MTB Digging Pt.1

So unsurprisingly the new year and brought unfounded new hope for a more healthy and fitter new year. And already I’m paying for it…

I’ve re-decided to make a habit of something I quite enjoyed earlier in the year, and take on the 30 day, 15 min, morning yoga and meditation program (found here ) It’s a good introduction and I want to use it to improve flexibility, because right now I’m about as flexible as a cube of concrete at the north pole. Likewise, Aimi has decided to start a MTB specific fitness regime which she is doing each morning at the same time as me. Hers is longer and a whole lot more intense than my workout so once I had done mine, I thought I’d join in with her to see what it was like….

… What an error!

She had done some specific stretches to prepare her body for the workout, which I’d not done during the Yoga. The workout was all focussed on legs and my knee is not great at the best of times, let alone when asked to complete 40 lunges among other exercises. After 10 tortuous minutes, I couldn’t do anymore and ducked out.

I then found that I could barely walk and sitting down and standing back up was interminable. I could barely bring myself to get off the sofa after breakfast. But I had plans for today, and perhaps some further manual work to pump up the blood and leg muscles would help?

I forced myself up, grabbed a spade and rake, and headed out into the forest to go and dig some earth. I’ve been doing lots of computer and data based jobs over the last few months, so it felt really good to get out into nature and move some of it around according to my will. There are LOADS of MTB trails around Oakamoor, all made by enthusiastic amateurs. But, by the time you are into MTB-ing enough to want to start building your own trails, you are fairly advanced. This means most of the trails are pretty intimidating for newbies, either because they are steep, or have drops or jumps that are just too big to contemplate. It also means that any trails that ARE EASY, get ignored very quickly because there is more interesting and demanding stuff to tackle. One of these easy lines had become very overgrown and difficult to ride so that became my mission; to re-establish a beginner friendly MTB trail.

(location and description had to be removed to prevent it from being destroyed by NIMBY’s)

The trail is a nice long run down a valley, not quite at the bottom of it (so it doesn’t become waterlogged or destroyed by streams). It picks its way around the trees and uses them as the main features to direct the trail down towards the railway path at the bottom. There are only 3 slightly technical sections on the trail;

  • The start where the trail has to deal with some angled tree roots that point down the slope. This will need to be traversed carefully to avoid slipping, but unfortunately was difficult to avoid.
  • There is a small drop off onto a slope. This I have cleared to make it easier to see and made the landing wider and more open. I’ve also made sure that if you don’t want to “Send It” you can just roll down it without the bike frame grounding out.
  • A falling tree (it’s still in progress) looks like it will block the original line of the trail. It was a fairly boring section, so I’ve re-routed the trail around the top of where the tree will land. By doing this I’ve made a bermy S bend that goes right around a tree, then straight down the hill, then left to pick up the original line. This will be quick, but should be smooth and fun.

So far I’ve managed to clear and modify about 2/3rds of the trail. This was mainly just raking leaves and brambles out of the way and flattening off channels cut into the mud by bike wheels. I’ve also widened some sections by cutting into the hillside to create flat sections and berms where needed.

I’ve got to go back and finish the rest soon, but will need to take a meaty tree saw with me to move a couple fallen logs that are in the way. I think some pruning shears might be useful to tame the trailside bushes before the spring growth comes along. I might also need to think a bit more about drainage on some sections to make sure they don’t become mud-pits and suck all the speed out of riders.

I spent about 3-4 hours out in the forest and by the end of the day I was thoroughly knackered, muddy and achy, but satisfied with what I had achieved. In a very short space of time I’ve nearly completely brought this trail back into use and can’t wait to ride it.

Oh yeah…. I can’t….

My bike is knackered again…


After spending £180 and a few hours in the garage fitting a new shock to the bike, we were out at Cannock biking again when just on the last but-one climb, my freehub exploded. I had no drive and worse than that, it was locking up my cassette to my hub meaning I couldn’t even enjoy a proper descent.

Once home I took it apart thinking I might just need a new freehub – which is fairly easy and quick to replace – but found that in addition to chewing up the freehub I had managed to crack in half one of the rear axle tubes!! This is less easy to replace and means waiting for parts from America…

This is another reason I’m building trails instead of riding them. But, soon the parts will arrive, the bike will be fixed, and I will have finished restoring this trail. I can’t wait to give it a go!