Video: Escaping Lockdown on Some Steep Belgian Trails

Jun 11, 2020
by Bruno Keustermans  

The Steep Escape is a short video about the first real mountain bike ride of three of Belgium's finest enduro riders after the corona lockdown: Olivier Bruwiere, Bart De Vocht and Michael Op de Beeck.


The Steep Escape was born by accident. The original idea was to shoot a video with these three bikers in January. But when Bart De Vocht broke his collarbone at the eve of our shooting day, we had to cancel everything. By the time Bart had recovered, we were in the middle of the corona outbreak, followed by the lockdown.


In a way, you could say that this opened the door to new possibilities. Instead of racing enduro competitions in Spring, everyone had plenty of time for 'side projects'. That's how we got the idea of making this short movie about their first decent mountain bike ride after endless 'quarantine loops' on their flat home trails. The location stayed the same as originally planned: the Reinhardstein castle in Malmédy (Belgium), known for his beautiful but mostly very steep trails.


The Steep Escape is an ode to freedom and to everyone who desperately needs to go on a mountain bike adventure, big or small.

Production credits:
Camera 1: Bruno Keustermans
Camera 2: Wouter Mertens
Video production: fenomeno


Bart De Vocht & Michael Op de Beeck


Olivier Bruwiere on the steep last part of the first trail

The ridge preceding the steepest part

Happy camera man: Bruno Keustermans



49 Comments

  • 3 0
 Important note.
I have received an official warning of the government of Wallonia because mountain biking and filming on (parts of) these trails is illegal. Although we don’t agree with the way the sport of enduro mountain biking is treated in Belgium, we would kindly invite everyone not to go biking on the trails shown in the video. You can find more information about my point of view in the open letter below.


--
Open letter about mountain biking in Belgium to everyone involved.

I love mountain biking and I love filming it. It’s a wonderful way to share your passion with others.
That was also the idea behind my recent video ‘The Steep Escape’. A video that was made with three fantastic enduro mountain bikers in the High Fens right after the corona lockdown. We wanted to share the feeling of how they had missed to practice their sport in the right setting, meaning a setting worthy to call it 'mountain biking'.

What I didn’t know during the making of our video, is that in Belgium the sport of enduro mountain biking is de facto illegal. A week after the launch of 'The Steep Escape’ the three bikers and I received an official warning of the ‘Departement de Nature et Forêts’ from the government of Wallonia. Reason : it is prohibited to bike (and hike/film) on singletracks in the whole region of Wallonia. Moreover they kindly asked us to point out this illegal character in all online publications of the video (what we did in the meantime) and finally we’ll even have to delete it. Otherwise we will be fined or prosecuted.

Regarding to this, I think it’s important to say that we have never directly stimulated anyone to go riding these trails. That was not the point of the video. We even didn’t give the exact location to other bikers asking for it (on YouTube for example). Also, the goal was not to support the illegal building of trails. We just chose a good setting with the right vibe for the video we wanted to create.

This letter is not meant as a provocation. I just feel that I have to share my thoughts because I don’t understand the fact that enduro mountain biking is illegal in Belgium. We have so much potential in our small country when it comes to trails and talent on the bike.
There are many other examples in countries nearby where regions, municipalities, nature workers, mountain bikers and trail builders work together in order to create something sustainable. A legal network of trails could be such a great asset for tourism in many places. Why can’t we make this work in Belgium? A lot of touristic marketing departments are paying quite some money to have a video with a decent number of YouTube views. This one was for free, but has to be deleted.

I truly believe that starting a ‘mountain biker hunt’ is not the solution. As long as there’s no common plan, people will keep building trails and bikers will ride them. I think the mountain biking community is ready to sit around the table and decide together with the government where you can ride and where not, which trails have to be closed and where new ones can be created. A shared solution, supported by the community, is the only way to stop illegal riding of trails.

Personally, I don’t know one enduro mountain biker who doesn’t respect nature. I think it’s time that their sport is respected too.
  • 2 0
 Fair play to you ! On the other hand the ones who built the trails in the valley are organizing public events on them year on year... Seems like we reached a threshold where the DNF does not want to let it go anymore, too many riders and too many exagerations

The only way forward is official purpose built trails, and for that we need solid local associations (ASBL) working hand in hand with the local authorities (communes)

Hope to be able to go official with a big annoucement for Belgium soon
  • 1 0
 @leostuder: fingers crossed. Today we got the sad news that "Natuur and Bos" will destroy the Steerebeeck trails. Will go drink some Orval to forget...
  • 2 0
 Any of the Belgians care to share what the current standpoint of the den boswachter is at the moment? I've been riding Malmédy for 20 years but was recently told the new guy is making a point of not allowing riding except on 3+ m gravel roads.
  • 3 0
 In theory singletrack is only accessible for hikers except where the local authorities have given the authorisation (almost nowhere). In practice there are only a limited amount of cases where authorities have taken action.
  • 2 0
 @oli4m: A bit like here, then. I spent the morning clearing logs that angry hikers had put on the trails. I've never had any issues in Malmédy or elsewhere but heard on the grapevine that things were changing. Guess we'll see, just be nice, smile and act like a stupid Dutch tourist if I get into trouble ;-) Thanks!
  • 4 0
 @aerik: Also, these trails are purpose built and have no "official" existence from the standpoint of the authorities
  • 4 0
 @aerik: I think that replying in polite french is the right way to go about it Wink
  • 3 0
 @leostuder: Out here that would make them - by definition - illegal. NL, the place in the BeNeLux you are least likely to be allowed to do something fun without getting fined. I've always wondered, is the difference that we have (practically) no public landownership except for urban areas?
  • 4 0
 @aerik: they are indeed illegal and at the risk of being destroyed by the authorities anytime...

While at the same time whole pieces of forest are destroyed and cut clear, in all legality...
  • 1 0
 @oli4m: Indeed Wink
  • 3 0
 So jealous Smile Never thought of Belgium as a place to ride but will keep that in mind for post covid world.
  • 4 0
 We've got some very nice steep and technical trails, the descents never last more than a few minutes though.
  • 2 0
 There are some pretty cool trails in Belgium...
  • 4 0
 A great weekend away if you're into cars is a trip to Soa (the Spa Classic is really good) then a bit of time riding around Malmedy where the trails are really good. I had an amazing trip out there s few years ago.

keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/11/LRM_EXPORT_20170520_114842.jpg
  • 1 0
 @lukeb:

Spa 6 Hours classic is a killer event in September and a good time to ride bikes too.
  • 3 1
 There`s only in Belgium that you can see riders in the nature pissing in a lost plastic WC cabin during Covid.... and filming it Smile
  • 3 0
 Nice stuff, What part of Belgium is this?
  • 4 12
flag warntz (Jun 11, 2020 at 0:20) (Below Threshold)
 Read the article
  • 11 1
 Hey, this is the southern part of Belgium where we actually have some small hills!
  • 3 0
 Awesome, what's up with all this Belgian content lately? Smile
  • 3 0
 Seems like there isn't much else we could be doing Wink
  • 3 0
 "This video of Belgium contains 0% Cyclocross =)"
  • 2 0
 I need to get better at steep stuff
  • 3 0
 Great stuff
  • 1 0
 Thanks!
  • 2 0
 The last photo made me think I was having a stroke as I scrolled past.
  • 1 0
 Lockdown over? Hell, they're talking 2nd wave restrictions coming from where I'm at.
  • 2 0
 Nice work guys!
  • 3 0
 Thanks!
  • 2 0
 Nice one guys!
  • 3 2
 Steep Belgian Trails are like Grim Donut Episode 2....a myth.
  • 2 2
 Couldn't Imagine not being able to go for a mt bike ride bc some .gov said so. Yikes
  • 1 0
 Where are these trails?
  • 2 0
 Near Malmedy
  • 2 1
 They are on trailforks, close to Bikepark Ferme Libert Wink
  • 1 0
 Hi guys, are these Piscine and Appolinaire trails? I want to go check them out!
  • 2 0
 @georgeshanson: No, the Appolinaire trails are full of nails, wood,... Not possible to ride.
These trails are closer to Reinhartstein.
  • 2 0
 @oli4m: Good to know, but which one is it on Trailforks? All the routes around Ferme Libert look like bike park style routes..
  • 1 0
 @bosse: Yeah, that's a real problem.... Thanks for the answer!
  • 1 0
 TIL: Belgium isn't flat.
  • 4 0
 The northern half of the country is as flat as a pancake though Wink
  • 3 0
 @oli4m: Not if you're from de Vlaamse Ardennen...
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