The Mountain Bike Life

Rain causes erosion. Erosion over time causes deep ruts. Deep ruts over lots of time become ravines. For those of us in the plains this simple fact is great news. While we do not have mountains, slick rock, or ski lifts, we still have local ravines. With a little bit of imagination and no small amount of work mountain biking is never further away than your local ravine.

The local ravine prior to doing any work. The picture doesn’t do the elevation change justice.

Once you cut a trail in an untouched section of woods in your local ravine you will never look at trails the same way again. It’s much like writing. If you have begun to write a novel you can you see things that authors do in stories that you never noticed before you attempted to put pen to paper. Song writers hear things in the music that goes unnoticed by mere listeners. Painters see texture and lighting in paintings that go missed by the public. Trail builders see nuance in the trails they ride. The most compelling reason to take a bow saw, a pick axe and a shovel into the woods might not be the joy of riding your new trail. It might be the new perspective you get riding your favorite old trails.

This is an existing trail that runs along the top of the ravine. You can see our trail cutting off to the right in the foreground of the image.

Every trail has some quirky sections that make you scratch your head. You might be flowing along a decent downhill only to approach a hair pin turn in place that doesn’t require it. Of course you are not to hyped on nailing your brakes to make the turn. Yet as a trail builder you gain inside knowledge. You see that the “unnecessary” switchback actually keeps you away from an area that bogs down in the spring, or that sends you back to better terrain, or keeps you from entering a different property. All the while the hairpin maximized the length of that good flowy line.

A rough cut of the first section of trail as it drops down into the ravine.

As a trail builder the quirks of your local trail begin to make sense. It is like a scene in a book where a man heading home from work is being followed by a suspicious character. As reader you feel the tension and enjoy the suspense. As a writer you have inside access to the tricks of the trade.  You enjoy the suspense but you realize that whole scene was a tactic employed by the author to simply move the plot from one location to another. The author just figured a chase scene makes for better story telling than a simple walk down the block. When you read with a keen eye toward the author’s tactics you are rewarded with more than just the story, you also get to enjoy the art of storytelling. There are a lot of sections of trail that function the same way. The builder knew where some great topology was, and they want to get you there in an interesting way, so they berm up some corners around a few trees, or take you straight over a few rollers. As a rider you view it as a nice little section of trail, but not a highlight. As rider with a builder’s mindset you marvel at the trail.

Another rough cut section of trail winding down the side of the ravine. These sections have since been bench cut and flattened.

Like any other art form, at some point you need to simply start. It’s good to take the lessons, and do the research and so on, but at some point you must simply put pen to paper, brush to canvas, or hoe to forest. That’s what I did.  After much scouting of a local ravine I decided it was time to take the hoe to the ground. I’m no expert, and have only cut the 1st 1/4 mile of trail so far. However the experience of creating this small segment of singletrack has been eye opening, and has really caused me to appreciate existing trails and the work that goes into them.

The work ahead.

Get out there and build a trail, it will change the way you look at you favorite trails

Below are a few more pics from the build.

This with a little spade work and no small amount of lumber this downed tree will become our bridge across Watova Creek to access the other side of the ravine.

Ontario Cup Series with Chris Fruetel
Backcountry Season