Manmade Trails

What the hell are these manmade trail things?  Aren’t all trails manmade?  What’s the alternative?  Sheep tracks?

Well, no.  When it comes to places to ride in the UK, there are basically two choices.  Well, three.  Maybe four.  Possibly more.  When it comes to places to legally ride in the UK, there are two choices.

The first choice is that you pore over an OS Explorer map (the orange ones, that provide 1:25,000 scale mapping of the whole country and are invaluable for anything of the sort) and find yourself a route that links together roads, tracks, bridleways and restricted byways in a way that looks good, stick your bike on or in your car, park in a muddy layby and set out into the great unknown for an indefinite number of hours.  There are distinct downsides to this.  You can, of course, look at forums, books, and magazines (and maybe here as soon as I get some more posts up) for routes, which will take some of the guesswork out of it all and hopefully guarantee a good ride, even before you develop the experience to be able to plan one from a map alone.  However, navigation is invariably a problem.  What looks simple on the map may not be on the ground, and it’s distinctly difficult to continually check the map in sideways drizzle.  Maps have a tendency to disintegrate in such conditions.  The other main problem is the changeability of the trails themselves.  What is a fast and excellent section of riding in high summer could be an unrideable morass in winter.  Erosion destroys paths.  Cattle and horses tear up a field that a bridleway passes through and suddenly you’re knee deep in a charming mess of mud and things best not contemplated, carrying a bike that seems to get heavier with each uncertain soggy step.

Enter option number two: the manmade trail.  With the growth of the UK’s mountain biking scene and the increase in more clandestine trail building, official trails have sprung up everywhere.  Typically in Forestry Commission woodland, these are clearly waymarked, well managed routes, whose length, elevation and difficulty you can clearly see before you begin.  They have been thoughtfully planned out and designed to be ridden.  Generally pedestrians and horses are banned from the paths (although not always, and even when they are their absence is not guaranteed).  Features such as jumps, berms and drop offs are built in to the trails.  Perhaps most importantly they are generally built with a tough, all-weather surface that you can happily ride after a week of winter storms as well as in a summer drought.

Quite simply, manmade trails are a way to get some outstanding mountain biking without as much thought and extraneous effort than you might otherwise need, all year round.

Click the ‘manmade’ category to see plenty of trails to ride!


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