By BetterRide Head Coach Andy Winohradsky
So its not quite too late for New Year’s Resolutions … and here’s one for anybody that rides a bike on dirt: get out there and get your hands dirty with a few days of trail maintenance this season.
Little story: I just got back from Miami, Florida and was blown away by the quality of the riding and the vibrant MTB scene in the area. What? Great mountain-bike riding in South Florida? If you find yourself with a response similar to this, you’re not alone. I tell my riding buddies here in Colorado the same bit and they think I’m joking, and previous to my recent journey to F-L-A, I would have thought the same.
So how do you get great riding out of a place that is a flat, sandy, swampy, bug-infested jungle? Simple (or not), you build it! There is one reason that the trail systems that I rode were in existence and a blast to ride: a massive amount of trail work.
Anyone that has a bit of trail building experience understands that you can’t blindly hack a trail out of the side of a hill or through a forest and expect to end up with a quality result. Proper trail building takes knowledge and experience in addition to hard work. A good trail has to flow well, use the natural features of the area, have some good variety, among a lot of other things that can be argued about or discussed at some other time. But to do it right takes some skill, some vision – and in the case of South Florida – a lot of creativity … and tons of hard work.
While some trail systems benefit from beautiful vistas, lush forests, and/or diverse eco-systems, the Miami area trails had none of these. They were drained swamps, and at least one of them was an unofficial garbage dump at some point. They appeared to be built on discarded land, and the builders had only a few acres to work with. Trail builders created artificial and additional elevation (in addition to the natural twenty feet – tops) with wood, rocks, dirt, old carpet … sometimes 50’s era washing machines (decoratively spray painted). Bridges were built and snaked precariously over the numerous still swampy areas (there was even a large decaying old boat grounded in what must have previously been a canal – won’t get that in Colorado) . The trails were undoubtedly “tree-wrappers”, which can be scoffed at by us snooty western folk, but this actually added to the atmosphere and character. Many of the tight turns were perfectly bermed, and small – but fun – jumps and rollers were dispersed through-out in order to help keep speed and momentum. Nothing was unsafe for a beginner, yet even a washed-up, pro-downhiller like me could have a blast (Think high-speed-six-mile-singletrack-pump-track in a tropical forest). There were some beautiful areas that wound through the everglades, and some sections of trail went right up to the ocean, so it wasn’t like you were riding through a Mad Max themed, day-glow carnival the entire time.
My point is this: from the above rant, did it sound like I had a good time? Those people made some awesome trails out of nothing. I don’t plan on moving to South Florida anytime in the future but if I do, I’ll still be an avid MTB’er and I won’t be hurtin’ for a wide selection of fun trails – all because a few people were willing to dream the dream and then put it into action.
And if you ride, you too should be part of that action. Help the cause. There are a lot of great trails already out there, but (not enough) maintenance is always an issue. Access to MTB’ers on many trails is threatened because of this. There are many proposed trails (some probably near you) that need as much help as they can get. Also, trail building doesn’t only happen out there, in the dirt: good trails need well spoken people on the paper work side of things, at the board meetings of the Recreation Department, etc.
So, skip a ride or two this season and help build some trails. Trust me, the cold beer will taste just as good at the end of the day … maybe even better!