Mountain bike trail building

Croft Trail Singletrack magazineI’ve just spent two days mountain bike trail building.

This is our own trail – the Croft Trail is 4.5km of single track with technical features located in some woodland less than a mile from the centre of Swindon. Read reviews on the Ibike website. It’s also been featured in Singletrack magazine (Issue 71, February 2012)

I’ve spent countless weekends down there clearing, digging and shifting limestone since we started in 2008. We started MBSwindon in 2010 to support the trail.The build diary is a record of our work. Over the years we’ve built up a great band of volunteers and it’s quite normal to shift 20tonnes of limestone in a day. I’ve got a load of trail build videos below…anything post 2011 hasn’t been finished yet. Mental note to self – get on with it.

Weekend write up: Saturday, Sunday.

Volunteers shifting gravel at a trail build day.

New volunteers always comment on how physically demanding trail building is. It’s definitely great for upper body strength. The mental aspects also play a part – there’s usually a target for the day and physical effort carries the group to that target.

Mountain bike trail berm.

Gravel pile.
There was 20 tonnes. Gone.

I had a bit of amusement on Saturday when the compactorisator would not start. On inspection I found that the HT cap had shattered. I managed to shorten the part that was attached to the lead and then tie the whole lot back together using cable ties. Once I had two good cable ties in place I added about ten more. It worked really well and survived the rest of the day and Sunday too.

Broken HT lead fixed with cable ties.

Sadly I went to bed too late on Saturday so on Sunday I just felt a bit tired all day and my happiness levels fell in line with that.

It’s very satisfying to have built a trail and developed a volunteer group. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved. This weekend, for example, we had 16 people helping on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. It’s great that the trail receives such support, otherwise it would fall into disrepair.

Shifting gravel at a trail build day.

Recently some of the downsides of trail building have come to play on my mind. My target for 2014 is to train and do more long distance rides. After spending two whole days at the trail and then looking on Facebook to multiple status updates about where people have been riding then I’m starting to feel a bit resentful. I’ve donated a lot of my spare time to the trail over the years and no one made me do it. But maybe I should claim some of that back for my own riding now. This is something that I’ve got to think about carefully for 2014.

It certainly plays on my mind that there are hundreds of regular users of the facility who don’t attach any priority to maintaining it. Years ago I learnt to filter out the enthusiastic ignorance of armchair experts and the annoyance of seeing bits of the trail wrecked by incompetent riding. We had a large reserve of enthusiasm to overcome all the minor hurdles. I’ve always concentrated on the positives and vowed to not let the negatives affect me. That’s worked very well for along time but maybe I’ve been worn down somewhat.

On the other hand, considering the lack of ties that I have then I should be able to spend a weekend per month at the trail and still do more riding than people with families and other commitments. We shall see.

Wood section at a mountain bike trail.

We’ve done a lot of tedious maintenance work recently – fixing potholes, adjusting the trail line and resurfacing sections. I’m hoping that when we create some new features then my enthusiasm will be fired back up. Again, I’ll wait and see.

Map of the Croft Trail in Swindon

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