Singletrack 121: Build it and they will come

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Are ‘pirate trails’ breathing new life into our trail networks, or threatening their very existence?

Words Antony de Heveningham

Mountain biking, it’s fair to say, would be nothing without the trails we ride. Some of us are finding our fun on tracks that have been in use for centuries, others at purpose-built trail centres, complete with on-site bike shop and café. But a lot of the sport happens on trails that occupy a murky middle ground. Whether it’s a rough line scratched into a hillside, or the perfectly sculpted result of many hours’ graft, there are many trails which were built by riders for riders, often without any kind of permission.

These trails always used to have a low profile by default, with knowledge of them passed on by word of mouth. They would pop up in VHS video footage, or photo shoots in magazines, and their general location might be alluded to, but finding out anything else about them would often be tricky. The arrival of the internet changed the game, and you can now find locations, photos and videos of many trails that would have previously been locals-only secrets at the swipe of a finger.

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