In Praise of the Rough and Rocky | Learning to Love Your Local Trails

It’s quite rare for GoPro trail previews to pique my interest, unless they’re filmed by a particular set of French riders living in Canada. However, one such video did grab my attention this week. A YouTuber had come to a little loop near my home on the Gold Coast called Glossy Black Reserve. The title of his post was something along the lines of “don’t ride here it’s bad,” complete with a hokey YouTube tile featuring exacerbated face and a speech bubble that read “Sorry, it sucks.”

I typically wouldn’t take the bait and click to watch something like this, but I was intrigued.

We’ve covered Glossy Black Reserve here on Flow. It’s a short singletrack loop in a green patch in the middle of suburbia. The trails on the Goldie are known for being rough, and local riders joke that our loam is, in fact, rocks. This little loop is chock-a-block with this lovely loam.

And you’ll never guess the reason that this chap said Glossy Black Reserve sucked. He thought it was too rough.

The Gold Coast is rocky, but that should not be a surprise to anyone. If it feels too rough, drop a few PSI out of your suspension and have some fun — you are riding bikes, after all.


One of the only certainties in this life is that someone will be moaning about blue flow trails on the internet, so to see a mountain biker complaining about riding that’s too rough left me flabbergasted.

I won’t pretend Glossy Black Reserve is something that it’s not. It isn’t a destination-worthy trail that you’d drive hours specifically to ride. It’s a singletrack loop between two housing estates, on land that was probably too steep to sell to a developer. It does cut through some lovely bits of forest; there’s a peaceful little creek, a cascading waterfall, and two descending trails that are over a kilometre in length. It’s a great way to kill an hour, but not much more than that.

Yes, it’s rocky. Yes, it’s rough. No, it’s not super well-groomed. But, if the comments on our social media and YouTube channels are anything to go by, aren’t rough, rocky and non-manicured trails what folks say is missing from mountain biking these days?

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this stupid meme in the last couple of months. Knock it off! Riding has never been better. If you want to see change at your local trails, stop chasing clout on social media and do something proactive.

Don’t worry, be happy

I am in a fortunate position in that I can ride a doorstep-to-doorstep loop of Glossy Black Reserve in about an hour — meaning I can walk the dog, squeeze in a ride, drop kiddo off at daycare and be at my desk by 9am. Most folks have to load up the car for an hour of trail time, and because of that Glossy Black Reserve is a prized bit of infrastructure for me — and, according to Strava, for a lot of other folks who live in this area too.

When they first opened the trails here, they were glass smooth. The berms were manicured, and the first time I rode them was actually on a gravel bike. But the thing about the Gold Coast, after the first couple of storms, all that subsurface rock makes its way to the top. As the trails age, they get rockier, rougher and ledgier.

And the fun of riding these trails is learning to carry speed through a minefield of square edges. The surface of the trail is doing everything it can to steal your momentum, and learning to hold that speed and keep moving forward is the entertainment factor here. Making the rocks and every roller work for you, rather than simply being a passenger and letting the trail rattle your eyeballs loose. To me, that’s what the game is all about.

Don’t confuse this as me taking potshots, claiming to be a better rider or faster than anyone. My skill on the bike can only be described as aggressively mediocre, and I have so many bad habits I could make a decerning skills coach cry simply by navigating a flat corner.

For what I lack in silky smooth, grip-generating fundamentals, I more than make up for in the fun I have on every single ride.

I am a blue-flow evangelist

Making a concerted effort to have fun is why I also love blue flow trails, the most derided thing in mountain biking since squeaky pivot bearings.

I mean, come on, ripping into a berm at mach 10; feeling your suspension hunker down as the potential energy builds and your tyres scream out as the knobs try to claw into the dirt for traction.

And then you hit the exit. In a snap, all that potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy, and you accelerate out of the corner like Max Verstappen leaving The Parabolica at Monza.

Wild Mersey
If that doesn’t look like a fun section of trail to you, I’m not sure you can be helped.

That building and release, converting potential energy into kinetic energy, is a sensation that sits in a sacred space — similar to powder skiing. It elicits involuntary squeals of joy from grown-ass, otherwise serious people and grins that make your cheeks hurt.

There is no mountain biker out there who doesn’t chase that feeling, and the place to experience that dopamine overload is on a blue flow trail.

Mountain biking is supposed to be fun, so make it fun. Enjoy that blue flow trail. Hoot and holler on your way down, make those rollers into doubles, try and push your speed or take the sketchy line — there are plenty of ways to make beer and skittles of imperfect conditions.

And sometimes that fun is scaring yourself silly trying to ride the infamous Zen Garden, or leaving a bunch of skin from your forearm on the Detonate boulders. But not everywhere is going to be Blue Derby, or Maydena, or Thredbo, or Beechworth, or whatever other destination you’re going to yell at me for leaving on this list. Not every trail network can support double black, rooty, rocky, technical descending, or beautifully manicured hardpack berms that stay that way in perpetuity— nor should they.

If every trail network had The Bay of Fires descent, well, that 40km adventure from the Blue Tier to Swimcart Beach wouldn’t be nearly as special.

Bay of Fires Trail
No every trail can be The Bay of Fires descent. And that’s okay, because it makes trails like this even more special.

Mountain biking is fun, have you tried it?

I’m not here to say that there aren’t genuinely bad trails out there with poor sustainability and features that just don’t quite work or are downright dangerous. Do not misconstrue this as me saying we should not continue to advocate for better trails for riders at every level. I’m also not a shining star and am guilty of bellyaching about particular trails from time to time.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the complaining about everything is getting a bit tiring.

Mountain biking is fun, have you tried it? We have more places to ride than ever, for every type of rider. That’s something to shout from the rooftops and be stoked about, our sport is bigger than ever, and more folks are riding bikes.

Imperfect trails are the most rewarding place to extract joy in your riding.

And rather than moaning online, and posting terrible memes from three years ago, focus that energy into something proactive. If you don’t like a trail, or think something about a feature should be changed, well, you’d better be at the next worker bee on the business end of a shovel.

Think your network needs less blue flow and more janky tech? Great! Start lobbying your council for new trails. Create a coalition that’s so loud it can’t be ignored — because when you spew negativity online, it’s nothing but ammunition for the folks who would rather we didn’t have trails. It’s also a downer for new riders trying to find their footing in our community.

On that same note, this is not us condoning or encouraging illegal trail building — so just don’t.

Love your trails. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than the alternative — not having any. It just gives you the opportunity to find the fun in them, and have a greater appreciation for the destinations where that fun is effortless.

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