Veteran mountain biker still hard at work on Dalby’s trails

by Dave Anderson 4

News just in from Dalby, and we’re glad to see they’re celebrating volunteer trailbuilder’s efforts.

Dalby Forest near Pickering  has come a long way since Ian Dowkes, 65, leapt on his bike and followed deer tracks through the trees to try a new-fangled sport called mountain biking.

But 25 years later the retired aerospace engineer from West Ayton, North Yorkshire, is still in the saddle, but now helping to add polish to the 3,440 hectare woodland’s acclaimed off road network of trails.

An eye for a trail

Ian is one of an eager band of volunteers who have come together to re-establish a thriving branch of the Singletraction trail building group working with the Forestry Commission.

Off road fans from as far afield as York, Stamford Bridge, Whitby and Scarborough have stepped forward to help keep the trails network in top shape, meeting together on the third Sunday of the month, and more recruits are being sought.

All hail the trailbuilders!

“Back in the old days biking in Dalby was rough and ready,” said Ian, who chalks up about 150 trail miles each month.  “There were no purpose built bike trails and cycling in the winter was a mud slog where you did as much pushing as riding.  A lot has happened since then and the trails we have now are top notch, but they need to be maintained, and with the opportunity to refine them in some areas. There’s a great buzz working with people of all ages, both male and female.”

After serving in the RAF Ian worked around the world including the Middle East and helped maintain iconic British aircraft such as the English Electric Lightning, Vulcan and Tornado.

Stuart Startup, Forestry Commission Bike Ranger, said:

“We have invested about £500,000 in professionally built trails over recent years, but bikers have always played a big part in developments at Dalby. Trail building sessions help us repair sections of trail or add features and improve the flow of routes.  It’s important work and gives bikers a stake in the future of the sport in their forest.”

Dalby Forest attracts over 100,000 bikers annually and has hosted two rounds of the UCI World Cup Cross Country Mountain Bike Championship.  Historically, local mountain bike enthusiasts worked with the Forestry Commission to pioneer a colour coding system in Dalby used to denote the difficultly of routes, from black to blue, since rolled out throughout the UK.

Hard graft for your enjoyment

Volunteers attending more than four trail building sessions are granted a free Discovery Pass by the Forestry Commission allowing free all-year round access to Dalby Forest.  Trail building sessions meet at 9am in the Tree Tops café at Dalby Forest Visitor Centre.

More information from Stuart Startup on 07909 880325, or email

More information on Singletraction:


Comments (4)

  1. How about an article in the mag on Dalby Forest?

  2. Or on volunteer trailbuilders? Those willing to get off their bikes and build.

  3. Don’t forget the Gisburn builders as well, we racked up 1100 man hours in 2012 and officially opened a new 800m section of singletrack just before Christmas.

  4. As above, new gisburn section an impresive feat. Grizedale is benefiting from some awesome Volunteer trails, Hurtwood trails, Aston Hill, Cannock Chase, all the SingletrAction sites, anywhere there’s trails, there’s an army of volunteers not riding on their day off, so they can build instead (sometimes we ride before a dig, but rarely after cos we tend to be ruined).

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