Dig your own trails: Paul breaks out the shovel

Get your spade out

Topping the charts on ‘What do riders complain about the most’ would be that they have nowhere to ride. A quick scan around the forums and generic online auction sites, and the reasons why bikes are being sold produce the same old comments: “Moved and now can’t get anywhere”, “The trails near where I lived got knocked down, no point in having this any more” and “Mrs says I can only have one bike, not 6″. OK, maybe the last one doesn’t really apply – but you get the picture.

What the current generation of mountain bikers need to start doing is to crack out the spades and wheelbarrows and stop whinging about what they don’t have.

It’s one of my biggest gripes that people complain that trails and singletrack, for some absurd reason, don’t magically present themselves on a convenient silver platter at the end of their drive. When I first started riding I recall having to ride for a solid hour and a half (on a BMX I might add) just to get to somewhere decent. When the bright idea dawned on me that I could in fact dig stuff for myself, it almost felt like I’d reached enlightenment.

What I’m hoping to achieve with this article is inspire some to get digging and contribute to the UK trails scene, rather than rely on others to do it for them. We are in a fantastic place with trail development in the UK, money is coming in and trails popping up everywhere – especially pump tracks like in Bristol and Tottenham (if you want to get some air in them lungs, get down to your local one) – but there can always be more. Initiatives like Cognation in Wales are ensuring that routes are improved and new trail centres are popping up everywhere.

The perfect examples are how jump spots appear out of nowhere, so long as they survive the ever looming doom of being demolished. My Saturday’s are currently taken up by getting out of the smoke and getting across to Surrey to get my construction fix, producing a fantastic riding location in the process. One of the main pulls of this spot (only recently started lending my hand) is that there is a huge group that get involved, which is such an important part of how the trails survive. The age range is 15-30 and everyone gives as much as they can, ensuring things like 35ft doubles or 7ft tall berms get completed in no time at all.

If it wasn’t for people digging out trails, there would be nowhere to ride and thus the entire sport dies. Getting your hands dirty should have just as much time devoted to it as any other aspect of your riding life and if it doesn’t, then you aren’t giving back to the sport.

During the cold winter months when everywhere is too wet to ride, instead of that weekly ride why not have a weekly digging session? It doesn’t have to only involve jumps: singletrack can be mapped out and cleared, downhill runs can be developed and existing runs can always be improved – trail development is never finished.

Get posting in the forums, chat with your riding buddies and start thinking about what you can do to help this thriving scene we have continue to survive.

  1. Chris

    It’s a nice idea but I’m pretty sure that trail-building could be seen as vandalism by many landowners and land users. It’s also a source of potential litigation against a landowner if they turn a blind eye to it. Trail-building has it’s place, I love to ride man-made trails, but if everyone grabbed a spade it would put the public perception of the sport back years.

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