28 Jul 2020

Join Derby's resident photographer Josh Firth as he joins The Blue Derby Trail crew as they take on the task of restoring one of the original trails in the network, Krushkas. Tasmanian local Scott Mattern draws parallels between the work that the trail crew do and the art of restoring antique furniture, with the aim to restore with respect to original design and construction

This is a story about rejuvenation, how to breathe new life into a classic piece of trail. When completed correctly, trail building has no less value than any other delicate part of the design. The people who build them are craftsmen of no less skill than any other dedicated craft.

‘Trail Pete’ on the tools.

To be defined as an antique, a piece of furniture has more than likely been lovingly hand-built and has seen time and use leaving its mark. Antiques have an intrinsic and extrinsic value. By this definition, a trail, when designed with care, could be considered a precious antique.

Cleaning, Stripping, Refinishing With The Blue Derby Trails Crew

Derby, in North East Tasmania, has been home to a world-class network of mountain bike trails for the past five years. Five years may seem younger than any antique. Still, in this time the trail network has seen many tyres roll over its hallowed dirt, creating intrinsic sentimental value for those who ride there and an extrinsic livelihood for the little town they have rejuvenated.

Smiles all round. Local lads Josh and Travis are pretty stoked with their handy work.
The main man ‘Trail Pete” giving instruction and guidance. Pete has been with the Blue Derby Trail Crew since day one and has a knack of repairing worn trails and increasing their safety.
Travis has been lucky enough to grow up in Derby and it definitely shows in his riding.

The trails are kept in great shape by a dedicated maintenance crew, employed by Blue Derby, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that this world-class trail network is nurtured and cared for. They are craftsmen in their own right, with some of the team cutting their teeth building the trails alongside its original designers; World Trail.

Krushka’s is one of the oldest, longest and most iconic trails in the Derby network. A true work of art that deserves all the respect and care of a priceless antique. Named after the Krushka brothers tin mining pioneers, it is a ‘blue flow trail’ with an equal mix of climbing and descending, taking riders up onto the high granite ridge tops overlooking Derby, before spitting them on to a bermed descent below.

Restoring with the utmost care

The first consideration with a piece of trail as with an antique is whether the restoration will affect the value. The word value is not merely an estimate of monetary worth, it is the regard that something is held to deserve, its importance and usefulness. What will the work enhance and what could it harm?

Trail maintenance then just like the restoration of an antique while building a new trail is akin to the production of objects that will, with use, become antiques. Like any craft, there is a set of skills that have to learned, honed and applied.

Safety First

Krushkas has received five years of constant use, and the way is rides today is a testament to the design and skill applied during this trail’s original build. Though like a well-loved piece of furniture, eventually, signs of wear begin to show. The wear on occasion can result in a previously safe section of the trail becoming potentially unsafe.

For this not only do you need the skills and craft of the trail maintainer but also a rider’s eye to identify sections that have the potential to present a safety risk based on experience.

Josh is not only handy on the tools, he’s pretty damn handy on the bike as well.

Cleaning

Often restoring old furniture can be as easy as giving a piece a good clean or in the case of a mountain bike trail a good going over with a rake. This again is not a simple task because if you clean back too much you will lose the character created by the time that is its developed character.

A standard quality control session.

For the Krushkas restoration, the whole project was lovingly performed with hand tools. A digger would not have provided that same sense of craft that has resulted in this project.

The dirt was only moved when needed moving, retaining element such a mossy batter that had become part of the trail’s patina over time” Alan Miller – Derby Trail Crew

Stripping

Fast is smooth and smooth is fast. Ruts, braking bumps and erosion are the enemy. When refinishing is in order, the first step in antique furniture restoration is stripping the old finish to make room for new stain; when rejuvenating a trail, stripping back or cutting is required to allow for resurfacing.

Travis, in his element, scrub’n his way down a freshly refurbished Krushkas.

Refinishing

Applying a new coat of stain and finish or a good layer of fresh loam to roost. Filling in cracks, stacking berms, adding that little piece of rock armour and or scraping back to expose that legendary Derby granite.

Job done, now time to enjoy the ride.

The Finished Piece

The restoration work done to Krushkas trail is not just a rebuild in the same way a restoration of a priceless antique is not just fixing a bit of furniture. Riding this refurbished trail evokes my fondest memories of Derby realised once again.

After a few years of absence from Mountain Biking, it was riding this trail that rekindled my love for the sport. I went home after the ride and concluded that I was finally ready for that new bike.