Trail-Building Rant

Rant time…

This has been eating at me for a couple days… This is the old crusty trail-builder grouch in me coming out.

In the photo above, you can see how the slab rock doesn’t go all the way across the trail, right? Well, it used to… Somebody–a trail “builder”, I assume–spend a bunch of time humping a bunch of tools way up the mountain to hack up the rock and make this section of trail easier.

Who cares, right? Maybe some of you are even saying, “Good! I hated that section”

Now, I admit, I don’t know all the details. Maybe this person is saying, “Hey, I spent so much time maintaining and repairing that trail, I’m entitled to a little personal touch up there…”

OK, maybe you are…

But here’s my gripe.

And, first let me say that I 100% believe that MTB needs easy and beginner level trails more than any other type of trail (***talented trail builders can and do build trails that are safe and easy for beginners and still fun and challenging for advanced riders–very often within the same trail). And, not only does my job more or less depend on safe and easy trails bringing riders into the sport, but good riders can have fun on easy trails while novice riders aren’t going to have much fun on the nasty stuff. We need easy trails.

But this trail is by no means a beginner level trail and it never will be. Also, there’s no need for it to be made into an easy trail because, from the spot where the photo was taken, you can literally see multiple easy trails in the surrounding area. There are plenty of them around.

What gets me is that whomever hacked the rock slab out of the trail–I think it’s safe to assume–has permission to be up there working on that particular trail. But of all the places on that trail that need a little help and time, that sure as heck wasn’t it. That section of trail WAS sustainable: the rocks have been there for, oh, what? 4 billion years? Give or take…There wasn’t an issue with water run off and erosion (there will be now). And it wasn’t dangerous.

The rocks got hacked because they were a little tricky and technical which made that section a bit difficult (I guess I could shut up here…because it’ll be difficult and technical again in about 6 months when the left side of the trail erodes away).

There are definitely reasons to remove obstacles from trails: sometimes just to open them up and let them flow a bit better is a good reason (but this particular spot actually added a little more character and flair to an awesome trail IMO); sometimes sections need to be made more sustainable (that wasn’t the case here).

My point is this: let’s not sanitize the trails because we don’t have the skills to ride them. Especially if there are plenty of tamer trails almost literally a stone’s throw away. Go ride one of those. Or get off and walk the parts that are too tough for you to ride. Or get better…

It’s great that MTB is basically a mainstream sport at this point. And, of course, with that we will see a few growing pains. One of those pains is that it seems like many trail builders feel that everybody should be able to ride every single trail. Why? We’re all adults here. Not everybody gets a trophy…

We don’t need ten foot drops or huge gap jumps on public trails, but lets keep the challenging stuff challenging.

Another thing that is bugging me about this is that if you’re up on that particular trail, building, then you have some responsibility to the riding public. I can’t just go up there and build features that I myself would enjoy, but most people wouldn’t, so why can a person go up and hack some of the fun out of one of the most challenging trails in the area? This is an advanced trail and the riders that ride it enjoy the challenge. Stop hackin’ at my Fun!

The bikes keep getting better and better but the trails keep getting easier and easier…

If you’re out there building trails, great. You’re a good person, in my book, and your heart is in the right place. But take the time to educate yourself and consider your responsibilities.

Is this the end of the world? No, of course not. It’s just one little section of trail. But it is indicative of what I believe is starting to become a much bigger problem in trail building.