Poll: Are Diggers Approaching the Tipping Point?

Jun 21, 2014 at 16:56
by Richard Cunningham  

Pinkbike user image

Stunning creations in our minds, but to an influential minority, our trails are viewed with contempt. So far a tenuous treaty has worked in favor of mountain bikers. - Margus Riga photo



Having lived in the country for many years, I have learned to live with the local wildlife population. Some of my furry, winged and scaled neighbors are welcomed additions to my outpost in nature, but there are a number of them which, though not welcome, are grudgingly accepted. I do not despise any living thing. I believe that everything on this planet of ours has a purpose and also has the right to live and be happy - and, yes, my list includes top predators, poisonous spiders, snakes, mosquitoes, leeches and ticks. I invite nature to share everything on my property on her terms - with the exception of that which exists within a small perimeter around my house.

Like most good and well-meaning people, I can ignore a few mounds in the yard. When I start seeing them pop up in more than one place, I may become concerned. When I start losing plants, I negotiate a balanced agreement: I'll lay some traps around the plants and, even though I am getting tired of digging rodents, I'll let the outliers live and just smooth off the mounds they make where they are unsightly. At some point in this give-and-take game, I reach a tipping point. Maybe I lose a cherished cactus. Or perhaps I return from testing bikes in Europe to discover that there are mounds everywhere. At this point, concern becomes anger, my tolerance becomes resolve, and I eliminate every digging rodent within the line. (Complain about my bad attitude towards nature here)

North Fork trail deconstruction

Conflicts with unauthorized building led the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to destroy one of the better trail networks in the North Fork area near Bellingham, Washington. - Brad Walton photo

(Read about the good end to this story.)

I claim no high or low ground here. It is human nature to avoid conflicts until they grow so large that drastic measures must be taken to solve them. Both governments and criminals exploit this inertia to tax or steal from others because time has proven that, until people reach a tipping point, we will grudgingly put up with almost any sort of threatening or illegal behavior - and if clever planning can keep the level of angst just below our tipping points, their exploitations can continue indefinitely. Most diggers are operating under that same rules. Call it "unauthorized trail construction" or "user-built trails," but when you dig on public or private land, you are wagering that dissention and disapproval created by your project will remain at levels low enough to ward of action by land managers and conflicting user groups. If you have made your jump line or trail somewhere where it evokes a minimal reaction, it may remain long enough to be forgiven - even adopted. The more likely story, however, is that other diggers will be inspired by your handiwork and move in - adding new lines and attracting more riders and diggers, until one day, after one too many helicopter rescues or encounters with angry residents, your zone will push the landowner or manager past the tipping point.

Where is the tipping point? You would have to be brain dead to believe that your secret trail is secret. Whoever he or she may be, it's a safe bet that the person who owns or manages the land you built upon knows or will soon discover that your creation exists. Localized zones have and will continue to be shut down by land managers who are fed up with diggers, but that is a given. Consider the big picure. Is there a mounting angst nationwide? Surely large land-holders, foresters, park directors and open space conservancies have been watching the trend, and while there are billions of acres of land where a builder could dig unnoticed, it could be argued that all eyes are now focused on the high concentration of trails that are popping up in and around populated areas. The perceived danger is that a very large and conspicuous entity will eventually pop, and rule heavily against mountain bikes and unauthorized building - and if that occurs, others who have been quelling their anger and concern will follow suit. If such a thing occurs, history indicates that all of us will be driven off, not just the builders. So, today's poll is:




Is there a tipping point where unauthorized trail building will spur wholesale land closures against mountain bike use?







147 Comments

  • + 76
 I think there are to many hoops that need to be jumped through in order to get a trail approved by the forest service. Plus they have liability to worry about so the skill level of many trails has to be reduced so they are more inclusive and safe. Trails become paved sidewalks through the woods and its BS. The mountain in mountain biking is removed. Plus I pay taxes, if you can sell the land to logging companies to profit from why can't we build trails? We have just as much a right to be there as they do. I'm not saying that I think any and all trails should be approved but I'm saying that if you look at impacts of land use MTB is waaay less destructive than other activities. FS needs to loosen up and make it easier to cooperate and maybe we would go through them if they were reasonable. It shouldn't take hundreds of hours meeting with people to get approved to build a trail.
  • + 4
 Yes, but, in my experience roughly 90% of unsanctioned building is shit one way or another. Shit because it's never completed, built in an inappropriate area, or even built well but at a way too difficult level where it's a hazard to most of the riders in that area. Construction that's shit by any definition won't stand the test of time.

Also consider that The Man stands to turn a profit from commercial endeavours on public lands through increased tax revenue.
  • + 20
 I think it must be drastically different in Canada, but the notion that "the mountain in mountain biking is removed" is completely absurd. Legalization simply does not cause trails to become "paved sidewalks" and that idea is a gross misconception. Blame the preferred riding styles of many, if you like, but leave the effort to protect the trails that you ride out of it. The tax-payer argument is a whole other issue - many people pay plenty of taxes. It doesn't necessarily mean that they all get exactly what they want. Just because mountain bikers want trails everywhere doesn't mean that it is in the best interest of the entire population. Serious mountain bikers represent likely around 0.0005% of the population, so be thankful for the traction gained thus far and get involved in the overall movement, rather than complain about how tough it is.
  • + 9
 I went through this issue here in the UK with our illegal trail building on both private and public land - in the end we refocused our efforts and opened our own bike park in Surrey where we enjoyed 8+ years of operation, until ironically it ended following a legal conflict with the land owner

ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb6477754/p4pb6477754.jpg

(on their pretense about environmental damage, the reality was a push to turn the site into a luxury hotel complex) finally led us to abandon that site

I no longer build trails, apart from doing some light maintenance in my local area, my efforts are so low key it flies under the radar of the local authorities, I am just smoothing / shaping and removing dead fall and leaves but not making my efforts known
  • + 8
 i want trails harder than legal trails can offer . it always seems that way
  • + 5
 @Idhbaker - Legal trails here are a lot different here, especially in California where a lot of the open land is on State Parks, and just about all of the legal mountain bike trails are multi-use and not the slightest bit technical.
  • + 5
 Esher Shore was amazing, but as Hampsteadbandit well knows, Sandown wanted the land back and used some questionable means to do so. Even my local trails in Fleet are now closed to all bikes, as the Ministry of Defence don't want us building on their land anymore.
  • - 10
flag ecologist (Jun 22, 2014 at 9:29) (Below Threshold)
 "i want trails harder than legal trails can offer."

Yup, and I want more money than legal professions can offer, so I steal bikes. Like it or not, we're the same, you and me.
  • + 1
 um no .stealing bikes affects the very people you are building for and affects your life greatly . having harder trails expands the horizon for those people and makes it better . with more options
  • + 7
 I don't think he's actually suggesting to steal people's bikes, mate. It's an exaggerated point.
  • + 1
 i know but thats not a very good analogy
  • + 4
 In Calgary's Fish Creek Park all trails were closed because some kids with shovels wouldn't quit ruining the park. There were quite a few other trails that were all unmarked and unsanctioned, but had been around for years and were sustainable. The so called solution was to ban all off road trail use and build a single "mountain bike" trail that consists of a gravel path around the park. You know, the kind of gravel that is too deep and loose to ride comfortably anyways. Now they have decided they will allow a volunteer built "skills park" on a small and otherwise unusable chunk of ground to keep the off road experience in the park. While I think its awesome I will have a pump track in the park by my house, it does not replace the lost mountain biking the brats with shovels took away!
  • - 1
 Such an Interesting Topic these day's! There SHOULD be More trail networks now that technology is so easily available! People have the right to ride and be free to explore this beautiful planet that was a gift to us all. In NO way is there any part of this planet that BELONGS to anyone in particular! It should be noted the people deserve space and privacy of their own, but destroying trail's that people build or taking away people's freedom to explore and appreciate the Soil that's out there is DE monstrous. MTB doesn't hurt anyone but the rider who puts him/herself at risk. NOBODY should be sewing any land owner's who allow people to use their land.. seriously so wtf are people thinking when they ride a bike.. It's at our OWN risk unless there has been some sort of booby trap set out to get people hurt.. Nonetheless People just want to have fun on Bikes, so why cant we all just put in a little extra help in to give support where its needed! It's called WORKING TOGETHER everyone!;p)
  • + 5
 If you are using hiking trails to ride... please don't complain that they aren't technical
  • + 1
 Whoa. Looks as though people don't like being called out.

"um no .stealing bikes affects the very people you are building for and affects your life greatly . having harder trails expands the horizon for those people and makes it better . with more options"

So your entire moral compass is guided by whether mountain bikers are hurt or helped by an action? Interesting standard, but I'll roll with it. So please consider the very scenario the article is proposing: building and riding illegal trails creates a negative image for all mountain bikers and makes it more difficult or impossible to make progress with legal efforts. These actions actually hurt the MTB community.
  • + 1
 hahaha good point eco , that wasnt really the point i was trying to get at ,
  • + 1
 Ecologist... Get the f*ck out- you've never built a trail obviously and you don't know what its like creating such awesome masterpieces for EVERYONE to use in the community.. and not everything is perfectly legal when it comes to building them in general but once its been around for 7+ years where local people in the community have used the trails continuously it becomes a right by the local community through easement that entitles and justifies them to continue to use the trail. Not saying building illegal trail's is a good example but sometimes its just not possible to spit further then the next legality..Sometimes you just improvise a little and then time takes care of the rest.. sounds silly but this easement is a right in usage after something has been a common benefactor in a community for an extended length of time~ Try to build legally obiviously, but not every trail ever created was legal to begin with!
  • + 3
 ^this is how rio is in kamloops now ^
  • + 39
 we've already hit this point in the interior of BC. Trails that have existed for years suddenly have trespass notices on them. Personally I find it funny how logging companies can pay a stumping fee and basically flatten entire forests, and yet to build a trail is a bureaucratic nightmare for which the governments have no money and no desire to help. Absolutely insane.
  • + 30
 Everyone is worried about how erosion impacts a forest. Have you seen a clear-cut?
  • + 5
 They likely have had tenure rights for a long time. Mountain biking is relatively new, and not nearly as well established, which is exactly why bikers need to join an advocacy group and make their voice heard.
  • + 0
 "I find it funny how logging companies can pay a stumping fee and basically flatten entire forests, and yet to build a trail is a bureaucratic nightmare for which the governments have no money and no desire to help."

Timber harvest is also generally regarded (at least in the US) as a "bureaucratic nightmare." Loggers don't go wandering through the wilderness lopping off trees willy nilly, you know. A little insight could be found in the fact that loggers do PAY stumpage, and timber harvest supports a large and important part of the economy in many places (in my state, it's the 6th largest industry).

"Everyone is worried about how erosion impacts a forest. Have you seen a clear-cut?"

A bike trail will almost never have vegetation growing on it, which is the best way to prevent erosion, and has a very high potential to channelize runoff, while clearcuts usually fill quickly with new growth. There are also very high standards and regulations concerning the construction of access roads, landings, etc., and sometimes land managers even get sued when they fail to uphold those standards. So there's little incentive for a land manager to invite further impact to the resource, especially when it brings no revenue and has the potential to simply take time, headache, and legal action (not just from injured riders).

By no means am I saying that every timber harvest is good and is the best course of action for the resource. Most very likely are not. I guess I'm just saying that everything, literally every decision, when it comes to public land management, is about trade-offs. In most cases the timber industry is how stuff gets done from a management perspective, and it pays the bills, so that's going to influence the trade-offs that they're willing to make.
  • + 6
 you must be joking. When they level forests and build condos, mini-malls, are they worried about wildlife and runoff and blah blah blah??...What about when they build a landfill and dump trash in the ground? Or create a mine and fill it with drums of toxic waste. Yea sure no vegetation on a bike trail is what we should worry about. Quads atvs make more impact than a mtb. This is where MTBs become extremely Doushy. For anyone to oppose a singletrack trail is kind of stupid. they need to step back and see the bigger picture. MTBing is one of the most environmentally friendly sports out there-built trail or not. There are bigger threats to the environment to worry about...
  • + 1
 @Phat: Yes, actually they worry about that quite a bit. Have you tried to go through Timber Conversion and development permitting lately? The amount of studies, public hearings, and other environmental permitting makes what the FS requires to do a mountain bike trail utterly insignificant.
And the fact with the US forests is that they are a managed harvest, much like any other type of agriculture only over a larger span of time...and is regulated accordingly. Adding mountain bike trails increases access, which increases abuse. In Washington, most of our forests are private land, and although they are large corporations, they are still private land owners and reserve the right to kick you off whenever they want. Their big reason for not allowing trails is not the environmental degradation...as you say, it is pretty miniscule. Their big issue is illegal dumping and fire dangers introduced by unrestricted access. Some places have successfully worked with logging companies to allow access for MTBers, usually with the understanding that when they log, the bikers need to find a new place to play.
I remember when I thought a pirated trail was the cat's ass...now they just give mtbers a bad name and make it more difficult to reach those types of shared use agreements.
  • + 30
 They only reason they knock down trails and jumps at the state parks is because our piece of shit governments haven't figured how to tax it yet. Doesn't help that our society has become so litigious that everything is a potential lawsuit. Which is the main reason land owner can't be cool with people on their property.
  • + 16
 Sorry for angry rant but I'm going through this right now.
  • + 7
 No. State parks squash unauthorized trails because we live in a country full of people LOOKING for that weak knee to kick. Any excuse to sue. Having worked with state parks in the past I've heard all the stories. Someones kid breaking an arm while climbing a wooden fence. Law suit. The woman who assured the state park because she twisted her ankle in a gopher hole, then threatened to sue again if "the state doesn't eradicate this health hazard!" Lol...
No, you can't build jumps in a state park.
Unless you live in a very cool state. Smile
  • + 3
 Oops. Meant to give positive props to this.
  • + 5
 Agreed. I think fear of being sued has got to be up there for the #1 reason for closing trails (legal or not).
  • + 1
 "No. State parks squash unauthorized trails because we live in a country full of people LOOKING for that weak knee to kick. Any excuse to sue. Having worked with state parks in the past I've heard all the stories. Someones kid breaking an arm while climbing a wooden fence. Law suit. The woman who assured the state park because she twisted her ankle in a gopher hole, then threatened to sue again if "the state doesn't eradicate this health hazard!" Lol...
No, you can't build jumps in a state park.
Unless you live in a very cool state."

Slightly off topic here, but it's so impossible for me to undestand the American "sue, win and get rich" culture. It's against common sense so badly that I cannot understand how is that possible. Dont know if it is true but I heard a story that some guy bought a coffee from McDonald's and managed to spill it on his arm or something. He got some burn wounds from the hot coffee and then he sued McDonald's and won the case because no one didnt tell him that the coffee is hot and might burn your skin if you spill it on... Does American Mcdonalds coffee cups nowadays have a warning text on them or something?
  • + 2
 Its actually worse than you think. I remember watching old Drop In episodes where some of the riders were climbing on peoples roofs to drop off of, not a chance here. Two things happen: owner sues riders family for destruction of roof. B: rider sues owner when he screws up and gets hurt on his property. Keep in mind that it isn't USUALLY the individual, its the insurance companies. I tripped on my tailgate 5 years ago and broke my arm in the street. My health insurance tried to sue my auto insurance. That failed so they went after my hone owners insurance! Had it happened in my yard they prob would have won! Gosh, wonder why my premiums are so high, just spent $400,000 on lawyers!
And believe it or not, I learned a while ago that the McDonalds incident was actually legit. It was an older lady and the driver thru attendant spilled it on her. It was so hot that she ended up requiring many skin grafts. They now have to serve coffee at safe temp.
  • + 1
 @Syl4R

It was an old woman that burned... Read about the case here.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald%27s_coffee_case
  • + 21
 Thing is that 90% of all sanctioned trails started as "illegal" trails. Its the nature of the progression of trail building in general and this is non-specific to mountainbiking also.
  • + 9
 why isnt the tipping point one that would allow for more/better/advanced trails

The land managers are fighting a losing battle to ban mountain bikers or disallow certain types of trails. The tipping point is coming and it will be when the managers realize we need advanced trails
  • + 5
 I'm currently building a downhill trail on crown land. The hill used to house a fire tower but due to budget cuts they just use a plane for the whole county. They'll likely forget they even own it, it has a perfect road to access the old tower. My hopes are someday I can get through all the red tape and make the trails legal.
  • + 16
 I dont see why more bmxers and mtbers dont band together and buy their own land to build on? Get a job and team up with some friends and buy some land. Seriously go out and search the classifieds and the tax maps and find people willing to owner finance and make a deal. It is easier then you think. This should be the next step in these sports. If we do things like this we can make our own rules and trails and not give in to lame decisions from bureaucrats.
  • + 9
 This guy was a pro Moto Trials rider who built a bike park on his farm for his sons.. It's a private DH park that anyone can ride now.
www.pinkbike.com/news/alex-orban-rocking-la-fenasosa-video-2014.html
  • + 4
 Small problem is in the south of the UK hills(certainly nowhere near mountains) never(very rarely) sell and when it does it goes for extortionate money that's would take far to many people to be able to afford it though if you live in south wales or Scotland where land is far cheaper this is a superb idea.
  • + 14
 Who has $ to buy land when we spend thousands of dollars on the latest bikes and gear? Wink
  • + 12
 Yeah, we're supposed to buy land AND ride 650b bikes? Sheesh.
  • + 2
 whoa, that place is legit, RC. Impressive for a private build. That's a lot of dirt! Didn't we see Minnaar flip is V10 there?
  • + 2
 That's great for them over in Spain
  • + 7
 But if a bunch of riders in California bought their own land and built cool trails, then THEY would have to lay awake at night worrying that some spode would break their neck on their trails, sue them and take everything they have, including their 650B bike.
  • + 2
 @codypup isn't that similar to what happened to John Cowan's yard? --> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD1PZAO5bTQ
  • + 2
 Is a disclaimer notice not enough? Perhaps a signature is required..
  • + 3
 If you live in Scotland you have the right to roam responsibly and go anywhere you want. Smile
  • + 4
 Perhaps bike companies could take a lesson from skateboard companies and buy land and build. Vans, Etnies and Volcom have built public skateparks
  • + 2
 I agree dwdw. You see it a bit with Bell Built Grants, where they partially fund a build, and volunteer organizations build it. It makes for great pub, and it helps build the sport that puts food on their tables(and the Ferrari in the garage). More bike companies should do this, for sure.
  • + 3
 Hey gav, I was thinking about that today. I've been working on a new trail and I don't actually know who owns the land. As there is no private property sign or anything anywhere. Picture if you will a B and B at the bottom of a famous loch, trees behind and open moor above the trees. Now the B and B has a separate gate to their property and there is a fence at the top of the hill which roughly follows the wood line. No private property sign and no forestry commission sign. Most likely the land is owned by a crofter but his sheep never go in the woods or some stupidly rich motherf*cke* who let's other rich folk shoot deer on his land. Either way my trails look dope but is the right to roam also a right to shovel some dirt around. This is how I've always seen it, it's simply moving dirt from one spot to another.
  • + 2
 In my experience there is a huge difference between riding across someones land and even clearing a trail, as opposed to building structures, ie big jumps, anything built out of wood, etc. If you're just riding on a trail the owner is less likely to get freaked out about liability and has plausible deniability.
  • + 1
 Love Scotland, take your independence when it's offered, I wish we had the same choice.
  • + 1
 I'll be voting no, politics has no place on pinkbike please :-)
  • + 1
 Wordupg, that's a difficult one. I don't the right to roam gives a right to dig, we can cross the land but not dig it up as we don't own it. I would think if your alterations aren't massive then they will be ignored, I've been told some landowners are quite receptive to trails being built or at least made more permanent as it keeps people to one part of the land. Very much depends on the owner though, ones from down south can't be outright nobbers as they don't know the law in the first place. If you are building huge jumps and berms is best to ask, if it's clearing paths and bedding in single track I think it'd be difficult to prove it wasn't just done by people passing through.

Independence? I'm English living in Scotland, hopefully for a very long time. Scotland can be a successful independent nation, no question. Will Scotland be better off out of the UK? They've not yet convinced me.


Oh, and I'm going to need some gps coordinates for those trails Big Grin
  • + 1
 I'm English too shhhh... Haha the trail is very bermtastic. They're bloody solid as they've all got boulders in as the bulk then covered with a good helping of dirt. That way they can't be demolished. As soon as someone try's to kick them in they will get very sore toes or a lot of hard work to pull them down. The good thing is there are deer trails absolutely everywhere, so they're quite camouflaged. I only ever hike up there at the moment so I can't be accused of being a biker. Then once the first stage is complete, I'll ride them in. Once they're there, I can use the old I didn't build them and I have the right to roam! If you ever up in the Ness drop me a PM.
  • + 13
 In my area I support any trail building. Legal or not we need more places to ride.
BUT, when someone goes to the effort to build a trail, and the users (us mtbrs) straightline all the curves and corners then we are just as bad as the "man" shutting down trails.
  • + 11
 The trail war is like the drug war, f*cking stupid & totally unwinnable. We will always build.
  • + 2
 I think I love your comment. Is it free at the weekend?
  • + 1
 That's what land managers and even a lot of XC heavy advocacy groups don't get. If you don't cater, in some fashion, to the minority of advanced riders, they will go off grid, creating a potential problem for everyone. Not riding is not an option.
  • + 9
 Question is too open-ended. In some areas yes. In some areas no. In many areas in BC (almost everywhere) there is no trail boss; the sanctioned and unsanctioned trails can and do co-exist. That IMO is a good thing
  • + 7
 The other side here is builders who stay clear of MTB organizations that seem to be more an exercise in management than bodies that want local input/ideas as opposed to your money and free labor. So they will build and enjoy till its destroyed and repeat....
  • + 6
 The way I see it most forests I've seen trails in ( at least in the south west) are in unhealthy over grown forests. Forest are not supposed to be so dense with trees and its the same reason so many fire fighters die each year. Trails are like pre built fire lines they can provide fire fighters a way out and help slow the spread. If you don't ride a trial in couple years the forest will take her back anyway!
  • + 4
 From a European point of view: Just keep digging.

It takes months, if not years, for every little piece of trail to get legalized, a decision which then can usually be reversed anytime. Don't ask first, you will be denied 99% of the time, and will only bring more (negative) attention on what you are doing.

Sorry, been there, done that.
  • + 4
 I've been building trails for a few years now, mostly smaller ones with big hits at the bottom. Even though I know people will find my trails and destroy them, the process is just too fun to stop. It's art work in my opinion and it's always sad to see your work destroyed, but it leaves room for you to improve and become a better artist. If only riders who found my jumps would respect them and not litter in the area, I'm sure that would help the longevity of the trails.
  • + 2
 Couldn't agree more. It is "art work"....and I've had a lot more issues with other riders and non riders on hidden trails than the authorities.
  • + 3
 There was an illegal downhill trail literally 5 minutes from the central city in a pine forest. It was so good that eventually the local council decided to adopt it as an official trail, I feel bad you guys over there. It sounds like an uphill battle.
  • + 2
 I agree with you in full man... we have it made. I help build trails for my local club and we actually get given money from our local council to build them and progress the sport within the community. but then we do have muppets that come in and build berms and jumps with sticks and twigs. they blow out within a couple of weeks so we have to go clean up the crap that they put in. its a limited few that do ruin things for everyone else
  • + 1
 You are building trails in hamilton? damn, ill have to check em out next time im up that way.
  • + 2
 ye man out Te Miro between Cambridge and Morrinsville. Check it out on face book for maps and all that jazz. www.facebook.com/TeMiroMTBClub
  • + 3
 This is exactly what happened to MX with the dawn of long-travel off road motos in the 70's and 80's....after enough complaints from the general public, off road riding became marginalized nearly to the point of only being allowed on private property. Sad thing in this case (at least my experience) is that a lot of this is built by "kids" who within a few years move on to something else, leaving the damage behind, and the fingers pointed at the rest of us.
  • + 3
 In Slovenia we aren't even legally allowed riding bikes in nature outside bike parks. Trails get destroyed all the time by hunters and such, even when we have owners permission. On well known trails you sometimes find wires in the height of the neck and stingers. We are battling those laws at the moment, though not getting anywhere because of hikers association and environmental groups.
  • + 2
 and also ice destroyed the forests. so a lot of trails are still unrideable because noone gives a shit.
  • + 3
 Unfortunately there is less and less land the world over that people can 'just build a sick trail on'... I used to as build loads as a kid but now it seems only big trail building companies get to build trails on council approved land, it takes money and numbers people to make a new trail happen, and unfortunately they now all seem to end up being built by the same build crew all over the country and we're ending up with every trail having the same safety regulated, over-manicured 1.5m wide luge with characterless ski-jumps with no pop instead of big kickers for air time. I gave up gravity riding shortly after moving to Oz because of it, this country seems the worst for over-regulated trails and the lack of fun trails killed me inside and i took up xc riding instead... Even all the xc trails here are the same mind.
  • + 2
 This is crazy. You take a few acres of land and which people construct for the benefit of all outdoor adventurers, and which harms nothing's. We have millions of acres of completely unused forest for all the tree hungers to worry about or like another poster mentioned flattened areas from forestry companies. These very very small utilized areas of land keep kids busy in a constructive environment for the benefit of the well beings. Or I have a better idea. Shut down trail building all together and send all these adventurist personality kids to the mall and mise we'll throw them a pack of smokes and a boot legged bottle of vodka instead. Give me a break. Where would you rather see young adventurist energy spend in these kids. In a a very small small area of a massive forest in which they have no detrimental affect to the big picture or take there positive options away and force them to the streets where there energy turns negative in a heart beat. There was some great trails that people built in the upper kelowna area which was great for the riding community and was developing into a bit of a close to town recreation area which was great for bikers of all sorts. Someone tore it all down. Which was absolutely criminal. Why was it tore down forestry? Because you needed those 10 acre as to log to send the 20 loads across the border to the states for cents on the dollar in our free trade agreement so we can buy it back for double. NO. That land is perfect for the biking community and is a attractive for the whole biking community of the area. I just don't get it. Let's make it impossible for the outdoor enthusiast to utilize there surroundings so they say forget about it and go hang out down at city park until 2 am. That's going to achieve allot isn't it.
  • + 2
 Richard the different towns /cities react in thiere own way to rouge trail builders. where I live in BC every trail was built by individuals with out any ones permission. Fear of lawsuits keeps the city officials busy tearing stuff down and closing trails. then a new trail is made.
So keep them new trails a secret .when they catch on say good bye to your stunts.
and then i build another trail...................................and so on and so on.
  • + 3
 ^^^Sshredder - it's true. but there is actually a bright side to some illegal building. Historically a great many trails begin as user-buiit, or just footpaths that lead to places people want to go and then are adopted later by officials. In fact. many parks begin life as popular tresspassing locations and get donated by land-owners or purchased by civic agencies later, because those areas became so popular.
  • + 2
 I am convinced that in many places the period of illegality is a necessary part of the life of the trail. After it is illegal and everyone uses it it often becomes legalized and better regulated. In NY there is a lot of back and forth with the DEC until trails get approved. They all started as illegal. Other places are more accommodating. Utah loves bikers and builds us nice trails. Here illegal trails are probably frowned on more simply because there are good places to ride already. At the end of the day the trails are usually not a big issue. They become a scapegoat so that there will be less public interest when the local government decides to clear cut the woods. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is out there to notice. . .
  • + 2
 MTBing is a sport that has exceeded it's natural appeal and now is in danger of diminishing the ride legacy that attracted the original pioneers, at the expense of the recent enthusiasts who joined 15, 10 and 5 years ago. At each step of its cheap to a billion dollar industry it has attracted regulation, scrutiny and supporters who have threatededits existence from within. The most concerning thing is some land resource owners have adopted a no gaps, or no (real) black or double black policy. By having policy where all the tracks are rollable has actually stuffed the natural order and ends up with very experienced and inexperienced riders running the same line, ach one stuffing it for each other. And this has in fact caused the prevalence of illegal and unauthorised builds, because if the original structures and challenges were maintained for the original riders, there would be no need to go find the new ground to provide that right. New bumper stickers. I ride and I vote.
  • + 2
 as a trailbuilder that works on both unsanctioned and sanctioned trails, I've realised that most of the time being respectful and getting along with landowners or simply noy building things that are an eyesore or will create land damage is key. current project is an unsanctioned trail that we know will be legalised right after it's done.
the reality is unless trails start getting built illegally then legal trails will never start. the coucils need to see that there's interest, but unless there's already people riding in a zone there's no proof of that interest. so we build trails to bike-park standard ie b lines and drainage/signage. more work, but it's gonna lead to whatevet we build being legalised. the only trails around here that get closed off and destroyed are the ones that erode more year after year and annoy other trail users cause of rubbish etc.
  • + 4
 There should be acreage in or near every city that is government funded to build run and maintain a bike park, just like there are walking trails and dog parks...
  • + 1
 Seems that liability is the big issue for land owners to cooperate. People don't take responsibility for their actions and are too litigious. Or at least land owners are fearful of possible litigation. National forest service has some good trails that allow bikes ( just did the McKenzie River Trail, awesome) but they are really slow integrate new ones.
  • + 1
 I do some digging in my local trail centre's. It started as maintenence of one trail that was easy to access. I bought the books, learned about drainage, sustainability, physics, ect. I started to manipulate the existing trail in certain ways. A few years have passed, there are a few of us now and our hard work has been recognized. The locals bush Rangers like and appreciate our work. We have been invited to do more of it and help out with future projects. We build with all riders in mind. You can keep it clean and simple or send it all on the same track just with different speeds and line choices. Every one wins- most of the time.
  • + 1
 This is not just an issue involving "illegal" trails. My local trail system is completely legal (even built with the help of IMBA). There used to be north shore style features like teeter-totters and latter bridges, a person got hurt and complained. Now all of the features have been cut and removed...
  • + 1
 www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/local/breaking-news-eastbourne-cyclists-warned-over-deadly-traps-1-6136866

story of someone trying to clothesline cyclists with fishing wire at a designated cycle area in the south of UK
  • + 1
 Here in Santa Cruz it seems a strange detente has developed, between riders, land owners and law enforcement. All the good stuff is illegal, and unless you're a Joey from Modesto, most everybody knows where the good trails are.

Rangers will do token enforcement now and then, often with local media in tow, but I've never been ticketed or know anyone who has.

Most hikers I've encountered have been totally cool -- probably because I always try to stop or slow to walking speed when I see them. Or maybe because in this town, everyone at least knows someone who rides... Of course you get the occasional irate hiker who says we'll "ruin it for everyone else," which makes me laugh.

What, they'll make the trail illegal?
  • + 1
 I live in a place that is doing it right, Big Bear, Ca . One of our local ski resorts has a new bike park that is designed by gravity logic and is growing in popularity faster than new trails can be made. Our local trail club, Bear Valley Trails Foundation has negotiated with the forest service to build new single track in an area that has been thined out for fire prevention. Building illegal trails is a pain in the ass and if there are good legal riding options why bother?
  • + 1
 All I have to say is the People at TAMBA are doing it right and the illegal trails are being rebuilt in conjunction with the forrest service that have fun features and ride arounds for those who don't yet have the technical skill to hit bigger features. Corral trail is the first sanctioned jump trail on forrest device land and is only getting better. old illegal trails like the jackie chan and jet lee are going to get rebuilt through this partnership. the tipping point has already been passed in the tahoe basin and now that mountain bikers are working with the other user groups and land managers we are on the path to opening more legal trails. because lets face it the current legal trail networks are either lacking in variety, technical features, or even amount. I have recently moved to Boulder CO and the amount of over crowding on the few decent trails within a reasonable drive is often appalling! its time for this change and we need to work with the other user groups to be able to build these kinds of trails in conjunction with the land managers.
  • + 1
 Here in NZ its tough. We have a very limited amount of trails that are suited to different kinds of abilities. We have areas (like Rotorua and Queenstown) that have extremely active network of trail builders and trails. These areas have trails for majority of abilities and likings. However if you live outside of these areas (like I do) there are limited trails to suit my ability. Now we have MTB parks that have active trail building occurring yet they either sit in the category of to either to easy or to hard. Or just not to my abilities liking. Now this is nobodys fault but what is tough is that we riders have very limited influence on what a trail ends up like. There are the people who run the digs and are the judge, jury and executioner. I have been apart of many trail builds and I love doing my part. But I personally dont get any say on how the trail looks and what features the trail will have. I am personally restricted by what the council and the top trail building committees allow. Which as a result ends in illegal trail building. If us MTB's were given more influence in what is built and how it is built we would have a more beneficial trails and networks that would appeal to more people. Surely if this was the case we would have more people along to digs and would need less money to get trails built. I know that this is a perfect world scenario but smarter incorporation of MTB's in my opinion would result in less disputes and more beneficial elements for the overall community.
  • + 1
 Take Portland for example, over $150k has been raised to build a small bike park in an unused green space sandwiched between two freeways. They said if the money was raised it would be built. Well here we are a few years later and all they've managed to do is switch ownership of the land to the city and sit on the plans and the pot of money. I'm not stupid, they are just waiting to see if they can use the land for something that benefits them instead. Oh and f*uck clear cuts.
  • + 1
 I am involved with trail building in the uk with the forestry commission, to placate them my advice would be, don't use any wood to build trails, just rocks and dirt. Don't use any existing paths, access tracks as descents as it can cause conflict with other forest users. If you want to build jumps , stick to tabletops or rollable doubles. At any one time the FC are dealing with about 50+ legal cases against them where someone has fallen off, or even tripped over roots. It's possible to make challenging tracks which cater for a variety of riders abilities. Contact the FC before you build as they will walk the route with you (make sure there's no rare species) and sometimes even donate pipe and stone to get you over streams and ditches.
  • + 1
 There definitely is a mystique and thrill involved with going rogue in the deep forest which is very exciting and rewarding. The loam has no equal. The feeling that one gets from skidding and shralping the detritus is a personal joy to behold that can only truly be experienced on private trails. A lot of people that partake in this also partake in maintaining legitimate trails as well, but the private gems are classified as a secret for a reason, the less traffic the better, & should only be benownst to a handful of closest friends. Having a private run might be the only way to experience feeling the love of good forest duff under your rubber. I do not condone illegal trail building, but as long as they stay secret, they provide an entirely different riding experience and skill set than established legal trails (which usually are down to mineral soil). Thank you RC for the great write up. I like the metaphor you use of the mounds of dirt in the yard from moles/voles which might bring one to “the tipping point”, and for the haters in this thread, his statement: “I claim no high or low ground here” was also included. I hope that there are always secrets for the riding crowd that longs for something more interesting, those willing to dig and those wishing to enjoy the feeling of what it is to rock it on virgin humic soil.
  • + 1
 In my area, even the official trail builders enjoy riding "user built trails" that others have built. And besides, the mtb community is growing vastly around the far corners of the earth, but it is not like we are putting in concrete barriers in the middle of the forest and building structures(buildings not ladders, skinnies, etc.). I hope most people realize that mountain biking has also brought communities together and vastly increased prosperity in so many ways.
  • + 1
 I was big time into dirt biking in the mid 70's both moto-x and desert we could ride everywhere now almost nowhere we need to get in front this topic b4 the only place we can do what we want is in a bike park(don't get me wrong, I love the parks but I'm a freerider @ heart)don't let them divide us up that's how they destroy the groups, divide and conquer they'll never stop attacking and the taking away from us.

I now only ride bicycles nothing with engines any longer,, ride hard, play hard

Live to Ride, Ride to Live Fastfish
  • + 1
 What pisses me off, they destroy it...then don't clean it up...seems to me what they are doing is worse??....I say build and do whatever you want! If your not trashing the forest...whats the problem, besides dealing with suck up ass rangers..... for the most part trail builders respect the land more than your "casual" hikers. .. Stop harassing the good people, and go after the people bad people...
  • + 1
 In Seattle WA we have barely any trails, or any close trails and the ones we have in the Seattle area are sub par and not meant for riders(walking and hiking trails), there are exceptions like the Duthie Hill park and a few others, but these quality parks are to far away, especially for younger riders like myself, who don't have rides. What needs to happen is more problem solving between local mtb associations and government organizations to create safe and free areas for all types of riding, with enough space to build several lines. At this point, the only way my buddies and i can ride is by building trails in local public parks.
  • + 2
 check out the swan creek trail system down in tacoma, it has a few advanced lines that will test you. you can even get there on the bus.
  • + 1
 Thanks, i'll have a look for sure!
  • + 1
 With the human population above 7 billion, this ain't getting any easier. Wish I had some magical insight, but litigation and population on the rise, our best champions may be the juggernaut bike companies that we pour money into. What say you, Trek, Specialized, Giant?
  • + 2
 stupid americans and there idea of "oh shit, I was a dumbass and broke myself, time to sue the bastards who own the land and didnt warn me that i could hurt myself on a mountain bike."
  • + 1
 Unauthorized anything will not go over well with a land owner. The hardest part is communicating well & respectfully once a conservation has been started. I've found that doing so regardless of getting no for an answer always leaves a better impression for the cause to tip in your favor eventually to someone somwhere...with support.
  • + 1
 Research Teton freedom riders and friends of pathways Jackson wy. We are the first group of riders that work side by side with the Teton ranger district and U.S. Forest service to build user specific trails for riders. We must be aware the digging with poor planing and land management will cause land erosion and damage to your local land if there's no one to help set guide lines. At the same time land management must be willing to work with local groups to achieve happy medium for all.
  • + 1
 Where I build the partiers are a bigger problem than the trails. Broken glass and litter is a liability as well. I had two youngsters help collect a bunch of garbage yesterday and I know the community does appreciate that. I hope the landowner does too.
  • + 0
 Such an Interesting Topic these day's! There SHOULD be More trail networks now that technology is so easily available! People have the right to ride and be free to explore this beautiful planet that was a gift to us all. In NO way is there any part of this planet that BELONGS to anyone in particular! It should be noted the people deserve space and privacy of their own, but destroying trail's that people build or taking away people's freedom to explore and appreciate the Soil that's out there is DE monstrous. MTB doesn't hurt anyone but the rider who puts him/herself at risk. NOBODY should be sewing any land owner's who allow people to use their land.. seriously so wtf are people thinking when they ride a bike.. It's at our OWN risk unless there has been some sort of booby trap set out to get people hurt.. Nonetheless People just want to have fun on Bikes, so why cant we all just put in a little extra help in to give support where its needed! It's called WORKING TOGETHER everyone!;p)
  • + 1
 Ultimately people usually take the path of least resistance, especially government people. Keep building trails and eventually they'll realize their lives would be easier if the trails where made legal.
  • + 1
 If it's their land they have the right to do whatever they want to do with it, even if that includes destroying illegal mtb tracks. I hate it when mtb riders make it try to seem as if the land owner is at fault.
  • + 1
 www.eastbourneherald.co.uk/news/local/breaking-news-eastbourne-cyclists-warned-over-deadly-traps-1-6136866

story of someone trying to clothesline cyclists with fishing wire in Eastboure, south UK in a designated area
  • + 1
 Everyone gets upset about when there jumps or trails gets trashed or destroyed but if it's on someone's privet property and you get hurt you can sue them so that's why garderns always destroy jumps...
  • + 3
 My trails are on land that will eventually be developed for housing, so nobody gives a hoot.
  • + 0
 In my local area called there have been a number of good trails that have lasted over the years. However, builders have had a tendency to cut new trails right next to existing trails whenever the existing trails fell apart from use or rain. Why not put the effort into maintaining, improving or making existing trails more sustainable? Trail building in the area has recently exploded with new lines and humongous jumps that are sure to attract unwanted attention. I talked to one builder who was cutting a wide swath through virgin scrub who said the land owners don't care. I know that to be wishful thinking. I fear it is only a matter of time before a health insurance company, trying to recoup their loss from paying for some rider's spinal surgery, sues the landowner. A favorite area that has been reasonably enjoyed for decades will be lost. There will most definitely be a tipping point.
  • + 1
 Are you talking about Teds rwilber? If so I know the massive new jump line you're talking about. I think its great that builders are putting that much effort into a new line but all it takes is one wanna be super grom/newb + a lawsuit and I guarantee it closed for good!
  • + 1
 You should care. Look at the usa( not shure which states) but because of this mountain bikeing is almost outlawed on what used to be popular trails. Dig smart and join a local trail club!
  • + 0
 Im a bit confused at all the talk about council and approval and what not. Coming from bmx I can testify to the lame process of petitioning for a skatepark in your area that needs to be paid for with public funds. You are no longer in control anymore....here in the USA and here in Virginia the land is available to purchase and youre only limited by your own mind. This needs to be the future. Building on someone else's land and being upset when a landowner tears down the stuff makes no sense. It was never yours to build on on the first place! What is with this entitlement crap? Someone else doesnt need to pay for my hobby. We need to grow up and take control and make our own rules.
  • + 2
 It'll go the same way skateboarding did eventually. Signs and security guards chasing kids like criminals.
  • + 2
 the council is scared trails are rad and no one would be riding if there wasnt any
  • - 1
 Its like the golds gym t shirt says hetfield, I made time, others made excuses. I just used pinkbike here to put together an excellent dh bike for a fraction of the new price by buying used. If riding is important then you make the time and money somehow.Its like the shirt says man....
  • + 1
 Yes ask first, you get a yes most of the times. Most places have a few hills to get to built on. None issue here. Just built it!
  • + 1
 I live on the central coast of Cali and we have a few private ranches with the sickest trails. No hikers or horses to worry about.
  • + 1
 I think we should be allowed to build anything we want, but using common sense, not cutting down over 5 trees, not doing it in protected areas, and etc.
  • + 3
 Richie Cunningham, Can you get me Fonzie's autograph......
  • - 1
 Some trails will become legal, some will be closed permanently. I've ridden quite a few secret trails (yes they exist, sorry fellow builders, your trails are pretty obvious, especially when you have their entrances directly off the road) and some were horribly built and completely eroded after 2-3 days of rain and some were fine, just slightly eroded.

The problem is erosion and how to deal with it so BC Parks or whatever land owner is convinced you're not hurting the environment. Some people use rock armouring which works but makes the trail less than fun, the newer method is gold dirt and drainage which works but the trails are still torn up after rain. The method that doesn't work is telling people to "not ride in the rain" or to "avoid using big bikes on this trail" very few people will follow those rules (the "don't shit where you eat" rule isn't followed by people, I don't know why) and big bikes aren't the sole cause of erosion, people using hardtails or bikes with decreased traction and idiot riders cause erosion just the same.

On the legitimation of trails: this goes back to erosion, if the building is quality (sustainable and non-destructive) then you should have a higher chance. One exception to this is if you're building on protected land, one builder I know (in passing, not personally) wants to get a trail legitimized but it will only get the trail closed because it's on protected land.

That's my 2 cents, from a builder (well my friends do way more building than me) and rider to you.
  • + 1
 Excuse the typos... I really should've proofread that.
  • + 1
 I'm not familiar with "gold dirt", what is it and how is it used?
  • + 2
 nsmba.ca/content/2014-03_march-9th-2014-circuit-8-trail-day-complete The first before and after picture shows what it is, it's difficult to explain but it's just quality dirt... I'm not sure what's in it really but that's our local term for the stuff.
  • + 1
 This happened to 3+ trails in lumby bc with sky bridges 14 feet in the air. Rode those trails for years till it was torn down. Very sad.
  • + 1
 If it wasnt for illegal trails how many of us would riding mountaing bikes?? Probably once a month whan we drive an hour or two to the nearest official trails.
  • + 1
 Somebody needs to win the lottery, buy some land, and pay off the politicians. It's the American way.
  • + 2
 mountain biking is not a crime...
  • + 1
 Mountain Biking is a $150 Billion dollar industry.
That's a lot of Taxes generated, give us our f*cking Trails.
  • + 2
 And, RC, that's a great article/pol! Thanks.
  • + 3
 RIP Lola
  • + 1
 Diggers are heroes. You should never question them or their practices or their tipping points.
  • + 2
 if you build, it they will come...
  • + 1
 This is a very simple problem. ASK FIRST, if you don't know who to ask don't do it until you find out.
  • + 1
 damn we should just start taring down condos
  • + 2
 Build away, be grand!
  • + 1
 The trick is to make sure they dont know
  • + 1
 Don't know, don't care.
  • + 1
 Ok
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