Secret Trails – What’s the Score?

What is the score with so called ‘Secret Trails’? You know the type, the ones spoken about with hushed tones, the ones with an ‘invite only’ to ride, you’ve got to know someone worthy to be permitted to touch rubber on trail here. With trail builder’s petrified of traffic akin to something on the M25 and ruts as deep as the Grand Canyon, these trails are being kept under cloak and dagger. I may have been living under a stone but until recently this was a relatively new phenomenon to me and I’m still struggling with the concept.

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In my world before now, every trail was fair game with the creator taking pleasure in seeing more smiles and more miles trodden on the dirt. Recently on spending a short amount of time in Bristol and riding some gems of trails in South Wales I have increasingly heard the word ‘secret’ uttered about various riding spots. Secret by definition is ‘not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others’. Secret in the MTB world is fairly similar, yet it seems with an added twist that when deemed worthy by a biking compatriot you may also enjoy the secret but are prevented from sharing the treasure.

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I’ve heard stories of bikers reprimanded whether in person or via modern faceless threat over the email (yes, that happened) for parking in particular spot and flagging the availability of some rad new trails to the passing MTB trade. The particular location in question here happened to be in the back of beyond and the likelihood of a previously uninitiated biker rolling by would be akin to a swine taking flight and recording a new Strava KOM in said woodland. That brings me on nicely, if not a little oddly, to the subject of Strava. It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of these ‘Secret Trails’ are on Strava, taking us disparately from keeping the trails on the down low, to adding flashing, neon signs to the top with ‘Race Me’ emblazoned on them!

Instagram is another one, “No Instragram here” was announced by a local in the group on a recent trip. If someone in my merry band of Instagram followers, recognises the view in my Instabanger, puts that together with some first class Strava interrogation and manages to come up here and enjoy the trails then I think they deserve their reward. What better payment is there than 400m of descending root infested, sinewy singletrack for their efforts?

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When abroad, New Zealand, Germany, France even, I had at every turn had a cyclist keen to show me their trail, their favourite corner, to tell me about the blood sweat and tears that had been poured into its creation and to revel in the delight I took from smashing a shower of loam from said turn. Any trail I deem to be worthy of riding, I’m going to show my mountain biking mates, should they be interested in that pocket of woodland. We will respect the trail, pass time with anyone we meet throughout and if something needs clearing or maintenance then we will gladly lend a hand. I’m not sure I understand or like the possessive atmosphere on the so called secret trails but with more and more tyres rolling round this relatively small part of the world it looks like its here to stay. It appears cyclist round our way are living in fear of their choice trails becoming the next hot spot, drawing numbers of wheels reserved only for the trail centres. Well, fear not, without the cafe, the toilets, the shop and myriad of other amenities found in the much loved trail centre, your few stretches of cleared dirt in the woods, just doesn’t compare according to the mountain biking masses. It’ll just be me, a couple of my mates, a packed lunch and a good attitude coming your way.

From here we could move on to the ‘no dig no ride’ conundrum but there’s another whole can of worms, needless to say I do dig, I may not dig your trails but I dig mine and you are welcome to ride without a shovel or a rake.

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