Your Fundamental Problem is Wrong

Words Morgan Taylor
Photos Morgan Taylor
Date Dec 3, 2013

It’s full steam ahead with project Dumbing Down the Shore™. Last week I was sent an article – The Fundamental Problem with Modern Day Work Parties – written by Robb Sutton in the southeast US. It was meant to ruffle feathers and that it did. I skimmed it, bookmarked it, and put it off for a few days. I knew it was going to raise some points that I would take issue with. While I am going to use Sutton’s argument as a reference here, my intention is not to prove him wrong.

Trail building and advocacy is a broad-scope discussion that has a lot of facets – many of which I am going to overlook in this short piece. Rather than biting off too much in one go, I’m just going to approach Sutton’s ideas and expand in a few places. I welcome you to come along for the ride, and join in the discussion below.

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Most of the 42 people who came out to our last trail day on Expresso, and had no fun whatsoever.

In my first English class in university – well before I knew I would finish my degree in that faculty – the instructor said something very blunt: your conclusion comes at the beginning of your essay. So here it is: What’s happening right now in trail building on the North Shore is an exception to Sutton’s “fundamental problem”.

Taking into account the context of the North Shore – which has a dearth of singletrack trails below the “expert” level and a historical trail building style based on lower traffic numbers and a different type of riding than is currently being practiced – the community’s need for widespread trail maintenance was obvious. We can no longer ignore the need for beginner and intermediate options, and those options are going to have to be all-weather friendly.

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Beginner and intermediate options are often the reality for public trail days – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sutton’s argument hinges on the following quote:

“Modern day trail building and work parties have become nothing but construction crews with assignments thus stripping the creativity and fun that attracted riders to the sport to begin with.”

And the main premises are:

1. Work party style trail building results in volunteer burnout, in part due to lack of interest in building beginner or novice-friendly trail.

2. Region-wide trail homogenization in the name of putting in more miles of trail is a bad thing.

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that the NSMBA’s Trail Adoption Program, which engages local businesses such as us here at NSMB.com for both financial support and volunteer effort, has become a model that trail associations around the world are looking to. This is simply a fact, and I don’t feel the need to hammer that point in any further. The bottom line is that the volunteer efforts hitting the North Shore trails right now aren’t strictly being rallied by the advocacy association, and that results in a big shift in how people get out to these events.

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These are our interns. They were voluntold to be there. As you can see, not enjoying themselves.

As we here at NSMB.com have been a part of the TAP since its inception in 2011, Sutton’s article hit home for me. It was through these public trail days that I was introduced to trail work. We are lucky to work with Digger and Jerry Willows as lead builders and help their creative vision come to fruition. We regularly get between 25 and 35 people out to one of our trail days (the most recent one had 42). I came away from Sutton’s article feeling confident that some of the points being made don’t apply to our experience.

Volunteer Burnout

The point I identified as Sutton’s first premise, the idea that the volunteers don’t want to ride these trails, applies to what I consider an entitled group: advanced level riders that don’t like riding beginner-intermediate trails. These may be long time riders who don’t see the fun in a faster-rolling trail, or younger riders who just want to hit the gnar.

As an aside, I personally find the position of these riders quite odd; I have no problem finding fun on the new Lower Seymour XC trails or the new Expresso or even Bobsled, which at the moment is the North Shore’s only machine-built trail. A lot of people never built jumps as a kid. A lot of people don’t ever jump their mountain bikes. I’m not one of those people, but I want them to ride bikes in the forest – and I want them to enjoy it.

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There is always an exception to the rule. Like these guys, who prefer the gnar, but help us build with gold anyway.

In either case the so-called entitled parties – and the practical applications of Sutton’s argument – are being selfish about a public trail network. Even with a number of more accessible routes being established in the past few years, the level of difficulty on the Shore still leans toward expert.

“We no longer get to build the trails we want to ride.”

My experience here, which I am under the impression follows in other jurisdictions, is this: you either cut a “rogue” line for yourself and a few friends in an area that doesn’t have existing trails, or you work with the local advocacy association on trails that satisfy the land managers and the advocacy association’s vision. If you want to build sanctioned trails you “want to ride”, be prepared to pour a lot of volunteer hours into the administrative side of your local advocacy association. It’s not impossible, but it’s very unlikely to happen at a public trail day.

“When was the last time you rode a section of trail that you could tell was built because someone wanted to ride it?”

While we and many other local businesses are full steam ahead with project Dumbing Down the Shore™, I can proudly say that many of the people who come out to our trail days are indeed stoked to ride the new section of trail we’re building. We also have some very reliable volunteers who admittedly don’t even ride this type of trail, yet continue to show up to our trail days. Maybe there’s more than just a free lunch.

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This definitely looks like it’s going to be no fun at all.

(Another aside: there is actually some room for creativity at public trail days, but it has to fit within the vision of the builder and not be a complete waste of time that the builder has to go in and fix later. You can’t show up with a sense of entitlement expecting to build a jump, just as a junior employee doesn’t get a key to the building. Maybe once you’ve gained the lead builder’s trust.)

Homogenization

The second premise I identified approaches trail network homogenization. It’s true: in the past few years there has been a big shift in the way builders approach high-traffic trail and it’s been a positive move. Creek beds are no longer in vogue (were they ever?) and we have sorted out a way to build well-draining trail using materials that are available from the local forests.

As we continue to bolster the number of beginner and intermediate options on the Shore, we are creating a network of what could be considered homogenized trails – but these are well-wearing and easier to maintain than anything that was being built in the past (assuming we can agree to step away from rock armouring as a riding surface). Maybe the trail building style will change again in the next couple years but for now we are still short on “accessible” options so there’s no reason to slow down. There is a lot of value in a trail network that is accessible to beginner and intermediate riders.

nsmb-expresso-26

The Shore is supposed to have abrupt 90º corners, not round berms. Take that out.

The argument that the gnar is still out there for those who seek it will come up, but the counterpoint is that those (often fall line) trails are at risk of being decommissioned in favour of a bench cut. If you truly want to see unmaintained historic lines protected, you have to get involved at a level beyond attending a public trail day or an annual general meeting. If you want to ride rock armouring, you might actually have to do it yourself.

My point: if you have a vision for building sustainable trail, your voice is welcome in the discussion. But you’ll have to be a leader, not a follower. There are bureaucratic hoops to jump in building sanctioned trail, and there is unfortunately not a lot of room for creative vision that conflicts with that of the lead builder at a public trail day. If you want to be the one calling the shots, you’ll have to jump a few bureaucratic hoops of your own before that can happen.

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Some people show up to spend a day in the woods with their kid.

This discussion obviously goes far deeper than just one article on an online magazine. It is the annual general meetings and the public trail days, kicking out drains when it’s pissing rain and stopping to help the builders that are out there week in and week out – or at least to give them a sincere thank you.

I can confidently say that here on the North Shore, the number of people passionately involved in this discussion is still growing – and the more of us that are willing to tackle these issues, the better… even if it results in the occasional argument.


Join the discussion below – but please keep your comments civil.

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Comments

thad
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thad  - Dec. 6, 2013, 3:10 p.m.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - Dec. 6, 2013, 3:45 p.m.

My life is now complete.

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FlipFantasia
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Todd Hellinga  - Dec. 6, 2013, 5:19 p.m.

sweet self-entitled "you should all build what I want, and no I won't help, I'll just criticize you on the internet" attitude

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mojosbc
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X Marksthe Spot  - Dec. 5, 2013, 7:52 a.m.

Great discussion that has some relevance for other areas as well such as for us in Powell River. We are experiencing a huge increase in riders, both locals and visitors, and want to have loops that beginner/intermediates can enjoy riding, as well as challenging trails that not everyone should even attempt…or if they do, expect that there will be sections where they'll be walking through it. Trails inevitably get scoured by heavy use and also by rogue moto who can cause more damage in one or two runs than 550 MTB racers. If this happens on trails that we want accessible for most riders of course I am going out there to take care of it, even if an elite rider can easily clean it. Other trails that have always been ridden mostly by advanced riders I am happy to just leave alone except to deal with drainage issues.

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heckler
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heckler  - Dec. 5, 2013, 7:03 a.m.

Bzerk, I believe this is a great discussion to be had and thank Morgan for starting it. I read somewhere that forums are a place for people without a voice to be heard, and I am listening.

I've taken Nanaman's concerns to the TAP builders group for internal discussion and we won't be posting it, but we will think about how to improve next year's work. I am doing this because he was clear and specific about the issue.

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bzerk
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bzerk  - Dec. 4, 2013, 8:34 p.m.

nsmb.com - where old farts come to whine about "dumbing down the shore".

I couldn't be more in favour of the work being done on the Shore. They must be doing something right - I am constantly amazed how many riders I see on the trails these days.

And for those who still favour old school trails, come on over to Cyps. There's lots of hardcore stuff out there - you just need to know where to find it.

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seanluge
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Spoogekin  - Dec. 4, 2013, 5:08 p.m.

I've been living in Vancouver for 2 years now, I moved here from Hamilton Ontario and grew up riding in my local area since I was 10. I'm now 31 and have never been so excited about the sport of mountain biking since I moved here and discovered the shore. And that has everything to do with all the passionate people that care and tend to the trail network here on the North Shore. This is really for me Mountain biking paradise! I can ride all year round. I never have a problem meeting people to ride with. And there is an amazing variety of different trails.

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seanluge
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Spoogekin  - Dec. 4, 2013, 5:13 p.m.

So I would like to thank everyone past and present, who has been involved with making the north shore such a pleasure to ride! And I really hope it continues to evolve, I personally love the new school style of flowy fast berms, I can rip in on my hardtail with my friends who aren't as experienced and they aren't scared to death! But at the same time I love riding technical gnar that keeps me on my toes and is more of a challenge!

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david-lees
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David Lees  - Dec. 4, 2013, 4:04 p.m.

Extremely well expressed and exactly the situation our Trail Group in the UK is going through. There will always be Trolls who will never "get it", not least the impact on trails of massively increasing numbers, and the sustainable build techniques required to accommodate. Trolls are seemingly large in number on the interweb but actually a very small portion of all those who ride off road. So best just to ignore.

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heckler
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heckler  - Dec. 4, 2013, 3:48 p.m.

A possible solution for builders to consider would be to include large rocks embedded in the gold trailwork. The end result would be boulders in the trail, similar to what's being covered up, and these boulders would cause riders to swerve off the trailbed causing other problems. Erosion would cause them to become more pronounced over time, leading to where we were at a few years ago.

Of course, that can happen with more support of people coming out to traildays willing to work on tasks. 🙂

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gram
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gram  - Dec. 4, 2013, 3:25 p.m.

Nanaman,
your profile indicated you had recently moved to the lower mainland hence my thought that you had recently moved here. Severed was far smoother in the past than it is now, as were most trails that have seen little or no maintenance in their life, they were not built as chundered chutes, they evolved into them through erosion.
20 years ago there were no beginner trails on the Shore one had to ride out at UBC or Stanley Park.
I do agree with you and do not think all trails should be smooth, fast and flowy but at the same time the general chundered messes that most old trails are in are not sustainable with the increase in riders - TAP is addressing this as well as legitimizing riding on the Shore by getting most landowners to be somewhat supportive of what were previously illegal trails.

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rsutton1223
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rsutton1223  - Dec. 4, 2013, 2:20 p.m.

Morgan.

First off. Thank you for chiming in and offering your opinion on the subject. My intention with the article was to start a conversation on the subject and to that effect…it has accomplished its goal.

There are a couple of things I do want to clarify as it seems I might not have expressed them clearly.

For one, the Shore is a much different atmosphere than metro Atlanta, GA. Your guys version of "beginner xc" is very different than in our area. Ours is basically roadies on dirt! But that really isn't the point either. I do not believe that all trails need to be advanced at all. Actually, they should be the smaller percentage. My argument was that EVERY trail does not need to be a beginner trail. In our area, people even whine about rocks being in the trial. This is mountain biking after all and every trail being a smooth mowed down highway isn't exactly in the heart of what mountain biking was built off of. If I came off as part of that "elitist group" I am sorry. That was not my intention at all. One of the best parts about mountain biking is bringing new riders into the sport and I would never want to discount that. Ever.

The part about volunteer burnout is completely correct. If you show up to a work party only to be barked and yelled at…you aren't going to come back. I am in no way condoning rogue trails. I even addressed that in the article specifically under the land management section. If you don't own the land…you don't have the right to build on it without permission. Period. I was more trying to state that if every trail is built as a smooth highway…you are going to loose those workers that create trails they want to ride…beginner or not.

Again. Thanks for your input. It is all apart of the conversation that I believe helps everyone in the end. You guys have a very special area with the Shore that we all wish we had and you are an example to almost all groups on how the community, riding and volunteering should be.

  • Robb Sutton

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wiglebot
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wiglebot  - Dec. 4, 2013, 1:37 p.m.

Can someone answer this question? Where is the delegation. There is a handful of trail owners. Then there is not much delegation of work other than direct commands on trail days. I got frustrated and now and am just building a log ride to a ladder bridge over a stream in my own backyard. I would love to volunteer lots of time on Fromme, but want a job todo and not a task.

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heckler
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heckler  - Dec. 5, 2013, 7:22 a.m.

Wigglebot, can you clarify what you mean by this? What is the difference between a job and a task?

Realize that when a trail day leader doesn't know you or you capabilities, he or she has to start with " get rocks" and " get dirt, but it has to be this's inorganic gold coloured dirt, not the dark organic mud". Only once the leader knows you can they say " rebuild this corner with a grade reversal and build a retaining wall on the out slope."

The only way to build this relationship is by coming out. Builders Academy, TAP sponsored trail days and public trail days. There are 15 or so TAP build leaders so getting to know one or two of them isn't that hard if you come out. Keep in mind that public trail days have many more random people show up, vs TAP sponsored days that typically have a much smaller consistent group of dedicated people. IMO, this is the biggest advantage we have with TAP- getting to know the capabilities of a smaller volunteer base.

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wiglebot
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wiglebot  - Dec. 5, 2013, 9:28 a.m.

Yes the best trail building sessions I have had are with TAP when just a few show. I am a volunteer willing to dedicate 3 weekdays to building.
But anyway a job would be someone explaining a plan and letting me continue the work during the week. I ride almost everyday and know the main builders and see them working alone. They could check on my work daily. There are a 1,000 small fixes to be made on Fromme and volunteers are waiting for these "leaders?" I have proven my knowledge and capabilities, but it seems some builders want to work alone and some really like the "leader" position and want to stand over everyone and give task.
Plus I have structurally engineered and built decks, piers, houses… and would definitely suggest making the wooden TTFs (on Bike only trails) stronger and more sustainable for the increasing traffic.

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heckler
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heckler  - Dec. 5, 2013, 2:15 p.m.

It really sounds like you need to get in touch with mark@nsmba.ca and get yourself a permit for a currently unmanaged trail and take on your own jobs! It's really easy process, and now is the time permits are getting planned for 2014, as long as you can prove your experience and skill level.

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klankilla
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RV  - Dec. 4, 2013, 1:26 p.m.

You guys could be spending this energy riding up mountain hwy!

I only grazed over both articles…..i think both articles are fair and i don't see why this is an 'argument'. Both stances are articulating experiences from localized regions and conditions no? It seems to me the crux of the problem is requirements gathering, leadership, and operationalizing the vision (insert red tape here). I don’t have the answers there…..its an uphill battle im sure. Building trails seems to me like engineering a product…. A mass produced product that suites most is cheaper and easier, or a custom product tailored to a specific need is more expensive and suits the few. The momentum is shifting to the former right?

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Nanaman
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Nanaman  - Dec. 4, 2013, 12:08 p.m.

I ride year round, rain or shine, but not in the snow. I too do not like deep mud pits and agree there is a place for the limited use of gold dirt. What I protest is the smoothing of rocky chundery sections. These sections are what keep the ride interesting and keep my mind busy as well as my lungs. The top of Severed Dick is just one of many examples. Another would be a very small section of Leopard about half way along. The fear I have with seeing gold dirt spread over a rocky section of Leopard is that it will spread to the rest of the trail. The section I'm referring absolutely did not need it.

You may think I'm being selfish here but I think the opposite is actually true. Excellent, fun and challenging trails are being dumbed down to what someone else likes, not what was originally intended with the style of the trail. If you like smooth simple trails then build new ones, do not destroy and rebuild existing ones to your suite your personal preference.

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gram
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gram  - Dec. 4, 2013, 12:51 p.m.

Severed Dick has been around for more than 20 years and is far from what it's original state was….once upon a time it was loam and dirt so NO it is not how it was originally intended to be like in it's current state despite what you may think. Many other "gnarly" trails are in similar states and are only gnarly now because of time and continued erosion. Me thinks you have not been riding on the Shore for very long…?

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Nanaman
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Nanaman  - Dec. 4, 2013, 2:50 p.m.

You "thinks" wrong. I was around during the Circus and GMG days. There was a short period where I lived on The Island, but for the most part I've been riding the shore for 20 years. Severed Dick has never been a smoothed and buffed beginner's trail. So I see no reason to smooth it out now. I accept that you may feel differently, but ask that you not ruin the more challenging trails for those of us that like them.

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nzstormer
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Michael Stormer  - Dec. 6, 2013, 12:01 p.m.

Nanaman, I agree with you about much of this, and understand your fear about the shore being dumbed down. I also enjoy the tech, (but not so much the loose boulder pit that expresso had become).
A couple of points to consider - I would say that right now 90% of the trails on the shore are for the top 20% of riders. We have a lot at our disposal, while other don't.
You said that if easier trails were needed, that new ones should be built - the land managers have basically banned the building of new trails because they see the mess the old trails have become.
There is a big difference between the state of say expresso just prior to tap, and expresso back when it was first made. The "What the trail was intended to be" point just isn't true in most cases. If you talk to the original trail builders, they are the first to admit that what the trails have become is not what they were intended to be.
It is always a shame to give up some trails to beginner/intermediate riders, but i think it is the right thing for us to do. We have a lot, they don't have much.
It is my hope (and I know the hope of the NSMBA), that by building more environmentally, and all user friendly trails, that the land managers will be more supportive of us, and then let us build more advanced trails again.
If you (or anyone else reading) haven't, I strongly recommend going to a trail academy session. A lot of the reasons for questions asked in forums like these are answered in a detailed and concise way.

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heckler
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heckler  - Dec. 4, 2013, 11:23 a.m.

Nanamam,

If you only ride in the dry summer weather, I can understand where you're coming from. However, we ride all year round here. Are you honestly saying you prefer to ride through mud pits than over hard packed dirt? I live beside the RJ trail network and it's my winter evening pedal - I'm super stoked to not come home covered in muck.

And to put things into perspective - check out the gravel trail climb on the north side of RJ. It was put in as a literally 10 foot wide gravel road which I hated the look of. Now it's a 4 foot wide meandering path that's slowly been getting covered up with forest debris. The gold paths of today will end up the same way in a few years if people can keep their tires on the trail.

I'm also the TAP permit holder on Team Pangor, and over the last 10 years have transformed Pangor from swampy mud holes in the winter to a trail you can ride all year round without getting axle deep muddy.

I'm curious why no one ever compains about the dumbing down of Pangor. I've shut down gnarly root chutes that were killing trees, and eliminated water flow down the trail that was eroding the trailbed to a deep bouldery trench in places.

Sven

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Nanaman
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Nanaman  - Dec. 4, 2013, 9:46 a.m.

The Richard Juryn is classified as green multi-use, and I mentioned it partially because I knew it would invoke a strong reaction. I've ridden it since the official trail days and it is excellent for its intended purpose. I did however ride it in the last week and there was section of freshly spread gold which was not necessary. The point I'm trying to make here is why are we turning all the trails into green multi-use. Espresso is a good example; the spirit of that trail has always been knarl and chunder. I know people will say the old trail is there, but the main trail doesn't "flow" into it anymore. The new trail has nothing in common with the original trail. Why wasn't new Espresso called something else and Espresso left or maintained as it was? It has now become a green multi-use trail which is arguably a better climbing trail for some. Severed Dick, the top portion has had some unnecessary work done and been smoothed. I fear this will continue and the rest of the trail will be destroyed.

There is a place for gold to be used, however paving an entire trail with the stuff negates the whole point of going mountain biking in the first place.

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Ozibatla
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Ozibatla  - Dec. 3, 2013, 11:05 p.m.

hahahaha the shore.

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dubprof
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dubprof  - Dec. 4, 2013, 2:08 a.m.

heh heh…wanker. i think you killed a thread with this comment before…..

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davethegreat
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davethegreat  - Dec. 3, 2013, 10:59 p.m.

nice work Morgman
when i was a child my father liked to hike, but there weren't allot of trails to hike on so he connected with a community of people called the Vancouver Island Ramblers, they were a community of people that were passionate about the back country so they built trails together. Now there is a network of trails that exist because of a community, I call it a community because my father bought bread from the hiking baker and meat from the hiking butcher and had dinner with them every sunday. I am also a member of a community, a mountain bike riding community, a bunch of evolving crazy fools who ride there bikes down silly stuff for fun, They are my clients my friends and my extended family,so any time i can spare a moment to share my goodwill the community has sent it back, because that is how a community works. In a small town this is how a friend gets a roof on his house or lift in his truck, and in a mountain bike riding community this is how the trails happen. It is a give and take relationship,if you want to take you have to give.
Dave

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Midas
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Midas  - Dec. 3, 2013, 10:51 p.m.

I'm really curious to see how many of the people who feel the shore is getting 'dumbed down' actually have a good grasp on the extent of the trail network throughout the three main mountains we call the shore.

Despite the legal and sanctioned trails receiving this attention, the majority of trails at one point did start as illegal trails. Some of those trails became sanctioned, and some didn't… and to my knowledge they still exist in the same capacity.

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mgm
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mgm  - Dec. 3, 2013, 10:22 p.m.

Dumbing down the north shore is becoming a new type of elitism. Not everyone wants to ride the same type of trail. Some of us prefer the type of shore riding that made us famous. ( nobody is buying videos of people riding bobsled.) building blue and green trails is great but more black trails are important. At the rate the powers that be at nsmba are going once you progress past blue you will have to go somewhere else to challenge yourself. Note to nsmba, illegal trails are booming thanks to the nsmba and the new elitism.

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ldhbaker
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ldhbaker  - Dec. 4, 2013, 10:03 a.m.

Nobody is buying videos of riding on the north shore period, mainly because riding styles, preferences, and bike technology moved on from what made the shore famous. Take a poll and see who still wants to ride 10 foot high skinnies and creek beds. I'm not saying there isn't a place for old-school "north shore" type riding, but those who actually prefer that type of riding are few and far between, (as evidence, witness the difference in rider traffic at Whistler on, say, A-line vs. Clown Shoes).

As an outsider, I would suggest that there are more beginner and intermediate trails being developed/improved by the NSMBA than advanced trails because those who see the need for these trails are those who choose to get involved. If you prefer the advanced trails and NSX 1 type stunts, then get involved and avoid the risk of having your illegal trail wiped out by a pissed off landowner. The most effective and positive way to have an impact is by getting involved, not eschewing the group that is.

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seanluge
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Spoogekin  - Dec. 4, 2013, 4:55 p.m.

Good point

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mojosbc
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X Marksthe Spot  - Dec. 3, 2013, 5:38 p.m.

Nanaman, I'm a little confused by your use of terms like dirt, soil and gold. Maybe you guys have a different vocabulary down there. I'm an unpaid trail builder up here in Powell River, personally averaging about 750 hours annually. We build new trails but most of our time is spent upgrading existing trails, mostly built by hikers. Drainage is the single biggest issue, and to get water flowing again, off the trails, the first thing we usually have to do is scrape off the organics that retain water and prevent water flow. Most people refer to this organic material as dirt or soil. Often what we will then do is search for what we call mineral, the sandy/gravel/pebble mix that permits water to drain better. Some refer to this as gold because of the colour. I have yet to meet a single person who felt we had ruined a trail by doing this. Quite the opposite. The world has discovered the hundreds of kilometres of trails up here and are coming to ride them and love what they see. Those who return year after year such as the BC Bike racers have told us how much better the trails are than before. But I suppose it is a personal preference. If you prefer to ride through rutty muddy pools of water, which freezes into sometimes very deep rutty ridges aka tire traps in the colder weather because the dirt/soil/organic is still on the trail, well then we do still have some of that too because there is just not enough time to deal with drainage on all of them unless I live another 50 years. Maybe I will, I'm only 65.

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Nanaman
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Nanaman  - Dec. 3, 2013, 4:20 p.m.

There is a place for smooth buffed trails on the shore, however what has been going on as of late is out of hand. We have individual unsanctioned rouge trailbuilders heading into the forest on their on accord and spreading dirt (Gold as they call it) over otherwise superb trails and completely ruining them for anyone other than those that share their point of view. Gold dirt is being spread over sections of trail which absolutely do not need it and are in fact much worse off after the fact. Case in point, the Richard Juryn trail. I recently rode it and was appalled by a long section which had recently been covered in soil. This section did not need the "treatment" and was a lot better before. I applaud the person's effort, however misguided it may be. We call ourselves Mountain Bikers, so why are we allowing the shore to be paved with dirt?

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - Dec. 3, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

Two points:

1. The work you refer to is the work of a Norco John Henry TAP trail day (unless I'm mistaken). Your comment makes it seem like this work was done by a "rogue" builder who's randomly tossing gold dirt, which is not the case.

2. This is the intent of the Richard Juryn trail network: "To create a network of multi-use, non-motorized trails to provide access to youth and novice cyclists - to also be enjoyed by hikers, equestrians, runners and dog walkers for the north shore."

Read up on the history HERE.

Please try to keep your comments civil and constructive. We have the opportunity for a good discussion here.

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AussieDreamZ
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AussieDreamZ  - Dec. 3, 2013, 8:59 p.m.

The Richard Juryn trail network is classified Green multi use. it gets just as much traffic by trail runners / walkers etc as it does by cyclists. When I did my initial assessment and walkthrough on the trail at the beginning of the year it was a braided (in sections 20 foot wide) muddy boggy mess.

Over the past year Myself and Norco John Henry’s have had 4 trail days (plus I got to work with the High School league at the start of the year) where we have proceeded to narrow down the trail bed, replace the organic boggy mess with gold and rebuild one particularly nasty corner. We have always ensured that the trail is still “technically challenging” so we haven’t covered up all the rocks and roots etc, but we have done a bloody terrific job to get rid of the boggy swampy highway that was there at the beginning of the year.

Linky to a bunch of before and after photos (sorry you’ll need Facebook to view them) I’d love to know which section you were referring to? All the work that has been done on Richard Juryn was sorely needed

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ldhbaker
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ldhbaker  - Dec. 4, 2013, 9:52 a.m.

Wow - that work looks amazing!

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skifreak
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skifreak  - Dec. 3, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

Before people get on their soap boxes about dumbing down the shore, homogenizing the trails and lack of gnar they should at least experience the following.

1. Ride in a different country with completely different types of land and styles of trails.

2. Ride your own trails with people from other countries or areas.

3. Help a beginner or child learn to ride on the existing shore trails.

4. Take a trail building course.

5. Experience all levels of trail work, including the oh so horrible decommissioning…

6. Join a meeting with land owners and insurance providers to understand the risks, concerns, misinformation and costs of liability.

If you haven't done most these things, your arguments are pretty much invalid.

It's very easy to sit behind a keyboard. it's harder to go do something constructive. Hats off to those who speak with their actions.

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thad
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thad  - Dec. 3, 2013, 12:54 p.m.

We have run into these issues down in Bellingham.

There are a couple styles of mountain bike riders:

-old school XC. These folks like steep climbs, challenging roots, tight corners, primitive trails. Frequently complain about corners getting bermed that didn't need help, roots getting taken out, "teeth taken out".

-Beginners and casual riders. Like less than 10% grade climbs, wider, smoother trails.

-"Flow riders". Like flatter grade trails, that don't get all brake bumped, wide trail, big berms, jumps. These guys like to dig, but have a tendency to want to berm EVERYTHING, and put jumps EVERYWHERE.

-Old school "shore" riders. Like the woodwork and stunts. Not too many of these guys left, and very few that actually want to do the woodwork. Most of the O.G. builders that started out building tons of woodwork everywhere (myself, included), have moved away from woodwork unless it is truly the only, and best option. Woodwork is expensive and time consuming to build, and has a short lifespan in comparison to dirt work or rock work.

-DH riders. Like the steep and the gnar. Frequently think that "sustainable" trail = ghey trail. In many cases, think that the only good DH trails will always be illegal trails. I personally think you can build super gnar, super steep trail that is fun, sketchy, life threatening, etc, and is still sustainable, AKA, does not turn into a creek bed.

So there are 5 main styles of riding, and 5 main styles of trail. I think there should be good options FOR EVERYONE!

WMBC is a bit ahead of NSMBA in some ways, and following NSMBA's lead in others. For example, we have been averaging turnouts of 40 volunteers for the last 5 years or so, with max turnout of 85. This is with population of 100k. So Vancouver, with population of near a million, is somewhat off the back in terms of volunteerism, and community involvement. SOFT HANDS CITY BOYS. Sorry, can't help myself. 😛
Some of it is due to the city boy aspect; busy career type people with "more important" things to do. I do feel like shore builders are pretty quick with the "you're with us, or you're against us" mentality, and would catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

On the other hand, NSMBA's TAP and Builders' Academy are fantastic ideas, and Mark Wood has worked with us to bring those ideas south with good success so far.

Big trail days are tough to organize. When you have 50 people, with varied levels of building experience, and varied ideas of what is a "good trail", wandering around with tools in hand, a lot of work gets done, but a lot of times, you end up with a bunch of roots and rocks taken out for no reason, lots of little holes dug at the side of the trail, random jumps built where they don't belong, berms everywhere, etc, etc, etc.

A couple things that have made our build days work smoother:
-extensive planning of trail work, with marking paint indicating exactly what sections need help. If there is no hot pink marking paint, NO DIGGING needed.
-Advertising the scope of the trail work project ahead of time.
-Educating volunteers on trail design and work. This takes time and comes with practice. The builder's academy has been a big help in this regard.

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D_C_
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DMVancouver  - Dec. 3, 2013, 1:24 p.m.

Re: lower turnout to trail days, I don't think it's a "soft hands city boy" thing. It seems more like Bystander Effect to me (). The more people are around, the more we think someone else will do something about it. I'd imagine that in smaller communities there is more sense of ownership and more individual agency to create change.

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taletotell
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Ryan Haner  - Dec. 3, 2013, 12:13 p.m.

I like the nice flowy stuff, and I like my kids to have a spot to ride, but we have zero expert level trails locally. Don't tell me it is selfish to want one or two. We had 2. They got killed by the local alliance if government and trail builders. "Too dangerous" (3-5ft tall drops, 1 or 2 skinny features, and a steep hill)
Articles like this convince me that illegal is the only option because those who should be advocating trail diversity are instead saying it is asking too much. The guys building illegal trail today are the pioneers like Gary Fisher and his gang. Some people would have said (and likely did say) that the fire roads were good enough. I am so glad those old gents were not satisfied.

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ldhbaker
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ldhbaker  - Dec. 4, 2013, 9:36 a.m.

"Expert" level is a relative term. Having grown up on the north shore, and moved up north (and consequently experienced much of what BC mountain biking has to offer), I would classify many of the trails on the shore as "expert" - especially as compared to 90% of the rest of the province. This argument comes up time and time again (ie. build an "expert" trail, and riders say that it isn't hard enough. Build a "beginner" trail, and riders say that it isn't easy enough). Difficulty level is completely relative to personal opinion, riding ability, opinion of oneself, and the type of riding one's used to.

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dubprof
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dubprof  - Dec. 3, 2013, 11:47 a.m.

"As an aside, I personally find the position of these riders quite odd; "

The fact that you find someone else's preference as "odd" is disrespectful to their opinion and their preference. You may find that you do not like to ride the same trails as someone else, but that does not make you odd. It shows a narrow minded approach to discussing an important topic on the shore. Until everyone agrees to respect each other's position there will always be a perceived big divide between the smooth golders and the gnar/air rockers.
I also feel that the use of the word "entitled" is a bit extreme. Fear of change or a loss of something you are passionate about tends to cause people to speak out. There is definitely a trend toward trail homogenization on the shore today, and that may have a few riders worried about preserving the style of trail they prefer. I doubt that there all the gnar is going to be swept up and paved over in my lifetime, there just isnt enough manpower hours out there to do it. BUT - every trail that has been TAPPED has had the original style changed to something more modern (read dumbed down if you like however i specifically chose not to refer to i thtat way - i agree that a high skill set is needed to really rail the new style of trail..I just dont feel like spending my riding time on perfecting my cornering skills. I hope you dont find me odd for this.)
I moved to the shore 10 years ago without a single foot of vert on a DH rig and I was able to progress my riding to the point that I have rode pretty much every trail and feature on the shore with the exception of a few ball busters. Thats good enough for me - I didnt need the plethora of green/blue lines that are out there now to comfort my progression on 2 wheels. It might be safe to say that new riders who enjoy bobsled type trails will never "progress" to ride different style trails. They get their kicks on the paved gold and thats great. There is definitely a place for these trails in our expanding network. But the constant slagging that people who prefer to ride more difficult/different style trails is uncalled for…There is no planned future development of higher level trails - what you got now is all you're going to get, and once theyre gone, theyre gone. That concerns a lot of riders. IF NSMBA really wanted to adress the concerns of the "vocal minority" (as it has been referred to) then they would also include in their mandate the need to develop higher level, sustainable trails as well to meet the needs of the entire MTB community.

AS a side note - I dont intend this as slag against the NSMBA. I have personally found them to be very supportive varied trail development and maintenance. They are strong lobbyists for the MTB community - I would just like to see them be more public about recognizing the need for more than just gold. And yes, I am considering becoming more involved in the administrative aspect of promoting MTBing…I have been considering it for a while…i just gotta wash the mouth out a bit and free up a little more time.

Thanks for your article. It is sure to prompt even more discussion and hopefully clarity on an ongoing topic.

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rasheed
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rasheed  - Dec. 3, 2013, 12:14 p.m.

I don't see anything necessarily disrespectful about calling another person's position "odd", "stupid" or "dumb", definitely, but not "odd."

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dubprof
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dubprof  - Dec. 3, 2013, 12:50 p.m.

i believe it has negative conotations…

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thewwkayaker
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thewwkayaker  - Dec. 3, 2013, 1:22 p.m.

dubprof - well said. Hope your attempts to become more involved work out. Having been a trail leader in the past I found the whole process too political and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It's difficult to be have an opinion that differs from the majority.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - Dec. 3, 2013, 6:29 p.m.

I'm going to quote myself here to establish context:

"I personally find the position of these riders quite odd; I have no problem finding fun [on low grade XC/intermediate trails]…"

I made sure to label that a personal opinion, as it is one not necessarily shared by my colleagues or other proponents of the current direction of sanctioned trail work. I get that you might not enjoy those trails as much – but please note that my comment concerns the having of fun riding bikes on trails. Any particular type of trail is not "not fun"; it is simply a different kind of riding.

I am a generalist when it comes to bikes, trails, and people I'll ride with: XC, AM, hardtail, DH, freeride, DJ, BMX… singletrack XC, flow, slow tech, park, DH… beginners through to pros – I am always looking to expand my riding skills, trail experiences, and to have fun in the woods with friends new and old. I didn't mean to offend with that statement but I would argue that the rider in question who desires only rooty or rock armoured slow tech style riding is still being narrow-minded.

"…an entitled group: advanced level riders that don’t like riding beginner-intermediate trails…"

I chose to use the word "entitled" carefully. The reason I chose this word was to relate my point about the historic lack of beginner-intermediate routes (not just out-and-backs on graveled doubletrack) in the trail network. While the North Shore may have a lot more accessible singletrack options than in years past, the reality is the vast majority of trails (or at least their crux features) are still expert-level. The resistance of this group to the new style of trail building verges on elitist, and I don't feel that's acceptable.

Thoughts about "progression"

When you boil mountain biking down to a single experience, it's riding a bike with knobby tires in the wilderness. Not everyone is after "progression" in the sense that they desire to conquer stunts, steeps, and other technical riding experiences. Some riders are completely content (and would like nothing other than) to ride fun singletrack in the woods as a way to get exercise without fear or the risk of injury. That is a trail experience that is still not available even with the last four years of active trail maintenance on the North Shore – but we're getting there.

If you flip around my above comments about "odd" and "entitled" riders, it looks more than a bit hypocritical to say the beginner rider doesn't also deserve a trail experience they enjoy and yet can't have even if they seek it out.

My comments ruffled your feathers just as Sutton's article did for me. I appreciate the last two lines of your comment.

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dubprof
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dubprof  - Dec. 4, 2013, 1:43 p.m.

I will agree with pretty much everything in your reply..except the incorrect assumption that I might not enjoy the new style of trail as much…I love laps on Bobsled or Gear Jammer as much as I enjoy shuttles on the big rig in Squamish - kinda like you it seems.

And I need to clarify - it has been brought to my attention that future plans of the NSMBA do include a desire to restore original features on many trails which have been decommisioned. This was an error on my part as a result of not being fully informed and for that I apologize to the NSMBA.

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D_C_
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DMVancouver  - Dec. 3, 2013, 11:36 a.m.

Are there any more Expresso trail days coming up? I haven't made it out to any yet but would love to be involved.

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zakir
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zakir  - Dec. 3, 2013, 2:30 p.m.

I was about to ask the same thing. I know there will be at least one more, but have no idea when.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - Dec. 3, 2013, 3:29 p.m.

We have not yet decided when the next trail day will be – and if it will be our usual public day or perhaps a smaller crew-only day like other TAP adopters do. We'll definitely keep you all in the loop on the front page with whatever happens.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Dec. 3, 2013, 9:24 a.m.

Nicely put, Morgan.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Dec. 3, 2013, 8:27 a.m.

Excellent article. It really seemed to address so many of the conversation points that seem to be coming up daily on the boards. Great work!

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biggles604
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Steve  - Dec. 3, 2013, 8:17 a.m.

There's not much left to be said really. Excellent article.
One point left out, which has been brought up by Mark Wood many times, is that this introduction of rolling trail is just the first phase of the rejuvenation of the Shore. The trails were neglected for so long that the maintenance to get them back to sustainability is almost overwhelming, and in some cases involves re-routes because the original line was never sustainable. Once the trails are stable with a long term maintenance plan, then the unique features can start being re-created. Sustainability doesn't end at how well the trail weathers, it also includes the buy-in and support of land managers. When the managers are happy, then the collective of builders can have much freedom in how the trails are built. Rogue trails that get built are really countering everything that is being advocated towards improving these relationships. I believe that if we are patient, work together, then with time we can have a trail network that far exceeds anything we have seen in the past, and will accommodate everyone's wishes.

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dubprof
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dubprof  - Dec. 3, 2013, 12:56 p.m.

awesome…looking forward to that day

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Paul-Snyder
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Paul Snyder  - Dec. 3, 2013, 7:46 a.m.

Very well written article. Spot on, even if it did make me feel a little dated for still liking rock armouring. It's mostly bench cuts and berms and compromising with the forest rangers though. 🙂

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flying_frog
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flying_frog  - Dec. 3, 2013, 6:12 a.m.

I couldn't agree more, after over 5 years of advocacy and having been the president of SORCE (Surrey Off Road Cycling Enthusiasts)for the past year, we finally have gotten Invergarry bike park to become the progressive trend setting park we wanted it to be, yet I still face criticism from a handful of people. To whom I can only say that they should feel free to step up and be the representative for mountain biking in the area and go through the civil process which is the ONLY way to build something permanent that will not face random destruction on any given day if the city or a private land owner finds out and decides they don't like what they see.

(warning shameless plug) As for Invergarry, we recently had alpine bike parks rebuild our jump trail this year fully funded by the city of surrey to the tune of $75000 and the results were amazing, even more exciting is they will be building another line for beginner and intermediate riders this coming spring. check us out at or facebook.com/sorcebikclub

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