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Are modern trail building trends making our trails too tame? Or does the current depth of equipment and trail choices stop riders from thinking for themselves?
As our sport gets bigger, trail networks get formalised (or legalised), dodgy North Shore gets pulled down so no one gets sued. To get larger numbers at races, organisers make the courses ‘achievable.’ This is sold marketing speak as gentle enough for newbies, and more challenging for skilled riders if they up the speed.
Challenging? Not really. Or at least there might have been a small ounce of serious challenge until someone moved a boulder, cemented the dirt around an obstacle (Hammerhead at Stromlo comes to mind), or axed themselves early on prompting organisers to bunt it off.
No wonder gravity enduro is gaining momentum – it rewards riders who have a well-developed skill base without relying as much on the balls that let you shred a downhill trail with a modicum of success.
So the question comes up – with increased accessibility, are we dumbing down our trails? In part, yes we are. We’re also building trails that have more qualities of same-ness than difference. It’s starting to feel a little generic. Formulaic.
But established mountain bike loops and managed trail networks aren’t the only places to ride, they’re just the locations that are easiest to find out about if you don’t know where else to look.
In any case, some of the most-loved trails are built with multiple skill levels in mind. But it doesn’t mean you can’t turn a green circle into a black diamond with some playful choices on your part.
Riders are like sheep sometimes. They follow the dominant line, on the most used trail, with the dominant bike used for that type of riding.
At the other end of the spectrum, people bang on about how hard something is if they can’t get it first go, giving the wrong impression about it to their mates. That doesn’t make it technical, sonny. It just makes it technical for you.
To hear some rider talk about the ‘technical’ sections of Wingello is ridiculous. Or Sparrow. Or Forrest. Want to see what technical is? Go see the trail building practices that the norm overseas. The BC Bike Race in Canada is well known for its technical singletrack stages in a way we don’t see on our shores at all. And the model in Europe is more about climbing for half the morning to get to a summit, then hauling down a walking trail where you honestly don’t know if each new section is even possible on two wheels or not.
A good rider is an adaptable one. It’s only laziness that is forcing you to stick to trails that are too easy to excite.