In a world where progression, pushing the envelope and covering new ground is everything - it can feel like the process of refining, crafting and striving for perfection can get a little lost.
Look at the compounds of some of the world’s best slopestyle athletes - the jumps are getting bigger, features are refreshed each year and specialist equipment, such as airbags, are now commonplace. And who can fault this approach? Ultimately, this gives the athlete the best chance of getting to the next contest with a winning run full of insane tricks.
At the other end of the scale, the creativity and bike handling required for quick and dirty jibs keep entertaining us year after year. Sketchy setups, fails and then the satisfaction of rolling away is undeniably fun. Then, once the session is over or the trick is landed, riders typically look for new zones or features to tackle.
But in recent years one of the most special forms of MTB has arguably fallen out of the spotlight. Trails. And no, not those trails.Trail Love
Dirt Jumps, Trails, whatever your preferred name, when done right, has an almost ASMR quality to it. Riders flowing from take-off to landing, through hips, step-downs, step-ups, berms and everything in between. No sketchiness, no heavy landings (usually)- just the satisfying sound of rock-hard tyres buzzing on smooth dirt and freewheels clicking through the air.
This fluidity isn’t something that happens by accident- and requires the coming together of several factors. Creating The Perfect Set
First of all, the jumps themselves. Lines rarely work first time and are modified over many winters to get each set just right. Dialling in elevation change to make the most of landings and the terrain, shaping berms and rollers to maximise pump, and perfecting transitions for a quintessential Trails trait – pull up! Everything takes time and is a matter of trial, error and experience.
The next factor is the rider. Brian Foster – arguably the most iconic trail rider of the last 20 years - once said that an individual’s true style comes out on their first run through a set of jumps. Speed, pump, pull and line choice, amongst other things, can completely change the way a set rides – get it wrong and you won’t make it through.
No 27.5 vs 29er questions here. At the trails 20, 24 or 26 inch are your options. Phil’s gone with the Canyon Stitched
that rolls on 26’’. Photo by Matt Weintritt
Finally, even after your line is perfect and exactly where you want it, there’s the maintenance. Trails need constant attention so that the line is smooth, fast and properly watered. Not to mention the constant battle with mother nature – drainage needs to be dialled, properly installed tarps are essential and composting leaves are kept out of the line.
While Trails might not be such a focus for the MTB audience these days, the core community of Dirt Jumpers is still strong. And given the dedication and skill required to create a truly dialled set of trails, this should come as no surprise.
We figured it was long overdue to celebrate Trails again. The digging, the shaping, the riding- none of the magic has been lost. So, sit back and enjoy some great riding, on an awesome line.
With crews of riders and builders putting hours of time into digging and maintaining their local spots, understandably there is a bit of a protective factor when it comes to sharing the locations of their creations. So, regarding the whereabouts of these trails, our lips are sealed.
But creating your own set or gaining the trust of the crew at your local spot is not out of the question. Everyone has to start somewhere, and when it comes to jumps you can be sure that some shovel work is going to be one of the first steps. Trust us when we say- the extra time and effort required makes those clean runs through some dialled trails worth every second.
Featuring: Phil Auckland
Supported by: Canyon Bicycles