys are full of these small independent businesses that rely on this passing trade.
Day job aside, what would be the main benefit for you personally if access laws were changed?
Personally it would mean riding trails and mountains that have either been an issue in the past, or learning new trails and creating an even larger cycling network here in Wales. I lost the local mojo after the trail sabotage incidents, and have since resorted to riding trail centres for now as it just guarantees a stress free day. Everyone’s time is limited so I want to enjoy every second I am on the bike. The trail centre does offer this, but truthfully I would much prefer to leave the car in the house and just ride my bike!
And finally, a big one – how do you think the country as a whole would benefit if the access system was changed?
Wales is already a great location for cycling; we get a huge amount of visitors coming from all over the world to ride their bikes, and in not very appealing weather conditions.
If the access ways were opened up there would be even more reason to visit and ride Wales. One of the major attractions of this country are the coastal walks and incredible views. The cycling network would be another string to add to this ever expanding bow.