Laps and Loops: Is It Time To Rethink Trail Centre Designs?

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Dave Evans from Bike Corris has previously written extensively on ‘wild trails’ in Wales – it’s all well worth reading, and his latest paper is no different. ‘Evolving The Trail Centre – Lessons From Wild Trails‘ looks at the difference between trail centre designs and what people build when left to their own devices in the woods. I think it’s excellent, and provides a structured and illustrated argument that makes so much sense that you’ll surely think it’s so obvious, why hasn’t anyone done this before? You should really go and read the paper. I’m only going to summarise it...

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  • This topic has 60 replies, 37 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by spew.
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  • Laps and Loops: Is It Time To Rethink Trail Centre Designs?
  • b33k34
    Full Member

    An interesting piece, but I think he misses a few influences/factors that are relevant

    The Wild Trail Site layout also offers several benefits to the landowner.
    · This layout packs more Trails into a smaller Site. This reduces time required for Trail assessment and maintenance.
    · The use of forest roads or ride as the climbing Route is more cost effective that constructing dedicated mountain bike Trails going uphill.

    Those are also even stronger factors for wild trail builders, that reflect practicality more than necessarily preference
    – tools need to be carried to the trail build location, either on the bike, or walking in. That makes building more remote trails much more difficult than it is for an official trailbuilder with proper access
    – its’ much easier (and more fun) to build descents rather than climbs and to keep them ridable when erosion affects them .

    Wild trails offer a different feel to the (necessary) armouring that trail centres end up with – the descents at Afan are a good example. They all end up with a very similar feel which is a contrast to the loamy wild trails at Afan Masts. I love riding natural trails but I still want to go somewhere – the wild ‘ski lift’ style riding areas get super boring super quick – even on an e-bike repeatedly climbing the same fire road gets very dull very quickly. The best rides are often a combination of both – theres great riding around Grizedale and when we’re there we quite often use the North Face Trail to climb the hill, but rarely ride down it. Elsewhere mixing “natural” bridleway/footpath climbs with ‘trail’ descents is a lot more interesting than just winching up fireroads and riding at Cwmcarn I’d always use the Singletrack climb even if coming down the wild trail options. It would be a real shame if trail centres just fell back to fire road climbs.

    But at the same time , I think he’s completely right about the idea of making it easier for people to create their own routes and mix trails sections rather than just signposting distinct ‘loops’. I’ve been to Ainsa a few times and only on my last trip did I really love it self guided by ignoring the ‘official’ routes and stiching my own together using trail forks.

    colournoise
    Full Member

    Really want to link to this in the current ‘reframing’ forum thread, but it might get lost due to the circular argument that’s derailed that thanks to some usual suspects…

    Hadn’t really though about it in these terms, but this summary of the paper (will read in full later) totally echoes what’s happened in our local woods recently. Those of us who have been riding there a while have a few old school ‘loops’ we regularly ride but, following increased harvesting, the new trails that have gone in are all ‘laps’ focussed on the few small bits of selevation we do have. The longer loops have evolved to take in the laps but equally I might just ping along the forest roads direct to the hotspots and lap round those for a bit before heading home.

    JonEdwards
    Free Member

    I see what he’s saying, but please for god’s sake can we have some interesting climbs, not just endless bloody forest fireroad. We’re mountain bikers, not gravel bikers!!

    I love the descents at the Golfie, but doing that climb 8 or 10 times a day is enough to drive you bonkers. The Inners side is much more entertaining using the red xc route climb, then pedalling up the pushup track to the top fireroad.

    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    I see what he’s saying, but please for god’s sake can we have some interesting climbs, not just endless bloody forest fireroad. We’re mountain bikers, not gravel bikers!!

    That was the original trail centre design. Winch up on fireroad, descend on nice snaking singletrack designed to flow and lose altitude only gradually.

    However, especially with the advent of e-MTB, it’d be great to see some much more technical climbs, steeper options – in the same way that descents have chicken runs and red/black options, some super steep/technical e-bike climbs, some interesting but doable on a “normal” MTB climbs and the fireroad option would be a good way of adding some variety.

    FWIW, I think Leeds Urban Bike Park manages to pack an incredible amount of flowing singletrack into a really confined space, the trail building there is amazing.

    rOcKeTdOg
    Full Member

    not to bring up “gravel bikes are 90s mtbs” but i see it as the old school “exploring” or “XC” riding is now done on gravel bikes as the tameness of these routes is enhanced by the challenge of doing it on a drop bar bike with skinny tyres and the challenging stuff or the winch and plummet stuff is now done on MTBs, and those mtbs are now designed around the LLS geometry that are awful to pedal on the afore mentioned “xc” routes”
    So i think mtb design needs to change if trail centres are going to change to avoid long climbs and technical downs

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Some old trail centres have managed to do pretty much this, whether by design or luck or evolution. Look at Glentress frinstance- there’s the option of big laps and starting out with a climb, but, equally you can drive to the buzzzard’s nest and then suddenly you’re in the middle of a huge load of loops, large and small. You can to the top or bottom of the red or blue, a bit of zoom or bust or the newer unofficial trails like careless whisper, or just do endless laps of berm baby berm and the freeride if you want. Loads of stuff nests really nicely or exists as options, like broon troot dropping onto the black climb and leading you nicely back in… You can mix it all up a million different ways. Or ride up from peebles and end the ride on the fort descent and again be basically back in town. Or, if you really like, you can ride a loop.

    Course, that seems to be in the process of being undone with the new developments but it really did/does work bloody well considering there was never one hand on the design over all those years.

    Innerleithen’s become much the same- the red route there isn’t popular any more but the uplift road winding up the hill plus the red going further out to link stuff up works superbly. There’s maybe not a better short loop anywhere than angry sheep, just spin back up the road. Just, unfortunately it’s halfway up the hill.

    But I do like offroad climbs- yeah, the golfy is entirely about teh descents and that’s great but imagine something exactly like that but with a glentress or afan-ish climb instead. The trip back up goes so much faster. Especially when it’s howling wind, pissing rain or just really hot. Of course the descent’s more important but a good climb adds so much to the experience.

    UK-FLATLANDER
    Full Member

    Whilst I think the article is probably a fair reflection of the current state of demand in MTBing I find it all a bit depressing. To me it mirrors so many other aspects of modern life – has to be served up at high speed, with minimal effort and no investment of time to build skills. Personally I relish a good climb as much as a tech descent and love to explore. Alpine holidays rarely include an uplift, and rely on paper maps and not a smart phone – I guess I’m just a dinosaur 😔

    Del
    Full Member

    This was very much written from a certain perspective I feel. Nothing wrong with that but other perspectives are available. The whites level climb at afan, before the felling was a great climb that got you up there without feeling like a slog. A climb to start warms you up. I ride from home mostly and it’s 300m climbing over about 7km on road. If I ever take the car or get a lift I never feel quite right on the first descent. From the author’s viewpoint my local spot has it just right…

    andeh
    Free Member

    Around Vancouver we essentially exclusively have the “Ski Lift” style of trails. One or 2 routes up, usually a forest road, then tons of options down. Don’t get me wrong, this is fantastic: lots of options, range of difficulties, if you ride a trail and it’s a bit greasy or not great you can select a different route at the next crossing etc. Love it. Most of these trails started as “wild trails”, then became adopted and official over time.

    I do, however, miss a the unique appeal of being able to pop my brain out for 2 hours and follow some little arrows, see some nice views, maybe feel genuinely isolated for a bit, ride a few nice bits of well-built trail, head back for a coffee, repeat. It truly feels like a uniquely British cycling experience. Ski lift style trails lack the farthest-point feeling, which I enjoy. I know it isn’t, but it feels more like an adventure than a skills park.

    Thinking of places in the UK, Wolftrax is maybe the only proper official trail centre which uses the “ski lift” model, at least that I can think of…other than designated “Downhill” venues. I reckon that there’s place for both, they each have their appeal, and thinking back to when I first started riding (we’re talking 2002ish here), I really enjoyed that feeling of heading out on a “big” loop at Mabie or Glentress: it felt like a challenge and an adventure. Not sure I would have got hooked on biking if my first experiences involved riding up the same bit of road 15 times.

    13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    That’s an interesting reflection on the Vancouver trails.

    I was in seventh heaven when I moved out there, Fromme was my regular stomping ground, but after a few months I realised that having ridden (or at least ‘discovered’ on foot 🙄) most of the trails on the mountain I sort of got bored. The appeal of riding the same trails repeatedly just sort of wore off.

    That’s why back in Scotland I’ve embraced gravel biking so wholeheartedly, I can happily spin along on the tarmac to a new area just to explore some new singletrack or gravel connection then spin back home.

    I guess for me New trail > Good trail (although New trail often = good trail happily).

    Not really relevant to trail centre design I guess unless there was an army of trail fairies building constantly 😎

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    I love the descents at the Golfie, but doing that climb 8 or 10 times a day is enough to drive you bonkers.

    So what are you doing about it?
    There’s nothing to stop you building a climb trail there if that’s what you like.

    At this end of the valley we have some trails that have mainly been built by a couple of people.
    I’ve been turning some of the pushup tracks into interesting climbs for when I’m out on my eeber.
    They build the main descents i do a fair bit of work on the climbs and flat bits that link them all together.

    lwarrenride
    Full Member

    UK-FLATLANDER hit it on the head for me, “To me it mirrors so many other aspects of modern life – has to be served up at high speed, with minimal effort.”

    I get it, lots of riders now like to be propelled up climbs by a battery or an uplift, but let’s not forget the riders that see MTB as more rounded exercise. For that to work, we need interesting climbs. I have some great ‘wild’ ‘ski lift’ trails near me which I tend to fit a few runs of into a longer more XC style loop. I enjoy being challenged by the handful of technical runs sandwiched into my ride, but I also enjoy clocking up some KMs of continually pedalling.

    Oh and this is probably a me problem, but I find up-and-down in a small area (even with lots of different ways down) pretty tedious after a little while.

    thegeneralist
    Full Member

    I see what he’s saying, but please for god’s sake can we have some interesting climbs, not just endless bloody forest fireroad.

    Amen.

    PS, I think Wolftraxx hit upon the solution to the OP when it opened 20 odd years ago. I’m not so keen on the design, but it was obvious the kids loved it for exactly the reasons explained in the article.

    Mugboo
    Full Member

    It would be good to see the trail centres re-imagined for the next generation. LIke lots of riders, I travelled from Yorkshire to Wales and Scotland to experience them but these days my eye has been drawn to the wilder variety.

    If I visit them now its to ride with my wife and child, for this use they are very frustrating but easily improved by adding options.

    Climbing trails need easier bypasses round technical options. Even the smallest of steps can be a problem for little wheels and legs. It is soul destroying to keep getting off (its how you feel when you are out of your depth on a steep descent). This might also stop the whingers who complain everytime a hard working volunteer re-instates a section of trail to its previous smoothness, the harder option can be left to become increasingly more difficult.

    Along and descents just need more options and signposts to show you how to loop around for aother go. This way you can roll through the blue option then the red and maybe the black.

    I think the much maligned Dalby, with the right signage and the adoption of some of the wild trails could be amazing for families. Once you know the place its easy to find lots of great descents and the climbs aren’t too high. I imagine that with the addition of a couple of new official blue flow trails and an easy climb in the right area it would work.
    Just providing better signage to break the place down into shorter loops using the existing network would be a great start…

    JonEdwards
    Free Member

    So what are you doing about it?

    Mostly living 225 miles away.

    However I do put plenty of effort into my local trails – the last 2 Saturdays I’ve been helping run public dig days, and there’s plenty of minor nip & tuck stuff I just deal with.

    With the archaic access laws in englandshire, smashing new trails into the woods is heavily frowned upon (although obviously happens). Personally, I’m not really prepared to put time and effort into building a trail that will get destroyed sooner rather than later – I’d rather spend the time keeping the existing legal stuff tip-top. When I bring up using funding to make climbs rather than descents, I usually get pointed/laughed at.

    bentudder
    Full Member

    That’s a good read, and a really positive perspective.
    I think one thing that’s potentially missing from the discussion is the general impact of trail centres over the last 20-odd years; Coed Y Brenin was transformational, and I’ve noticed a massive change in the way people think about riding since it appeared. Most of my riding is from my doorstep in the Surrey Hills, and we’re pretty fortunate to have exactly the sort of trail structure that Dave maps out at Cwm Carn. Maybe it’s not fortunate – it’s more like years of work from lots of people, often working independently.
    The IMBA Stacked Loop system is something we used (again) 20 odd years ago to talk about the structure of wild trails in the Surrey Hills when we talked to landowners about Summer Lightning and the other trails we ended up building; what we (ie Redlands) talked about was a set of trails that addressed problems both mountain bikers and land owners faced at the time: mountain bikers would find popular trails were congested or hammered from over use, and landowners then found lots of new trails as a result, or mountain bikers spreading out onto multi-use paths or trails, which resulted in conflict. By building or maintaining a small number of high-volume trails for heavy use (Summer Lightning, BKB, Yoghurt Pots as examples) a lot of pressure came off the surrounding area; most people wanted to ride stuff built to a certain standard with no hidden surprises or unexpected features.
    This has worked quite well for a long time, certainly longer than Redlands Trails was around – the Hurtwood trail builders are now doing some really great stuff, for example.
    But it’s also meant that Forestry takes a quite different approach to stuff; when a section of Summer Lightning burned down in August, two sections of the trail were closed and won’t be re-opened any time soon, by the sounds of it.

    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    The IMBA Stacked Loop system is something we used (again) 20 odd years ago to talk about the structure of wild trails in the Surrey Hills when we talked to landowners about Summer Lightning and the other trails we ended up building; what we (ie Redlands) talked about was a set of trails that addressed problems both mountain bikers and land owners faced at the time: mountain bikers would find popular trails were congested or hammered from over use, and landowners then found lots of new trails as a result, or mountain bikers spreading out onto multi-use paths or trails, which resulted in conflict.

    Swinley wasn’t dissimilar (going back 20+ years). A huge network of mostly “off piste” trails, most of which had about 4 or 5 different names depending on which group was riding them. A lot were over-used but there were some that were little more than scrapes in the ground and new lines appearing all the time as vegetation grew or died back. However there were conflicts, most usually from a rider going up a trail that someone else had decided would make a great descent and occasionally from some over-enthusiastic digging. There were a couple of known and tolerated dig spots; problems arose when people started digging outside of those.

    By actually formalising it and creating the waymarked trails, Swinley were able to use the best and most sustainable trails, create a coherent network and leave some of the rest of the forest to walkers or wildlife or regrowth projects. It did lose some nice bits though.

    ampthill
    Full Member

    The paper didn’t win me over. It starts by being rude about riding on Bridleways. I’ve had loads of great rides on Bridleways.

    Secondly he seems to be avoiding talking about Coed y Brenin. I seem to remember loads of interesting trails without any climbing before you start riding them. Yes the trails are organised in loops. But with the Map you can combine any amount of fire road climbing and descents at a level you choose. It worked really well for us as a family. I think the Blue at Whinlatter is also free from a qualifying climb.

    I’m also note that car park at the bottom, next to the road , is probably a practical consideration. I’d also say interesting natur narrow climbs were a response to rider demand

    I have enjoyed riding up the obvious easy ascent drop down the have dug trail stuff. But in climbing terms it feels like bouldering. My favourite rides are more like multi pitch routes.

    However it’s good to be challenged in one’s thinking. So I’m glad I read the article

    chrismac
    Full Member

    My issue with most trail centres is that they appear to have lost interest in mountain bikers and are more interested in the family entertainment model which is undoubtedly a lot more commercially viable. Even places like glentress and Coed y Brenin haven’t made any changes to the red or black routes in decades. Its basically the same routes, all the investment has gone into family friendly blues. The result is that when we visit the tweed valley we ride golfie yair and inners. If we do venture to glentress it will be to go and do the off piste stuff as the main loops hold little interest.

    b33k34
    Full Member


    @mugboo

    Climbing trails need easier bypasses round technical options. Even the smallest of steps can be a problem for little wheels and legs. It is soul destroying to keep getting off

    Hadn’t really appreciated that – the trickiest bits of the climbs at both Cwmcarn (rocky/rooty section) and Afan (a step) were both clearable but a challenge and I thought it was dumbing down removing and flattening them. An alt. line would be a much better answer.


    @bentudder

    But it’s also meant that Forestry takes a quite different approach to stuff; when a section of Summer Lightning burned down in August, two sections of the trail were closed and won’t be re-opened any time soon, by the sounds of it

    Any idea why? I’ve not tried riding it but the burnt section is looks almost entirely intact (except maybe where they drove a truck over it) and the next section with the rocky entrance is completely fine (tape keeps appearing with some notice about ‘dangerous trees’ but not clear what the actual issue is (trees fall in the forest the whole time, if there one particular one get a chainsaw on it).

    bentudder
    Full Member


    @b33k34

    Any idea why? I’ve not tried riding it but the burnt section is looks almost entirely intact (except maybe where they drove a truck over it) and the next section with the rocky entrance is completely fine (tape keeps appearing with some notice about ‘dangerous trees’ but not clear what the actual issue is (trees fall in the forest the whole time, if there one particular one get a chainsaw on it).

    Yes, it looks intact to me as well – although it’s not as simple as raking away the debris. It’ll need drainage reinstated, sight lines and performance cues checked and possibly re-routing to take into account the now-visible terrain, because suddenly losing all the trees makes something feel quite different when you ride it. When that and other sections (notably the bit after the burnt out SUV) were harvested years back, what was a hectic speeder bike run through Endor suddenly became quite bland and boring; basically, we had to make it more swoopy and twisty because you could see a lot further ahead, and so had plenty more time to react to changes in direction. Depending on the volume of line changes, it could be quite a big job to bring it back and also make it fun to ride without the trees there.

    The current delay seems to come down to resources and familiarity; in the past, it would be a case of us (ie Redlands Trails) organising a work day, tallying up build insurance hours, grabbing the tools and risk assessment clipboards (oy vey!) and heading up there. Redlands Trails is no more, we can’t buy insurance from BTCV these days, the tools are probably still in Dave’s lockup and it’s likely that half a dozen beat foresters have been and gone from this post – which manages more woodland than the whole of Scotland, and in tiny little chunks all over the place.

    I’ve made a little bit of a flap (Work and children have curtailed my free time in the last ten years) and others are making a far bigger and more productive set of noises.

    b33k34
    Full Member

    @bentudder

    When that and other sections (notably the bit after the burnt out SUV) were harvested years back, what was a hectic speeder bike run through Endor suddenly became quite bland and boring; basically, we had to make it more swoopy and twisty because you could see a lot further ahead, and so had plenty more time to react to changes in direction.

    I remember, but hadn’t appreciated the rerouting that was done. Certainly post SUV has got denser and denser over the years but the recently burnt bit remained really low – and ground cover is already coming back. I’m pretty sure there was a Specialized organised dig day on Summer Lightning in the last year or two so they should have the contacts- maybe that would be the best place to push (will try)

    sargey2003
    Full Member

    rOcKeTdOg

    not to bring up “gravel bikes are 90s mtbs” but i see it as the old school “exploring” or “XC” riding is now done on gravel bikes as the tameness of these routes is enhanced by the challenge of doing it on a drop bar bike with skinny tyres and the challenging stuff or the winch and plummet stuff is now done on MTBs, and those mtbs are now designed around the LLS geometry that are awful to pedal on the afore mentioned “xc” routes”
    So i think mtb design needs to change if trail centres are going to change to avoid long climbs and technical downs

    1 – LLS bikes (designed & sized correctly) are perfectly fine for climbing & it’s a complete myth that they can’t do technical climbs and they can often be better when it gets steep as the old 90’s bikes you reference would be lifting the front wheel on every pedal stroke unless you bent double over the stupidly long stem (speaking from experience).

    2 – Are you seriously suggesting that we should design bikes that are harder to ride in order to make boring trails more interesting?

    3 – The factor that can make modern bikes less fun for the tame routes is often the choice of wheels & tyres – you need tougher, grippier & heavier tyres for the technical plummets, swap those for XC tyres and a bike can be transformed for the flatter stuff (and climbs).

    kelvin
    Full Member

    What sargey2003 said. All true.

    Anyway, it need not be either or at Trail Centres, as seen at Forrest of Dean… loops can be combined with descents fanning out from the top of a climb or push… all in the same woods. Likewise, family blue stuff and fun for the older idiots can coexist well. Needs good signage and good manners all around though.

    jameso
    Full Member

    Will read the paper later, but more of this in general, it’s a great article.

    Thinking about my local trails it’s the lads building the cheeky lines for laps who make my XC loops more fun. I tend to ride XC linking up the areas that have a few good lines down the hill. Stop and do a bit of clearing maintenance sometimes but leave the building to the guys who know what they want.
    20-25 years ago we were making the new lines for riding little jumpy HTs on. I always enjoyed a solo ride on other days riding the same HT with the saddle up XC style, going from from descent to fun descent. Things haven’t changed much in some ways. Droppers make it better!

    I think the argument for a concentration of easy climbs and fun trail descents for the new and family riders or the time-crunched makes sense for the benefit of an MTB area. The riders wanting the trickier climbs or to link up trails across a wider area will always find what they’re looking for. Build in alternative climbs and descents so that you can mix n match and everyone’s happy.

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member


    @JonEdwards

    When I bring up using funding to make climbs rather than descents, I usually get pointed/laughed at.

    I must admit I’ve had some odd looks from people when they’ve seen me working on a climb or stone pitching a boggy flat bit of the connecting trails.

    nedrapier
    Full Member

    Even places like glentress and Coed y Brenin haven’t made any changes to the red or black routes in decades. Its basically the same routes, all the investment has gone into family friendly blues.

    Trying to re-frame mountain biking, no doubt. The fiends.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    Is there a confirmational bias or perception issue though?

    Places like that look busy because people are hanging around the trailheads, or you’re passing them going in different directions. Trail centers feel empty because apart from the one person you overtake and the one that overtakes you, the other 500 people in the car park may as well not exist.

    This was very much written from a certain perspective I feel. Nothing wrong with that but other perspectives are available. The whites level climb at afan, before the felling was a great climb that got you up there without feeling like a slog. A climb to start warms you up. I ride from home mostly and it’s 300m climbing over about 7km on road. If I ever take the car or get a lift I never feel quite right on the first descent. From the author’s viewpoint my local spot has it just right…

    There’s definitely a good compromise level. Llandegla for example is one long, just about interesting enough not to be dull, climb to the top, followed by 4 (I think) main descents where you descend around half the hill, before climbing back up about a third of it. Strikes a happy balance in my mind because you quickly forget the 20min climb to the top and the rest feels like you’re just getting good VFM for the effort.

    (We’ll ignore how rubbish the blue is)

    I don’t mind a hillside dotted with trails that you can link together with a bit of local knowledge, but the ski resort model really doesn’t work for me. I want to feel like a ride actually went somewhere. The best bits of rides are getting to the top and pointing back at the last hill and seeing where we’ve been, and at the next hill and saying that’s where we’re heading.

    If all you want to do is ride up and down a hillside, you may as well do it behind the nationwide in Swindon, at least then it’s accessible to more of the country.

    Putting the flat-but-fun bits near the car park just leaves you with Swinley (and I guess that makes the clubhouse the ski resort bit), and look how fashionable it is to hate riding there!

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Crazy Legs

    That was the original trail centre design. Winch up on fireroad, descend on nice snaking singletrack designed to flow and lose altitude only gradually.

    However, especially with the advent of e-MTB, it’d be great to see some much more technical climbs

    Hmm, I’m entirely the opposite or at least long fireroads are more bearable on the EMTB.
    I’m not a fan of the climbs to start off… I can climb and I’m quite decent at it but I don’t enjoy it like some but at least a tech climb takes your mind off the endless winch???

    jivehoneyjive
    Free Member

    Something to remember in all of this is these newer trails have been built by riders, for riders… I know from my time as a professional trail builder that this is a rare luxury; all too often, there are a variety of obstacles to overcome when dealing with client concerns (and demands), time constraints and a myriad of other factors , which often result in trails not being the very best they can be from a riders perspective.

    Another factor to consider; rider built trails minimize environmental impact; rather than having access to hundreds of tonnes of exotic quarried surfacing materials transported to site by huge 8×4 tippers, then distributed by dumpers (varying from 0.75 tons for tight access to 9 tons for stockpiling and/or direct application using the digger to unload from the skip) and a fleet of diggers to create the trail in the first place, aside from the odd drainage pipe, for the most part, rider dug trails use only local materials (often lugged around by flexitub, or if it’s a proper luxury build, a wheelbarrow), far more in tune with the local ecosystem; it wouldn’t be unfair to surmise that the carbon footprint of a handbuilt trail as opposed to a machine built trail (using contractors who themselves are transported to the area, before returning home for weekends (except for overseas builds, where 10 day stints offer the best balance between energy levels and the economics of air travel)) is many hundreds, if not several thousand times less… and the result is often more fun to ride to boot!

    That said, I do see the challenge (fun is not an easy word to use in this instance, type 2 fun at best!) of technical climbs and from what I can see, Dave is not specifically advocating against them, merely observing that by using existing infrastructure (i.e. fireroads) the impact on the landowner is minimal; whatsmore, should the worst happen (not a common occurence, but worth noting in terms of mitigating danger), access for emergency services is much improved… that’s not to say technical climbs are off the menu; I’ve designed and built a loop which integrates aspects of the old and the new; most of the climbing uses fireroads, but there’s also the spicy twang of bedrock bridleway to keep the masochists happy, all working towards views that can set a fire in even the dampest soul.

    Overall, I’m well impressed by the report, the main function of which appears to be to expand the horizons of landowners and help convey the parallels between MTB and skiing for the sake of understanding, rather than dictate mandates for the future of the sport.

    colournoise
    Full Member

    Good post. Thanks.

    finephilly
    Free Member

    Yea, it’s a fair reflection on the state of trail building/trail centres. He makes some really good points about how trail centres can be developed to suit modern riders.

    The best climbs are ones which don’t ‘feel’ like hard work. ie lots of twisty turns, nice views, bit of trailside interest etc.

    IME, the best trails are ones which have been built by hand for the most part, using small tools and equipment – you retain that singletrack feel/winding through the trees element!

    thegeneralist
    Full Member

    .. challenge (fun is not an easy word to use in this instance, type 2 fun at best!)

    Stuff and nonsense 😉 a decent climb is golden

    Llandegla for example is one long, just about interesting enough not to be dull, climb

    Also nonsense. Wtf is interesting about the llandegla climb? There’s no technical interest in it whatsoever.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    Wtf is interesting about the llandegla climb? There’s no technical interest in it whatsoever.

    Agreed. Apart from a few minor sections early on, which might be moderately entertaining on an xc bike at full sprint, there is nothing of interest at all.
    It does serve a good purpose of being a) an excellent warm up and b) makes the rest of the trail a net downhill.
    I can see it being miserable for kids/beginners, although they do have a blue trail for that.

    Northwind
    Full Member

    Climbs don’t have to be challenging to be interesting. Mabie’s a good example, it has challenging climbs but it also has lovely climbs. Golspie’s the same, it’s lactic ladder’s technical physical climb that gets the headlines but the lower down stuff is just absolutely gorgeous as you spin up through the big trees, sea views opening up occasionally… Other places have sudden outbreaks of history, like the marin. All different ways to be more than just a fire road spin.

    andeh
    Free Member

    Golspie’s the same, it’s lactic ladder’s technical physical climb that gets the headlines but the lower down stuff is just absolutely gorgeous as you spin up through the big trees

    Yes! I almost, almost, enjoyed the climb there as much as the descent. Absolute belter of a climb.

    reeksy
    Full Member

    Another factor to consider; rider built trails minimize environmental impact;

    Where I live in Queensland that’s definitely not always the case over the long term. Most of our tracks are on public conservation land. Illegal trails started in the ’90s have eventually become tolerated/accepted by the governments that manage the land. Such is the abundance of space and vegetation, some (most?) seem to have been built with little/no consideration for environmental values – erosion, cultural heritage, species (i’ve seen recent tracks running straight through vines that are crucial for a threatened butterfly species for example, and many of the poor soils get obliterated where people build straight lines, leaving bedrock and ever widening ‘singletrack’).

    On the other hand, when trails are built by contractors paid for by the taxpayer (there’s barely any pay-to-ride facilities here) a higher level of scrutiny is applied. Track design is managed with respect to drainage, species (flora and fauna) and contracts include maintenance. There’s a major new network being built nearby that’s been stalled due to dieback. Until that gets sorted the tracks won’t open. They’ve also been experimenting with hardening agents in some of our parks, to get more durability.

    jonba
    Free Member

    Has anyone noticed how “Enduro Trousers” have the same cut as old school Ronhill and evreyone is wearing bumbags?

    There’s lots to think about in trail design, it’s not my area so I’ll leave it to people who know more. One thing I’d be conscious of, though, is that things move in cycles. All disciplines go through ups and downs and it would be good to think about a long term plan rather than meeting just the immediate needs. I love Thrunton, You ride up one or two big tracks and have loads of ways down. It would bore the hell out of me for XC marathon riding which I also do. Kielder is great for that but kind of easy for Enduro. It has phenomenal gravel opportunity though. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket catering for LLS trail bikes when in 5 years everyone is going to be turning up looking for a nice fast technical XC loop to race on.

    jivehoneyjive
    Free Member

    On the other hand, when trails are built by contractors paid for by the taxpayer (there’s barely any pay-to-ride facilities here) a higher level of scrutiny is applied.

    You’d certainly hope that was the case, but in my experience, the reality falls well short of what you might expect.

    jivehoneyjive
    Free Member

    All different ways to be more than just a fire road spin.

    Some very good points there… thinking about it, I guess one of the reasons the Nant Yr Arian climb is less likely to dishearten novice riders is that rather than being hemmed in by trees, isolated from the wider world, there is immediate views, giving feel good vibes from the get go; better still when the kites are feeding or there’s a few riders descending the trails that are plainly visible from the climb.

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