Trail Shorts: Charlie’s Butterfly

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In Issue 104’s Classic Ride, Sim Mainey pondered our need to name places and trails, and wondered at some of the stories behind the names. Some trail names are great puns (Dai Hard at Bike Park Wales?) and others speak for themselves (S*it Farm?), but others are a little harder to fathom.

Mike from our Premier Dealer Mountain Bike Kerala got in touch to tell us this tale of a trail. It’s short, but really rather beautiful. 

Charlie’s Butterfly

And here we have Charlie at the top of the trail, adjusting the sunglasses on his soon to be bloodied nose while he looks on at the guide waving his arms around theatrically to indicate what to expect on the trail ahead. If this were a film, a camera would zoom to the bottom of the trail to focus on a butterfly fluttering happily on the gentle breeze, unaware of its date with destiny.

Charlie’s Butterfly is a little-bit-too-technical-for-some trail in Kerala, south India. Nothing more than 500 meters in length it takes in a tight rocky right hander before dropping steeply into a series of stone steps which increase in depth before the trail swings right onto a thin ribbon of dirt hemmed in by tea bushes on both sides. Ahead lies a small terrace of bungalows slightly lower than the trail with a dried mud courtyard cum-farmyard that makes for the landing on a two-foot drop or stepped roll-off if you don’t fancy it.

Sunglasses adjusted Charlie rolls into the trail, going high to make the first corner he punches his heels down and soaks up the steps. Riding loose and feeling in complete control he pops off the last step.

Lower down the butterfly has given its wings a rest and settles down on a bush waiting to play it’s part in the events that will unfurl.

Charlie is on the dirt, he raises his head and he sights his exit out of the corner. In his mind he wants a bit of speed to launch the drop at the end of the trail that the guide had talked about. He kicks in few pedal strokes and his speed is up.

Our butterfly is restless, something has made it stir, it flutters its wings manically to gain some air. Swooshing up and down as if held on a string it fixes its eyes on the oncoming blur that is Charlie.

Charlie is nearing the step down, he is up off his seat and ready to give the bike a little pop. Then darkness, nothing but darkness, as the butterfly wraps itself round Charlie’s glasses, a perfect match, wings cover the lenses, the body settles down on the nose. A soon to be bloodied nose.

Charlie’s hand moves up towards his face, the butterfly sticks, another swipe then panic, it’s too late. He is in the air, the front wheel is pointing down, the back wheel pointing skyward, a brake is grabbed and the butterfly knows it’s time to leave, departing Charlie’s sunglasses inches from the ground, it’s work in this story is done. Then the inevitable thud, the colliding of nose and ground, the crimson splatter.

We pick Charlie up off the floor and a lady appears in the doorway of one of the bungalows, hands over mouth trying to hide a smile, seconds later she returns with some water and a sponge and she is wiping down a slightly dazed looking Charlie whilst the butterfly looks on from its resting point on a window sill.

Charlie’s Butterfly, a trail named. Now we have two more trails named after the duo: Charlie’s Butterfly by-pass – which as the trail name suggests avoids the butterfly menace; and now the new improved Charlie’s Butterfly double by-pass – and on it goes.

Mountain Bike Kerala

Yeti SB5.5c
Our Richard pushing up the Blue Pig trail, Hebden Bridge – Named after the working mens’ club at the bottom of it and a bike designed by Brant… or is that the other way round?

What’s in a name? Do you have a trail with a story like Charlie’s Butterfly – why not tell us the tale? Email yours to

Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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