In the vein of The Spirited Man: my pointless, hand built mountain bike trail. I love it.
We bought some land upstate. It has a house on it and even a pool. But those are there to justify what I really want which is to ride my mountain bike out of my garage and onto some trails that I built myself.
What makes this project “pointless” in the practical sense is that there are miles of trails that other people built and maintain just a few minutes down the road. So already, without any additional work, I could ride my mountain bike out of the garage, turn right down the street, and hit these trails in a matter of minutes.
But those are other people’s trails. For no reason more than “feeling moved to do so,” I want to build my own trails.
This house and land we bought is a bit of a fixer upper. I’m there right now and the house is gutted, no hot water, no kitchen. I’m staying in an RV parked in the driveway.
That construction has been going on for a few months and so what I’ve been doing is coming up for a few days at a time to start on my mountain bike trails.
The first pass was with a handsaw and garden clippers. Basically I just trimmed branches and little sprouts of trees back and then tested out a short loop around the house. That loop takes about two minutes to ride. We’re in light woods and there is a thick bed of leaves. It’s a bit like riding in sand. More recently I cleaned the trail up with a rake so that it’s smoother and more visible.
I’ve never built a trail before or really even maintained a yard. Our construction workers call me a city mouse. So as a total beginner to trail building— I was surprised how quickly I got a loop that I could ride at all. Is this a self-improvement story? Yeah, sort of.
A lot of times it can simply be a curiosity to push your limits. I was curious if I could figure out how to build a trail. And then I got this mixture of surprise and pride when I found that I could.
So after building that first loop I set out to build a bigger loop heading out to the very back of the property. It goes out a rocky ridge, 15' drop on the left side and a mild 5' drop on the right, wanders through some rocky flats along the edge of what’s basically a swamp and then loops back up a “valley” between that ridge and the next.
This second loop is a mess of hidden rocks and roots. It’s nearly unridable. On my first attempt, I crashed and went over my handlebars into a soft bed of leaves. And now I am filled with curiosity again. My first trail was easy to build. To make this second trail ridable will take more work, more figuring things out, maybe even buying and learning new tools. I can’t wait.
Here’s a video of what I’m talking about, including me “turtling.”