Don Cherry is to mountain biking what Ron Mclean is to trail work. If you’ve never watched Coach’s Corner, I can’t help you. Mountain biking full of flashy colours and strong opinions, but it’s incredibly fun, and despite its peculiarities, you’ll hold onto it as long as you can. Conversely, trail building is calm, collected and discrete. The vast majority of viewers tune in to watch Don, but the show would be lost without Ron.
“A trail is the builder’s interpretation of the terrain, and that interpretation forms from decades of experiences on and off the bike.”
I’ve been trail building on and off for 15 years, the latter 2 years professionally. I can’t remember the last time I rode a trail 100% focused on my riding. It doesn’t bother me, in fact it’s great fun. Like many others in the mountain bike community, trail building has changed the way I ride. I’m a critic, but I keep to myself. You have to, after all, there’s 1000 ways to build a trail. Admittedly, some are more sustainable than others, but as far as the riding experience goes, it’s creative art. No one trail is undeniably better than the next. A trail is the builder’s interpretation of the terrain, and that interpretation forms from decades of experiences on and off the bike.
I think everyone should put at least a few days of maintenance annually, but of all the reasons to pick up a shovel, your charitable disposition shouldn’t be on the short list. Working on a trail, whether maintenance or building is a hugely underrated approach to develop your riding, to understand the local ecology, to get stronger, to make new friends and to improve your mental state. Dog walkers and avid hikers aside, how often does your average rider walk their favourite trails? Why walk when you can ride, right? Next time you wrap up a ride, stash your bike in the woods and walk up what you rode. If you never have, it will feel incredibly awkward at first. Seeing trail features from a perspective you never have. Traveling through the woods without a hint of adrenaline is odd indeed.
It’s amazing how quickly opinions start developing about what you thought was the perfect trail. These opinions don’t make the trail any less fun to ride; they do push you ask questions about why you ride the trail the way you do, and what the builder was trying to achieve.
Now that you’re a hiker, get in touch with your local builders or trail association and volunteer. Listen to their wise words while never forgetting there’s 1000 ways to skin a cat. Along the way you’ll meet interesting people, develop your upper body, core and legs, and start to appreciate how complex the forest ecosystem is. That nature might just relax you a bit J.
Aside from trail work, I own and operate a guiding company in Squamish called Ride BC. I donate 1 hour of volunteer trail work for every day I operate, I sponsor the SORCA Toonie Races, and I include trail passes with each rider that I take out. I don’t do this because I feel guilty about using the trails, I do it because trail building and mountain biking are inseparable. And supporting SORCA in Squamish is supporting trails.
So grab a shovel and head out there!