Monday Morning Debrief 41

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The naming of the trails

The weekend’s been spent showing Jorji some of the best of the local Hebden trails. An opportunity to share the secret stash, to show off the local quality and a rare ‘nearly all the office’ out on a social weekend ride. All good.


A last taste of summer thanks to the blue skies and warm wind and apologies in advance because the riding was so good, ↑ that’s the only photo I took all weekend. It’s a sign the ridings consistently good when you just don’t want to stop to get the camera out.

So anyway, I know not everyone gets the whole naming of trails thing. It’s a more natural progression if you’ve ever climbed I guess, where the reward of a first ascent is the chance to choose the name of the climb.

And in the not too distant past of our local riding ‘scene’ there was a frantic age of exploration that resulted in a whole swathe of trail names and a general reworking of the local collective mind ride map. Trail names gave an opportunity to quickly discuss route choice without the need for all the hands waving directions and vague “you know the path that goes right after the downed tree after you’ve crossed the bridge” convoluted conversations. Trail knowledge in shorthand if you will.

It only hit me on Saturday while guiding around the valley that the trail names capture much more than just directional information. There’s a whole history that’s been captured too, with each named trail there’s a story of how it’s name was chosen. Stories of a community of people who’ve moved on or who’s lives have now changed. It captures a moment in history, it captures the laughs a group of mates have when out riding, and it only exists in some sort of collective hive mind, undocumented on paper.

Bastard tarmac, fast bit, punch the wall, beechnuts, fishing is amazing, ripper dipper, bolty’s steps, ben’s zig zags, midget’s pit, car sized rocks!, ali’s wound, swedish optimism and craig’s knee. Our local stamp on the trails that surround us, a reinterpretation of the existing map which itself references communities of the past.

The beautiful thing about this of course it that ours is not the only one out there, every group who rides locally knows those trails by different names for different reasons. I’m not saying that ours is the definitive version, it is of course, but I’m not saying that, even though it is ;o)

What trails did you ride this weekend? Share your stories here:

Comments (12)

    I was a keen and regular climber for many years but I still didn’t get the naming of trails. I remember 6 or 7 years ago learning that “The Beast” was “just that rocky trail my Dad and I used to go down” over 2 decades ago. Who decided – and when – it should be called the Beast? I’d hazard a guess it wasn’t the first descender. Excuse for an article in the mag perhaps?

    My ride went; Lansdown – Langridge, Charmy down – Holts Down (Hollies lane), Bannerdown mtb climb – Bannerdown descent, Browns folly – Sally in the woods, Conkwell downhill and the canal path home. anyone with an os map and an ounce of nouse could work out the route (recommended) due to its lack of annoying local nomenclature. That’s what place names are for people 😉

    But, rt76, anyone with an ounce of nouse could also infer that your place-name map has suggested that you not only rode on footpaths, but through a nature reserve. Perhaps that’s why sometimes trails aren’t named by their geographical locations. 😉

    The other thing that struck me this morning is that the climbing fraternity have been well-served by guidebooks to tell them the names of all the routes. Sure, someone may possibly have climbed Napes Needle before Haskett-Smith in 1886, but back then these guys were disciplined enough to name and write-up these routes.

    I worked in a climbing shop with a new routes book for people to let the climbing world know about their exploring. Does anything that formal exist in mountain biking or is it the reserve of those who have genuinely pioneered a new bit of trail?

    I don’t know the names of any of the trails near me. How would I find out? Can I just give them my own name and hope it catches on? Why don’t the guide-books name the trail sections?

    It all feels a bit “inner circle” to me and I’m clearly not in the inner circle 🙂

    I don’t mind trails having names but when a trail has existed and had a name for tens, hundreds or even thousands of years it doesn’t need a new cliquey name (even if it is a footpath).

    stilltortoise, your answer is strava

    especially if you are late to it and you discover in horror that other local riders have named your trails (segments) all wrong.

    I think it’s fine and very handy to have your own names for the trails but don’t try to publicise them. Nobody else wants to know the history of your clique. How depressing it would be to have every nook and cranny named and documented as is the case with climbing guidebooks. It is nice to know that there are plenty of trails still out there waiting to be “discovered” by each little group of mates.

    Naming trails makes life much easier for explaining where you intend going or have been etc, otherwise you end up talking about that rocky/rooty bit past the drop off where Kev fell off and trashed his mech etc. it’s nowt new either, someone at some point decided to name stuff, be it swaledale or Percy rigg or the m62, point is when someone’s been biking round guisbro woods for instance and they say they went up capt cooks back passage, we all know exactly where they’ve been, well, people who know where cooks back passage do anyway!

    The picture is “The Yellow Brick Road” isn’t it?

    I also like the corruptions of local names. Some people ride “Balti Steps”, some people ride “Sweet 16” not “Barely Legal”.

    Then there’s Kebab Street (aka Fuck Yeah).

    Balti steps is ace.

    “The picture is “The Yellow Brick Road” isn’t it?” – It might be to you 🙂

    The various Mendip riding group all intermingle and there is fair consensus about trail names which tend to be pragmatic ahead of the more colourful possibilities. Am slightly proud that my suggested trail name: “heart bypass” has stuck.

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