Sometimes I hate mountain bikers….

Keep single track single - it's simple enough isn't it?

Keep single track single – it’s simple enough isn’t it?

 

It’s not just any old frost that excites the committed mountain biker.  It really needs to be three days of minus four frigidity, weather that will prompt cataclysmic predictions from the Daily Express of thousands of deep frozen grannies and empty shelves at the supermarket.  Only then can we be sure the bogs will take the weight of bike and rider, that muddy trails will once again run as slick as a whippet and riding is neither chore nor lung bursting bore.

Which is why a recent frosty start was a small mercy after the deluge, not the permafrost I’d prefer but a one off chill that shouldn’t be wasted.  Knowing that it would rapidly warm up – you can always bank on the weather forecast when the news is bad – I hit the Peak early with a plan of campaign.  I’d been avoiding certain trails since september and was looking forward to rediscovering their delights.

I picked off a few beauties on Blackamoor and Totley before dropping onto a sneaky trail that’s been off the agenda for months, originally because of ground nesting birds, then due to encroaching bracken and finally because of incessant rain.  It was in perfect nick and running fast and true but the grin on my face turned to a grimace about half way down.  Where once there’d been a drifty loamy corner was now a straight line blasting straight through the undergrowth.  I tried to ignore my inner rage and concentrated on riding but the corner cutters had worse in store.

Further on I came to another superb off-camber corner which always has me scratching for grip.  Obviously, the challenge had proved too much for some riders because, again, a brand new straight line had been blasted through the surrounding heather and bracken.  Worse still, the original line was already returning to nature, making it all the more unlikely that anyone would ever use it.  I’m glad no one witnessed the hissy fit as I turned the air blue and I threw my poor innocent bike to the ground.  The next twenty minutes were spent finding branches big enough to at least deter some riders from the new line.  As I built the obstacle, I was struck by just how short-sighted this kind of behaviour is.

So, why is it happening?  I haven’t given the location of this trail because it’s irrelevant, it is effectively mountain biking’s everytrail because this kind of vandalism is happening all over the country on natural trails and at trail centres.  The rule is simple – if you can’t ride the corner, don’t ride the trail.  I don’t give a damn if you’re on the best Strava run of your life, don’t alter the trail just to shave a few hundredths.  If you’ve only just graduated from trail centre to real-mountain-biking, don’t bring the trail down to your level.  Try to love flat corners, you’ll learn more skill coming to terms with them than you ever will on a trail centre berm.

If we treat where we ride with contempt, then it will be our fault if land managers use ever more draconian measures to curb our more destructive tendencies. When we damage the countryside in this way, we damage our image and can rightly be condemned for diverting the trail.  The areas we affect may be ecologically significant, we just don’t know.

We’re privileged to ride in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, so why screw it up?