Opinion - It Should Be Hard, Shouldn't it?

Jun 5, 2014
by Mike Levy  
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The recent push for more and more entry level trails might be great for introducing new riders to the sport, but let's not forget that mountain biking isn't supposed to be easy, safe, or quick to master.




Many of us cut our teeth, as well as our shins, on raw singletrack that invited progression, and taking that option away from new riders just doesn't seem fair. Of course somewhere like the North Shore, a location that pretty much only had insanely difficult trails up until just recently, needs some easier lines down the mountain for those who don't want to go searching through the bush for their shoes after every yard sale of a crash, but the Shore is the exception rather than the norm. So many mountains out there are seeing only ultra-smooth "flow trails" added to their maps, despite the fact that the already existing trails don't go much beyond blue or green on IMBA's rating scale.

The argument for all of these so-called flow trails is usually based around bringing more riders into the sport, which must be a good thing, right? Well, I'm not going to make any friends by saying this, and I fear that it might sound terribly offensive, but why should many of us care if Jim from accounting or that guy three houses down gets into the sport? Bikes are amazing in that they make people happy, and I really do want Jim from accounting to be happy, but I don't want every new trail that gets built to be as smooth as glass, or existing trails to be graded down to the point where they lack any sort of character just so Jim doesn't feel intimidated.
bigquotesIt isn't about "getting gnarly" and drinking Mountain Dew - I despise that sort of attitude as much as anyone - and I have no shame in dismounting to walk a feature that unnerves me, but I don't want us to forget that our sport might not be for everyone, so let's not try to make it for everyone.

Sonke and Hovey on the rocks.
  There is a contingent that would like to see many sections like the one pictured here during the B.C. Bike Race smoothed out. Where do you stand? Photo: Dave Silver


A lot of the rationale behind the latest craze of smoothing and stomping everything flat boils down to money. If I had a Clif Bar for every time someone defended either a new flow trail or the neutering of a challenging singletrack by arguing that more riders mean more money being injected into the sport I'd likely be making a healthy side income from selling them to my riding buddies. But I'd rather give those bars away because I don't give a shit about money, be it in my own pocket or tourism dollars. Yes, I make a living by working in the cycling industry, but that isn't why I ride. I ride because I love it, and I know that it's the same for you. I know that you'd ride regardless of if your local trail association sees that tourism money, receives that government grant, or gets fifty new members next season.

Hell, it seems like most of the money that many local associations receive goes straight towards building the easiest trails that the terrain permits rather than funding difficult singletrack that longtime club members and riders would find challenging. Something is wrong with that picture, but criticizing trail work of any kind is like joking about cancer in that you're likely to offend anyone that hears you. Cancer most certainly isn't funny, but is all trail work good trail work? Is smoother always better? Is there such a thing as over-maintaining a trail?

I'm writing this from Whistler, the location that we're using for the first of three week-long test sessions that will see us ride and rate the latest and most interesting bikes on the market. Now, everyone knows that Whistler is the Mecca of lift-assisted riding - you want to spend all day smashing berms so hard that it feels like your face is going to pull off from the G-forces? There're at least three or four groomed runs that will allow you to do exactly that. Rather test your skills on steep, natural trails with roots as big as a 30ft long anaconda? Whistler has that in spades, as well as everything in between, and the only thing stopping you will be how soon your unsuspecting hands turn into lobster claws permanently shaped around a set of Ruffian grips... you'll know exactly what I'm talking about if you've been here.

Whistler's local Valley trails, those you have to access using your own power, deserve just as much praise - they're rooty, filled with rocks, and it seems like they are either pointing straight up or straight down. There are easier trails, of course, but I don't think I'm out of line when I say that the average Whistler trail, be it in the bike park or out in the valley, is substantially more difficult than most other places in the world, and I say that having sampled more foreign goodness than a single guy on a Contiki bus tour through Europe. The incredibly hard work that the locals have done in the Whistler area has created an amazing trail network without forsaking riders who like to be challenged, and those who are in charge of their own community's trail work should make an effort to come and see it for themselves.

We need to forget this idea that new or less skilled riders should never have to walk or put a foot down. Mountain biking isn't easy, and that's a good thing.


322 Comments

  • + 242
 You nailed it with one sentence.

"I really do want Jim from accounting to be happy, but I don't want every new trail that gets built to be as smooth as glass, or existing trails to be graded down to the point where they lack any sort of character just so Jim doesn't feel intimidated."


I cant stand it when someone, even seasoned riders want to change something so they can be faster there. The track is designed for us to work to it not the other way around. We need to stop making trails easier, rather we should improve our riding and overcome the challenge. Also we need to make more use of B and C lines for those new riders without downgrading our trails. (Keep in mind B and C lines should never be faster than the A line, that is part of the A line reward.)
  • + 34
 Spot on.
  • + 5
 on the contrare theres alot of people who would rather go back to singletrack alot more than it is now . take race the ranch for example . there is really only one tech part of the course if you ask me . from a racing perspective i think trails should have diversity in flow and tech so you can do it all . not saying youll get bored of one or another but i prefer being scared of whats in front of me instead of ccounting on the next berm flowing into a good size jump. my first lift access expeirience was at kicking horse which is 90% tech trails , folowing my dads friend down one of th steepest trails on the mountain . it could just be my neiche but to this day i would rather spend a few days there then at silver star if you want to get a skill boost.
  • + 28
 Agreed. Having to worry about "jim" all the time is why I have given up on community trail building. I build everything private and hidden now so I can ride on something besides 'jims' kiddy trail. Its a shame too. For every two jims there's a bob that would have flourished on my building. Bob will likely never really get as in the sport as he could have now. That one bob would have been better then a whole group of Jims anyway.
  • + 35
 "more riders means more money being injected into the sport".

This might sounding selfish but I don't own a bike shop nor a bike related brand, so I don't really care... and I don't see many bike brands or shops building trails either so I'm not going to shed tears for them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy to help new riders out, show them around and teach them a thing or two but when it comes to building glass smooth trails all over the place I can't help but to think it's more of a disservice to the sport than anything else.

I feel it is indeed not a sport for everyone. If you don't like roots and rocks, there's always road biking.
  • + 3
 MSA
  • + 3
 i'm from Oz. I've ridden Moab, Nth Shore, Italian Finale Ligure, UK - FoD, Aston Hill, Swinley forest, Morzine and Les Getz what Mike is talking about is choking my local trails, more than anywhere else in the world. I'm meant to be proud of our aggressive get it done attitude buts it BS.
  • + 25
 I actually think it's about how to allow Jim from accounting to progress in the sport without killing him. Or George who is a long time mountain biker who's getting older, has a family, has seen a lot if serious injuries over the years, and realizes he isn't quite as invincible as he was when he was 20 or 30.

What is lacking in the 'balance'of trail difficulty are the more intermediate techy trails ( Pangor comes to mind) that still challenge these two riders without being so intimidating or risky so as to a) allow them to progress or b)allow them to stay in the sport longer.
  • + 21
 Preach it @mikelevy!!! IMBA are you listening?!!
  • + 13
 I don't think anybody has a problem with beginner/flow trails. I love riding cat's paw or happy hour in highland or burke in general. Progression is great and I feel places like highland figured it out nicely as oppossed to burke who is pretty much easy trails all over the place while you have bromont/msa on the other end of the spectrum with almost exclusively trails that were extremely hostile to new riders until recently.

The issue being discussed here is dumbing down of existing trails or only building easy trails, a problem that seems to be spreading like wildfire when you talk to experienced riders worldwide.
  • + 10
 If Jim helps to build the trail it's got to be something he can ride...nobody is gonna build for free
  • + 10
 Here's one of the problems: person takes bike to mountain, sees sections of trail that are above their skill level, decides to take it upon themselves to match it to their skill level. Do the opposite. Match your skill level to the trails at your disposal. Challenging yourself by riding a difficult trail is one thing, ruining the riding experience for the people who may have been riding there longer is really messed up.
  • + 16
 I'll even take it one step further. Dont build anything for beginners. Dont build anything easy. Build trails that scare people and discourage them and make them want to switch to road bikes. Keep trails hard, keep riders hard, keep the forests nice and quiet and uncrowded. If you dont have the guts to hack it, gtfo of the sport. Sorry if that means that your gf or kid or grandpa doesnt want to mtb but having throngs of unskilled people out gently cruising the smoothest easiest widest trails on ebikes is just an absolute fn abomination of what makes this sport so rad in the first place. Shredding trails is infinitely more fun once youve persevered and built skills and endurance. So htfu.
  • + 3
 We live in a fair world where everyone is free to do anything. Lets make everything smooth and safe so nobody gets hurt - we wouldn't want Jim from accounting to fall, get up, learn from the experience and improve his riding now, would we?? My trails at uni are way bigger than home, and all they're done is improve my riding… after shitting it the first few times at uni I'm now completely bored of the trails at home because they're easy… so I tried to build (on unused MOD land) and got reported by the health and safety crew…..
  • + 36
 Jim from accounting has a nicer bike than I do...
  • + 3
 My local trails are governed by people who should stick to the road. They complain if you ride the trail a little wet because it leaves ruts... yea I understand that some features can be messed up but there are no berms and no jumps so there is nothing to mess up. whats the point of buying a full sus bike if you dont use the sus as most of them ride on high-end mid travel bikes? I know a lot of people on here are in the UK where it rains a lot, what do you guys do when it rains?
  • + 27
 We ride in the rain, after it rains, before it rains and sometimes, very rarely, when it's dry.
  • + 16
 If people want to build their own trails then build whatever you want. Make it as hard as you want. But if you are talking about places like bike parks, then the people complaining about the easier trails need to learn a little bit about the economics of running a business. When you run a business, in this case that is based on people buying lift tickets, you make the place accessible to the most people you can. You try to attract new customers. And if that means building some smooth flowy lines then thats how it has to be. You can complain, but remember that the people who ride those trails are helping to keep the place in business and helping to keep the lifts open. If would be nice if the place was all hardcore gnarly trails and the trails were empty, but someone needs to explain to me how exactly that business model would be sustainable?

Its the same dynamic you see at gyms. If you belong to a gym you are likely familiar with the influx of new members right after the new year. You show up the week after the holidays and the place is packed with people you have never seen before. The people who sign up with the 'new years special' promo the gym is running, show up for 2 months, never to be seen again after. Then you hear all the regular members complaining about the crowd, and the machines being full etc. Yes it sucks for a month or two but that rush of people signing up at new years is a huge revenue boost for the gym. It keeps the place open and keep the cost down for everyone else. For me I'm happy with the trade off. Those people are subsidizing my membership fee.

Its no different with a bike park or ski resort for that matter. They don't make a ton of money off the season pass holder regulars. They make money on people who show up for a day and buy a day pass, rent a bike etc. Those people are just as important from a business side as the hardcore regular.
  • + 1
 Jim must be a 2 year old on a balance bike as our new so called 'trails ' in Northern Ireland are just flat featureless gravel walking paths that some kids are going round on their balance bikes, and I'm not taking the green family ones that are basically a road I'm talking about the red advanced 'trails'.... We need proper gnaar trails built, we are just building our own as per usual and feck the trail centre rubbish...
  • - 2
 This reminds of me of a trip to the forest of dean…. It's was a flowy fast trail (I think red graded) and me and a friend were flying down, overtaking a fair few people including a family with kids who were struggling just to ride it… they were shocked when we flew past… I mean if you can barely ride it, get off it. Don't complain about it (or even take your kids on it).
  • + 1
 @plc 07 more money will aswell translate into having more contests, tv media ,and more trails in the long run . i think we should embrace the new people by making it look cool instead of easy . what i dont get is joe from accounting is more likely to buy a moto becasue of its publicity and how he can ride it fast on the road and ride "singletrack" on it aswell its sad but true we need more people.
  • + 15
 Spot on ianwmac...I'm the George you refer to. I bought my first MTB in 1986 and have been riding the trails ever since, I can handle most black single track without being too intimidated. I've never personally ridden one of the "flow" trails I keep hearing about because I don't ride the parks, my riding is 90% Fernie single track and I can't think of a single flow trail there...I would love to have the option to experience a true flow trail though, the key word being option. I don't want to get hurt (anymore) but still love to ride technical single track and like the fact there is the emerging option to ride a faster but safer trail to mix it up a bit, if these are restricted to the parks so be it, if you want un-improved trail there are thousands of kilometres out there, just go ride them, flow trails are likely less than 10% of what is available and mostly restricted to parks anyway.

There is a place for both and frankly I welcome that as I get older...oh, BTW, there are plenty of 50 somethings that have been riding longer than many of the naysayers have been on this planet, we are not Johnny come lately's and are a big reason why this sport exists as it is today...just not bulletproof anymore, your day will come ;>Wink
  • + 3
 "thousands of kilometres" and then I see the canadian flag Razz I would LOVE to ride there (or the alps)
  • + 7
 Complaining about trail alterations is one thing, but complaining about what kind of new trails are developed is totally unreasonable. It's no secret: people build trails that they're interested in, plain and simple. It's just such that the people actively developing trails are more interested in the flowy type of trail at the moment. 15 to 20 years ago they were interested in 20 foot high skinnies. If you're a mountain biker that is into something else, then for goodness sake get involved! Most trail associations out there are open to these kinds of trail projects as well, but don't have anyone to spearhead them.
  • + 9
 Everything can't be sick and gnarly and epic and totally stoked. Just as everything can't be flowy and easy and joey and glassy. Not every bike park has to have every kind of trail. Just like every local trail system doesn't have to have every kind of trail. But doesn't every rider have to start somewhere? If everything was super duper total gnar, no one would ever pick up a bike!
  • + 2
 ^^^ Heresy!!!!! Burn him! Everything can and ahould be sick, gnarly, and epic!
  • + 1
 exactly!.....thats like putting political correctness into sport....everyone here can and should apply that ideaology to there everyday lives....
  • + 3
 This whole " easy/flow trails bring riders into the sport " thing is kind a of bull shit really , when I started riding about 15 years ago there were no flow trails around , sure there were smoother trails about but nothing was specifically designed to be " for begginners " .
Lack of easy trails didn't seem to stop or discourage any of the people that were riding before this easy/flow craze.

And for the record I enjoy flowy trails and I also enjoy natural/tech trails , it's just that about 75 percent of all new trails being built are flow trails .
  • + 3
 I like all kinds of trails, honestly. To me the caveat of "growing the sport", is dealing with crowds and traffic on trails. This means people going slow in front of you, groups of hikers forcing you to go slower down a trail you just worked your ass off to reach the top. And of course, equestrians stomping potholes in the springtime mud. I guess solitude and the quiet of the forest are more important to me than trail features.
  • + 4
 @bigburd - You're right in that there are more easy trails in development now, but there has also been a pretty tremendous increase in new riders in the last little while. I'm not necessarily pointing to causation, but the increase in riders and the amount of trails more amenable to allowing new people to enjoy the sport have to be related. You point to your historical experience with getting into the sport. How many people were getting into it at the same time you were? My guess is a tiny amount as compared to what's happening now. Why be upset about the prevalence of easy trails? They generally aren't being built at the expense of more advanced trails, and they only serves to get people into the sport, which is what riders should be excited about. Mountain biking is one of the only sports I've come across with a substantial proportion of participants actually unhappy that others partake, and a sense of unreasonable elitism (similar to how snowboarding was in the 90s). You don't see soccer players upset about the number of other soccer players around.
  • + 6
 Flow trails at parks and public locales are becoming a regular thing for a lot of reasons - mainly because there are a lot of beginners getting into the sport. You can't get upset about flow trails with new people enjoying them cause they're learning the ropes. This adds money into the pot for maintaining the trail system as a whole while appealing to a wide audience of riders. What's wrong with that? Yes, most of us that are true mountain bikers have learned through scars and pains of crashes that come along with shredding. That doesn't mean we have to scare the beginners out of the growing sport. It's called adapting. A bike park has to appeal to what people want in their area in order to grow - the gnar can still be out there to destroy and stomp while the beginners come spectate and pump the pros up - win win? As for the BC bike race picture that shouldn't need any smoothing out - that's more than doable in my perspective.
  • + 1
 No such thing as a flow trail in Pennsylvania
  • + 2
 Though not technically a 'flow trail', because it's not gravity fed, Raystown is of the same ilk. But I get what you're saying, and I love riding Pennsylvania rocks.
  • + 1
 @wuzupjosh around here its pretty much the same 5 guys who built all the trails networks while thousands of people are riding them and barely anybody ever helping the builders so more riders seem to only translate into more trail damage, so more time spent on maintenance and less time spent on building new trails.

A bigger worldwide bike scene is cool but for our everyday trail riding it doesn't bring much. Different places, different realities.
  • + 2
 We need to adopt the DJ code of 'No dig, no ride.' I've heard of some regional race promoters tying points to trail work. No work, and you take a hit in the points series. I don't know how well it works, but it sounds like a great way to promote good trail stewardship.
  • - 1
 mount saint-ann sorry if i spelled it wrong,but in 2001 i was 1st in simi pro there,and it was so sick i would even want to walk it,but now its so easy you can ride a bmx bike on it,are sport is going back to fire roads,i no its gotta be fun,but easy is not fun,hard makes it fun for your mind,but i guess thing change and we must take it up the blank so jim in accounting has fun.
  • + 4
 Never mind the copy pasta, just thought I'd slap one of my earlier comments up here as well..

I prefer flowly tracks with nice smooth berms and nice long fast table tops.

However, I do understand what people are saying when they say not to down grade the difficulty levels of tracks, since I have done a lot of trail building, and I have designed/built a track for more intermediate/beginners in mind, and still managed to have a decent track with some roughness, but not too rough that it scares off people, and not too steep that it scares people off, and the track was well received right from from our more experienced riders in the state, down to the beginners and intermediate riders.

The important thing, is if your terrain allows it, you need a mix of good flowly stuff, and largely technical stuff, or build two separate tracks if you can, one geared for more experienced riders, the other for more beginner/intermediate riders.

The next problem is, if all tracks are made for the more experienced riders, you quickly scare off new blood in the sport, and once people get full time jobs, families and can't ride as much, you slowly find your club or state for the sport, dwindling in members/riders, and than the sport slowly dies, so it is a fine balancing act of having tracks to attract new riders to the sport, and keeping the intermediate levelled riders like myself in the sport, while trying to please more experienced riders who want to continually challenge themselves.
  • + 2
 The next problem, is people tend to have unrealistic expectations, the track I built, wasn't exactly on a steep hill, and the terrain, although gnarly, was quite for riders who were more experienced, but still challenged the intermediate/beginner riders, the problem was, that people think we can just make a track hard at a snap of the finger, without realising it takes needing the right terrain, the right geography and many hours of your time getting put into it.

So to sum up, the main problem, is that we've so far failed to achieve the correct balance, you need to keep attracting new riders/members, and the only of doing that, is having reasonably cruisy trails, than slowly kick up the difficulty levels, and you need to have a 50/50 attention to trail building, the flowy/jump park styled riding with lots of tables for beginner or intermediate riders, and the other focus, on balls out roots steep rock garden tracks with no B C lines, and slowly edge people towards those tracks, now, not all of them will get there, and that's fine, that's where having a good 50/50 focus comes into play, those who want to keep to the flowly jump style riding, can continue doing that, and those who want to challenge themselves, can do that..
  • + 3
 I'm somewhat amazed that nobody has mentioned the evolution of bikes (wheel size increases being the most notable) in this debate. Most of the people on this website live in societies of convenience... why are we so surprised and alarmed to find that this trend of making things easier is creeping into mountain biking as well?

Just a thought.
  • + 0
 '''so let's not try to make it for everyone by only focusing on building the easiest trails possible in the name of flow. ''' SELFISH PRICK
  • + 3
 @dingo-dave I thought about it but I didn't want to spark the wheelsize debate again, I think we've had enough of that.

You forgot x1 drivetrains, ebikes and people riding 10" bikes on trails that could be ridden with a hardtail. Are we missing anything?
  • + 3
 All this talk of scaring new people from the sport .. when did people become such pussies ? Are people actually being scared off the sport ? or is it just the media telling us this or is it just that some people enjoy flow trails and feel some excuse to ride groomers on full Dh bikes ?

No doubt all these flow trails boost sales in short travel bikes which are being pushed at us every other second , of course people are gonna want short travel bikes if 75 % of trails being built could be ridden on a skate board.

Not hating on flow trails per say ( i enjoy them too ) but hating on the fact that , at least in the UK , 7/10 new trails are flow trails , where is the progression ?
  • + 1
 ^^^ Exactly not a sport for pussies.
  • + 4
 @cougar - what you're saying is exactly what many people find wrong with the sport. "The sport is only for tough, ballsy people..." is an absurd viewpoint. The sport can be for everyone. I know many people that like it solely for the reason that it gets them exercise and allows them to enjoy the outdoors via an activity different than hiking or running. Why can't you put aside your elitist attitude and realize that different people like it for different reasons, and therefore prefer different trails?
  • + 1
 Then call it what it is OFFROAD CYCLE PATHS for sure as hell its not mountainbiking and I should know I've been biking since the late eighties...
  • + 3
 And what I was talking about, rears its ugly head again with the comments from bat and couger. You guys are failing to realise, that this sport has a small market, and if you keep making only hard trails that only experienced riders can do or people who've been riding since the late eighties, will scare off new blood.

You've all completely ignored my comment about having a healthy 50/50 mix, the problem isn't having flowy jumpy trails and relatively easy trails for beginners, it is a problem of balancing it out.

Like I said, having relatively easy flowly jumpy long fast table top trails is a good thing for the sport, that way most people can do it, and those who want to challenge themselves (With a 50/50 focus on hard and easier flowy trails) can challenge themselves, and those who want to keep cruising and keep things relatively safe can do that.

What I find annoying, is the elitist attitude towards new riders who want something easier to start on, and than work their way up, or keep cruising. If we don't achieve a healthy balance, the sport will slowly die out, and in Australia we've already seen some dwindling numbers to the nationals and Victoria state dh rounds, while people move off in their life and have more important things, like a family, a mortgage or move on to endurance xc racing where there's an actual sustainable market for it.
  • - 1
 BUILDING A FLOW TRAIL TAKES TEN TIMES MORE EFFORT THAN BUILDING A GNARLY ALL NATURAL TRAIL.... SO THE PEOPLE THAT BUILDS THEM .....(NOT TALKING ABOUT BIKE PARKS).... MUST HAVE A PRETTY GOOD REASON... IF YOU DONT LIKE IT BUILD YOUR OWN AND SHUT UP
  • + 1
 You have to understand from where im from. It is 90% / 10% build beginner trail only / build more difficult trails. I build my own but that doesn't mean I don't hate to see all resources go into trails that the truly active mtb'ing community riders don't get overly excited about.
  • + 1
 Couger I understand what is happening, the same thing happens here in Australia. The problem is, we need to achieve a 50/50 balance and all will be fine.

And I respect that you're pulling your hand out of your ass and actually building things you want to ride, too many people just ride what a small number of us build, and get angry when its not built their way and leave.

In Australia, it's always like 10 percent of the people doing the hard yards.

What really needs to happen is we need some serious meetings with the governing bodies to properly rate tracks, and set up a real plan with clear goals regulations and guidelines set out, say beginner tracks should be easy with some obstacles but not too hard, and intermediate tracks should up the skills required once more, than the pro lines should be all A lines with minimal or no b/c lines, if you add in b/c lines, they should add 10-20 seconds to your time and should re-route a decent distance from the A line.

Make sure the various governing bodies understand that, on the harder tracks, it should not be neutered and dumbed down so it's less scary, have the beginner/Intermediate jumpy flow trails or downhill tracks, for that, and keep the pro lines hard and un-changed.

Gotta get out there and change the varrying guidelines and regulations with the various governing bodies like MTBA (Mountain Biking Australia) who I think set out guide lines, and get the UCI to change guide lines and allow track builders more flexibility.
  • + 1
 These governing bodies are to concerned with beginner trails and flow trails to care about giving us he ability to build legit public trails for advanced riders.
  • + 1
 If they don't start putting more advanced stuff up though all these beginners will be going down the illegal trail building route to get their fix , you are pretty much forced to do this in the Uk if you want any advanced jumps , don't bother me tho I enjoy building but it would be ncie to have some official big bike jumps.
  • + 1
 I happen to agree with you cougher and bigburd. I've used a walking track here because it was quite challenging, very rocky, but not a MTB trail. If there was a similar track that was legal and for mountain bikes only, I'd have used that. My point was, that unless we start seriously setting up meetings with the various governing bodies to better rate the tracks, and to allow for more trail builder flexibility, they'll slowly start realising that what they are doing now is slowly choking the sport, and I also agree, that there needs to be easier beginner and intermediate tracks, but that shouldn't be the focus, we need to make it clear to these various governing bodies MTBA UCI etc, that what a large chunk of the riding community wants, is harder tracks and for tracks not to continually be dumbed down, but what also needs to be understood, is regardless, we also need a decent amount of beginner and intermediate trails, we do not want to go the other way, where it's 80 percent hard trails for experienced riders, and 20 for beginners and intermediate riders, what we need to work to achieve with the various governing bodies, is a 50/50 split of beginner and intermediate trails and Pro trails with minimal to no B/C lines.

Gotta get that balance right, it is crucial IMHO, for the sport to continue to grow..
  • + 1
 Well said. Ironically that accountant has an $8k, 155mm carbon bad ass bike sitting in his garage that if simply pointed in the right direction cleans everything.
Leave Trails RAW!
  • + 1
 exactly downhiller88, why bother bringing people into the sport if you dont give them a reason to stay in it.
  • + 77
 I wish more people thought this way! I run the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park as a private business. We are not for everyone, as it's gnarly and big. Natural gnar and 2,500 of lift service vertical! We are trying to make our trails easier, so we can stay in business, but really can't afford to make smooth trails. I am getting used to people coming down and asking us "where the smoother trails are". Heck, they have 8 inch travel bikes. So many people want instant gratification.
I love the fact that I can ride something relatively easy that I used to think was off the charts. Made me a better rider.

Downhill Mike
Whiteface Mountain Bike Park
Keep it real!
www.downhillmike.com
  • + 16
 Keep building the gnar man!
  • + 5
 You should point them to the bike shop for suspension work... Having just had my first lift park experience I will say that having the correct suspension set up is the difference between having a good time and having a AMAZING time. I had no idea how poorly mine was set up when we went out there.
  • + 11
 please don't change whiteface!!!!!!!!!!!!its so much fun!!!!love it!
  • + 6
 bUGGER! Just negged nug12182 cos I missed the prop button. Opps. I didn't mean it. I am so glad this article was written. I think flow trails are essentially ruining the sport. Don't get me wrong, they are fun, but they get boring quickly. Tech trails start hard, but maintian their appeal for much much longer. Long Live the Gnar!
  • + 7
 Mike, getting thrown to the wolves at your bike park is the highlight of my summer. Keep up the great work.
  • + 4
 it's time to get out to whiteface!!
  • + 22
 For the cost of us to have 1 Flow Trail built, we could instead build many more natural trails and that is what we are doing. I am banking on riders getting bored with smooth trails and going back to Old School. If you believe what I/we do, please support the gnarly lift service resorts.
Viva la Gnar!
  • + 3
 ^ This guy knows. Smile
  • + 2
 Totally agree! Mike has a great thing happening in beautiful upper state NY. So fun to ride tough trails with his crew. Be prepared for body and bike beat-down. Looking forward to visit for the 3rd time. So close to Ottawa and Mtl...
  • + 2
 I'm tired of smooth trails, I want long narrow gnarly ones with drops and pedal bits. Keep up the good work Mike
  • + 3
 This guy Mike does seem to know what is going on, and in regards to this specific topic, you should no overlook the most important thing he said in his comment....

"We are trying to make our trails easier, so we can stay in business"

When it comes to bike parks and places that survive on people showing up to ride, that's your answer right there as to why you see a trend of smoother and easier trails. Its tough to sustain a business without expanding the trail system to accommodate more people. If you like taking lifts to the top and riding at these type of parks, get used to there being some easier and more flowy trails. They are a necessity that's not likely to go away.
  • + 4
 I've never ridden whiteface but Im pretty sure its my fav Smile
  • + 1
 Whiteface is the truth. ADK terrain is no joke! Straight up punishment in all 4 seasons of the year.
  • + 1
 I'll be at Whiteface for a weekend of riding this summer. I might be attending a wedding while I'm there too.
  • + 4
 Thanks! You are my kind of mountain bikers! Let's ride!
  • + 2
 downhillmike for President!
  • + 30
 So where do you stand on the Coastal Gravity park? The lines there are pretty smooth and flowy but they're the lines I personally dream of. I'm from a surfing background so the idea of whipping round groomed berms and smooth kickers is what blows my skirt up. It's a dangerous thing to admit on this site but I've never been a big fan of wet roots and rock gardens.
  • + 11
 Well said sir, nothing wrong with smooth flow if the jumps are big enough. Stick chicken runs in for Jim and we can all live together. +1 for 'Blows my skirt up' by the way!
  • + 2
 I think the difference with CGP is that the Coastal Crew set out to build trails exactly like that. They're not dumbing down their original intent. The main points I can get behind in this article have to do with how too much of the gritty stuff is getting turned into a dirt road. Plus if I'm not mistaken, they do have a few trails at CGP that are more tech, they just don't get as much publicity because the flow trails make for such good edits.
  • + 1
 Can't agree on the chicken lines bit , to me chicken lines ruin big jump trails , people brake between the jumps to get around them causing braking bumps ( fine on a DH line but not on a jump line ) making it crap for people who wanna hit them properly , also making things rollable is a sure fire way of having ruined/rolled off/f*cked take offs , fine on the beginner lines but the " pro " lines should be nothing but doubles with no chicken routes.

Some thing like the coastal gravity park is exactly what we need here in the UK , every thing is pretty much dumbed down with regards to proper big bike jump lines , mostly aimed and begginers/intermediates . we are allways promised the big stuff but fail to deliver , which forces you into unofficial trail building to get your fix.
  • + 1
 COAST has gnar dh too… theres more there than whats media shows
  • + 27
 Should a beginner really be riding gravity inspired trails first? Learning all of the basics climbing and riding all of the up and down trails on your trail bike should be the first thing any rider does, not trying to smash berms on a DH bike. If you have a buddy that thinks riding at a park is the first thing you should ride because you don't have to do all that stupid climbing... you have an a*shole friend that is going to get you hurt. Mike Levy hit it on the head. Everything comes down to the almighty dollar.
  • + 13
 I once stabilized someone that stepped right into "park" riding with a rental bike while he was waiting for medevac. Poor guy had gone about a hundred meters on the trail before he barely escaped a wheelchair for the rest of his life. We do need trails for newcomers, most certainly.

Building safe, fun trails is where it is at. It doesn't need to be dangerous to be fun. It just appears to me that mountain biking has hit a point where those in the sport are almost trying to stop newbies from starting for whatever reason. I see a lot of elitist garbage going on recently. "Man/harden the f up" "only a pussy wouldn't hit that jump" etc.

Funny that the author should mention Whistler. Whistler bike park is internationally renowned for being one of the EASIEST parks to get into riding. Sure, the offer huge jump trails, but also a lot of VERY easy flow trails - which you don't get in Europe nearly as much. You're lucky if there is even a single "flow trail" at bike parks here.

By the way, I came back from "the shore" slightly disillusioned. Sure, plenty of fine trails, but also a lot of really badly maintained garbage. And I'm not talking about any of the "flowy" trails.
  • + 9
 I beg to differ. I bought a heavy duty hardtail like 6 years ago and my cousin brought me to bromont, which is a very harsh place for someoneone to learn as there were not many easy trails back then... but I wanted to try "DH" and I somewhat knew what I was getting into. The first few days I ate dirt nonstop and went over the bars so many times it was retarded. I came back home with so many bruises and cuts you could think I lost a fight with a bear... aaaaand I've been hooked ever since. If he brought me to smooth XC trails instead, I probably would have quit within the first year.

To each his own. Like mike says, "our sport might not be for everyone".
  • + 8
 You have to have a certain amount of beginner trails in my opinion. Even if an experienced trail or XC rider takes out a DH bike it's a new experience. A big full travel DH bike is an entirely different beast in terms oh how you ride it, how it handles with all that suspension, your body position etc. No matter how good a rider you are, you can't just jump on a DH bike the first time and hit the gnarliest stuff in the mountain.
  • + 6
 @Kainern
Sorry, I totally disagree.
Yes it sucks to be that guy who barely escaped a wheelchair. But 100% that was not the trails fault. Nor the trail builders. It was his own. Perhaps he should have had the sense to have a look at what he was getting into rather than just bombing off feeling totally safe doing what is a totally dangerous sport. No one (at least no one I know) is trying to stop newbies from starting, just getting bored of what is fast becomeing a "lowest common denominator" sport.

You seem slightly confused these "huge jump lines" you speak of ARE the flow trails. The so called "badly maintained garbage" is what skilled riders call "tech" or "a challange"

Please, let DH be saved from the worldwide dumbing down/simplification of everything!

Its one of the few escapes into the "real world" where not all the dangerous things have been smoothed off by scared mothers. Some of us enjoy taking risks and coming out on top. A world with no risks will be a boring world indeed, and we (humans, not just mtb riders) seem to be heading that way fast.
  • + 9
 No man, I talk about trails falling apart at the seams. There is nothing "tech" about broken bridges, nails sticking out etc. The trails I've seen were just overused and poorly maintained - probably one of the reason the "elite" is so pissed at newcomers - "no dig no ride".
And the "huge jump lines" in Whistler are stuff like crabapple hits and A-Line. Flow trail? B-Line for example. You don't get such smooth trails in Europe in most bike parks - that is what I'm talking about. If you choice in the bike park is either a fire road or a trail like Ladies Only, chances are the newbies are going to skip the fire road. And stuff like ladies' is just too difficult for a newcomer. Those dreaded flow trails teach you a ton of bike control, AND they are so much fun to ride. There is no need to be a dick about them, just accept the fact that Mtn Biking isn't just about hucking to flat. Only having "tech" trails is even worse than just having "flow" trails.
  • + 3
 I don't know which trails you rode on the shore.But our trails are constantly maintained and very technical at times. Check out Neds Atomic Dustbin on Seymour. Woodwork on the shore is going away, it's too expensive only last 10 yrs at best. The idea is now more natural trails following what is already there with better drainage that can last longer with less cash flow. We have flow trails on the shore and some scary ass stuff. I have never seen nails sticking out of anything that is still being used and broken bridges. If there are any are being replaced if needed. Sustainability is key. Skinnies 10ft up into the trees are history.
  • + 7
 never been to whistler, but A-line looks pretty flowy to me. A couple of sections where it nips into the woods for some mild gnar, but when i say tech i mean arse on the rear tyre steep, front brake melting, bash guard scraping rocks regularily, sort of track where you grow mentally tired before physically tired. Those dreaded flow trails are indeed fun to ride. But spend a whole day sessioning one and it gets boring quickly. Sessioning a track that is trying to kill both you and the bike stays fresh much longer. Cos it remains a challenge much longer. Each to their own for sure, but its a sad thing to watch all the difficult bits of trail slowly being "improved" until you could happily ride them on a CX bike. There is a definate correlation with DH growing fashionable, and DH getting dumbed down. If you want to cut your teeth on something a bit easier first, go do some enduro's, then when that gets boring, come ride some steep ass tech. You won't be dissapointed.
  • + 2
 I agree 100% gabriel-mission9 thats why the shore rocks.. There is always something close by that is too hard for you and gives you something to learn on. Natural skills progression. As opposed newbs renting bikes at whistler and calling them selves mountain bikers. Never seen so many beer bellied dudes of dh bikes with armour. Posers
  • + 4
 Kainerm makes some great points. I'm another one who remembers going in way over my head my first couple of times with my new suspension bike, and geting beaten to crap for it. Some people thrive on that (luckily) and others pack up their gear and never come back. Now, I love seeking out steep, rooty, tech trails, especially on an XC bike where you really have to watch what you're doing - but that's after a few seasons and a number of gnarly crashes. Having an option where people can start on something simple, and then progress incrementally over the season, is key. If that means that we need a couple of flow trails in an area, then that's cool..Or even better, multipurpose the trails. Build ridearounds, detours and easy-outs, so experienced riders can still hit them hard, and the less experienced can at least get down in one piece.

I have my doubts that the Jims are going to stick around for too long anyway - one crash is usually enough to send them scurrying back to the TV - but everyone has to start somewhere. Having a challenge appropriate to your level of ability is always a huge help.
  • + 13
 I learned how to bunny hop a foot or more at speed because I wanted to be faster on a trail that had roots and logs across it. Now the solutions seems to be to just simply cut out the roots/logs and neuter a whole skill set that riders should learn and enjoy on the trail. A greater majority of newer riders think that fun and challenging trail features are actual trail damage that should be removed and smoothed over. Frown Makes me sad.
I understand and enjoy a smooth trail also, but why do we have to remove optional/side gnarly lines. Why not have both.
  • + 8
 I think a lot of you guys are missing Kainerm's point. (It didn't help that he called out the shore haha)

"It doesn't need to be dangerous to be fun. It just appears to me that mountain biking has hit a point where those in the sport are almost trying to stop newbies from starting for whatever reason."

That's the issue. If every trail out there is "brake melting gnar", it's just a shitload of people getting hurt, people getting scared away from the sport, bike rentals falling off, and parks closing. There has to be some moderate/easy stuff for people to start out on.

But the second sentence is the bigger point I think. If you want beginners to stop wrecking the trails, take the time to ride/talk with them, teach them the rules, and help them get better. If good riders never take the time to tell newbies how it's supposed to be, how are they gonna learn what they're screwing up? If Jim from accounting knows that other people actually really enjoy that rock garden, and that he could probably roll it too if he worked on his technique, maybe he won't come back with his IMBA chapter and smooth it all out. For Joe Roadie to 'get' what mtb is all about, one of us might actually have expend the effort to tell him.

I've gotten several people into riding the past couple years, and now we all help trim back brush and rake trails and stuff. Nothing huge but it helps. Sometimes the difference between a newbie doing all that and a newbie coming in and paving stuff over is people like us letting them know that walking around the gnarly stuff is just part of starting out, and it's meant to be something you work on. Not saying you need to spend all your time escorting beginners around the woods, but basically one way to have fewer noobs is to help the noobs to not be noobs anymore. I could give a shit about people pumping more money into mtb, but the more friends you can make on the trail, the more people you have to help when it's time to build/maintain.
  • + 5
 "It doesn't need to be dangerous to be fun" best comet yet.
  • + 1
 I think that rather than focusing on making trails smooth and flowy for beginners people should look at progression instead. If you have glassy smooth trails and steep, rooty, and rocky trails but nothing in between that really isn't going to get anyone anywhere because the ability gap is too big. You can build beginner trails that still have some beginner techy sections in them, besides, it's hard to get better at biking without hitting the ground or getting pedals to the shins once and a while. I've only just reached the point where I don't bleed every time I ride and I find that there is a certain gratification when you finally nail (or don't faceplant) a line after a couple hard attempts and fails. Putting in smooth and casual trails in everywhere takes that away from riders, and when they finally move on to harder trails they freak because they don't know how to handle technical sections, so they just stick to what they know and don't progress unless they have someone pushing them.
  • + 1
 Indiam I think you have hit the nail on the head there , the main excuse for these easy trails is " progression " but progress to what ?

Over here it's either no brainer/disabled access trails or steep , rough and natural tech , f*ck all in between , these new riders are just gonna stagnate and get a false impression that biking is some how easy or shit their pants when they encounter braking bumps and root sections.

And to be honest when most people are new they are only in the ' shit your pants and go OTB at any tech feature ' for less than a year.
  • + 25
 Mike, you have created a false dilemma- there is no need for flow trails to exclude existing trails. What we have now is the best of both worlds: a growing industry, lots of new people getting into the sport, and an ever-improving selection of entry level trails encouraging even more people to start riding. Of course we need a range of trails to make the sport more accessible to new riders and to keep experienced people riding, but grants should be spent on building trails accessible to the largest number of people. That's the least elitist and most effective way of spending public money. If a tiny fraction of riders wants trails that only elite riders can handle, they can grab a shovel and get to work.

You mention money coming into the sport as unimportant to you, but without growth in the industry, you would still be sneaking onto illegal trails riding a hardtail with a Panaracer Smoke/Dart combo. You may not even have a job in the bike industry without that money. Creating accessible trails gets more people into biking; that leads to better funding, encourages development of new technology, and gets more people protecting access to our trails. The last point will probably be the most important in the future.

I do agree with you in that custodianship of existing trails is a bigger problem in theory, but it seems like rampaging hordes of trail-nerfing Freds aren't all that prevalent.

Thought-provoking article, though- thanks for that!

TEMPLE
  • + 2
 Good insight there, Temple. I agree there needs to be a good mix. While we shouldn't dumb down existing stuff we also should have accessibility to get people into the sport. A lot of friends as where they could take their kids and in my area there's not a lot of options.

Mountain biking was never an easy sport to get into. It used to take hard work to learn and now there's lifts and shuttling and easier ways to achieve the peak for a run down a hill. I think about trails from back in the day that were horrendously rocky and would love to go back to those with a current bike to see how much easier it would be. Maybe we shouldn't dumb down the trails as technology and advancements in bike design has made riding much more easy than back in the days of friction shifting.

I am lucky enough to live where IMBA has actually built flow trails that are ROUGH as well. Go figure! I'm not a fan of my local IMBA chapter but they did a good job there with the BLM in building a place that is challenging and not really for beginners. Well, not the top half. I can take beginner/intermediates to the lower half though and they have a blast. Who would think you could have rough flow trails??
  • - 1
 I don't think it is a false dilemma. In my area they recently destroyed one of only two legal downhill trails to make it more XC friendly.

In theory all these new riders will eventually learn how to ride and start demanding fun trails, but I don't see it. In particular unless shops stop selling new riders XC race bikes. I feel like these new flow-trail seekers are being set up for failure. They go in and say "I fear gnar" and shop says "Oh you prefer smooth trails? Here's an XC bike." Well, everything feels gnar on a twitchy race bike, so they then demand paved trails.
  • + 2
 Panaracer Smoke/Dart on a HT ??
Yea i had that kind of bike when i was 15 year old lawl it rox
  • + 3
 Spot on Temple.
Couple other reasons its good for more people to get into mtn biking:
1) Should (in theory) bring average costs of products down because they're produced at higher volumes - see MTX for examples
2) Creates a voice for your local governments to reserve biking as a part of the park use programs - orgs like NSMBA become louder
3) Creates rad jobs for people like you that love the sport and want to throw their lives into it

As long as there is a mix of stuff on the local network/mountain, its all good. Stuff for the Gnar dudes to shred with the DH rigs, AM dudes on the flow/gnar/tech tracks and some gravel tracks for the noobs. Too much of one type of trail is lame.

Local groups shouldn't take down hard trails just to make easy ones. They aren't mutually exclusive as there's not just one type of rider out there. If there was, there'd be only one type of bike.

I learned on Fromme and was thrown to the wolves. Would have been great to cut my teeth on some green or blue trails first. Its easy to forget what its like to learn a new sport.

Skiing/snowboarding does it well. There's a bunny slope with lots of instructors and there's some double black diamonds and everything in between.
  • + 6
 Thought id add my 2 cents. I am a paid Trail Builder. Its how I make a living. Everyday Im building and This is a debate I have with myself everyday.
People say you should build it like this, or you should build it like this. But at the end of the day, it gets built how the funder of that project wants it built. Its not up to me. Its up to the spec they have given me. And usually that is an intermediate level trail. I rarely ever get a chance to build something at an expert level or something I want to build. Of course I get to use my own creative license and build sneaky hits and the odd high line here and there but alot of it is built to cater to every rider at the intermediate level and above. I try and build 2 trails within the 1 trail. Easy to the average rider but to a full pinner, they will find hotlines, jumps, gaps, things might get abit wild in some other wise easy bits.
The reality of it is. If I want gnar and tech or big jumps, ill go build that for myself and my friends and if people come across it, good luck to them. But when there is money involved, you build what they pay you to build. Its not about dumbing stuff down or making things easier. Its about local communities having funding packages for local recreation and they would rather spend that money on something 90% of riders will use as opposed to spending money on something that only 10% of riders will use because its too hard. And as for dumbing down trails, thats a hard one. I feel like if you give a trail abit of love every couple of seasons, then its gonna have a longer life. Nature will always do its bit.
Im all for the hard stuff though. Sometimes I feel like ive sold out to building flow and intermediate level trails, but it pays the bills and I still get to spend my days in the bush. And if I want gnar then ill go ride that or go build it.

Fromme was pretty rad when I went there last year too. Never rode trails like that before. Was a great day.
  • + 2
 @Ragdoll

You make a living out of trail building?!?!? I didn't know that was possible. Thought it was all pretty much volunteer work. I am so incredibly jealous. Do you work for a big trail center or bike park? Do you need an alternative source of income? In all seriousness, how can I get a job doing what you do???
  • + 3
 @gaebriel-mission9

Well yeah, Thats how I make my living. Its possible. I was very fortunate to be apart of International New Zealand Trail Building Contingent that got contracted to build private mountain bike parks all over the world for a client. From that I have been Trail building ever since, working on those properties, working at a local mtb park and now that im home from overseas im working for myself and have picked up a few solid contacts for work. I havnt had to have any other income. Currently I am working for a local mtb club who has funding to spend on their networks. I guess for me all the right doors opened at the right time and I was able to grab the ball and run with it. If there is a need for it then there will be a job available. You can approach local councils to see what projects they fund, get involved and go from there. heres my face book page. have a nosey www.facebook.com/timhuntertrailco
  • + 11
 At Rotorua in NZ the mtb park has been putting in alot of flow trails. The difference is they leave in fun lines and a bit of rough stuff that the more advanced riders can really tap into. It means you can spend a whole day in the forest with a group of varying skills levels and all still have fun. In my opinion thats how it should be done. oh and they always have some proper gnar if you want it haha
  • + 4
 Yep, i think that's a great way to do it, rotorua is great and all kinds of rider can have a lot of fun. When I went to NZ I also tried the skyline gondola park and while it was much smaller, I found the trail difficulty progression was really smooth. Good mix of flow and gnar too.
  • + 3
 Rotorua was excellent. There's some great progression riding there for sure, and as much tough stuff as you want to take on.
  • + 1
 The problem with building easier trails with optional advanced features is that you are enabling and encouraging non-progressive riding. My state is chock full of these. 95% of riders blow past them. They care only about spandex, gram counting, and lap times. When the VAST majority of a region's ridership doesn't care about challenging themselves, outside or aerobically, there isn't enough incentive to build trails for the other 5%. We're left in the dark(Hello illegal trail building). Our hardest trails are technically intermediate, globally speaking. I have to ride urban and get creative to prep for out of state riding. There is a huge void when it comes to technical trails and a certain ilk of riders. The scene is broken IMO, and I have no idea how to fix it.
  • + 1
 The best way to go at it is a good progression in trail difficulty. Make trails progressively harder and people will get there and give it a shot in due time. If you build a massive DJ line right next to a pure xc marathon track, the xc guys wont cross over but if you add smaller "fun jumps", they'll get used to them an go for bigger ones progressively.

The other solution would be to make the races harder, then riders won't have the choice to adapt if they want to win. The catch 22 would be that everyone wants a successful race so if they make it "too hard" then people wont come. I remember being told that in some european regions, the guys have (used to?) to compete in xc, trials and DH to win the overall standing, making complete riders. It's usually not the case in north america and a lot of the NA riders are outclassed on harder tracks when they reach worldwide competition levels so they started to introduce XC riders to trial techniques around here.

As its often the case with racers; if they need to be able to do it to win, they'll learn it.
  • + 11
 Maybe it is my old age. I learned to mountain bike at age of 55 and now I am 65. Most training was at Snow Shoe Mountain. Thanks to a lot of help from the younger riders that didn't discriminate because of age and instead stuck with me year in an year out to get better so as to do the advance trails. My take on all of this is that the sport has gotten to elitist and the discrimination in thinking is no different then 45 years ago when I as a young boy would get into new adventures that most people were afraid to do. We need to just get along and make it all work for the future of the sport to Grow. PS: the pricing of the bikes has gotten way out of hand.
  • + 6
 Agree! There should be trails for all. Everyone has a right to ride what they want how they want. Inexperience isn't the only factor in wanting less gnarly trails. Not everyone can afford thousands for a full 'spension rig to be able to ride the DH trails. So because some people are less wealthy, they should be left out? That's not an attitude to prescribe to. If some just don't want to ride tricky terrain because they prefer to cruise through the woods and enjoy the scenery, are they less deserving to have a place on trails, on public land that they pay for via their taxes, or on private that they've paid to access? They're hard earned cash is as valuable as the next riders. Should double black trails be ironed out so the newbest rider with golf ball sized Hemorrhoids can ride in comfort? No. There is enough room for all to get their fix. If you don't like a trail, don't ride it. I there isn't a trail for you, build it. If there's a section of a trail that's beyond what you want/can do or not bangin' enough to test your skills, build an out around it that works for you. The minute we start determining someone "deserves" to be there and some don't is to have ruined the ALL the sport for EVERYONE!
For me, I'm self employed. I can't afford to get injured. No work, no pay, no play. I've raced in the past in my younger days without care for consequence for life and limb. These days, I enjoy a ride on a nice clear path through the woods just as much. And I apologize to no one for doing so.
  • + 4
 I think the difference in equipment you guys touched on is important too. There's the whole elitist attitude you guys talk about, but sometimes I wonder how many of the elitists on mid travel FS rigs could run the lines they run on the bikes beginners ride. There is a HUGE cost barrier to entering mtb, especially if you want an AM type rig, but for those who have them the difficulty level of every feature on the trail is MASSIVELY different than for the beginner on a budget hardtail with low-end suspension... some rock gardens that are tricky on a 26" hardtail are barely noticeable on a full sus 29er. The technology (esp suspension tech) in modern high-end bikes makes it possible to run a lot of cool, gnarly stuff.... but that cuts both ways. If you want a challenge on your local trails, maybe try them on a hardtail or a cx bike. Even fairly mundane trail features can be tough with little to no suspension, and honestly that's what most beginners are riding. Might be harder for them than you think.
  • + 9
 It's easy to not care about money and exposure for the sport when you live in MTB mecca. A whole lot of us are still trying to get local governments to recognize our sport and allow us to build those technical trails on the land. We're making progress, and we're making progress by first starting small, building flow trails, getting people involved and minimizing liability concerns. In some places we're now getting permission to build beginner and intermediate TTFs. Soon we'll take it to the next level and be able to legally build the technical, nasty, challenging trails that got many of us into the sport. Not only legally, but with funding support for the build and maintenance.

Explain to me again how this is bad? Why should I want to have to park on a side road and sneak over a fence to find good riding and risk trespass fines? How is it good for me to have no access to trails that help me introduce my wife, kids and friends to greatest passion without throwing them off the proverbial deep end?

This argument has about as much merit as debating whether ski hills should groom runs. How dumb would you sound trying to convince the world to stop grooming their hills or close all green runs?
  • + 0
 There needs to be easy trails no doubt but not all the trails need to be easy. Many groups have jumped on The IMBA bandwagon and I fear we will be left with many kms of the same easy, less than 5% turny trails. Sure they are fun but they do not need any skill to ride.

IMO there needs to be a balance, for every km of easy trail built there should be another km that is difficult. This will satisfy the masses.

The way things are going I foresee more underground building happening. The guys who want to ride something challenging are getting short changed and if the sanctioned associations don't step up to keep them challenged they will get busy and do it themselves.......
  • + 2
 Yup, they will, and everyone will get the trails they want to ride.

And if flow trails are built properly there can be tons of challenge for advanced riders…. maybe not steep chutes and gnarly rock gardens, but hits and gems that novice riders won't even see let alone hit. Look at videos of Half Nelson in Squamish and tell me that trail is a boring ol' flow trail.

As for the notion of km-for-km… I'd love to see it, but it isn't practical. If there is a 1:1 ratio between novice and advanced riders, it makes sense, but as the sport grows in popularity that ratio is going to tip in favour of novice riders and there will be a proportionate number of novice-friendly trails.

And mellow can be challenging … people forget that Whistler A line, arguably the most popular flow trail in the world, averages 6.5% grade or something like that.
  • + 2
 Thank you - I often point to A-Line when discussing grades. It's remarkably low-grade, and probably the most well-known trail in the world.
  • + 1
 Damn beg prop arrows! I love the ski hill analogy. Introduce, build confidence, train, grow.
  • + 9
 Couldn't agree more!
An is it just me or do easy/flow trails get haggard very quickly an therefore require more maintenence time? Taking build time away from harder/real trails
  • + 1
 yep just shows that the less experienced and able riders choose to use trails like this as a quick way of learning how to ride mountains ( or at least lay they do)
  • + 1
 Its the fact that flow trails are less rugged in construction than something a lot rockier or rootier, and with all the lower scale riders getting up some good speed, theres always gonna be breaking bumps. Im the head volunteer for my local trails, were just finishing up a new section that is a lot flowier than the existing tracks, but thats because the existing is quite technical, but weve already had one guy (who I know struggles on the red, this is a black section) complaining the first berm is too tight, were not changing it for a lesser rider as harsh as that sounds, if your skills aren't good enough dont ride it, but most still will and lock their back brake round most of it
  • - 1
 And lets face it, those beginner riders that beat the piss out of trails aren't normally the ones doing trail work. The dudes that complain about trails being too technical make me want to hit someone in the mouth. It's like, "I see you did all this work to build something really cool, challenging, and fun. Now I'm going to bitch at you about it." Makes me want to tell people to go grow a pair or just go buy a road bike. Thats really want they want to do anyway.
  • + 2
 What gets me is when the flow trails do get haggard some of them become much more fun. why not leave them this way for a while and work on a new trail and then come back and assess whether the trail should still be blue or whether the wear and tear makes it a red thats just as fun but more challenging and sign post accordingly. Grading schemes over here need to be sorted too.
  • + 0
 If a flow trail is getting wrecked by braking and poor trail riding it wasn't built properly. A green or blue flow trail should be built to sustain the wear an tear of inexperienced riders.
  • + 6
 No rob, thats impossible without actually concreting it, people locking the back brake is gonna tear the shit out of anything pretty much
  • + 1
 With the north shore "gold" (mineral earth) that is used to build flow trails etc here, they last just fine especially since they are drained properly.
We get more rain than most places in the world that are ridden on a bike.
For instance it is not uncommon to get 3 inches of rain in a day. The north shore is classified as a temperate rain forest.
It is amazing that our trails last at all testament to out builders.
  • + 1
 Inked-up-metalhead - sure, that tends to be the case today. One thing we'll never be able to control is riders in over their heads from a skill perspective.

But building does play a role. Our local club just put in a short flow section but two of the corners after high speed straights are 90deg off camber flats that would challenge even the most advanced riders at flowing speed… they really should have been bermed so riders could keep their speed around them, instead brake bumps are forming just two weeks after the trail was opened.
  • + 1
 Just cause you can ride a trail without braking in a berm doesnt mean "Jim" is going to do it.
  • + 6
 I agree. Every spot should have ONE flow trail for every 3-4 more difficult ones. How is Jim from accounting to progress when the only rides easy trails? I understand we need a trail like this if there was none before but if there are plenty then build something gnarly that will test your skills

Right now I'm in the proces of training my GF to ride big bikes and even she likes rocks and roots so let's not get overboard and just find a nice balance.
  • + 1
 I think flow trails making mtb more popular IS relevant, and a good thing in my opinion. How would you fund a new tech trail when there is no money in the sport? How could companies invest in r&d if there is no money to be made?
  • + 3
 Have you read my post? I have said we need to find BALANCE. Flow trails are usefull but not if the sport becomes boring because it's all we have. That will make the sport loose long term customers/riders since they will switch to other sports that offer more of a challenge. That will also think the economy of biking.


Also there already IS money in the sport. New trails are being funded. The sport doesn't have to grow indefinately. I'm happy other people try it and more will but for now the popularity of the sport is more of a case of advertising the sport right and creating a good image. That plus the thing that for most people it's still crazy expensive.
  • + 1
 Please keep in mind that Flow Trails are approx. $50,000.00 per mile to build. Depending on how much vertical you have, that could add up quickly! $150,000.00 per trail for us if we did it. Yikes! Keeping it real by reality!
  • + 1
 Wait wut? Unless US costs are crazy inflated all you need to build a good flow trail is a digger and someone to operate it. How many hours you need to build a mile of track in US?
  • + 1
 Those are the price quotes from Gravity Logic and all other professional trail builders. Our mountain is very steep and has lots of Granite. The grade would have to be changed and tens of thousands of trees would have to come down. Also, a Flow Trail (top to bottom) would be 3 to 4 miles long. It would be fun, but so much more could be done with that kind of money/manpower.
Running machinery, repairing machinery, cost of diesel, an experienced trail builder, etc, adds up.
  • + 8
 ''it isn't about getting gnarly and drinking mountain dew'' No that's exactly what it is all about!!
  • + 4
 Stopped reading after I read that lol
  • + 4
 Just a couple days ago, after cleaning a difficult wet root covered downhill one of the riders in my party said, "that whole section of trail needs a re-route. It's too steep and rough" to my dismay. Thinking like this is dumbing down trail systems.
As an advanced rider I often feel left wanting for more technical track.
  • + 1
 You call yourself "advanced", but there are people who would laugh at you and say you are nothing more than a novice in comparison to their abilities. There are always better, more advanced and more skilled riders out there. Remember that before boasting about riding abilities.
  • + 2
 Lightningskull is being modest, ride with him and see who has the last laugh.
  • + 1
 Certainly not trying to call myself the best that could hang with the fastest pro's or anything. By advanced I enjoy riding trails that take experience and dedication to ride quickly. Beginning or more timid/cautious riders would find the trails I like most intimidating, especially at the speeds I try to carry through most.
As an advanced rider I know there will always be faster better riders. That's a given, are you saying that being good but not the best is something to keep to yourself? Knowing your abilities and what you like as a rider is a good thing.
  • + 2
 What I'm saying is, there is always somebody better who wants harder riding and possibly stuff you'll never be able to ride. So, when it comes to complaints, how the trails should be harder, just how hard are we talking about? Hard enough without making it unrideable by you I assume. That seems to be the going trend. When people say hard, they are going by their own version of hard which is their own personal limits. How about we just build everything so extreme, nobody can ride them until they reach an extreme level of perfection. Who gets to set the rules here? I didn't know only the elitists get to set the rules on what mountain biking is about. Oh wait, it's the middle elitists, not the top elitists, because nobody would be riding much if the top riders only had their way.
  • + 5
 Just hit the trails old skool. I don't need some one to make me a trail to ride. The terrain is already there. That's the point of a mountain bike. I do like a good trail centre with man made trails but I don't need one.
  • + 6
 Unfortunately insurance and $$ and taking the upper hand on any 'organized' bike trails, thumbs down to both. That's why you need to go build the cool sh*t yourself.
  • + 7
 +1 this daniel, I think in reality these organized bike trails are a business. Your Joe the accountant is likely to have a bigger disposable income than a 20-30 year old shredder who wants the black diamond trail. When Joe comes to ride the trails he may not pay directly to use the trails but he might stay in a hotel or eat at a cafe/restaurant and buy some kit from the LBS; putting money into the community. Where as the shredder will bring his own lunch, stays in a cheap hotel or camps and brings all his spares he needs. If Joe doesn't have a good time he won't return and therefore won't spend his money in the community again. This is why I think this trend in trails has occurred.

Obviously I am stereotyping groups of people and not everyone fits in with what I'm saying.

Just my opinion
  • + 4
 I think thats the reality most bike parks must face. I don't mind, as long as there are challenges for every level of rider.
Parks should have trails from green to black. A good example is Lac Blanc in France. Green/Blue in comination for Beginners Red for intermediate/hobby riders. And the Black jump and DH trails for the shredders and racers.
Combined with a good lift, some shops and restaurants and thats all a good bike park needs to survive.
  • + 4
 @rhiwfawrdirt - a lot of people who are begginers aspire to ride difficult trails. Many people will visit places like Maribor for the famous and difficult WC track even though they won't ride it.

Difficult tracks a good thing for marketing and good for specators. They are as usefull for bike parks as mellow trails. No one wants to visit a location and say "everything here is super easy for me".
  • + 1
 @spaced A very good point, would be interesting to see how much usage goes up after the world cup goes to an irregular round like hafjell
  • + 1
 I know I had a hard time convincing local riders to go to Hafjell before the WC. After it everyone in Poland wants to go even though it's rather expensive and far away.
  • + 4
 This is all true, but it is not just with trails. Look at the bikes, the push for 29ers and 650b's. They push these wheel sizes saying that they smooth out the trails, making them easier, rolling over rocks easier etc. Is that really what needs to be done? If I wanted easy I would just take up hiking, underwater basket weaving or whatever. I like it hard, I dont race, so making something easy (easier) is just plain stupid in my opinion. I can see if one is racing that every bit of performance (cutting seconds with less effort) and making things easier is better, and makes sense. But I would think even training for a race, the more difficult the training is, the better that person will be in the race on any bike they ride. Be it easier and smoother trails, or bikes that make everything easier, we (humans) in general are just lazy fu#@s and want to exert the least amount of effort in everything we do. I find it rather pathetic really.
  • + 1
 While I see your point you really shouldn't knock underwater basket weaving, it's more difficult than riding a BMX bike down Mt. St. Anne in the wet. The combination of lung capacity to weave accuracy is tough to learn especially in the murky waters of my region…
Thats what she said…
I do race, I love difficult trails, everyone has to ride them. Making a trail easier in a race doesn't just make me faster, it makes everyone else faster too, but thats a topic for another article… BTW cutting seconds takes more effort (mental and/ or physical), no matter the trail.
  • + 2
 I hear ya. Underwater basket weaving could be difficult, especially in murky waters hahaha.
  • + 1
 I agree. Seems ironic that we would read an article about new suspension products that will help smooth out our ride and follow it up with an article about how are trails are getting to flowy and smooth. And your point about wheel sizes is spot on. We're moving towards larger wheels to improve how our bikes roll over all the ruts and rocks we complain are missing from the trail.

Maybe our bikes have become overkill for the trails available to us. Try jumping back on a hardtail or a rigid bike to make that trail more difficult for you. That's where all this started right? Dudes bombing down dirt trails without 150mm front and back.

I agree with Mike this should be hard. It's why we choose to ride our mountain bikes because we're the people that prefer the difficult route not the smoothest. But let's not alienate the people who want to get into the sport because we've been able to improve our bikes and skill set to a point that trails have become too easy for us.
  • + 0
 So, you must be riding a 20" unicycle, tsefreeflow? Or are you making things easier by riding a two wheeled 26er? Why aren't you just using a road bike, cause mountain bikes haven't always existed, you know. Mountain bikes just made it easier to ride trails. HMM! I find it rather pathetic that you even use a bike. Maybe you just hike on one leg, that should make it pretty hard.
  • + 1
 ^Sarcasm faceplant^ pinkbike not pinkhike.
  • + 0
 Not a face plant at all. He doesn't like new tech, so he just needs to go back to low tech because everything he rides was new tech at some point. But we all know people talk out their ass, so it's obviously about his personal choices and his chosen level of bike tech just so happens to coincide with what he thinks is the acceptable max limit of tech. How convenient.
  • + 1
 I like tech-nine helluva rapper. Officially done with this nonsense.
  • + 4
 I agree with what Mike is saying but he might have been better off saying that a balance needs to return to trail building. The spread on trail difficulty should be a bell curve. A lesser number of easy/beginner trails on one side and a lesser amount of hard/expert trails on the other end. The vast majority of the trails out there should generally lie in the middle, because that is where the majority of riders skill levels are. As we shouldn't build or 'dumb down' trails so Joe can ride, we also shouldn't gnar everything up so 'Joe Dirt' can practice his awesome DH squirrel skills.
  • + 4
 Well, IMO, the problem lies with IMBA's insistance on flow trails being built if you want their blessing as well as help and support with grants, land managers, etc. Heck they even list flow trails as "model trails" on their website. Until you convince IMBA that they don't need to steamroll every trail to make it sustainable and accessible, the problem will just continue.
  • + 3
 This exactly. If you get IMBA involved your trail gets neutered, which is why all the good riding around my area is guerrilla riding, with maintenance being done as needed by the people who ride there regularly. But it's hard to get new things built without official build days and stuff so it's a little bit of a conundrum. There are definitely exceptions like down in PA, some of the IMBA epics there, but locally our legit trails are mostly 'flowy' (boring), and technical features have been removed or not maintained.
  • + 2
 Flow trails built to be beginner friendly just get beat to hell and dont "flow" anymore anyway. And lets face it, that brand new beginner rider isnt the one doing trail work to fix it either.
  • + 5
 The other issue with IMBA trails, as I noticed last night at a work day on Black Mtn trail in Pisgah, is when you have volunteer days you have 40 people with shovels that don't really know what they are doing. Things get shaped to about 10 percent of their potential and the rubbish they leave on the side of the trails is obscene. The builder plans on leaving every downed tree he cut, WHOLE, on the side of the trail to force people onto the new line. Looks like shit, and it leaves absolutely no room for error, should someone crash, which will happen. There a million pungy sticks lying in wait beside the trail. Its going to be messy.

I prefer hand built, steep and techy. But when you're already hauling a dozer, mini-excavator and motorized wheel barrow up the trail, how are you not required to tow behind a mini wood chipper? Mulch that shit, quicker recovery for the forest, instant beautification of the trails.

Half of the battle with trail groups is once a trail get built and rides decently its called done. Unfortunately usually the visual presentation blows, it looks like a bomb went off. If we want to impress other user groups, the forest service, and to open the doors to future building with less restrictions, we need to focus on not only how well the trail rides, but how nice it can look to other user groups (all of our trails are multi use).

We need to make trail art. As it is, it looks like a war zone with a rut down the middle.
  • + 1
 @timkoerber great points. Really good comment, and you're right that the aesthetic value of a trail isn't simply a 'nice to have' feature, especially in the states where people are often trying to keep mtbs off the trails.
  • + 1
 Natural trails just look right. To most (out of the know) people they dont look like much more then rough hiking trails and noone is adverse to that.
  • + 4
 As with any sport, there are people of every conceivable age and ability involved, right from kids (and adults) who can barely stay upright on two wheels, to seasoned professionals who are able to ride the toughest terrain that nature has to throw at us. What is so wrong with offering something for everyone? Who are we - a self confessed group of MTB nuts - to decide the proportion of 'easy' trails to techy sh*t yer pants lines? Surely the market decides. If you want to go ride 20ft drop offs and root tangles as big as a car (and lord knows, I do)... go for it, nature built it FOR YOU. But to ask little Timmy who's just turned 7 to do this would be like putting him into the front row of the starting 15 against the all-blacks! Little Timmy is going to get splattered - plain and simple. Every sport should be able to offer progression, from beginner to pro level, not everyone wants to constantly push things to their physical limit, OR for that matter, has the money to go out and spend 7 grand on an 8" DH monster. Does this mean they don't have a right to be included in the sport? Offering a range of trails to suit all abilities will keep those who really have no right to be there away from paces where they are likely to hurt themselves - leaving more challenging trails alone for those who know how to ride them. In this way, the future progression of the sport is secured, the market is pacified, and we get to carry on riding our favourite wild trails without stumbling upon little Timmy with his leg broken in 4 places miles from the nearest hospital.
  • + 4
 This needs to be split into different issues:
- people changing a trail because it's to hard for them personally. - WRONG
- having a variety of levels of trail for different users, - RIGHT

It's incorrect to say that that it's not important to grow the sport.
Yes, the money does matter. Local businesses as well as national bike companies have donated a lot of money to our trail network here. If they didn't have any business they wouldn't be able to do so ( see XC skiing for how a sport looks if the industry is suffering).
Also, if you have only a very small number of participants, you don't have any political power, so trails and forests get closed to bike use, or developed into golf courses and malls.

First timers might not do trail work, but less skilled, less aggressive low-intermediates do a LOT of trail work, as well as other volunteering like attending meetings and writing grant applications, to get trails built and keep them open.

I have small kids, I want them to be able to start riding of road, on something safe and easy, even with their little rigid bikes.

A point you don't mention is sustainability.
In our town, many trails have been smoothed, not by a desire to make them easier, but because the old roots rocky trails were an erosion nightmare. In our clay based soils with a lack of solid rock it is hard to make a sustainable trail that is not smooth.
As a result our trails have become smoother, so we are now making a conscious effort to build sustainable but challenging trails were the terrain is available.
  • + 4
 Who cares if people build flowy trails, if you dont like them dont ride them and quit complaining... I cant even believe there is an article on this... Go build your own trails then.... And i suppose you never go to bike parks right....
  • + 3
 i have being saying this for a long time. particulary on the uk's trail centres. they are so easy now that I don't even bother with a lot of them. its fine having beginner trails but that seems to 90% of the time result in advanced trails being forgotten. I learnt in a time before trail centres on tough trails with rigid forks and v brakes and never did me any harm.
  • + 3
 The other side of the story is how the industry supports the same thing from product side. Now you can have 29" and 27.5" so that it rolls over faster and with less effort than 26". And you can have batteries and electrical drive-train so that you don't have to pedal. Pathetic. Obviously the more people ride the more buy the new shit=Profit. All is just more waste of resources. Waste of metal, carbon and electrons. And waste of terrain and nature. Tracks and trails gets crowded with people and you just realize that the sport is lost. Don't think consume! It makes you better person. Your children will surely love for it!
  • + 0
 So, you must be riding an old banana seat road bike on the trails, huh? Mountain bikes didn't always exist, they were created to make trail riding easier. Since you don't like things easier, you need to go back to riding some of the first bikes ever built. I believe they were walking bikes without pedals. Actually, you can't even use that. You must stick to walking, because anything else makes things easier, right?
  • + 2
 Well, personally that is exactly what I do. Just realized that most of the trails I ride does not justify using super high-tech bikes. With my hardtail bike the same track become way more challenging and fun the same time. Regrading your suggestion. Not everything is black or white. Your point takes this discussion to the extremes. It is like saying that having fun and enjoying the sport is only achievable with the latest and greatest. My 2 cents.
  • + 1
 As if you didn't take it to the extreme? Bitching about 29ers and how tracks and trails get crowded with people and the sport is lost? Please! The only reason we even have trails showing up in the state parks around here is because of the interest and ability for novice and intermediates to ride, which is the majority of riders around here. If it was just a few elitist a*sholes looking to build double black diamonds, the parks would tell them to go F themselves, which is exactly what was happening and why it took so long for parks to finally agree to host mountain bike trail systems. It took a lot of meetings and effort by bike clubs to insure that the trail system will support all tax paying citizens, not just a few elitists. As for becoming to crowded, you must not ride as hard as you claim. Because if you did, you'd be on the harder trails with other experienced riders who shouldn't be holding you up and crowding you.
  • + 1
 Get your point. I guess the situation can be very much different based on where you live on this planet. In my country there are 0 bikeparks. All the tracks that exist are pretty much illegal. Also this is a small crowded country, so building track as gnarly as possible is something that is desired so it wont attract hikers and even more riders who lame up the track. I also think that one shall deserve to be out in the woods. I see these fkin offroad segways and I freak out of those. Fat f*cks standing on that shit, crowding the forests (like in the movie WallESmile ), not to mention that meanwhile people are literally dying when mining rare earth materials, which are raw material for the batteries. My two cents. I know it sounds radical, sorry.
  • + 3
 ummmmm, i'm an accountant....and I want to ride it hard n fast! I want to feel the fear fighting the massive grin on my face as I barrel over rocks and roots knowing I either pin it or it pins me. I've spent a long time learning these skills so that each year I push myself that little bit further.
sure there's a place for trail centres for the new and for instant enjoyment, but there is a certain pull back to those secret spots we made back in the day.

and an analogy can be taken from bouldering. any downgrading of a problem by chipping holds, using incorrect lines and using anything that was not intended to be used on a problem is frowned upon. after all the only person you're cheating is yourself, there's no improvement.
so you can keep your bigger wheels (for rolling resistance and smoothing out your ride) and you can keep your groomed trails, i'll keep trying that hard line until I've mastered it and only then will I feel happy that I have accomplished what I set out to
  • + 3
 I ran across a guy the other day on the local trails (yes one can trail run and mountain bike in the same lifetime) who was pounding reinforcements into his newly build 8" tall 7' long bridge spanning a bit of roots and rock. I stopped and asked him what he was doing and his reply was "I'm tired of not being able to ride this section and didn't buy a bike to walk around stuff".

To which my reply was -"I don't think that your bridge is going to last very long." And to my astonishment I was correct!! What are the odds?

Mr. Levy you may drink really really really bad beer, but your opinion on the subject of sanitizing trails for the masses is spot on. Hell, if anything the cycling worlds need to deflate a bit. On a nice day (not raining) you can hardly even ride some of the trails around the Seattle metro area due to all of the bikes!

If you want to build new trails - fine, but working to old ones to death for the sake of "family friendly" is just wrong (IMHO).
  • + 3
 Variety is best. Sure, begginners or people who don't ride often need places to have fun. But in order to eventually sharpen their skills, they need to be challenged by harder trails. The greatest feeling of accomplishment I get on my bike is when I clear an obstacle for the first time, going either up or down.
  • + 2
 Who are you to demand that people must sharpen their skills? There are people who you will never outdo no matter how much you sharpen your skills. They will always continue to laugh at you as you clear your little obstacle for the first time. Remember that next time you tell somebody they need to sharpen up.
  • + 1
 Chill out mate. Perhaps I didn't phrase it as clearly as I thought. I enjoy improving whatever little skills I have, so I guess most mtb'ers feel the same way. Progress and challenge is what keeps it interesting. I never said I am or will ever be one of the guys to look up to, I'm just having a good time on my bike. Hope you do too.
  • + 3
 couldn't agree more with this article. I guess the problem is - a lot of people like riding mountain bikes, but not many would say " I'm a mountain biker." They don't particularly like big challenges, they just want the rewards.
  • + 3
 I agree that there should be a variety of trails in any given trail network (or bike park)... easy trails to attract new people to the sport and more difficult trails that encourage us to continue to advance our skills (if we choose that).
I just started hitting bigger drops and creek gaps that I knew I was capable of riding but needed to build my courage and believe in myself... if my trails didn't have that I wouldn't be able to progress... and it has a b-line around it for those who haven't worked up to it yet... perfect balance
  • + 3
 surely this is where natural trails come in? I was riding in the Peak District at the weekend and found some very tough and challenging riding just by heading off the beaten track and getting lost. If i go to a trail center i expect it to be sanitized and full of Health and Safety concious features, if I'm on the moorland of Yorkshire i do not.
  • + 1
 Nail on the head. I can't be arsed with the crowds and heroes that you get at trail centres, sooner ride natural trails too.
  • + 6
 Trails should be different. Different trails for different people, different moods, different skill sets, etc.
  • + 2
 This whole topic confuses me. It shouldn't be about which type of trail should be built to accommodate the most riders, but how those riders as individuals progress in their skills and rise to new challenges. Trail diversity is what brought me and may others into this sport in the first place; the ability to rip and flow one section, then having to be tactical with brakes and balance to negotiate the next. As Frederik said in the previous comment, we can do both, and should. Every rider is different. Likewise, every trail should be different.

Fast, far, slow, or gnar. It's all trails. As with other parts of life, if you aren't ready to step up to something outside of your comfort level, word harder to progress and attain it. Pretty simple paradigm.
  • + 2
 This is kind of narrow.

I too don't care if some bozo in the office shows up. I'm not going to try to convince one to not be a pu55y and take the lycra off. I don't care.

BUT!!!!! If someone shows up at the park and just wants to give it a go, I want to see him or her succeed. That probably means some blue trails and/or some flow trails. They'll have fun, feel like they're getting better, and gain some skills that will help them graduate up to the gnar. But the biggest thing is that they'll start to feel comfortable. That right there is huge.

Instead we just shove pups straight into the storm? Sounds pretty stupid, self centered, and rife with machismo.
  • + 5
 One more thing.... World Cup DH trails should not be pussified!
  • + 2
 Maybe just one or two flow trails in a given location and thats it, but bike parks do need money if we wish to continue to have them so its not fair to tell them they're wrong for opening up new trails that are going to help them stay open (for us). JMHO
  • + 2
 I think all trails should flow. I dont like awkward techy stuff. I like flowing rock gardens and root sections. I like the trail to be built well so that it can flow allowing you to get good lines into roots and rocks, darting through the trees. I dont mind riding smooth trails full of table tops and berms, but i'd rather just ride them to get to somewhere else. Over groomed stuff is too easy to get bored off. A trail that flows is due to how its built, not how smooth its made.
  • + 0
 A valid preference. Also recognize that many riders don't want "flowy" trails. To them, those flow trails are precisely the definition of sanitized or dumbed-down.

Neither opinion is right or wrong. We must acknowledge that there are different preferences and build trails to support a variety of people. Granted, if only 1% of trail users have a particular preference, they may not see it represented in the trail system. However, I don't think slow-speed-tech trails fall into that category.
  • + 1
 More valid points. I dont know how clear my earlier ramblings were but i just mean its nice that a trail flows when you get the lines right, not that its so smooth and undulating that you could snowboard down it Smile
I also hate the fact that the level of trails often seems to jump from beginner to expert with little inbetween to play on these days and that chicken lines never seem to ride that well, obviously they shouldnt get you to the bottom faster but it would be nice if a track wasnt ruined by you sticking to your skill level and then said chicken line destroys all feeling of enjoyment on that section of trail Smile
  • + 1
 Also to clarify, many riders like trails that don't flow at all. That's right, slow speed technical can be really fun. I personally like to ride at various places that are nothing but endless rock gardens. Your upper body gets more of a workout than your legs due to constantly lifting the bars and muscling the bike up and around boulders.

For example:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQmAiuRO9Go

If I don't have to get off and walk at least a few times in a day, the trail isn't technical enough to satisfy my taste for slow speed tech. That just goes to show, some people like trails that are so challenging that you have to bypass features or try them a few times before succeeding. Other people like to never get off the bike.
  • + 2
 i couldnt agree with many on this, no 9er lines. I've ridden in a bunch of different places, and it seems that there are definitely strava or 9er lines that pop up straight lining every corner, smoothing out every line. Its gotta stop. who cares how fast you are? If you want a workout that bad, go to a spin class. Secondly, If you cant ride a gnarly rocky rooted trail, you arent mountain biking. Way to much "dumbing down" of trails these days.
  • + 0
 "If you cant ride a gnarly rocky rooted trail, you arent mountain biking. " YET...
  • + 1
 Over the last ~2 years the conversation of strava being one of the sanitizers of our local trails comes up. I think, at least around here, that plays almost as large of a part of trail sanitation as do the riders who purposely make something easier by removing a feature. We have a large mountain biking community with a lot of competitive people and strava makes it possible to always be competing. If you ride enough and know the trails you begin to see which lines were changed for strava and which ones were changed for ease of use, regardless of why they were changed, they were. That's not to say that trails can't or shouldn't change but if there was a feature where the trail was purposefully routed for a tech move or other feature, why must you sanitize it?!
  • + 1
 Strava lines—29ers are very capable and there's no need to cut trails etc.
  • + 1
 i agree anything can be ridden on a 29r, im not down on them. I am however down on the roadies who but a 29r hardtail, go out and cut every corner and go around every rock, and thread up the trails. if the trails were meant to be smooth, its not mountain biking. thats my opnion. jump trails and bike parks are different.

I say strava lines because typically trails are cut a certain way and a racing line is typically a different line than what the original intent of the trail was. it just sucks to see every corner cut just to go around a couple rocks or roots. strava has a place and i guess if your into racing then i can see the alure, but shouldlnt there be a suggestion that you have to ride the trail not the easiest way from point a-b? If i remember correctly if you remove all of the taping from a DH race run, everyone will just take the easiest/fastest way down?
  • + 1
 I totally agree man, and Strava lines are exactly what I call them. Cut corners and ridiculous skid marks blowing out every switchback piss me off more than just about anything when I'm out riding. I have to say I use Strava on most rides just to keep track of what I'm doing, but I don't generally tell people that because the image is so bad (deservedly, perhaps). Cutting corners and running over other trail users for the sake of a KOM would kill me. I ride primarily for the love of being out in the woods on a bike and I hope to never let anything get in the way of that.

And as a Lycra-wearing, Strava-using, hardtail 29er rider–I apologize for all of the a*sholes and posers out there. I dislike dumbed-down trails, Strava lines, and self-absorbed every-ride-is-a-race types as much as the next guy/gal.

That said, sorry to spread the negative vibes! Let's get out and enjoy some trail/spread the love!
  • + 4
 Nothing kills the vibe more than when someone dumbs down a feature/section that you have been working on riding cleanly for awhile!
  • + 2
 I learned mountain biking on knarly stuff. And was hooked right away. I can see the case for flow trails, as the odd one is fun. Thinking like 25% of trails, max. By flow trail I'm thinking fun tight berms, gap-able pumps, hidden rock launches. Stuff that a beginner can roll but a skilled rider can be aggressive on and have fun. Basically, build a slalom trail.
I've built one. A 5 year old can roll it. I can manual, pump, gap stuff and it's a flat out a blast. It's taught me about corning harder, pumping/gapping rocks for speed and keeping lose and moving around on the bike to better work the terrain under me. Want to progress? sometimes going back to the basics is the key.
The best part of mountain biking is the puzzle. Figuring out new bits of trail and giving yourself a bit of a scare. Knarly trails are where it's at. Sadly most people are sissies and we will probably keep getting new groomers and the knarl will get hidden deep in the woods. Want burl? Get involved and push for it. Be willing to haul rocks and dirt.
  • + 2
 Seems the trend is to sanitize the trails these days, pluck them clean and dirt them over, so grandma won't complain. These are not DH trails - Not beginner DH trails. You need features /drop/jumps off the sides - "options" in the trails - rocks to negotiate. What really makes a beginner trail - slope and terrain- it's not very steep and can be negotiated relatively easy. The progression from Beginner to Intermediate at many Parks are like ten fold!
  • + 2
 This needed a public forum, thanks Mike. This trend, and the nazi like trail stewards (whom I did not elect BTW) is ruining local trail systems for use in general, I used to really enjoy challenging terrain and a rain ride in the woods. For the bike parks, tailoring trails to riding levels makes perfect sense. Its mimicking the Skiing model, in fact, its the Skiing (and Resort) managers who have finally awaken to the prospect of year round business. At the bike park you have a menu, at your local trails, well....I just want to ride in all conditions guilt free. That seems almost impossible now and has shortened our riding seasons measurably. I have reduced riding locally by 80% because of it. ....that is not right.
  • + 2
 I think that it's up to the local trail clubs to preserve the "character" of each riding area. PA has Michaux S.F. which is known for its burly riding and they are building trails there that keep that character and blend a bit of new school flow in.
  • + 6
 I too want lobster claws.
  • + 2
 I prefer flowly tracks with nice smooth berms and nice long fast table tops.

However, I do understand what people are saying when they say not to down grade the difficulty levels of tracks, since I have done a lot of trail building, and I have designed/built a track for more intermediate/beginners in mind, and still managed to have a decent track with some roughness, but not too rough that it scares off people, and not too steep that it scares people off, and the track was well received right from from our more experienced riders in the state, down to the beginners and intermediate riders.

The important thing, is if your terrain allows it, you need a mix of good flowly stuff, and largely technical stuff, or build two separate tracks if you can, one geared for more experienced riders, the other for more beginner/intermediate riders.

The next problem is, if all tracks are made for the more experienced riders, you quickly scare off new blood in the sport, and once people get full time jobs, families and can't ride as much, you slowly find your club or state for the sport, dwindling in members/riders, and than the sport slowly dies, so it is a fine balancing act of having tracks to attract new riders to the sport, and keeping the intermediate levelled riders like myself in the sport, while trying to please more experienced riders who want to continually challenge themselves.
  • + 2
 The next problem, is people tend to have unrealistic expectations, the track I built, wasn't exactly on a steep hill, and the terrain, although gnarly, was quite for riders who were more experienced, but still challenged the intermediate/beginner riders, the problem was, that people think we can just make a track hard at a snap of the finger, without realising it takes needing the right terrain, the right geography and many hours of your time getting put into it.

So to sum up, the main problem, is that we've so far failed to achieve the correct balance, you need to keep attracting new riders/members, and the only of doing that, is having reasonably cruisy trails, than slowly kick up the difficulty levels, and you need to have a 50/50 attention to trail building, the flowy/jump park styled riding with lots of tables for beginner or intermediate riders, and the other focus, on balls out roots steep rock garden tracks with no B C lines, and slowly edge people towards those tracks, now, not all of them will get there, and that's fine, that's where having a good 50/50 focus comes into play, those who want to keep to the flowly jump style riding, can continue doing that, and those who want to challenge themselves, can do that..
  • + 2
 It may depend a lot on your topography. I like riding root and rock infested but I have also been in areas where without slope or the wrong soil type for that kind of trail simply can't sustain. I hate to say it but the enduro format just might help bring back natural riding.
  • + 2
 Totally agree! As a trail builder (Trail Boss) me self. I know and feel the powers that move towards "Pavement Trails"
-I cant build what I would like to!
I have to walk the fine line with a diplomacy cape on me back.
I am trying to build fun and challenging trails (Denmark is flat Wink ) and we do get better trails than just 5 years ago.
We will not stop and settle with Pavements Trails but changes take time Wink
Passion and fun building trails at www.facebook.com/groups/aarhustrailbuilders
Keep digging and stay innovative Wink
  • + 1
 My family came from Aarhus originally..
  • + 1
 totally agree mike!
when i started riding in my local trails 9 years ago they were all technical singletrack, you shared the trails with dirtbikes, horses, a few natives and you kinda knew everybody by face cause we were the only people there each weekend.

now there is an imba trail network there and what used to be the starting climb of the mountain is now a paved road. we used to park at the bottom of the mountain and ride up, spend the day riding tech singletrack, then ride down kamikaze style on the wider 4x4 trail until the bottom.
the new trails are just blue and green lines with one "black" trail that has more climbs than downs and they are all pretty much smooth. the place used to be filled with dudes on fullsus or burly hardtail bikes, now its full of guys in skinny, rigid, 29er bikes who look more suited to riding road than mtb.
i find myself one of the last few riding the old trails that are still technical and change with the seasons. then sometimes i ride out further from the trail head just to find some sweet untouched trails.
  • + 1
 they even smoothed out and widened one of my favorite trails that is now part of the network. i can now ride it crazy fast but it lacks the character it used to have.
it was called "tak-tak" trail, which basically means to shake or shaker.
it used to have sections of steep steps carved from the dirt by the natives who also used it to go about, so it was a real challenge to ride especially when it would rain and the dirt got super slick. imagine riding down a steep dirt staircase with a layer of sloppy clay.
those were the days Smile
  • + 1
 Jet Steam.... Don't know you but great comment!!! When is the last time you saw anyone on Bedframe, Paper bag or the Gimp who you didn't take out to ride with you??? There are thankfully no crowds on the old school gnar....

I'm aging and was spending a lot of time the last few years having fun on the amazing new flowy (for here) stuff like Power Slave, Grand Emphorium in Robson, multiple Rossland trails and weekend trips to Silverstar as my kids grew but now that they are teenagers and their friends are starting to ride we are doing more and more steep stuff again and it's nice to be home...... old school is my school.
  • + 3
 If it's natural leave it natural, if it's man made set it as hard as you like. Trails can be as difficult as you like, as long as they are marked appropriately.
  • + 1
 Totally agree with this article. Re the BC Bike Race, if you want it smoothed out, maybe you should pick an easier race to ride. Smoothing it out diminishes a rider's cred in finishing a manicured race course and devalues the event. There are plenty of other smoother races out there.
  • + 1
 As a both a trail buder and advocate as well as a land owner. There is more to this than just who we are buding trails for. We also are building trails that meet the governing agency's rules...which by most standards will fall in to the category of this discussion at least in the US. Land managers are trying to figure out how to meet the needs of the masses while also filling smaller extreme niches....Thankfully in our region the older established trail systems meet a lot of those needs!
  • + 1
 I guess you'll be going back to little wheels to add some challenge Wink I rode Vedder a couple of days ago and it's in great shape. I remember riding the rock face at the bottom of Dilemma 15 year ago with with skinny tires, rim brakes and no suspension and finding it quite a thrill to survive. Now on a modern bike no big deal and the trail is far gnarlier than it was back then. Over at Sumas people come from everywhere to ride the flow trail but I don't see many people over at Time Killer. It's nice to have access to both Tech and Flow. I like to do both in the same ride when I can and here usually we can. Good luck at BCBR
  • + 1
 Some of the more psyched riders around here, with the assistance of one of our rangers, have been getting together a couple days a month to build a really sweet tech trail. I found it hilarious when some "lesser-skilled" riders came through while we were working and started giving us crap about "cleaning" the trails.

I said "You realize we're making the trails better, right?"

They just didn't get it... I guess I mistakenly thought everyone was looking for the same thing when it came to good trails.
  • + 1
 If you can't ride the tough section, here are your choices

A) Walk it
B) Practice it
C) Don't ride the trail

Too freaking easy. Jim is an adult and should think like one. If it's over your head then don't do it. If the sport intices you then you'll work at CONQUERING it. Not work hard, dumbing down anyting you can't ride!!!!

This sport is all about Progression. May it be going faster, more skilled on tech stuff, or more stronger on climbs etc.
My wife don't do much tech but she loves to progress in speed in climbs and the semi smooth trails. She doesn't feel like she needs to progress in the same manner as I do. So she don't ride the trails I'd perfer. Where I like to Conquer ladder stunts, Jumps, tech lines and tough steep trails.

So build your flow lines, I don't care, I may not ever ride them. But leave the tough ones out there that's been there a long time.

As for building new trails I agree don't leave us stranded, the riders who strive to progress in the nature of the sport of conquering tough section or a tough trail, at least have a future plans for us guys to keep our stoke too
  • + 2
 It blows my mind that people won't simply choose C but go out of their way to dig up rocks, build shitty armoring and cut roots just so they don't have to do A or B. There are definitely some moves where I'm constantly practicing as I'm only able to ride the feature 25% of the time and there are definitely moves where I just walk it but never do I want to make it easier.
  • + 1
 Im a freight train. Slow going up and as fast as possible descending. While flowing trails are fun for awhile, I become complacent riding them and my mind starts to wander making me ride slower. The more technical and "balls in your throat" steep trails keep me on the edge where I push harder and focus solely on whats ahead.
  • + 1
 Couldn't agree more, many of my local trails are challenging, mostly single track or drops/wooden features etc. I've only been riding 3 years, and if I don't like a feature I go around it, I'll hit that feature one day, but for now I'll let the others enjoy it. As for my trail building association we are actually in the middle of making a fairly steep trail with some big berms a nasty rock garden, but also an easy way out for those who don't feel comfortable. That's how trail building should be done. Not these glass smooth flow trails everywhere ! I want to be jarred around on my rides!
  • + 1
 New flow trails get people into the sport and there should be plenty of room for them in most areas, but don't dumb down the trails the experienced riders were already enjoying unless people from that user group are consistently getting hurt in a certain section. It's about risk vs. reward and fine tuning the ratio so challenges are enjoyable, rather than unnecessarily risky (or boring), for the intended style (green, blue or black).
  • + 1
 Totally agree. At my local trails there's a tricky drop-off section. I spent a while practicing my manuals so i could nail the section. When I got back to the trails it had been dumbed down! Annoying. I would also argue that 'flow' trails need more maintanance, as beginners often lock up their brakes, and brake in the wrong places, creating braking bumps. The trail builders then have to smooth these out to keep Jim the accountant happy. Much easier to leave trails natural and not worry to much if they get a few ruts
  • + 1
 That's not Shepshed is it??
  • + 1
 I don't know why places don't leave the gnar for those who want it and then put an alt-line for those who want to avoid it. Best of both worlds and we can all ride together. I rode a bunch of XC stuff around Whistler, and loved that all the really ugly stuff had an easier way around for suckers like me. Building easy trail might create more new mountain bikers on a trail, but it'll just lead to less legit mountain bikers, as they look elsewhere for challegnes, so there is no real gain. If anything there's a loss, cause avid riders are more invested. I think it's best when local riders just build trail they want to ride. Large organizations have to please too many, and they just water down what the locals really want. Where I ride, the IMBA has just made things worse in my opinion, where as the best stuff to ride in my trails system is designed and built by a crew of dedicated local riders who just want to make their rides as good as possible.
  • + 1
 There is a reason that the average suspension of a trail bike is now 5in. and we have up to 2.5 inch knobbies to fit within the rear chainstays of the current bikes. It is NOT for more uber groomed trail to ride. Its because technology and the evolution of mtn bikes has allowed us to conquer and divide what was once considered insane, as the feasible norm now.

At 50yrs old and still riding trail and dh rigs, I have seen and ridden the bikes from full rigid to the current phenom whizz bang rigs The other thing that has changed since I was just a sperm cell in chucks is the decline of the gritty stubborn youthful determination on the LARGE SCALE that was once the norm when I was young. Today most folk (especially here in the spoiled U.S.) demands a out, a easy way, a entitled shortcut (mo-flowy).
I agree with Mike Levy. If the trail is too sketch, walk it, or learn to ride sections until they all come together and you can ride the whole line. Otherwise get an accounting job next to Jim and a PS4 and work your virtual warrior skillz instead.
  • + 1
 Well I am down the list of comments an usually do not post anyway but this article struck a nerve with me. Recently I rode one of my local Squamish trails with a buddy who has not been riding long enough to know how the original trail was before it got dumbed down to be more "flowy". I told him how this trail used to have some very technical up hill sections and how happy I was to be able to send the up track with out stopping or dabbing, usually about 50% of the time.
The old school tech kept a lot of beginner riders off this trail. Now it's part of the jumbie loop. I do not understand why the trail builders are spending valuable time and money to dumb down the trails when they could be building new ones and fixing up some of the older ones. Please leave something for us to work towards becoming a better mountain biker!!! I don't want to risk injury ridding double blacks just so I can have something technical to ride.
  • + 1
 I dunno. I like a mix of choppy, technical, keep-you-on-your toes riding AND smooth flowy stuff too. Then again, I love whipping my singlespeed around Bend (where gears are utterly unnecessary, as is suspension) AND I also love hammering hard into berms and using up ALL of my travel on my squishy geared bike. The right tool for the job is my feeling. Same with trails. I don't want them to all be the same. Even in the Sandy Ridge trail system, which is the closest "flow" trails near to my location there is a mix of smooth like butter berms and jump lines, and fast, rocky, rooty heads-up tits-up descending. The only thing it really lacks is multiple lines to choose from. At the end of the day, I don't care if JoeBob from accounting comes out to ride, but I DO care about more trails being built, that aren't two or more hours away so if accommodating JoeBob with a beginnerish trail gets me more trail access to technical riding further up the mountain, I'm all for it.
  • + 1
 Difficult one, I know what your saying, dont build every track to some boring standard so everyone can have "access" so we can do all that politically correct bullshit. But I do remember seeing a load of young foreign stundents on there rental bikes having a great time in the Forrest of Dean, just boys and girls at there first trail center getting a taste for it with out being worked over by some epic decent, getting a taste for it and will no doubt want to get amonsgt the harder stuff if they kept it up. but beginers dont need lots of smooth options just the one then its a case o going to get that buzz from the fear of going of wet rocks, roots and hucking of drops and jumps on the other trails.
  • + 1
 After reading a few comments, I thought I'd throw out my different opinion.
I live in NM, and we have rock, lots of rock. I wanted to try mountain biking, and purchased a hardtail bike because of the cost of entry. I made it two seasons before I gave it up. Most of our trails are tech, and the fun to work ratio just wasn't worth it for me. I spent the next 3 years riding BMX. But as I'm getting older and fatter, I thought I'd try the mountain bike thing again. I saved and was able to purchase a used full suspension bike (a good one, did my research) and I'm fully back on board with the mountain bike.
But I do not have great confidence in my ability even though I'm pretty stable on a bike. The most fun for me is to go fast, but I'm not blowing through that rock garden at full speed.
That being said, having all trails sanitized is not something I want either. Sometimes flow trails are fun, sometimes tech trails are fun. But I there needs to be both. I have a few co-workers who might ride a bike, but without putting then on a $4K bike, the tech trails around here would just be a frustration.
  • + 1
 Overall I like it to be hard. But sometimes when it's real hard it's over and done with almost before you begin. Ideally I like to go really hard, then easy for a bit, then back again. I can do that for hours. But you know, trying different things is great. Getting stuck in a rut can have bad outcomes. Sometimes you take a spanking, sometimes you're pumping for all you're worth, sometimes you're whipping it, sometimes you're smashing it like there's no tomorrow. It's all good. Sanitised or rough, just so long as I can get a rhythm going
  • + 1
 Eureka I just figured out how we can please everyone...The mountain bike assocations should be pushing 29" 140mm bikes wheels for every begginer and intermediate out there. In turn they can leave the trails a little more raw bc of the the fudge factor built in with riding such a bike. This leaves the advanced riders open to riding 27.5 and 26." on trails that might actually be challenging. This will also free up all that volunteer labor from manicuring the forest floors and sweeping out the understory thereby expediting the rate at which new trails are built.
  • - 1
 Why not just ride an old banana seat road bike on the trails if you're so awesome and need a bigger challenge? Cause, you do know, even 26er mountain bikes were specifically made to make trail riding easier, which you don't like.
  • + 1
 If the trail is gnarly leave it gnarly.
Let some sections rut out, get full of space nuggets and let the roots come to the surface.
If you can't ride it go ride elsewhere.
Better yet take some time to improve your skill set and figure out how to ride the rough stuff.
Gnarly trails should be left gnarly.
I shattered bones in my left foot like dropping a teacup on concrete back in 2010.
Mistake in a rock garden.
Four screws, one titanium plate and 4 months off the bike.
Not once did I think about asking to have that section of trail "made easier" or "flowed out"
I just went back and figured out how to do it right.

Also, gnarly trails should continue to be part of any trail associations master plan.
There is too much carting to beginner trails for all and fast/flowy/jump/PB dubstep edit trails right now.
Reality is 90 percent of the riders out there are never going to do massive back flips or supermans while riding.
Why are all new trails catering only to that jump style or XC Strava time trails?
I love me a good jump trail like Jedi Mind Trick, Rockstar and Pipedream up a Silver Star.
But lets not forget about the gnar.
I'm not saying we should go back to old school, tight cornered, slow speed, wheelie drop, skinny riding trials.
Been there done that.
Borrrring.
But lets not forget to build some wide arch cornered, fast rocky/rooty, steep shoot section trails too.
Trails that will scare you once in a while, make your a**hole pucker up.
Don't be afraid to push yourself out of your smooth sailing comfort zone once in a while people.

All types of riders, all types of trials, all of the time.
  • + 1
 I'm thinking, you're thinking, trails like Comfortably Numb.
  • + 1
 I neither agree nor disagree with most of what Mike says. In the end, who the heck cares? The movement is developing into a place where there are more trails - period. Who can argue with more trails? In general there is a healthy mix of trails of varying difficulty levels and styles. If this is lacking in your area, then do something about it - either through your local advocacy group to ensure anything you develop exists for the long term, or build illegally and take your chances. It's so easy to get wrapped up in this discussion, but let's keep things in perspective: think back to 20 or 25 years ago, and compare the facilities that exist now vs. those that did then. I'll bet that most are happier with the place the mtb is at now compared to then.

The only thing I remotely take exception with from this article is that trail associations are focussed mostly on tourism dollars, number of members, or grant money. As someone actively involved in the local club, I actually think it's the opposite: most people involved in an official capacity are simply involved because they absolutely love the sport, and want to show other people how great it is such that they can enjoy it themselves. Greater club numbers, tourism dollars, and grant money are all just positive by-products of this that help leverage for more facilities, and consequently create more enjoyment for all.
  • + 1
 Cool article, and some good comments as well. My Take? Adding green trails when feasible to systems is great. But I do not like sanitizing existing trails to make it "faster" or "easier". That Ideal type of experience is best had in a bike park where things are built from the ground up to be optimized. Those trails/runs are awesome and a blast to ride. But so are trails that have natural features that are not "ideal" and make you think, test your skills or get off and walk around it.

Living in the Southwest USA, I race/ride Arizona, Bootleg Canyon, So. California and Angel Fire and there are some really fun flowy trails, and some really nasty skill/confidence testing trails and I like them all for different reasons. taking it all down a notch to the lowest common denominator would suck, for everyone. Even the beginners cause they would never progress.
  • + 1
 For beginners, look for a big hill to ride down and a great little woodland area to practice riding over roots and rocks. But I agree after getting to Downhill earlier this year its better and more fun to experience a tough trail which helps you improve quicker as a rider. I mean I started first a Billinge woods ( Lancashire ) and now I ride Macclesfield and Antur Stiniog both great DH Trails.
  • + 1
 Flow trails are for bike parks. Mountain biking should be in the f@cking mountains on f@cking mountain trails.
Take your first ride on something smooth and see how fun it is, then something a little harder and so on.
If you don't like the challenge then enjoy what you do like and stay on the smooth path. Don't f@ck it up for
the rest of us who like to have a challenge.

www.pinkbike.com/u/topsog/blog/Technical-Trails-and-you.html
  • + 1
 IMO maintenance should be done to ensure the trail is 'safe' to ride that water isn't eroding the trail further or pooling on the trail.

By Safe, I don't mean dumbed down, I mean if the trail is falling apart such that the consequence of falling is great for even the most experienced rider can be dire, or if its a rutted mess such that water is constantly running down the trail or puddling. Fix It.

BUT when you are in an place where the amount of riders increases the trail WILL become easier.

Best example is Boogiman on Seymour.

It was always classified as a DIFFICULT trail. Don't ride it unless you can ride it, so people come and figure, how hard can it be? I'm going to ride it, then they realize its hard. Walk AROUND the stunts, if you have one or two people a week doing this, then whatever, but now you have 100's riding Seymour a week, now you can have 50 people who think they can ride this and can't, so they too walk around, next thing you know you have an established ride around.

Work has been done on this trail but IMO the work was needed since things were falling apart and there was too much water on the trail. But the ridearounds are in and now a part of the trail.

Is this bad? Well I think its human nature to take the easy path, if the easy option is there people will ride it.

What is protecting the whistler trails from being dumbed down is that WINTER closes them every year so people aren't riding them when its really wet so water is mostly off the trails, also its relatively dry in Whistler so water erosion isn't as much of a factor as it is in North Vancouver.

I think its a numbers game, the more people that ride the easier trails will become.
  • + 1
 I'd still consider myself a beginner in comparison to most people on the site and I still agree with this article wholeheartedly. I don't want trails served to me on a silver plater. Instead I want trails to be smooth and easy when I learn better technique and skill. Also places like Whistler, while I'd love to go there someday, I wouldn't even consider right now. I'm still to green and have a lot to learn first.
  • + 1
 Trail bikes today are so capable, yet the trails being built are probably best ridden on a short travel or hard tail rig.... seems like we are kinda going backwards..

I still like the classic/old school routes, hiking or game trails that turned out to be great for riding; off camber corners, eroded death ruts, rock gardens, root fields... riding should feel like an adventure and sometimes it should be scary...

The other problem with IMBA/flow trails is that they homogenate the riding experience, the local colour of trails is muted, everywhere starts to look the same, berm..... reverse grade... berm... flowy bit... berm.... awkward corner just when it was getting fast.....
  • - 1
 Maybe you should go back to riding a banana seat bike in order to challenge yourself.
  • + 4
 My favorite thing about "flow trails" is that they reduce traffic and erosion on the steep/tech "old school" trails.
  • + 1
 We have some nice, steep rugged trails as well as some flowy trails. Here in hungary, all trails are illegal, except only ONE.
Btw if you don't like the trails (no maintenance, they are really shitty here) then build one for yourself (that's what i did) and maintain it.
  • + 1
 Though I agree, the economic argument is a tangible "better for everyone" situation that everyone recognizes, and our arguments for harder trails seem mostly like elitists claiming to know what's best for everyone to rationalize efforts be selfishly directed at their own ideal trails. People understand distribution and dissemination of wealth (looooooool), they don't understand sharp rocks and wet roots on already steep, dangerous trails.
  • + 3
 I don't recognize it. Please explain to me why more riders and more money benefits me in any way shape or form? Does having to get to the trails on Wednesday to find a camping spot benefit me? Does having to stop 30 times during my ride for trail traffic benefit me? Does regrading my favorite steep line so some lbs can sell another dozen bikes to beginners benefit me?
  • + 3
 Pretty hypocritical arguments. You're complaining about partaking in a busy activity, but also actively contributing to how busy it is? That's like complaining about bad traffic while driving your car in it.

More riders and money benefit you because it causes these facilities to exist - it's been a progressive development, not an instant, overnight, change in the scene. If you're not into the crowds or funding, by all means move to a town where no other mountain bikers exist (and consequently no trails). Enjoy the scene there.
  • + 2
 If you can read, then I can explain it, dthomp325.....

Easier trails keep novices away from the harder trails. Which means the gnarly stuff you enjoy doesn't have novices walking or falling all over the place and blocking the trails. If you are constantly being stopped by lesser riders, then you are clearly not riding the harder trails that you claim you can. There shouldn't be traffic jams on gnarly trails because the experience riders should be making their way through them, right? Logic seems to win over your "stopping 30 times" argument.

As for camping, are you actually suggesting that the novice mountain biker population has expanded so much that they are the cause of all the camp sites to be filled up? Correct me if I'm wrong, but more goes on in state and national parks then just mountain biking. Parks in my area, without a single mountain bike trail, are still always packed. Logic wins again.
  • + 1
 There is a push to build more flow trails and some beginner trails. Lots of local areas do not have a beginner trails so many now are looking to add that to the trail list.

More riders is a good thing, it means more people stoked on trail, more money for local associations to build more trails (including more technical and difficult trails), also means more vollies to help build and maintain trails. All trails need maintenance.

Over maintaining of a trail is the result of a bored builder stuck fixing some other line, that maybe could have been put in a better local to allow more fun, to roll down a rock face, or increase trail length. Instead this guy is stuck filling holes. With government trail regulation making it more difficult to get trails approved, we might continue to see more of this.
  • + 1
 Flow trails are great because most people don't want to have to walk the tightrope on every ride - why must the author of this article demand that people must progress at all times - it's so tiring an annoying (like a vegan militant). Take the day off, ride a nice flow trail...relax a little!!! Flow trails are the opposite of annoying veganesque trail progression nazis, and sometimes a floaty magic carpet flow trail is pretty f'ing cool to ride on...
  • + 1
 Hands up, how many of you actually do a serious amount of trail work? I'm 66 and I spend about 750 hours every year building and taking care of riding trails. Mostly I deal with drainage issues but some I work on to improve flow. Others I leave alone for the DH crowd or for the younger speed demons. I have raced but after a lot of broken bones, I like to stay safe. Still love challenging technical sections but now I focus on making cool flowing trails to climb, fly along and yes, drift down enduro style. Please stop the silliness of "us versus them" and this BS about dumbing down unless you are involved in making riding happen, for example by helping build and take care of our trail networks.
  • + 1
 Mike you nailed it . Totaly with you on this !

More people to the sport they say . AND I SAY FOR WHAT GOOD ?

Are the bikes or parts any cheaper ? NO in fact quite opposite.

Are there more gnarly ( adrenalin = fun = ) trails for experienced riders Who actually put a much more to the community and biking itself ???
NO In fact their trails are being torn down because their trails are get known with more and more riders coming on them. And because a rookie Jimmy who seen too much NWD trying to do a backflip on 5ft gap jump is suing everyone for his own stupidity and risk. Every officer and city puppet waving yelling Liability, Liability .

Are the bikepasses cheeper, lineups smaller, ?

And we can continue .

I don't have anything against beginner. Everyone used to be one . And I support most of them .

But can someone name me why is everyone trying to bring MASSES in to the sport ?
Racing stands out of this topic as because of racing tracks are definitely not getting more user friendly .

So Why the masses ? Why are masses better for biking ? I
  • + 1
 Amen. Our trails here in CO are already crowded, the last thing current riders want is more riders. It's funny how some counties are perfectly OK with steep gnarly tech trails (Larimer, JeffCo, Mesa), yet they have to be dumbed down in other counties (Boulder). It seems like trail orgs aggressively seek members and projects and the more funding they get, the easier the trails become.
  • + 1
 There are two sides to every issue and in one respect I agree that I don't want to make this sport super-easy so every tom, dick, or harry from accounting decides to go out and buy a bike. However, I would much rather that "type" of rider was relegated to trails that suite their skills rather than jamming up the intermediate and hard trails every time they eat sh!t. Nothing wipes the smile off my face like having to come to a grinding halt in the middle of a trail so I can wait for some d-bag to pick up their crap and shattered ego.

There is also the preservation of natural space that occurs when trails are built. I'd rather see land used to build trails (no matter what skill level they're for) than it go to building a mall or parking garage.
  • + 2
 Totally agree. That's exactly what I don't get about so many of the attitudes in here. Proper level trails keeps proper level riders on those trails and away from harder stuff. As you say, if only harder trails existed, lower level riders would be walking and falling and blocking the trails constantly and ruining any potential fun the higher level riders may have had anyway.
  • + 1
 (IMBA, local trail chiefs please hear Mike Levy's opinion, and the overwhelming comment feed-back.)

We want variety and challenge. Variety, the spice of life. Challenge, the thrill is a big (very big) part of why we ride. Variety and challenge means no one single type of trail. Many types! Pump tracks in the local urban park. Sweet. Awkward rooty, rock-strewn goodness in the woods. Sweet. Flowy, smooth, double and table-filled goodness. Sweet. Mixed single track with A, B and C lines (Jim from accounting's still not confident enough to air the step-down over the rock patch? No worries, let him take B track around it.) Also sweet.

Danger is one of the considerations that is shaping the approach of the IMBA and other trail designers who are in direct conversations with Land Managers. What both sides should bring in focus (and no doubt often are) is that challenge and dangers are very largely independent metrics. A foot-wide plank elevated 30 feet above sharp rocks is "easy" but very dangerous. Trail design is getting more and more conscious, but also -- this is the worry being highlighted in the opinons here -- too timid about challenge.

Also, Jim from accounting has recently been studying how Nico Lau hits switchbacks....no wait, that's the rest of us. The sport is evolving. Skills are improving. (Front-flipping Crabapple hits!)

The real element of tension between minimizing danger, bringing in new riders and providing challenge must not be resolved at the expense of challenge.
  • + 1
 As with most things, it comes down to finding a balance. The easy trails and flow trails have a place just as the steep and gnarly ones do. It's easy to dismiss 'Jim from accounting' or 'dismiss they money factors involved but they are important. When you are talking about bike parks, who need people buying lift tickets to stay in business, providing accessible terrain to all skill levels is critical to survive. If it takes building a fair amount if smoother stuff then do be it. Because the people riding those trails buy tickets too and that revenue keeps the lifts spinning for everyone else.
  • + 1
 Apparently we have all been thinking it! It would be interesting to hear the counter point to this story (insert Dan Akroyd and Gilda Radner joke here). It seems to me, in my community, this movement is spearheaded by well meaning shiny people looking to couch themselves in the "Politically Correct" , , , Earning your stripes, Paying your dues use to be the price of admission and I liked it
  • + 1
 The guys building Mount Bachelor's new bike park need to read this, cause as it stands that place is so easy it's boring. I wont be going back there till they build some harder lines.
  • + 1
 I did the BCBR in 2013 and I would not change anything about the trails. They need to be challenging, it keeps you on your toes. I think the XC racing trails are too groomed, they need to be more REAL.
  • + 2
 The crazier and scarier the trail less likely anyone else will be in my way.. if you're worried about crashing hard in the woods get a road bike WAH WAH
  • + 0
 You're preaching to the converted. Do you think anyone who's on Pinkbike doesn't have huge balls and can ride the gnarliest, nastiest stuff in existence? Make everything harder, WAY HARDER. We can't get enough of it.

Besides the price of a capable machine will keep "Jim in accounting" out of OUR sport more readily than any trail.
  • + 2
 Say what you will about the proliferation of easy, flowy trails, but I for one do care about local tourism money and government grants.
  • + 1
 In one article we get complaints about the trails getting too smooth and easy. Then in the next article we are told we should be riding larger wheels in order to smooth out the rough trails..Make up you're f n mind.
  • + 3
 I live about 45 mins drive from where they just held the EWS. I therefore have no idea what you are talking about Wink
  • + 1
 TBF they didn't take the EWS down BBB lol
  • + 1
 Then surely you've seen the change at glentress over the last 10 years? Agreed though the tweed valley has the variety that means there is plenty for everyone!
  • + 1
 @mtbfraser: Agreed the manicured red/blue stuff gets all the focus and the black is left to decay, however the off piste stuff is just fantastic and easily accesssible so hey, can't complain!

@poah: I was up doing stages 5 & 8 the other night, awesome - if somewhat peanut buttery after the rain!
  • + 1
 I'm going tomorrow I think but my fitness and skill level will leave me hanging about freeride, BBB, pennels vennel, Electric Blue and blue velvet.

my son Lewis (9) face planted on BBB so even the easy stuff can cause issues for the young and skilless lol
  • + 0
 Why does everyone need to be so critical and so judgemental? I hate when riders call other riders out or say they're posers and shouldn't be doing the sport. Everyone can ride bikes if they want guys. Right now local mtb associations are recognizing a spike In new users so they're building new "flowy" trails to accomadate that growth and keep the new riders from getting hurt on more technical trails and steered away from the sport. The more riders the more money for these organizations right? I live in North Vancouver, ride for a shop, and think of myself as an advanced rider. I can say having ridden almost every trail here and a vast majority of trails all across BC that tech trails out way flowy easy trails by 30 - 1. So people complaining saying that we are over saturated with easy trails is ridiculous. I would bet that every rider on pinkbike enjoys fast flowy jumpy bermy trails and if you don't then you're not riding it fast enough. I go to whistler very often and I only ride dirt merchant and a line. Not because I don't enjoy tech but because mindless big jumps is so fun and we don't have that at home. We as mtn bikers need to enjoy all trails and appreciate all the work that's being done. If you're skilled enough you can make any trail fun. Stop complaining and start digging if you want to see change. There are only so many people working for these trail organizations and they build based on the needs of the entire community not just 1 part. And anyways who build s tech trails? Rutted out rooty rock lines all started as a dirt or loam trails that got ridden a ton weathered and not maintained then turned into tech (with the exception of some ofcourse). Ride your bike, have fun, and stop complaining please!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 So much irony in this post about being critical and judgmental.
  • + 1
 Most people bitch and complain, precious few actually help out. That'll likely never change. I'm an advanced intermediate rider. I build flow and deal with drainage. Beginners like my wife have a very hard time riding almost any trail here on the BC Coast. Some people even refer to taking care of mudpits as dumbing down. All I can say is, grab some tools and put your muscle where your mouth is.
  • + 0
 Couldn't agree more. I made a comment to the 402 trail building company that have been building a lot of trails on the eastern shore of the US. They don't get mountain biking. The trails are supper easy and safe, they don't shape the lips off the jumps, the berms are long and is impossible to hit them too fast from the way the build the trail. It sucks it's boring. I made a suggestion to them and they just told me, that's what the bike parks want, so they can get more people into the sport...basically money... Super lame regarsless
  • + 1
 I hate when a track is rated full black because of 2 huge fat gap between super slick and almost flat lines. I prefer to keep my wheels on the floor and make my disc brake glow.
  • + 1
 Where i live they only make stuff for beginners and kids which is dumb because the little jump line can keep them busy all day there is no need for more beginner stuff. Lets build bigger and build gnarlier!!
  • + 2
 i think its great to have a few beginner trails,but only building or ''fixing'' old trails to be beginner flowy would be monochrome and boring.
  • + 0
 Flow trails seem to be the new trend and are a nice change to ride every now and then. What I REALLY dont like is a flow trail that has a 30cm drop and the trail is marked as black. In Australia this needs to stop, a fire trail with a log across it is blue 'by IMBA standards'.
  • + 3
 I just built something gnarly and not everyone is into it but that was the point...
  • + 3
 Sage advice from an old lady: if you don't like what's out there, go build something you DO like. End of story.
  • + 1
 go big or go the fuck home.. a great quote from andreau lacondaguy in one of his video parts was ' it does not matter what happens to you the sport will always move on without you
  • + 2
 The technical parts make the whole trail! Thats what makes racing fun! Thats the reason people do the sport and watch the sport! We like adrenaline!
  • + 2
 wow this aint nsmb. Mostly comments on nsmb are about trails being too dificult and how moothing out trails is a good thing. Pink bike readers like challenge.
  • + 1
 SShredder - NSMB is where the dumb it down people hang out
  • + 1
 '''so let's not try to make it for everyone by only focusing on building the easiest trails possible in the name of flow. ''' SELFISH PRICK
  • + 2
 You should adjust your skill level to the track, not the track to your skill level.
  • + 2
 Word. While we need trails for all ability levels, we certainly don't need all ability levels on all trails.
  • + 2
 I wish I had harder or more physically demanding trails around me everything near me has gotten to easy
  • + 3
 every rider should not be able to clear every obstacle.
  • + 1
 Lines like crabapple hits could be considered "flowy" since tgey arent overly technical but they definitely arent a beginner trail, what about advanced flow trails?
  • + 1
 ''....but let's not forget that mountain biking isn't supposed to be easy, safe, or quick to master. '' Its only supposed to be fun.
  • + 3
 STOP TRAIL PUSSIFICATION!!
  • + 1
 Yah someone should write an article about that!! ;>
  • + 2
 Come to ottawa, the main network here has a distinct lack of flow except when its covered by snow.
  • + 1
 Learn to jump over roots and rocks... there's flow but you have to work for it Wink
  • + 1
 I hate how many new trails are "one size fits all", one size fits all doesn't exist. I'd rather ride a plain old hard trail than try to make an easy trail tougher.
  • + 1
 I´m actually changing some of my tracks to more hardcore versions. Some features that I considered "hard" some time ago, need to get harder as my riding evolves.
  • + 1
 id just like to say Wollongong in NSW Australia has NO bike park so quit whinging!
  • + 1
 The horrid truth is this; the pacifist will always win because theres WAY more of them. And they are the loudest whiners. Frown
  • + 1
 Judging by this thread, the elitist assholes seem to be able to whine with the best of them.
  • + 1
 Come to the east coast (Bromont), we don't have this sort of problem around here!
  • + 1
 We look at the Bell build grants, and just about every one is for a flow trail
  • + 2
 Smoothing out that section would be a capital sin.
  • + 0
 "flow trails" are for cross bikes and road bikes. They make great connectors btwn roads on a longer ride.
steep tech/gnar trails are for mtb's
  • + 1
 I was just thinking this. I like flow trails on my cross bike. I find them really boring on my MTB.
  • + 2
 Keep fight'n the good fight mike!
  • + 1
 @mikelevy. I seem to remember you making this same case regarding trails at Vedder a few months back. Keep fighting!
  • + 1
 Everyone go ride naked this year, it's gnarlier...Jim will get bummed...and bail.
  • + 1
 I don't care i'll risk any trail if I think I can do it... Never broke a bone yet or got to seriously injured lol.
  • + 1
 There is a time and a place for flow trails. It is NOT every time, every place.
  • + 3
 No 9er lines!!!
  • + 1
 Somebody just died riding at Whistler. I think the trails are gnarly enough fella.
  • + 2
 Amen!
  • + 1
 That's what girls want : hard ! So no choice Smile Hard was possible !
  • + 1
 lets keep in mind i can probably bench more then all of you
  • + 1
 WHY YOU SO STRONG
  • + 1
 GET OFF MA TRAIL!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Where did my last comment go? Database maintenance time?
  • + 1
 the people that do the least, usually bitch and moan the most
  • + 1
 That is why I go to Bootleg canyon to get my ass kicked!
  • + 1
 MTB Cypress supports this editorial.
  • + 1
 That's what she said
  • + 1
 Mike Levy
THANKYOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This needed saying.
I must say most of the articles I have read from you are very very good. You seem an intelligent guy, and you clearly enjoy a bit of philosophy/soul searching.
Keep it up. MTB needs more people like you. 9048590348503498593486534756 +props Smile
  • + 0
 I just Have 3 words or letters actually MSA
  • + 0
 Yup. 1837 and Tak-Tak beat me up worse than any other trail I've ever ridden. And it was awesome!
  • + 1
 DO THEY ACTUALLY BUILD TRAILS OR JUST LET THEM ROT .....
  • + 0
 Props Mike! totally with you
  • + 1
 word
  • + 0
 Someone email this link to mammoth
  • + 0
 We can do both.

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