So farewell ‘dry side’ trails….

Posted: November 9, 2011 in 2011, General
Tags: , , ,

Last weekend’s race on the BCP side of Thetford Forest may well be the last time anyone gets to ride some of the best trails in the forest. Yes, that’s right, the harvesters are moving in and local sources tell me it sounds like work has begun on the Four Bridges area already. It is a real shame but it has happened before and new trails will emerge from the wreckage.

I have been riding in the forest since the late 1980s and it has changed beyond recognition not once, but many times. There was a ‘golden period’ when the riding was fantastic, there were very few bikes on the trails and you could put together a two or three hour ride of almost constant singletrack on the BCP side alone. In due course, and for reasons I will not go into again, this time has passed and most of the good riding on the ‘dry side’ has been lost to us. What was left (until last weekend) represented the skeletal remains of some arguably the best trail network to be found…anywhere. This too is under the cosh now and it is hard to remain enthusiastic about what will remain and frankly, the limited options on the High Lodge side.

In memory of the dead trails I will put a discreet black band around my frame as I mourn the loss of some (more) old friends.

At the end of the day though, none of these are ‘our’ trails, they don’t belong to us and a little like friends and family, they have only ever been on loan. One day, they will all go, or we will take our leave of them, in turn, and what then? With a little bit of nurturing, a touch of tlc and the passage of time, a new generation of tracks will emerge all shiny and clean, ready to begin the cycle once more.

The trails are dead! Long live the trails! Rest assured, something will emerge but don’t make the mistake of thinking that trails make themselves, don’t be a lazy so and so, leaving the work to others. Get involved. This did not start off as a recruiting poster for trail pixies but this time round, believe me, Kitchener is looking you straight in the eye, demanding your help!

Trail building…..years ago, it was a case of riding around, spotting a potential line in the trees then coming back with some friends, clearing overhanging branches, scraping back the pine needles, trying out the lines and riding it over and over again. Once happy with the result you would simply mark the entrance, spread the word, and before too long a new trail would be established. I did this all the time and always knew I had done well when people would tell me about a ‘new bit’ at such and such an area, or when it would be adopted for race use. My riding mates were not always so happy though as I’d invariably use them as unwilling volunteers’ leading them down sections that ‘just need riding in’.

Like the trails however, times have changed. I no longer know everyone in the car park, rider volumes have expanded dramatically and we have to do things differently now. For a gnarly old timer I have had to embrace change slowly, reluctantly, and have almost fully adjusted now. The increase in traffic means more erosion, trails being damaged by riders who rely on their brakes, rather than any skill, to get them round corners, through berms etc or who are unable to bring their bike to a controlled halt without leaving long skid marks everywhere. Advances in bike technology mean that people can get themselves into more trouble than they realise and yes, they end up hurting themselves. The Forestry Commission often end up picking up the pieces and sorting out the liability issues when people set themselves challenges they are nowhere near being able to meet.

The point behind this? (Yes I can ramble on for ages) Make some effort, give something back to the forest. In austere times such as these, the Forestry Commission do not have money to throw about, they have no resources to spare and without volunteers, the trail network will most surely disappear. There is only one group in the forest dedicated to the creation and upkeep of the trail network; there is only one group run by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers who give their time and money to working on the trails you enjoy. There is only one group who are so far ahead of other UK trail pixies that they are being held up as an example for others to follow. Yes, it is Timber. Membership is ridiculously cheap so even if you can’t give your time, make the effort to join…your contribution will go back to the forest, your trails and ultimately your fun. Check out the website and the forum (quite an active place actually) to see what is going on. Most of the inhabitants are (more or less) human and it isn’t somewhere where you get shot down in flames by regulars.

  1. Ady says:

    Shame the trails are going but its a working forest so is to be expected,i would imagine none off the original motor cycle .enduro trails are left on the bcp side as not been a race there for several years.
    But there are still loads of old and new tracks to follow over route 24 and santon downham.
    As for timber they do an excellent job on the high lodge side and are worth supporting.
    Oh how i remember the days of it just needs riding in only to emerge either stung to pieces or legs cut from brambles and normally not being able to see a lot ,allright for slowjo as he is 6 ft somthing

  2. slowjo61 says:

    Happy memories eh Ady? The thing is, we saw life from a different perspective ad life above the bracken level was so much easier! 🙂

  3. Ady says:

    Yes we seemed to have the trails to ourselves back then as the trails seem more like major roads at peak times i try and ride sd or go early or later.
    Im riding more and when i get to a 13/14mile average wil hookup with you and rich.
    On another topic my company has started the bike to work scheme so looking to get a bike for the commute(15mile each way) as the r8 is hard work on the road and wearing out my expensive tyres.
    Thinking of a cx bike or an on-one 29 with gears and carbon fork does the 29 roll ok on the roads or would you go for the cx seems several decent bikes for the £1000

    • slowjo61 says:

      Whole can of worms there! 29ers roll well on the road but the CX is better, more versatile etc. Stick big road tyres on and you’ll have a comfy ride, and you will go faster. I have both and tbh there isn’t really much crossover. Oh yes, another thing for the CX is you can get tyres like the Schwalbe Durano, big carcass, puncture protection and tough as old boots. Got to be the way to go.

  4. Pssst: On the QT we are discussing with a certain forestry outfit reintroducing the odd M/C Enduro post feeling to reinvigorate the wild network…. no promises mark you…..

  5. Ady says:

    nice to hear it graham.well next question what cx to look at,but stillfancy a 29 and the on-one looks good withfull xt and carbon forks for under a grand

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