Shoulders in the dirt

Feb 17, 2010 at 4:23
by Russ Clark  
I am obsessed about riding bikes. I don't mind admitting that but sometimes, I feel like the obsession with building at my local spot is taking over! I love building jumps, so much so that I feel the need to write about it!

Everyone, bikers and non-bikers alike, knows what it's like to fall in love with a place. Whether it’s a favourite holiday resort or a favourite dog walk, there’s something incredibly satisfying about visiting these special places. For most mountain bikers involved in any kind of trail building, or even just riding, this place is undoubtedly their local spot.

Story and pics inside,
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I’ve been riding and building dirt jumps with my friends since I was about fourteen. These were mostly utter rubbish - usually a take off with no landing or a tiny rhythm section that never got finished – but they were an important part of our development as trail builders. After a couple of years when a few of our favourite places got flattened, we eventually found a little gem where there was a strong group of local builders working on a dual track to practise on and a great selection of dirt jumps of varying sizes. This place became my local ride for most weekends until I had a nasty crash on a tiny jump and came close to disfiguring my face, requiring the cartilage in my nose to be rebuilt. I was about 19, prime age for being distracted away from riding by booze and the rest of it. I am now 28 and, after a five year break from mountain biking, still ride and build at the very same spot.

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I love building dirt jumps. Sometimes I feel like I love digging even more than riding and then I ride the jumps I’ve built and realize how ridiculous that sounds! I like the creative element to building, dreaming up an insane line, getting everyone on board with your idea and then seeing the finished product being enjoyed by people that you have never even met!

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Building trails is an art form. Watching a master trail builder at work is a bit like watching a master sculptor. They work so quickly and make what they’re doing look so effortless that you just stand there in awe of their skill! Mountain biking is, in most cases, a solo sport but digging is definitely a team effort. It takes everyone to pull together to create a new line, especially when the jumps are huge. There will be arguments about the angles, the direction, the size of the gap, anything that needs to be decided but this all goes towards a finished product that will be appreciated by everyone.

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We are lucky enough that our trails have never been flattened. They are on private land where you can see the remains of a quad bike track and, until recently, the land owner’s daughter used to ride her moto-x bike around the woods so he has a sympathy towards extreme sports! We have never had any trouble and always make an effort to be pleasant to the local dog walkers and to pick up our litter. It’s these things that will make the trails last for ever. We find from talking to the local residents that it’s not the people building and riding that annoys them. It’s the litter, the noise, the cars parked too close to houses, the young chavs lighting fires, the same things that annoy the core of regular riders there! We are, after all, simply enjoying the woods like anyone else. We don’t take up loads of space, we’re not damaging the land beyond repair, we just want somewhere to ride our bikes. We often have unsettling conversations about how horrible it would be to turn up one day and see all our hard work reduced to foot-high piles of soft soil because the land has been sold or something. I don’t like thinking about that for too long.

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There are so many addictive aspects to building and riding your own trails. The actual riding of them sometimes seems like such a small part of it, especially in the winter when the real hard work gets done. This winter has been particularly difficult with all this snow. Sometimes you spend the first hour just hacking your way through the frozen ground! The reward is greater, though. In the darker months you have to get up at crazy o’clock just to make the most of the daylight and the new trails never really dry out enough to ride. It can be months before a set is ready to ride and the feeling of riding that first transition or railing that first berm is like no other.

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Digging is now a major part of the sport for me and it gives me so much pleasure. I live in Nottingham where the terrain is a little more subtle than Vancouver or Wales but it doesn’t mean I enjoy the sport any less. We can build anything that we have in our imagination as long as we put the hours in. We might not be able to get same length of the descents but at least we can push to the top of the hill in less than 10 minutes!

I’m really excited about the spring, the longer days, the evening sessions, trails actually drying out and getting faster, the leaves on the trees instead of on the ground and the dust in my eyes! Our local spot is currently in better shape than it's ever been and getting busier all the time. More riders means more diggers and that means more trails! Roll on summer!

Views: 10,819    Faves: 10    Comments: 13


Author Info:
russclark avatar

Member since Sep 20, 2009
14 articles

91 Comments
  • 19 2
 I know this is going to make me horrendously unpopular, but I have to shoot my mouth off about this. Have you ever thought that the reason people come and flatten your jumps is that you're building them on someone else's land? You may not be hurting anyone or even bothering anyone, but the soil you're diggin up, the trees you're knocking down simply belong to someone else. Yes, they should be cool about it, but come on - is anyone really ever that cool? There are also tremendous issues related to allowing people onto your land to practice extreme sports, and many times those jumps get flattened it's because the landowner is petrified someone's going to get hurt and sue him. The next step in that horrible chain of events is that the land gets fenced off and posted 'no trespassing' because the formerly cool landowner is now broke, pissed and fed up with dealing with it, and then no-one can use the land, dirt jumpers, dog-walkers, chavs, hippies or the regular mountain bikers who used to slip through those woods for years unnoticed. Luckily there's a really simple solution, one that us old wimpy 'xc' guys learned long ago - work with land owners and managers to get legitimate, sanctioned jump areas on land where they can be legally built and stay. Then all your hard work (and incredible talent and artistry, by the way) will stay where you put it and you'll never have to face them being knocked down. Don't say that's impossible, either, because I've seen it happen, in Ann Arbor Michigan, Toronto, and many other places. Ok, I've said it. Let the negative props rain down upon me.
  • 3 0
 I mostly find your point patronising, specially when I know Russ, Brian, Maksym, Antony and the rest of the Besignton crew are grown men and have been well aware from day one about the implications of digging at Besington or any other private land for that matter. AFAIK they have been and still are working on a way to legitimise the plot of land.
However I can see that you mean well and you do have a good point to people who don't understand the implications of digging and for that reason, I think it would be ignorant for people to negative prop you.
>>>> Just abit of more information about Besignton> Many years ago Besington was a far bigger place with a huge quarry area full of the sickest sand/clay/mud dirt jumps going, but as it was private land, they got destroyed as the council thought it was a good idea to build houses there (psshyeah right, you should see the terrain there, gotta love the council's marijuana influenced ideas though,something to laugh at ). Instead, nothing happened and as the years flew by and the area remained fenced off, mother nature claimed the land lol...
  • 3 1
 Isn't saying '..you mean well..' a bit patronising? I'm not trying to scold anyone - I just think it's a shame to see nice natural areas that people used to enjoy (part of that enjoyment certainly including DJ's) get ruined. Good on Russ, Brian and the others for doing a great job building but especially for finding a way to make it legit. Most of the people whining that their jumps got flattened just went out in a city park or someone's land and went nuts with a shovel. There are increasing numbers of places that were scheduled for demolition or housing that mountain bikers got preserved for our use. The Vietnam trails in Milford, Massachusetts are the prime example. Mountain bikers spent enourmous amounts of time and money to actually buy the land, and now we own it. It's actually illegal to destroy a stunt or jump. That is what it takes to preserve our sport for the future, and without it we'll all be on skateboards.
  • 1 1
 No offense to skateboards, by the way.
  • 2 0
 erlkonig I really get what you're saying. The jumps that got flattened in our youth were exactly what you mentioned - on land that was NOT cool to build on. This spot is different though, people have been building and riding here for somewhere between 20 and 30 years and all the original stuff is still there, we are cool with the land owner and the locals so everything stays sweet.

I think maybe more could have been mentioned in the article about the points you made. I didn't really go into detail about legislation and liability side of things but then thats not really the point I was trying to get across (plus, we've never had to go down that route so didn't seem relevant)

Good point though, I don't want to inspire loads of kids to just start building anywhere they please and then ruining the sport for the rest of us!!
  • 1 0
 Thanks Russ, I appreciate that. I grew up in England and then moved to the US just in time for the first wave of mountain biking, when we watched all our trails get bulldozed and golf-coursed and made illegal, and then also watched it slowly come back as a legitimate, sanctioned use of public land. It may be harder to do in England where land is scarcer and more expensive, but especially for jump parks that don't require huge acreages the real potential exists for groups of riders to get together and purchase bits of land - and then its ours, all ours! By the way, i didn't want to imply your piece promoted irresponsible building. Quite the opposite, but it seems really easy for people to get those ideas.
  • 1 0
 p.s. russ if you are looking into legitimising the land if there are jumps and things there from over eight years ago the area is then declared by planning laws as a designated use of space and it is ilegal for the landowner to destroy the jumps without lodging a planning application and then by protesting this application it could be taken to a planning appeal and your case could be put to local mp's who might favour your cause more favourably, Taa laa, Ben
  • 1 0
 Interesting....
  • 2 0
 There's a mixed bag of opinions where i live. Some people hate us building others come and watch and lend a hand. Most people don't mind as long as we don't leave rubbish behind.
  • 10 0
 I think you perfectly translated with words what every trailbuilder feels about his own trail ! Nice one !
  • 4 0
 Thanks, that's exactly the reaction I wanted!!!
  • 5 0
 Wow I have just read the above posts, hats off to the people who get it, but there are some very thick and board children living amongst us. This article is about the great feeling you get from building your own trails with your mates and then later hitting them. If you think this article is about who can build the best dirt jumps, trails etc, then you dont get it. The moaners from the above posts obversely dont get it. What I suggest to the above moaners is get a life, get some real friends, and try spending some time building trails instead of moaning about them, then you might get what this article is about. Wake up and session the dirt, take your head out your arse, and have fun!
  • 1 0
 word!!
  • 2 0
 dont hate,appreciate..
  • 3 0
 Wicked article Russ, really cheered me up this morning having woke up to this nasty weather!
Looking forward to returning to Besi and seeing it all for myself. After all it's the place where you guys taught me how to ride all of last summer : ) Nice lads!
  • 1 0
 nice one mate, hopefully see you soon
  • 2 0
 nice russ i know how u feel some thing soothing about digging and creating then riding. i was having problems with having jumps plowed. so i bought my own place with an acre of land,and proceeded to go crazy with my shovel. ha try to come and plow these jumps,buy they way your not the only one who isnt sure if they like digging or riding better. never stop building
  • 2 0
 what you have written here; is very inspirational. it is frustrating for me because i am not a very good builder and i cant seem to find anywhere that has potential. and when i build a trail i to a few ruts maybe a booter steep bit etc, and then i session it all day and never go back to finnish it off. or i get nowhere in building it, and my motivation goes out the window, cos all i wanna do is ride but then i complain theres nothing to ride. but its my fault for not building anything. i wish i had the same passion as you have for building
  • 3 0
 Its easier when there's a big group of you at it
  • 1 0
 yeah i tried to make a blog but people said they would build but nothing is happening...
  • 2 0
 Great article Russ - Your track looks sweet.

The jumps in my local woods (Nottingham) have just been flattened by the tree huggers - we were in a small corner of the wood,not doing anyone any harm or getting in anyones way- always polite and friendly and cleaned the litter away.

Just found a short but fairly steep run close by that I am starting to develop - hopefully this is enough off the beaten track to not be demolished.
  • 4 0
 Nice write up dude, I thoroughly enjoy building trails aswell as riding them. If only ALL RIDERS had the same mindset, that way we would all have more trails to ride.
  • 2 0
 PS. i will be 67 this july and all those old foggys that get up tight because they feel their geriatric walk in the woods is threatened by your bike jump stuff, i say: go get a bloody rocker and hang out at the woods in the local cemetery cause that's where your headed anyway!
  • 1 0
 its funny. i was just building and reshaping some jumps in my local spot for the past few days when i happened across this article. snow still on the ground and parts of the trail. just want to build and ride. good on you and your crew keep on building and riding
  • 1 0
 Hi

Would you ever want some help digging on a Friday morning, as I may have a few spare hours in a few weeks. I know roughly where they are, wont want to ride thenm that much but would like to help out.

Do you get much crap off the local muppets ?

Looks amazing
  • 1 0
 Hi Oldbeginning. We some times have kids messing with jumps we've built, burning stuff, but mostly its ok. I've never experienced any trouble in the last few years of building. We ride most weekends so if you want to pop down your welcome, more builders the better. All the besi builders work during the week so friday mornings are out of the question. As soon as the clocks go back in March we will be down most evenings and weekends. cheers b
  • 6 0
 nice one guysBig Grin
  • 46 0
 I'm glad you love building in my town, we have people with the equal amount of passion for destroying jumps that are totally out of the way of anybody on unused land. They're wasting perfectly good dirt, idk what their problem is. guess they are just assholes
  • 10 0
 yeah it always seems like people want to destroy things that they can't enjoy or that don't make someone, somewhere some money! We are very lucky
  • 2 0
 ya you are we spend a lot of time re-building but we have some nice jumps up for a month or so...
  • 2 1
 Looks like a lot of fun. Okay, so what are the temperatures where u live? ive always wanted to dig in the winter but i just thought that it would be too hard to dig. Its always just ice and stuff. I live in Vermont btw. So how deep would u predict the ice to be here?
  • 2 1
 I totally understand this guy. nice write up.
  • 2 0
 Snow is very rare. this is the first time we've seen any for about 15 years! usually we have very mild winters, rarely getting below freezing but the last couple of months have been mental! it will typically never be lower than -3 degrees C in the day time, usually about 5 degrees if the sun is out so thaws the ground nicely for all year round building conditions!
  • 1 0
 very lucky. we are expected to get 1-2ft later this week, but on the bright side.... pow!!!!
  • 1 0
 good article, youre lucky that you dont have to worry about people chopping the lips off the jumps. my local jumps cant last a month without them getting messed up
  • 1 0
 mine too. people always come and screw with them cuz they are to scared to do them, so i have to keep rebuilding them.
  • 1 0
 we just have a bunch of retards who think its fun to mess them up
  • 1 0
 now that sucks
  • 2 1
 This is a better, more up to date video of last summer. Just watch the first 10 mins though, ignore the rest, bad edit from a full length film so credits won't make sense! The film is by Rich Wood

www.pinkbike.com/video/117414
  • 4 0
 i love building trails too, it just sucks that we have to wait till may until the snow meltsFrown
  • 1 0
 if you have snow tht long so snowboarding or sking its a decent subsitute
  • 1 0
 That is so true where i live there is a huge group od dirt jumpers and downhill people and we had a real sick spot for several years then they came one day it was on the news and flatened and put tree`s there but now we have another couple new spots no one will find
  • 1 0
 hey russ, you are doing what you love and others are inspired and able to ride the way they love to because of your passion. when i am finished a good downhill rip, or even just learning to shred triple 8 foot gaps on the beginners side, i feel not only a rush from the adrenaline but it's almost like i've...'just built a house'...a feeling like i have done something worthwhile, an accomplishment [ lets see: cardio, focus, like a meditation, i am more at peace with everyone and myself, blah blah ] and besides there is something very pure, simple and satisfying in a "love of labour' with a shovel and pick eh. Good on you and your mates. and as far as the nay sayers dissing the use of someone elses land, Shyte on them! what you are doing is in harmony with nature and easily done over if need be. god save the queen! [well, not really, but god save the tables and gaps]
  • 1 0
 Nice one jc I can really tell that you get where I'm coming from! Cheers!
  • 2 0
 Russ what a great article dude I was overwhelmed by your words, Besington forest of dreams is a magical and a awesome place to ride' summer is going to be wicked
  • 1 0
 yea i no what ya mean dude,i also no where it is mate bin a few times,place lookin good nowwer days .
  • 1 0
 Hey derby danz we ride besi of dreams most weekends, my facebook has some pics of you and rusty riding the DJ's at morley I will sort them out and post on pinkbike. Might catch you at besi one weekend
  • 3 0
 cool trails me my mate rick from leicester rode them it was ace.way big hucks
  • 4 0
 Nice work dude. No dig, no ride.
  • 2 0
 Great article. Is this place near Nottingham then? Not too far from me, I'd love to come help out digging and also have a ride there some time!
  • 1 0
 yeah PM me!
  • 1 0
 Great write up, keep up the good work, those trails are looking sweet (not sure where this is mind). Great to see a fellow Notts boy on the front page though! tup
  • 1 0
 i Love this this really inspires me to get out and break ground on a prime spot i found last year and go revist my existing trails
  • 3 0
 Yeah Russ nice one!
  • 1 0
 Cheers mate, see you at besington forest of dreams later on!!! Snowy trails are my favourite kind!
  • 2 1
 forest of dreams,,, weres that?
  • 1 2
 if you know where it is then you know where it is. Not that much of a secret lol Just didn't want to shout it out to the world!
  • 2 0
 nice trails wish mine stayed up people like to ruin my work
  • 2 0
 Brilliant post man! props.
  • 1 0
 great little story, cosider yourself welcome at my trails anyday! looks like an awesome bit o land you got to work on there
  • 2 0
 hey, you wanna bring your love to my backyard? haha
  • 3 2
 oh man that's just chilling right there!!
  • 2 0
 thats heaps mad!
  • 1 0
 sweet jumps mate, keep up the good work!
  • 1 0
 Do you ride with Robin Hood in the Nottingham Forest?
  • 1 0
 Yeah he's down all the time, rides a custom V10 but I think its stolen...
  • 1 0
 i wouldn't listen to the comment above mine. probably a sad poacher
  • 2 0
 good work i like it!!
  • 2 0
 good work guy's!
  • 1 0
 i cant even get a shovel in the ground! man i wish
  • 2 3
 i dont understand why this is on the home page, my local trails are better and our motto is no riding unless u bring a spade so i dont see why its such a big deal
  • 5 1
 write an artical as articulate and interesting as this one then buddy, and send it into pinkbike and i'm sure they'll be more than happy to feature it. Until then however, stop trying to piss on the parade and shut the fuck up. spot on writing though russ, done a really good job.dont think i'll be up until first weekend in march now though, look forward to seeing even more stuff built!
  • 2 1
 Cheers mate!!
  • 2 1
 Sx, these are pics and vids of the small beginners set to. the video doesnt show all the Single track and DH tracks, or the new bigger DJ's so dont brag about your jumps until you actually realise how much stuff there actually is at Besi!
  • 1 0
 i asked a question thats all
  • 1 1
 What part of it was a question... it was a statement about how your "local trails are better". all Russ is putting over is how lucky he know's we are to have such a cool spot and that we dont have to rebuild everything every 2 weeks because even people that dont ride respect it...
  • 2 0
 i miss summer Frown
  • 1 0
 Amazing jumps guys Congrats on the work!
  • 1 0
 nice trails guys. where i live. we have nothing. no trails. sucks.
  • 1 0
 good on you guys!
  • 1 0
 Great Article, loved it.
  • 3 2
 Super Chill trails.
  • 1 0
 great article
  • 1 0
 what bike is in the pic
  • 1 0
 That'll be Russ's Trek Remedy if I'm not mistaken : )
  • 1 0
 yep 2008 trek remedy 9 with a few downhilly mods
  • 1 0
 Are you still planning to go down the DH Bike purchase route Russ? I remember last time we spoke, you was tempted to buy a Cove.
  • 1 0
 You remember Matt? (nasty crash on the last jump) well I'm buying his sesh 88 FR!! Going to the alps in July so it will be ace!!
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