Video: How To Not Build Illegal Trails with Ben Cathro

May 8, 2021
by Ben Cathro  


Words: Ben Cathro
Photography: Innes Graham


Last year like so many others during the various pandemic lockdowns around the world, I wanted to do something constructive with my new found spare time. I had always wanted to build my own personal training track that I could use to prepare my bikes and my body for racing so building a track was the obvious choice. The fact that I had to produce some interesting episodes of the Pinkbike Privateer series while no races were happening may have also been a driving force. I was lucky enough to have excellent terrain nearby which meant a short on bike commute with my tools and packed lunch in compliance with Scottish lockdown rules. I'd been eyeing up this location for a while as I frequently rode other trails in the same forest and had been imagining all the features I could build while gazing at the natural shapes in the terrain.


There's a vocal minority that still hate on eMTBs but it made this job so much easier!


Some sections were left quite natural to cut in over time
Some sections were left quite natural to cut in over time


Once I'd established with local builders the rules for trail construction in the forest, I dove into this project all guns blazing and maximum enthusiasm. I ditched my training regime, sacked off my other projects and started building. This was a full time job both figuratively and literally. I'd spend all day up on the hill planning things out, clearing branches, turfing grass, shaping features then come home exhausted to help my wife out with our new born. Rinse and repeat for 6 days a week with one day off to look after my wife and let my body recover. It was physically demanding but I couldn't stop grinning to myself that I was getting to do something so cool as part of my job.


This multi-line section took many re-builds to get it running just right.


Utilising natural features and shapes in the ground is my favourite part of building.


I did have a finite amount of time to get the track finished as unbelievably World Cup organisers had managed to schedule some events despite all the European countries strongly advising against travel. I only had just over a month to get it finished and film the now famous "Not A Race". I was going to need a lot of help as the ground was really demanding to work with. Luckily, during the build I got a tonne of help from some generous locals. There were more volunteers than I can remember but Duncan Edwards, Barry Mason, Euan Thomson and Callum Foster in particular put in some big shifts. Thanks to all of you for your time. With the extra hands we just managed to get things finished on time and filmed the Pinkbike project for Episode 4 of the Privateer series.


Volunteers are just the best


Photographer - Innes Graham
Trying to look cool on track opening day. Photographer - Innes Graham



With the build done and film project completed it might sound like everything went exactly to plan. Well, what you might not be able to tell in the videos is that I was crapping myself the whole time as I had found out the landowner was extremely unimpressed with my building shenanigans and was discussing the best course of action to punish my illegal actions. That's right, it turns out I'd not researched things enough and had illegally built a trail on Forestry and Land Scotland's (FLS) property. Not only that, I was hearing whispers that I had built the track through a medieval monument which can incur massive fines if it is protected. Suffice to say I was stressing the f**k out and did not know what was going to happen.


This centre photo nearly cost me thousands of pounds in fines.
This centre photo nearly cost me thousands of pounds in fines.


Photographer - Innes Graham
Look at this goof, totally clueless to the issues he's created. Photographer - Innes Graham


I approached some friends who work with an organisation called Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBiNS) to get some advice about how to best navigate this mess I'd got myself into. They've been working on the guidelines for trail building in Scotland for years and were amazingly helpful. They contacted and organised some on site meetings with the Regional Manager from FLS and their chief safety officer. During our inspection FLS requested some slight reroutes to avoid risk to other forest users, the removal of some wooden features and finally they told me that the medieval site was not protected so I wasn't getting fined! I can not tell you the weight that was lifted off me after this meeting! To make sure the track is maintained we also agreed to bring the trail under the local Tayside Trail Association's oversight. This give's me an official way to report to the landowners on the condition of the track and how I'm maintaining it. Super easy and should keep everyone happy.


Photographer - Innes Graham
Warp speed testing. Photographer - Innes Graham


Photographer - Innes Graham
Squashing the step-down through the medieval site (Ancient rock walls hidden under the grass). Photographer - Innes Graham


It's always good to learn from your mistakes and if you can help others to avoid making the same mistakes then that's all the better. I invested so much time and energy into the build and realistically, the trail could have been closed down without the interventions that happened. Building without the landowners permission is illegal – that is a fact!

If you are considering a build, please check out the guidance developed by DMBinS (Guidance) and members of the Scottish National Access Forum, you could save yourself a whole load of stress and possible criminal charges. I would also suggest contacting DMBinS for advice or finding your local Trail Association, who will know the area and will already have contact with the local land manager. If you're in any other countries these guidelines will probably work too but make sure to check with local outdoor authorities. In short:-

• Permission. Permission. Permission. - Nothing is guaranteed until you get this sorted.
• Planning and Design - If you're going to build something you might as well make a good job of it. Landowner's will probably want to see you're planned route as well so it's worth your time.
• Build natural. - Discussions with landowners should specify acceptable and non acceptable materials and consider appropriate drainage.
• Avoid other user conflicts. - Trail entry and exit points are the main point of contention. Key things are low speed and good sight lines.
• Ongoing inspection and maintenance. - Training courses are available and check out your local trails association.


Photographer - Innes Graham
Sending the trail on my DH bike for the "Not A Race" was so satisfying. Photographer - Innes Graham




I hope you found this story informative or at least a little entertaining. 'Till next time.

Forestry and Land Scotland - https://www.forestryandland.gov.scot
Developing MTB In Scotland - https://www.dmbins.com
Innes Graham Photography - https://www.innesgraham.co.uk

Posted In:
Videos Ben Cathro



137 Comments

  • 110 11
 Nice job! Kudos for reaching out to the landowners, but not everyone has that luxury or friendly landowners. My personal recommendations, but everywhere is different:

1. Know who's land your on and think about how much they care. Cities (if out of the way), counties, natural resource company's, and forest service, usually have bigger problems, whereas a private business or citizen land owner will be more stressed about liability and privacy.
2.No wood features. Nope nope nope
3. Dont cut a single tree bigger than your fist.
4. Dont get mad if someone else goes and works on it, you dont own the trail because you built it (may require meditation). Try and work with em.
5. Dont expect it to stay secret. You dont own it and most folks know their land better than you.
6. Dont expect it to be there forever, but build like it could.
7. If a landowner tells you to leave, pack it up.
8. No trash.
9. Dont dig giant holes if you need dirt.
10. Cut stobs off at the ground or trunk or my dad will murder you.

I'm probably missing some and they may not apply to you, but they helped me get some trails rolling near me. Happy building.
  • 96 2
 It's pretty easy for me "to not build illegal trails with Ben Cathro" as I don't even know the guy...
  • 26 0
 Pretty good list.
#2-They just get torn down and take a massive effort to put up.
#4-Oof thems fighting words to some. Local norms take precedent and some places have territorial builders. Ask before you dig or dig your own trail to be safe.
#9-Agreed, back fill or fill with easy to remove large logs if it is a gold pit that will nurture the trail in the long run.

11.Don't worry about perfection, let the trail bed in and see where the ridders are taking the line i.e. is this off camber ok or should I bench it, will people take inside log or outside log etc. Go in after and patch or rework as park of the evolution of the trail.
12.BERMS. 3 feet from the planned berm is a log barrier->1-1.5 feet of rock guarding->heaps of banked dirt. A lot (including myself have starting making a berm right at the intended spot and found out later that the berm grew into the turn and had to remake it.
13.Walk the line in the pissing rain and in rainy seasons. No fun but you will know how the water drains off the land.
  • 42 4
 "2.No wood features. Nope nope nope"

Man, I'm glad I live in an area where this is not a nope.
  • 8 0
 @monsieurgage: big fan of #11! Ya my #4 is weird for some. I had to let it go personally. I wouldn't go "fix" someone else's work but I've had people mess with mine. Easier to just let it go and not be the dictator
  • 1 4
 @jayacheess: Same. They're way less effort than the equivalent earth structure and it's ALL gonna get taken out PDQ, so this way you get to at least ride it sooner.

With the price of lumber these days it's not really an issue though...
  • 11 1
 @jayacheess: if it's unsanctioned trail, it's not a good idea. It will be taken down at some point the land managers.
  • 17 12
 It's only illegal if you get caught.
  • 1 0
 @jayacheess: We're jealous! Enjoy!!
  • 6 1
 @jayacheess: it's pretty ok anwhere, but my go to is to minimize the amount of foreign wood you have to bring in. a bunch of ratty, shitty pallets and jank is an eyesore. build out of the dead and fallen timber the forest provides.
  • 1 0
 @jayacheess: I build wooden features, but i bring the wood, there's no cutting for building
  • 1 0
 Be like the sow bugs that live under discarded boards. When the landowner flips the board over, scurry off somewhere else. And cut your stobs
  • 4 0
 - Don’t dig holes.....
It’s very common here in Oz, for all the builders to dig a very deep, vertical walled grave size hole. Just meters from there new feature.
I call them holes “leg breakers”, and they help get trails shut down ( by irate hikers, dog walkers.. ect ect..). Camber the edges boys!
  • 2 0
 @conoat: In the UK that's part of the problem because our deadfall rots. This means what was built as a great kicker or a solid berm can be lethal after a wet winter.

Mud and rocks are great because they don't rot. Otherwise if you need timber it should be treated for outdoor use, which obviously is then getting expensive. Smile
  • 1 2
 Permission, Permission, Permission is right. Don't do anything without permission. If you have unfriendly landowners they will become really unfriendly if you start building a trail on their land.
  • 74 0
 Here in California we also… nevermind.
  • 12 0
 Oh boy.....
  • 27 2
 It's not like you invented the sport or anything,right?
  • 12 0
 As a person from Mill Valley, I think I know what you mean.
  • 4 6
 Like mentioning 27 or 34 in WA about 15 years ago...
  • 2 1
 @lbsteinm: what's the status of those now? grandfathered in?
  • 3 0
 @shredddr: Judging by the downvotes, apparently it's still secret squirrel to mention numbers paired together.
But the EMBA has worked with the state to either reclaim or build legal trails in those areas.
www.evergreenmtb.org/trails/raging-river
  • 1 0
 @lbsteinm: I'm gladis.
  • 47 0
 LOl. If you want to ride fun trails in Cali you're pretty much riding illegally 90% of the time.

We got 3 storms in SoCal this "wet" season that delivered enough moisture to be able to build/repair anything.
  • 29 1
 Everything is illegal in California.
  • 1 1
 Why everyone hates Californians. Why bother advocating for trail when they never have to.
  • 2 0
 Least with the pandemic this last year I've seen so many new trails being built. Tons of kids building amazing stuff. Definitely funny how it's pretty much impossible to do anything past spring either. We need rain so bad in this state.
  • 35 1
 Don't build on a medievil village... it was fine for fls to go plant sitca spruce all over it and then drive a forwarder cutting machine through it to cut the trees down... But yeah it's best to ask permission first.
  • 4 0
 I had the same thought. In their defence they might have modified their techniques to protect the archaeology.
  • 9 0
 Depends when they were planted but fls actually have strict rules on planting on archaeology. So if you find a clear spot there a good chance it was left there to protect archaeology.
  • 1 0
 lol first thing that came to my mind
  • 5 0
 @andydmorris: Sitka spruce does not modify it's behaviour to protect archaeological sites.
  • 34 1
 As God is my witness I will never build illegal trails again (five different spots). Years of work, secrecy, hiding, lying to others, politics, and often nothing to show for it but the tracks of dozers. Broke my heart. So then I only go to organised trail building/maintenance days and end up arguing with people who want to 'soften' the trails I originally built. The point of building hard trails is to make people better riders.

Yes I'm bitter about it.
  • 18 1
 It sure is a great time to be new to the sport and have everything already catered to you without having to lift a finger.
  • 5 1
 @luckynugget: I didn't know how to take that until I read your other post. I get your point. Nice.
  • 18 1
 @iamamodel: yeah sorry i just realized that sounded like I was trying to diss you, definitely not. Just annoying how everyone who's been building and riding for a decade or more has their shit ripped out, and nothing but easy featureless trails get built for the people just starting out riding who have given nothing to the sport but another sprinter van in the parking lot.
  • 2 1
 @luckynugget: No wuckers. I know what you meant.
  • 23 0
 Hey at least you’re not living in Germany where the whole thing would have been turned into a big f*cking crater by an excavator because „mountainbiking damages the forest“ and Ben would have been screamed at by an angry old ranger who rides through the forest to the parking spot of his harvester in a 20 year old diesel jeep.
  • 2 0
 100% true
  • 20 2
 Anyone who sues landowners after an accident on a trail that no one forced them to ride deserves all the pain they get and more. These cunts are the ones that spoil it for everyone else. Take responsibility for your own actions. If you can't handle getting hurt, stay the fuck away from mountain bikes.
  • 9 1
 except they aren't, usually - it's their insurers, or their employer's insurers. If I get injured riding (or heck, doing anything else) and and have to take time off, my employer makes a claim against their insurance policy to cover my sick play and any outside support they need to bring in to cover for me until I'm well again.
The insurer will then look around to see if they can offset the cost of that claim. If I was run down by a drunken taxi driver, they'd be the one getting the bill, for example. In a couple of cases I've been peripherally involved in, it's not been the person who was injured who has claimed, but their insurer. This includes a case where someone was paralysed as a result of falling off on a trail we'd been maintaining with the landowner's permission. The insurer went after the coach who was teaching the guy and the landowner.
The other issue with stuff like this happening on Forestry land is that, while the Forestry is a government body and therefore self-insures (ie the taxpayer foots the bill in the event of a successful prosecution) it more often than not takes up a lot of time while the beat forester or ranger researches and helps deliver evidence. One anecdote I heard from a beat forester was that it took up three months - and he was looking after multiple Forestry sites spread out across a large area.
So - someone who wallops themselves and ends up off work or with a life-changing injury is not necessarily the person that sues. in fact, it is so rare as to be a non-existent threat. Neither should someone lose their livelihood, house (which may be their family home, too) because of a crash.
Hopefully this explains why landowners in England can be a bit shy of building. The ones I've dealt with over the years (multiple landowners from individuals through to NT and FC in the Surrey hills, as well as local AONB, RoW and others) are actually pretty open minded. But if they find something that might get them sued by Axa, Aviva, LVE or another insurer, it's absolutely in their best interests to block it.
  • 2 0
 @bentudder: Fair enough, but not everyone has insurance. I broke my leg on a riding holiday in Spain. For 2 years afterwards I had companies contacting me and telling me they could get me thousands in compensation by suing the guy that ran the holiday company. I didn't work for 10 months and the money would've come in handy, but it wasn't his fault that I crashed, so I took it on the chin, I don't subscribe to compensation culture. There are plenty of people out there who'll take an easy buck, whilst giving no thought to the ramifications for others. You only have to look at the amount of spurious whiplash claims to see that.
  • 14 0
 Very informative video and article to read. Wales needs to have a get with the times and be more like Scotland with the approach to outdoor users and have a similar outdoor access code for things like this to implemented. Until then all above mentioned issues will carry on.
  • 4 0
 All natural resources wales needs to do is give permission to volunteers with guidance on what can and can't be done if there are any restrictions such as the wooded area being an SSI
  • 15 1
 This article would've been far simpler if Ben lived in central Spain. Everywhere is illegal. Build it, ride it, share it on Strava, and wait to hear about the police sitting in wait to fine people for using it.
  • 4 0
 Not only central Spain, the entire Spain!
  • 10 0
 @theoskar57: not so! I’ve been working with my village in N Spain over lockdown building trails. The don’t pay but the are letting me do what I want. We’ve built some amazing, technical trails. A few years ago it would have been impossible, we are getting there one ayuntamiento at a time! I hope....
  • 1 0
 @DougBasqueMTB: Basque are better.
  • 2 0
 Why would you share an illegal trail on strava? Kinda defeats the purpose.
  • 1 2
 @jcougs: post ride social media adrenalin rush
  • 6 0
 @jcougs: That´s the key isn´t it! It´s an education / culture thing. In Spain we are still learning and there is a lack of respect. I´ve fallen out with local riders after trying to explain the basic concept of, if you didn´t build it then don´t publicize the location. Or often I´m digging trails and use teaser photos to try and get help, and I get one email offering help and 100 asking where it is / when it will be finished!

I´m sure we aren´t alone but here the mentality needs to change with respect to hand dug trails. "No dig, no ride" is maybe a bit strong, but "no dig, keep your mouth shut", might be better :-) :-)
  • 27 12
 Step 1 don't live in England
  • 20 0
 You kidding? There are trails literally everywhere in every wood. In a slightly selfish way I feel I have done my digging duties now but from my house there are at least 5 separate trail spots of the non-sanctioned variety ridable from my door. And some are amazing
  • 4 1
 @ilovedust: trails and trail sabotage etc
  • 1 1
 @browner: happens on sanctioned trails
  • 12 0
 Good on you! Not just for building something but for figuring out how to fix mistakes after they happened.
  • 4 0
 this is lost on most builders. Punch it in and leave it.
  • 9 1
 If you are UK based and interested in gaining more knowledge on the subject or participating in a training course then please have a look at www.atb-uk.org - We delivered the training to ATA and will be running training courses across the UK throughout this year. There will be a press release here on PB in the coming weeks.
  • 9 1
 Wow thanks for the video, I wasn't expecting my attention span to last through the entire thing! This is a really nice example of everything working out well, which unfortunately isn't a reality in so many other parts of the world. Landowners aren't always even a little bit cooperative. I've been to areas where the landowners aren't even actively using the land, haven't seen the illegal trails for years and years and yet would never consider giving permission. Trails associations are rarely so progressive as this, either. I love hearing someone from a trails association acknowledging that the sport needs tracks that can challenge and progress the best riders, but this is such a rare opinion. I think in most areas, trails associations exist to speak for the wealthy recreational rider. They want safe, easy trails, and they hide behind the banner of accessibility. They disparage anyone looking for challenging features as 'crazy freeride kids' and accuse them of creating dangerous jumps without 'thinking of the consequences for children,' as well as allowing 'harmful erosion' no matter the circumstance. Half of the time this is just convenience, since they can go to governments and landowners and push through green trails easily, but it's also commonly selfish- most trails associations members I've met have been very nice intermediate level riders with zero desire to improve their skills so as long as they have trails to suit their needs, they will happily assist in the destruction of more challenging trails. Anyway, this is too many words to say I like what you've done there, and while I hope to see this level of cooperation and enthusiasm pick up in more locations, for now I'm going to stay on the side of building what you can, where you can, when you can. My respect goes to the builders, I will not betray secret trails, and I will seek the permission of the local riders before I worry about local governments. No dig, no ride.
  • 3 3
 TLDR...
  • 7 0
 If people want more greens and blues, that's fine, there's a significant demand for them, but it should never come from removing a red or black level natural trail.
  • 7 0
 I helped a buddy build a trail in southwest Colorado. We had no idea whose land it was but figured what the hell. Turns out it was found and the land owners let it stay. Now I hear it's a must do trail system that people from all over ride. Sometimes things work out okay.
  • 6 0
 As a Durango guy, I’m curious which trail this is now
  • 4 0
 @stormracing: Phil's world. Phil told me about a place where he thought we could do some secret trails. We went out there with shovels, hoes and such and started making the main trails. It was cool and then we kinda all moved out of town. I had no idea it would be a big deal until my daughter told me it was legit. My daughter and I rode the new area to the north a month ago. Somebody did a good job expanding the trails. Fun stuff.
  • 13 0
 @stormracing: As an aside Phil passed away a little while ago cc skiing. Hoist a beer for him next time you ride there. He was a good friend and all around good fellow.
  • 2 0
 @Brazinsteel: that is wild and oh so incredible! Thank you for sharing sir and even more so a thank you for that work y’all put in!
God bless him and I will most certainly hold one up and be thinking of him.
  • 2 0
 just rode there Saturday! those trails are fantastic.
  • 7 0
 I'm a mtber and an archaeologist. Part of my job is to advise where people can and can't build and recently this has included where forestry can and can't be planted. Scheduled monuments will cost you thousands but you can also mess up undesignated archaeology. Just because it's not protected doesn't mean it's fine to dig through. Forestry have rules to avoid planting scheduled monuments and identified archaeology so clearings might = preserved features.
  • 7 10
 We don’t have archaeology here in Canada. We find human bones that we just have to re-bury somewhere else a few feet out of the way.
  • 22 0
 @Jvisscher: Yikes dude. I really hope that's not how your region handles Indigenous sites... If it is, please take the time to go chat with the folks at IMBA Canada on how to handle Indigenous lands and sacred sites. Otherwise, thats a great way to have a conflict with your local Indigenous community and loose access to your trails.
  • 6 0
 @Jvisscher: In Alberta at least, before a block is harvested for forestry the area is pre-screened using a geospatial sequence that takes into account ground type and proximity to water to estimate where archaeological sites may be. These sites are then either removed from the block to prevent ground disturbance or shovel tested prior to harvesting.

I would hope that people building trails try to have a higher level of respect for indigenous sites then that.. but its tough to do any type of pre screening when you are building trails on public lands
  • 2 0
 @Jvisscher: Sure lack of your knowledge cause we are surrounded by archeologists always witnessing native home artifacts
  • 1 1
 @ratedgg13: true. Given that ASSumption how is my comment not downvoted more?
  • 2 1
 @Jvisscher: Sorry, I'm honestly not sure what your reply is trying to say. Could you please clarify?
  • 2 0
 @evanlitt: somewhat related, according to Tyrrell museum staff anytime fossils are exposed through industrial activities - which happens often in construction - activity must immediately cease and it be reported.

"Alberta has some of the strictest fossil protection laws in the world. The fossilized remains of plants and animals, or traces of their activities, are protected under the Government of Alberta's Historical Resources Act. Violation of the Act is punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison."
tyrrellmuseum.com/research/found_a_fossil

I'm surprised Drumheller isn't a mecca for trails given it's barren hilly landscape. Anyone riding out there?
  • 8 0
 don't tell anyone about your trails but your mom. problem solved. and if you see anyone in the forest, tell them its for a harvard school project. new england sorted.
  • 18 1
 True, but you just said 2 things that are physically impossible for most mountain bikers:
A. Don't tell anyone
B. Building a trail
  • 8 0
 And one day you see some little shit post a photo of himself on your dirt jumps, and then EVERYONE asks him where they are. Trails were dozed within weeks. Two years digging down the drain.
  • 7 0
 @iamamodel: social media and good trails/spots don't mix
  • 12 2
 how to not build illegal trails in California. step one: move to oregon
  • 6 0
 Only if you want to wait 15 years for the bureaucracy to give the green light to dig.
  • 1 3
 Wrong, don't move to Oregon. Californians don't build sanctioned or unsanctioned trails. You must be new.
  • 7 1
 What about rehabilitating old, beaten, high-erosion, abandoned competition downhill trails? (instead? of building new ones) The environmental impact of mountain biking would be much less and we will be seen with much friendlier eyes by other non-mountain bikers (especially environmentalists).
  • 7 0
 Always good to get the youth out building (Child Labour is pretty good I've heard)

The court system is a little bit more kind on them when they're still considered a minor Smile
  • 6 0
 Glad everything worked out for him. In the US the land manager would have torn the trail down without a single word, meeting or question. Not because the trail necessarily did anything bad or crossed anything like a medieval site...but purely to have a power trip and show who's in the control, even if it's an area with tons of other mtb trails. The fact that the land manager here sat down, had a constructive conversation had inputs etc is awesome.
  • 6 1
 Good work building a trail. I hope no one comes along and changes any of the features. As a trailbuilder I find a big problem is other trailbuilders and their lack of respect for existing tracks. Instead of building a new one they change ones I've built.
  • 35 31
 everything has to be trails... point A to point B.. climb up, ride the boring trail, have a beer to celebrate the end of the ride, repeate. thats why I build my own shit. You literally cannot legally build anything but trails. No big jumps and features, nothing that you can just session. Even working at a bike park, everything must have downramps, railings, shrunk down 4 sizes smaller than you want to build. All the legal trails and even the "secret" trails are so crowded with vulture riders all feinding to find the next secret trail someone built. I don't even consider myself a mountain biker anymore because what is considered mtn biking now is so far off from what I want to ride. I would much rather risk the legal trouble, leave the phone at home, spend a few years building some big shit that I actually want to ride, and leave it the f*ck off social media. Make it beautiful and respect the land though. If you can get permission, do it, but you'll be very lucky if you do. Tell Nobody. MTBers are vultures, even though most wont hit the stuff i build, they will still blow it up. Maybe instead of just building more and more of the exact same boring trails over and over again, we should just stop convincing everyone and their aunt to start biking.
  • 20 1
 You build something on someone else’s land and other people ride it!?
Weird.....
  • 8 0
 Trails and features are meant to be ridden. What's the point in hoarding?
  • 9 0
 is this an mtb copypasta?
  • 4 5
 @Jimmy0: you can't keep other people from riding it, you just keep it low key to last as long as you can. Hiding it from the government is the main focus. Not sharing what you build with everyone and their grandma is just the first step to do that. Must be nice to just show up and ride things that other people built for you.
  • 2 2
 @shredmaster47: maybe because a lot of people feel the same way?
  • 8 0
 I learned this on Pinkbike officer
  • 4 0
 Thanks Ben and PB, this has been needed for a long time. Here in Japan you will get nowhere long term without working with Trail Advocacy groups. So much has been done over the past decade in many parts of the country thanks to following a similar framework. Great, responsible trail-building requires everything that Graeme and Will from the DMBINS, Tom from the ATA, Fiona at the FLS and John Ireland said.... Yes, everywhere is different and your local area may have other ways of working together with stakeholders, but everything starts from developing a trust relationship with the landowners. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it requires being professional and compromise. If you cannot be arsed to do that and instead fall back on some Muir and Thoreaux inspired 'right to roam' argument as justification for building what you want, where you want on something that isn't yours, you may create conflict where they used to be none, damaging the potential for future trail building.
  • 3 0
 It's nice to a UK perspective on the trail building thing in the MTB media (which tends to be a bit Canada/USA) focused on these things.
Of course devolution complicated things because the rules are completely different in England, Wales and I would assume NI as well.
Mostly the pattern round here seems to be that trails get smashed out on forestry land, then they either ignore it, periodically pull out wooden bits or just wholesale log the area every ten years. Things do seen to be changing though, bikes are gaining popularity and the e bike explosion means more traffic on the less carefully built stuff and I think we'll probably get some more conflict in the next few years.
I think one you've graduated from mattocking out something steep and dangerous on your local hill to being a bit more serious that Ben's general guidance is spot on.

Also - always good to see more Cathro; I hope travel restrictions ease enough to get all the pinkbike video crew in one place at one time, because I reckon that would be great.
  • 4 1
 I had a long chat last summer with the local forestry ranger. He said it would be good to get local riders together to start meaningful discussion with local farmers, land managers and game keepers. I spoke to quite a few riders who were all interested in trying to get together. When I contacted the ranger (several times) about moving forward, he ignored my communications and never came back to me. The illegal trail building continues.
  • 3 1
 Whilst I think what DMBiS and the trail associations are doing is a really good initiative I’ve always felt that finding an untouched area of woodland and creating and riding something with your mates is what mountain biking is about(to me).

Hopefully land owners will continue to turn a blind eye in areas that aren’t as well organised.
  • 3 1
 I have no idea if this is true or not but I heard a rumour that in the UK/England the forestry commission's dislike of any type of wooden feature stems from a doctor who crashed on a jump and subsequently sued after breaking his leg.
It was later found that he'd been sending this jump regularly and just had a bit of an off-day.
  • 2 0
 I assume it's due to the fact that wooden features are essentially structures, and therefore require a high bar to pass with regards to safety & integrity.

Since the FC cannot control who's designing and building these structures, they cannot confirm how safe they are for users, therefore inheriting unnecessary risk exposure.

At the end of the day the majority of riders who build aren't trail building professionals and can't - and shouldn't - be trusted in my opinion (and in the opinion of FC), to design, build and maintain wooden structures.
  • 1 1
 @iainmac-1: I don't think the issue is how safe the structure is, more that they don't want people to stack it after sending it to the gods then turn around and blame the FC for 'allowing' it
  • 4 0
 @johnnyboy11000: it absolutely is. As soon as you construct something out of wood that structure falls under the CDM regulations 2015, and all the requirements that brings.

All this stuff is in the guide for land managers and ride on unauthorised trails.
  • 1 3
 @iainmac-1: aye I get that it's written in there and I understand why it's in there. But practically speaking, the structure failing is way down on the list of likely "things to go wrong" with features on a trail. We're mostly talking about a few logs with a bit of earth packed in around them.
  • 3 0
 @iainmac-1: The FC in England (apologies - I don't know if it's now different in Scotland - but this was a few years back, and the Forester was a Scotsman who'd just moved down) had a spec for North Shore: half as wide as it was tall, and with a build and inspection regime that was pretty hefty. Hefty and detailed enough for a bunch of 20 somethings about 20 years ago to realise we could build loads more trail if we kept it on the ground. There's north shore stuff in FC trail centres - tame as it may be - but it's professionally maintained and documented to avoid insurance claims.
  • 3 1
 In terms of sueing landowners if you have an accident, why can't the law be changed?! it seems ridiculous if you hurt yourself on someone else's land that you can sue them for it. It should all be at your own risk regardless of who owns the land.
  • 2 0
 I'm not an expert in the law by any means, and I think it is ridiculous too. But if I remember correctly (all the way back to a single law module I did at uni) I think it has something to do with protecting (legally) against the setting of traps etc which could cause harm regardless of whether the victim is entitled to be there or not. So the landowner can't dig a huge pit to catch trespassers for example - and then can't claim that "somebody else did it" as a defence when somebody falls in an breaks their legs.
  • 3 1
 I'd spend all day up on the hill planning things out, clearing branches, turfing grass, shaping features then come home exhausted to help my wife out with our new born. Rinse and repeat for 6 days a week with one day off to look after my wife and let my body recover. It was physically demanding but I couldn't stop grinning to myself that I was getting to do something so cool as part of my job. Ben is getting divorced.
  • 3 1
 The irony is that most mtbers are such snobby entitled asshats they'll ruin all progress in sustaining a trail. They're coming in to mtbing and establishing themselves with sh!tpoor trail etiquette ranging from loud congregating and parking in unwanted places to social media sharing impulses. So of course landowners don't want to allow permission to build trails. Which is why only a few builders investing the time in don't want more riders. It would work out fine if it was only a few riders who respected conditions necessary to sustain the trails but rarely is a success. Mtbers are their own cancer.
  • 7 6
 All the "safety" restrictions on legal trails are just stupid. People should just build whatever they want because it doesn't matter how hard or sketchy the trail is, in the end the only thing preventing someone from getting hurt is themselves. People just have to know their own limits. That's it!

The other day i went riding a local spot and there were some riders sending the triples and all the big jumps, aka the "unsafe" and hard features. None of them got hurt. Meanwhile one kid got hurt riding the most innocous berm there.

There will always be one dude just sending without knowing the trail, or trying to ride something way out of his depth, no matter how easy the trail is! Making the trails easier will not prevent people from getting hurt.


Also how the f*ck does someone get hurt and then try to blame it on the land owner??? I really can't understand that.
  • 2 0
 It is mentioned that the access roads have other users on them. Perhaps a hiker gets hit at a blind crossing and sues the landowner. Or, someone is seriously injured and a family member sues. I don't think many riders would sue if they crashed.
  • 2 0
 @mechaNICK: Unfortunately it happens. People get contacted by "no win, no fee" solicitors, see the pound/dollar signs flash up and forget about the damage that ensues. I can find examples in your country and mine.
  • 3 1
 Does anyone know what sort of person you need to be in order to sue the landowner when you've crashed on a trail built not by the landowner? And taking into consideration that nobody forced you to go ride that trail.
  • 3 1
 I'll give you a clue, it begins with a C
  • 2 0
 @Davec85: actually, 'I' - for insurer. Still sucks, but it's often not the person that bends themself into a pretzel, but the company they claim sickness cover from. If they're self employed, then it'll be for loss of income, and if they're employed, it'll be their employer claiming for loss of labour.
  • 12 9
 I build in an illegal jump spot in town and then when I get kicked out, I move onto a new spot.
  • 4 0
 It's not much better in the usa
  • 5 0
 Ready Fire Aim...
  • 3 1
 Dang from comments sounds like every mtb spot in whole world is hater central in a similar fashion. The nature Nazis know no continent boundaries
  • 5 2
 "Why don't you build legally?"
"Many land owners will naturally have issue with constructing bigger features"
  • 3 0
 bulld, get stoked, leave it entirely off social media. entirely. that includes the stoke!
  • 9 6
 Get permission first?

Boring I know....
  • 2 0
 I think it's partly about how people approach the landowners. I have built trails in several provinces and on land belonging to all levels of government (including designated park) as well as private land owners. If you treat them professionally, respectfully and provide a compelling case, they are usually very supportive. Many organizations I have worked with ended up providing funding or resources towards the trails I have worked on. Sure it takes a little more time, but its totally worth it in the long run.
  • 1 1
 Will comes across as a nice guy. Always thought about how illegal trails get built but they just seem to appear. They are pretty good and all better than the super expensive trail center ones up here.
  • 1 0
 opening sequence nice and flowy then hides e behind large rock.................................................................priceless
  • 1 0
 If Ben lived in Italy, he would still be running from an office to the other, trying to understand which one is entitled to grant him the permissions.
  • 1 0
 If Ben lived in Italy and asked to a local trail association (not a sport club), probably he would have been addressed to the right offices IOT not waist time running around from an office to another
  • 3 1
 Anyone know the location of the trails ? Inerleithan ? Dunkeld ?
  • 13 1
 Pitlochry. The whole wood there has some great trails in it, and Ben Vrackie behind the town is a good ride too.

(Naturally, I don't agree with anyone that says trails should be secret. The outdoors, especially here in Scotland where it's enshrined in out access laws, is for everyone to enjoy)
  • 2 0
 BC - you been lifting? Looking swole dude
  • 3 1
 I manage to successfully not build illegal trails almost every day
  • 1 0
 Does anyone know where to order the “How to build illegal trails
With stolen wood” handbook with illustrations?
  • 1 0
 Packing the Salt & Vinegar Hula Hoops, I see.
A more elegant weapon for a more civilised age, Cathro.
  • 1 0
 i look so hot in the thumbnail
  • 1 0
 He broke the first rule of fight club..
  • 1 0
 I enjoyed that, thanks!

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