Graft - A Trail Builders Story

Jul 23, 2016
by RADventure  
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.

bigquotesMID 19TH CENTURY: PERHAPS RELATED TO THE PHRASE, SPADE'S GRAFT - 'THE AMOUNT OF EARTH THAT ONE STROKE OF A SPADE WILL MOVE' - BASED ON OLD NORSE GROFTR 'DIGGING' - ORIGIN

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It’s not an easy place to find. We’d heard rumours of things going down in the woods, steeply down in fact, but skirting along the top path to the crags where there’s no sign of the industry that’s been busy sculpting a new trail in here. It’s doubly frustrating because we thought we knew this area pretty well, it’s one of those paths that almost offers a good techy ride, with decent sections that flow between the regenerating birch and oak trees. Except its rhythm is broken by intermittent boulders that are just too much to get a wheel over necessitating the need to dismount and carry. With better trails on offer in the valley, it was easy to just move on and let this one drop by the wayside.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.


On the second pass along the same path, approaching from the opposite direction, we spot a slight scuff to the leaf litter that’s been disguised with some fallen branches, which in turn unearths a tell-tale tyre mark in the loam below a rock slab when scanning the surroundings. The hillside here is steep, littered with fallen rocks and small outcrops amongst the trees that cling to its side. Tracing the line of the faint path that winds its way down and through is tricky, both for the incline our flat shoes are desperately trying to grip to, and the effort that someone has gone to keep the path well hidden.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.


And then it’s all revealed in front of us, hidden by the steepness of the hill from the path above, a seven metre square of tarpaulin anchored to a small cliff and spreading out over a hand-dug trail that plummets down the hillside, over sculpted jumps and into catcher berms... Berms built from the rocks unearthed through the shifting of substantial amounts of soil to form this sinuous line that hugs the hillside. It’s been lovingly crafted to embrace the steepness on offer, flowing from berm to berm as it drops. Red sandy subsoil shouting out amidst the darker loam that surrounds it, like some Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, the summation of some serious graft.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.


A track that has been built to fill a need. Not some half-hearted, badly built jumps, but a concerted combined effort to create a much-needed outlet for young talent on progressive bikes which the current trail network cannot hope to satisfy. A labour of love, hard labour and dedication to put the hours in necessary to build something that will last and is right. A doorstep ride to push the limits for riders without the luxury of spare cash and cars to travel to bike parks. Long hours of grafting for a short and steep minute of pushing the limit before the inevitable scramble and push back up to ride again.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.


It’s the inevitable price of progress, both of bike capability and riders skills. A golden age generation with capable bikes and the skills needed to push them further. Quietly getting on with meeting their needs in the real world, putting the hours in to build the trails, tucked away out of view in woods and on hillsides the world over. Not accepting the status quo, keen to progress further, not afraid to dig and create the necessary challenges to push their limits. A community of riders with the enthusiasm and time to dedicate to digging, grafting, labouring, and toiling. Putting in the hard work for a few minutes of pure exhilaration.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.


Frequent the websites and forums too long and it’s easy to be suckered into thinking that mountain biking has become ‘the new golf’; the sole domain of wealthy middle-aged, middle-class guys happy to spend their weekends pottering around the local trail centre. A safe experience wrapped up as ‘extreme’ sport, riding the same trails they always have; a lap of the red route before heading to the café to chat about how things were better with V-brakes and hardtails. Commentators commenting on a slanted view, it’s the danger of the echo chamber writ large. But out in the woods the youngsters are just getting on with digging the future, and that future is looking bright.


Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.
Graft - A Trail Builders Story by RADventure. Credit Sim Mainey and Dave Anderson.



Thanks to Matt Kaye, Blazing Saddles and Magic Rock Brewing.
Created by RADventure.cc

MENTIONS: @RADventure



Must Read This Week

52 Comments

  • + 124
 Shout out to all the trail builders out there, you are the guys progressing the sport,not some new shiney fork coating or some axle width standard ! Be proud !
  • + 6
 her here!!!
  • + 14
 We are having alot of trouble with saboteurs in N ireland at the minute, fishing wire, logs across the trails etc. seem to spend more and more time fixing than i do riding now.
  • + 4
 @doe222: I feel your pain brother... The agonising, the lost sleep, the fury...
  • + 9
 This article sums up why I love digging on my local hill and avoiding trail centre masses.
  • + 6
 Hell yeah! Digging is just as much fun as ridding to me! Planning on building up another new trail this winter for the locals! Best feeling is seeing a bunch of riders super jazzed and riding ur stuff..
  • + 0
 By the way, can someone help me-- what grips are those hes using in that close up pic?
  • + 0
 @diggerandrider: Sensus! Swayze Lock-on. Best Grips ever.
  • + 2
 Amen to that bigburb!
  • + 0
 @PillzburyShredder: thanks, looking for grips and those r exactly what I'm looking for!
  • + 1
 @doe222: I've been noticing a bit where I live as well, not as bad as wire and fishing line but someone has been going around and covering trails (mostly near the bottom) in large branches sometimes absolutely absurd numbers of branches to the point where even walking through it would be tough. Sometimes they're more subtle too, one instance of a more subtle one that comes to mind is a trail where it splits off into a high level and a low level and then quickly re-joins someone blocked off all the lower level with branches, that also happens to be the only reasonable spot to hit whenever you've got a lot speed because you'd have to cut across too hard to get the top. I've actually seen that happen twice on two separate trails

Hasn't caused me any accidents personally but it's infuriating when I see it none the less.
  • + 1
 @GPrice:... You may have a nasty case of orienteerers mate.
  • + 2
 hey thanx!!! proud to be a builder in a remote island where I kinda introduced mountain biking !!!!!
  • + 2
 @doe222: buy a snipercam...that´s what I´ve done against vandalism!
  • + 19
 Trail building is an art form, an expression of the flow in one's life (builder). In the end, creating a masterpiece through endless hours of intense physical labor, visual strain, love for the sport and the risk taken building where not allowed sometimes.

Just remember next time you ride a trail that wasn't created by your hands, respect it at all costs. Don't change features if you can't do them, or rip strava lines, never name a trail that you didn't create or make segments, if it's local, try to keep it local, barnies always ruin the local stash. To all the trail poachers out there, you're just a bunch of blisters, you show up when the work is done. Pick up a shovel and put your time in.
  • + 1
 TRUTH!
  • + 1
 PREACH BROTHER
  • + 1
 Respect!
  • + 16
 If you find it, turn your fucking strava off, so the path will last.
  • + 12
 Building and riding are now 50 / 50 for myself, satisfaction from building new lines is hard to describe to people who never lift a spade
  • + 7
 Trailbuilding should be more appreaciated specially by shops and riders. If no one builds any trails, no one would want to hop on their bike ride some cool stuff and have fun! If only bike shops hired trailbuilders the same way they hire mechanics that would make up for more trails and more riders!
  • + 5
 I build but am not the most sharing type as I find people don't respect the lines you have cut in making short cuts all over the place and tend to make secrets not so secret anymore attracting walkers on to the trails and posting times on strava thus attracting riders from far and wide ,not everyone has the same etiquette and respect where it comes to other riders hard graft and when building alone although enjoyable you do graft and can be frustrating when it is all undone by others carelessness and lack of forsight as to what happens when you don't keep it low key.Rubbish is also a problem but don't think its mtbers but attracts unwanted attention none the less.So my latest efforts have been kept strictly under my beard for me and I alone ,selfish I know but necessary.
  • + 6
 F*ck strava & the straight line brigade, wheres the fun & skill in trails without turns anyway.
  • + 4
 I'm a fan of planting trees and tree stumps on apexes of corners people like to cut
  • + 2
 @bigburd: that's part of my anti-moto strategy. When the cockheads have been through it is obvious which corners are too tight. As part of the repair I dig huge rocks in on the apex. They never have much fun.
  • + 7
 Trail building is what it is all about, mountain biking in its purest form.
  • + 7
 I'm an old fart and still dig, have done for 18 years, scope a line dig it, ride it, share it,
  • + 2
 This is the right attitude.
  • + 3
 When I am out building or reinforcing old trails (with rocks) I put a lot of thought into drainage and sustainability, there is no point in doing a lot of work if it does`t last or withstand use. Then some trail poacher comes along making a new straight-line, usually in the fall-line, bypassing a lot of the trail and technical features and goes around bragging about their trail building, and eventually takes/is given credit for the entire trail. Gotta love`m
  • + 2
 This article ring a bell for me. I do a lot of trailbuilding, all secret trails, but not illegal ( for the most part). For me it came out of a desire to progress and to have it the way I envisioned it. I am lucky enough to have this huge piece of land to build whatever I want, but the owner of the land granted permission on the condition that it's used only by a couple of friends. Which is ok and sad at the same time. Opening up to anyone would probably lead to some major re-work of some aera to make it easier which defeat the purpose, and keeping them secret makes me feel like a selfish bastard...
  • + 5
 Yeaaaaaaa trail builders!!! Boooooooo bitch ass trail poachers!!!!
  • + 1
 when ripping riders are stoked on our trails, it makes all the months of hard labor worth it. and seeing a trail through, from recon stage, when we're just trying to visualize the flow using the terrain to it's fullest, all the way to packing the last berm months later... feels like we've painted the mona lisa every time. highly recommended. dig trail.
  • + 2
 I love stashes!
These words hit home for me.
Respect for the trail builder/artist.
Respect for the stashes.
As in dont trash the trail.
  • + 1
 Take heed bike industry because without trails you would not exist,and we would all be riding fuly rigids on fire roads circa the early 1980s.Rant over trail builders of the world unite,truth.
  • + 2
 It's not just the youngsters digging to fill a need. Where I live there are no real bike trails nearby. But there is a jungle forest on a mountain. So I dig.
  • + 4
 Yup lots of grumpy older builders too in the North Shore
  • + 1
 Snakes and leeches galore!
  • + 1
 @Joe27: I've seen very few snakes and no leeches but the spiders are huge.
  • + 3
 trail building IS mountain biking...build to ride!
  • + 2
 In the UK trail building needs to be respected by the Forestry Commission, hours of building torn down by them
  • + 2
 Completely agree built so many trails, and hours of work ripped down but national trust and forestry commission, even built a line that was destroyed by riders because they didn't have the balls to hit it.
  • + 2
 Try talking to them first. Works well for us. Is still not sanctioned but they know it going to happen regardless of their approval. So common sense prevails. We are however lucky. Some fold are just anti mtb. In that case try find a private estate and ask them for permission. U might be surprised
  • + 2
 @Jamescud: If your building on forestry land you have to be sensible, if someone gets badly hurt on your trail it's the forestry who get sued.
  • + 1
 @BedsideCabinet: this is what happened at Delamere! This needs changing in law, how the hell can you sue the FC for that! Can't we get around it by putting signs up stating the fact that these are rider built trails and you ride at your own risk or something?
Trail building adds to the quality of riding in the forest and we deffo need to work something out with the FC.
  • + 1
 What a nice down to earth guy,no fancy tools just enjoying what he is doing,well done...
  • + 3
 #nodignoride
  • + 2
 Wha? PB has a swear-bot that auto corrects? HA!
  • + 1
 Looks awesome.... this reminds me of the killer segment in Life Cycles.
  • + 1
 Good lad is mat he fixes my bikes sometimes.
  • + 1
 Family!
  • + 0
 It's all about the trail. Not the bike.

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