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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Mountain bikers call for a lift
Mountain bikers in the Afan Valley
The Afan Valley has become a magnet for mountain bikers
Tourism leaders are backing calls to build Wales' first chair lift for mountain bikers at a centre near Neath.

The Afan Valley has been voted among the top 10 destinations in the world by enthusiasts of the sport.

Now the idea of introducing a lift to carry bikers some 2,000ft (600m) up the steep valley slopes is gaining support.

Ski lifts in continental Europe are already used during the summer months to save people pedalling uphill so they can complete more routes in a day.

The Afan Valley is home to a network of mountain bike routes and attracts visitors from across the UK and beyond.

Ski lift
It would make the mountain tops more accessible to all
Geoff Haden

The first route was built by a group of enthusiasts at Afan Argoed Forest and through grants from local and central government more tracks have been created.

Readers of What Mountain Bike magazine voted a trail known as the wall among the 10 rides to do before you die.

Paul Peet, who runs Afan Valley Bike Hire, said the idea was first raised about three years ago.

"If you go to the Alps or other parts of France they already use the ski lifts out of season for mountain biking," he explained.

"The best bit is riding downhill, so that's where the idea of a ski lift came from - to save people having to punch their way up 1,800 to 2,000 ft (550 - 600m)."

He said the area had become extremely popular with bikers.

Xterra Triathlon in Afan Valley
Mountain bikers in the Afan Valley
The Xterra triathlon European Tour event is in the Afan Valley in September
It is expected to attract 2,000 competitors and 7,000 visitors
Other legs take place in Italy, Brazil, Austria, Spain and Denmark

"If you go out on the weekend you'll find a lot of young professional upwardly mobile riders from London and the M4 corridor," said Mr Peet.

He said it had led to a number of guest houses and other related businesses opening in the area.

In Tourism Swansea's latest newsletter spokesman Geoff Haden said: "The Afan Forest Park has made a major impact in the mountain biking world and is a wonderful asset for the area.

"I would like to see it become a first in the UK by installing a chair lift system with bike racks attached.

"It would make the mountain tops more accessible to all; families and less able people could take advantage of the mountain top walks; the not so ardent bikers could have access to the trails without having to cycle up the mountain; die-hard bikers could do more trails in a day."


SEE ALSO
Mountain bike fear over turbines
31 Jan 06 |  South West Wales
Mountain bike trails cash worries
02 May 04 |  North West Wales
Trail open to cyclists and horses
24 May 03 |  Mid Wales

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