As fall approaches, trail work gets done. Most people who ride trails don't really think about trail work (some have joked that mysterious trail fairies come out at night to build coasters, bridges, do rockwork and lovingly scatter pine needles over the forest floor). The reality on the North Shore is that most of the work has been and still is being done by volunteers. Trail grunts, you know who you are. This is a shout out to some veteran builders who's work has given many riders and trail users lots of joy. This third installment goes to Digger and For Ladies Only
,Digger - For Ladies Only
The burly Digger
"Ladies" is the classic Shore trail. It used to be slow, technical, rooty and more than a bit threatening. Ladies was that moody, but beautiful girlfriend who'd taunt & tantalize you, but then rear out with claws and cut you a new one if you didn't give her your full attention. Digger brought Ladies into the world in the mid 90s and, in 2009/2010 Digger has given Ladies new life. His end product shows his long experience working in dirt, wood and rock; Ladies has been reborn in golden soil, lovingly replanted ferns and glowing red and yellow cedar.
It's hard to remember now that riding has progressed so much, but Ladies (and Digger's route-finding ability) was far ahead of its time. Digger's work is influential and has inspired builders all over the world. In the days of rigid hardtails with canti-brakes, Ladies incorporated riding stunts that were inconceivable. If free-riding as we know it had its birthplace in the woods of North Vancouver, Ladies was the quintessential freeride trail.
When did you start doing trail work?
"Big Stupid" is one of the signature lines on Ladies
In 1984.Why did you start?
We had lousy bikes and there weren't many trails. One of the trails we could ride was St Mary's. I built a shortcut around one spot that none of us could ride.
Do you look to inspire other builders or riders with your work or are you doing it for yourself and your friends?
Sharon on one of the many bridges of Ladies
When I first started in mid to late 80's it was just for myself and my friends, but then there weren't a lot of people riding back then. Now, I love to help people learn how to build trails. There's a whole section of my latest video (NSX 10) devoted to trail work I've got years of experience and hate to see people make the same mistakes I did when I first started. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep working because I get carried away talking to people who're so excited about the work I'm doing.Chainsaw or hand saw?
Handsaw. Looks like I'm still the last hold-out. I've got a chainsaw and I'll use it if I have a huge pile of wood to work with.
Building used to be and some might say is still a questionable activity, have you ever been fined or threatened with actions?
The classic Ladies teeter-totter; the first one ever on the Shore. Maybe the first one ever on a trail? Just one of the products of Digger's fertile mind
Yes I have. The District of North Vancouver sent me a "cease and desist" letter about 7 years ago after I built the Wade Gap off the third switchback (author's note - that 40 foot canyon gap is deactivated - Wade Simmons broke his femur on an attempt
). Tell us about some politics that you've had to over come?
Well you know this because Mitch and me came up with the plan to start the NSMBA in 1997 and dragged you into it. Since then most of the politics have been around environmental concerns about trail building. I think that's more than a bit misplaced - after all look at the amount of houses and roads built in what was once woods. We live in a big city with lots of people. We're blessed with mountains and woods right next to the city. I think trails and biking or hiking or running get people out into the environment. Then these people appreciate the environment better. Then they might also understand and appreciate the forest and the mountains. And that's not such a bad thing because they might fight to protect it.
How did you learn to do trail work?
Some of the trail has easier re-routes; but the rooted tech-fest of the Shore still remains for those who can ride it
I taught myself. (Authors Note: Digger pioneered so many trail features that I cannot even begin to list them definitively. He built ladder bridges over wet sections. Then he "built them high, built them sick, built them skinny". He saw rideable rock faces before anyone even began to think of riding them & pioneered the use of "Digger's gold" to lay on top of trailwork to finish sections. Something for which Digger doesn't get enough credit is his attention to route finding; he hikes routes over and over again before putting in a single shovel. He's still one of the few builders to not use a chainsaw.Have you ever built a secret trail? Is it still a secret?
Almost all trails I first built were secret. I would leave the entrances and exits covered up. But riders are lazy and don't respect that effort - they want to ride into the trails.How then would people find trails?
Buy a map. Go explore. Ride uphill. Ride around. Don't just expect to see the trails right in front of you like a gift. Go find some friends so you can explore. Finding new things is a fun experience. And when you find new secret trails don't uncover the entrances and exits. Let other people have the fun of discovery
What is your favourite food?
A section of the Baden-Powell connecting Ladies and Lower Ladies in the snow
CheeseWhat is your favourite drink?
Coffee. Bean Around the World Coffee
What changes to the public's perception of MTB trails would you like to see happen
D'arcy being "Semi-Retarded".
I'd really like to see the trails stay challenging, but I can understand why people want easier trails. I know that sounds strange because I got some flak from people for all the work on Ladies, but remember when that trail was first built it was smooth and fast - because it hadn't eroded! All I've done is bring it back, but that doesn't mean every corner has to be bermed or every root hacked away. I'd definitely like see more acceptance of biking as a legitimate sport. I see that's starting to happen, but I'd still like to see more paid trail crews. Just like the government pays for football fields and tennis courts, how about more money into trails. You've just released your last video of the NSX series - NSX 10. How does buying the video help you? When is the box set out?
I put 800 hours into Ladies and other trails this year alone (authors note - that's twenty weeks of a fourty-hour work week
)). I'd put more work into trails if you guys all help me by buying the video! Get the video, you'll be entertained and you'll help the trails. You can get the video at the Pinkbike Store, or through bike stores.
The box set with all 10 videos will be coming out next year. Digger not only had a lot to do with shaping the Shore, but he captured it in his movies - North Shore Extreme - over the years too. We owe a lot to his visions for the trails that we enjoy today. How has Digger influenced you?