Moston Brook Cycle Event25/03/2023
Modular Pumptracks: The Fun and Benefits of Investing in Public Spaces04/05/2023
In a cycling context, trails are dedicated paths for off-road cycling that allow mountain bikes, ebikes, gravel bikes, and other engine-less bikes to navigate through natural surroundings. These trails can be purpose-built by Trail Specialists or may have been naturally formed over hundreds of years. Depending on the steepness of the trail and the features present, such as rocks, roots, and jumps, trails are often graded for difficulty. Forestry England sites like Dalby Forest, Cannock Chase, Forest of Dean, and Whinlatter Forest are examples of locations that have graded / colour-coordinated trail networks – and there are hundreds more examples across the UK.
Trail building is the process of designing and constructing sustainable off-road cycling trails that promote safe cycling use and increase cycling participation, while minimizing the impact on the forest, ecology, wildlife, and wider environment. Trail building requires extensive planning and expertise to create a new trail or repair/maintain an existing one.
Although the increasing number of publicly funded trails, pump tracks, and privately owned bike parks is great news for mountain bike enthusiasts, it also poses some issues.
One of the primary issues is a lack of maintenance plans, particularly for public-funded projects. The funding is usually awarded, and the trails get built, but no thought is given to upkeep. Basic trail maintenance, such as training volunteers on how to unblock drainage channels with a leaf blower so that water stays off the trail, can extend the life of a trail by several years. Another problem is illegal mountain bike trails built by enthusiasts who take their tools to hand-build short-lived tracks on hillsides and in forests. Such builds are common on private, council, or state-owned land. Poorly executed trail building projects due to a lack of construction knowledge and expertise, along with the lack of training and expertise of workers to maintain these trails, are also concerns.
Given the complex nature of trail building and the increasing popularity of mountain biking in the UK, these issues demand serious attention. The Dirt Factory’s Trail Services team has solutions in place that cover landowner advice and management, managing conflict, trail etiquette and shared use, trail maintenance courses, trail inspection and sign-off, and trail building schools for landowners and volunteers. Two of the team members, Gary Hampson and Mark McClure, freelance their skillset across Europe and have developed trail building courses in partnership with IMBA Europe.
If you have any new projects, maintenance, sign-offs, or general trail building inquiries, you can speak to one of The Dirt Factory’s team members by contacting them directly.