Former downhill world champion Steve Peat this week joined around 100 Sheffield riders to discuss the latest developments to trails in and around the city.
The meeting, hosted by Ride Sheffield, gave the local riding community an update on developments including news of various new cross-country loops, pump tracks and trails access, but perhaps more excitingly, a lift assisted downhill run based at the city’s ski slope.
“This kind of thing is massive for Sheffield,” said Peat, who was crowned world champion in 2009. “I’ve been riding for a long time in Sheffield in the Peaks and up in Wharncliffe and Greno Woods, but things have never been this tightly organised. It’s great for the sport and it’s great for Sheffield.”
The city has seen real development of mountain biking in recent years, in no small part thanks to the work of Ride Sheffield and This is Sheffield, groups which have united the various rider fraternities in the area to give them one voice in campaigning for better access, more say in trail development and a greater level of input to those decisions which affect mountain bikers.
Leading the meeting, Ride Sheffield’s Henry Norman described work coming up in 2012, including trail building in Greno Woods and at the Lady Cannings plantation on the edge of Houndkirk Moor.
“In 2012 we’re pleased to say we’ll start work in Greno Woods,” he said. “There’ll be new tracks, and maybe races, signposting, proper drainage and all weather loops. In Lady Cannings, too, things are moving forwards and we’re looking to start work in August or September 2012.”
Work done by volunteers on a number of local trails, and mountain bikers respecting requests to avoid certain areas, has improved the relationship with a number of governing bodies, according to Eastern Moors Partnership’s Danny Udall.
“I have to thank the people here for listening when we asked you to avoid a number of Sites of Scientific Interest,” said Udall.
With permissive bridleways now proposed which would link Sheffield’s outskirts with bridleways at the heart of the Peak District, the improved dialogue between riders and authorities appears to be paying dividends, and Udall hopes to see trails linking Totley Moor with Curbar Edge and Baslow in the next two years.
Sam Beaton, Sheffield rights of way officer, echoed Udall’s comments: “Improvements to Devil’s Elbow in Blacka has shown how well things can go – and we can now use that as an example of what can be done to improve and maintain the trails elsewhere.
“Added to that, it was mainly done by hand, we didn’t take in any heavy machinery and the improvements in Blacka were done at about the same cost as they would have been using diggers.”
Diggers have been used extensively however at Sheffield Ski Village, about a mile north of the city centre. On site, This is Sheffield have worked with Peat and the site owner to develop a one minute, 20 second long downhill run which they hope to open in April 2012.
“It’s coming, and it’s brilliant,” said Peat. “We have the trails and the lift and once we get a few more things in place it will open up. “It’s one of the biggest things for the city and great to be involved in.”
Supported by both the Ski Village and volunteers, the tracks will be rider owned and managed, with a new club being established to manage the interface between the track and the ski slope. The downhill track will sit alongside a further 2km of cross-country trails being built into the neighbouring hillside at Parkwood Springs.
“We’re nearly there with the loop,” said Sheffield County Council’s Jon Dallow. “We’re looking at a launch event for sometime in May, with the diggers on site just after Christmas. “The plan then is for prep work in February and March, followed by volunteer dig days.”
With talk also of a mountain bike festival, Mechhanger, to rival the city’s climbing and outdoor based festival, Cliffhanger, Sheffield will soon have possibly the largest variety of riding within 30 minutes of a UK city centre. Enough to claim the title as the UK’s capital of biking?
“I don’t know about that,” laughs Peat. “But it’s going to be incredible to be riding here. I love it.”
Big thanks to This is Sheffield for helping organise the event and to Richard Baybutt, Big Stone, 18 Bikes, The Bike Tree, Polaris, Vertebrate Publishing and Steve Peat for donating prizes for the raffle and quiz, which raised £160 for Edale Mountain Rescue Team.