Sheffield riders have funded, planned and reworked two of the most iconic trails in the city
Sheffield is a city that just gets things done. New trails and jumps grow with amazing regularity, and the sheer will of the riders seems to get things done, regardless of whether the powers that be are on side, or the funds available.
This is the punk behaviour that put Sheffield – a relatively small Yorkshire city – on the map. This DIY attitude permeates into Sheffield’s MTB scene too, where it runs so deep that many (almost all) of the tracks and trails developed over the last 15 years or so stem directly from a proactive community of riders and advocates. With Ride Sheffield close to the heart of it all, locals have essentially built up an ever-more effective culture of fundraising and action.
Unsurprisingly then, the two newest trails Sheffield has produced are organic, rider funded and generated. This being egalitarian, unflashy, Sheffield, both spots are also completely free for riders to use, in terms of parking and access, and represent the good things that can be achieved when riders work together and play nicely with local councils and landowners like the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
None of this would be possible without physical and financial support of local riders in numbers though, so make sure to get involved if you’re based round and about and donate at ridesheffield.org.uk and bolehills.com to help out.
The grass is always Grenoside
The DH3 trail up at Grenoside on the northern fringes of the city has been completely reworked. The DH3 track up at Greno (as the locals call it), is one of three tracks at a spot that’s long been the headline destination for purpose-made MTB DH trails. There’ve been downhill and muck-about trails there since the infancy of mountain biking and it’s even where local MTB legend Steve Peat cut his chops as a local kid growing up on sketchy, steep-angled, fully rigid bikes.
Greno has evolved and modernised over the decades alongside bike technology though and is now a kind of mini DH bike park – easily the best ever iteration in terms of trails on offer. The pumped-up bike park vibe is even more evident with local trail building artist JP Sculpt om the scene over the last couple of years. He’d already reinvented the Steel City race track, always the most popular trail here, and the results were so popular the task of rebuilding DH3 was handed on to him too. The cash came from the Steel City event itself, with the DH3 track just 20m away on the same hillside.
Driving the diggers that carve all the features, James Pettitt is a local rider who, like many trail builders, honed his skills unofficially before going legit. In his case at the legendary ‘Wharncouver’ over the road in Wharncliffe woods, a sprawling zone of dozens of raw and technical steep DH tracks that perfectly compliment Greno. JP’s signature is incorporating decorative rock piles into features and the kind of MTB cairns or spires many will have seen in the 50:01 videos.
With both main tracks now shaped and groomed Greno is a totally new-school destination with deep bucket berms, fancy lips, rollers and sharkfins, rather than the roots, mud and sketchy technical riding of yesteryear. Moving with the times also sees the latest tracks ramp up the speed and excitement, overcoming a lack in sheer elevation with speed-generating shapes, linked up flow and a huge number of features. There are also some pretty big tabletop jumps out in the open you might need to build up to.
JP has a great eye for the aesthetics of building, making everything darn pretty. But he never loses sight of the flow that’s critical to trail speed and to ensure features are perfectly positioned for riders of all abilities.
DH3 toboggans you down the hillside, provided you’ve got the skills to milk the speed available and the nerve to get off the brakes and handle the g-forces. The precision and rapid reactions of good riders are well rewarded then, but what’s great is how well JP’s trails work for less skilful riders too. Those less fleet of wheel can still ride all the beautifully linked corners and rollers with no sketchy or out of position features to catch them out.
With all the tracks at Grenoside lying in a small block of woodland, pointing downhill and looping back up to the top via not-too-steep fireroads, riders can pedal back round to the top for another go in about 10 or 15 minutes. And judging by the spot’s ever-growing popularity, the local MTB community loves what’s going on here and what Ride Sheffield is delivering for the riders.
Mountain out of a Bolehill
Closer to the city centre, Bolehills is even more established as a riding spot, having been around since 1983(!) in its original guise as a BMX track, before morphing into an urban/MTB jump spot. Multiple generations of mountain bikers have adopted it over the years, performed various remakes you can see and read all about on the cool Bolehills website, and got organised to raise the cash for maintenance.
More than that though, they’ve been able to completely transform and pimp out the jumps and features many times over. The latest updates for 2023 use a super-smooth crushed aggregate surface that is beautifully sculpted and manicured into offset shapes, hips and hardpack lips that make it look like a world-class trails spot rather than a local park.
On a sunny summer evening hemmed in out of the wind by trees, there’s not really many better city centre hang out spots we can think of. It gets better too, when the community puts on events and get togethers, incorporating loads that’s great about the city’s music scene.
Bolehills is somewhere that kids and adults can just muck about at, or improve skills on smaller pump track style rollers, before switching it up to medium size tabletop lines, and eventually progress to the bigger sets and hips that can really send you skyward.
After visiting and riding these two spots, you can’t help but leave Sheffield on a sunny evening with a grin on your face. The whole welcoming, communal spirit and pride locals have for the city is as packed into the trails as JP’s digger dumps and Bolehills’ spade packing. It made us think that the future will always look brighter when riders sort stuff out for themselves. Sheffield is something of a lesson in trail advocacy and access, and proves what’s possible when you step outside of the usual mainstream routes to trail building.
In fact, what the passionate hardcore bikers in Sheffield get up to feels like the perfect antidote to the sometimes corporate, profit and marketing-obsessed world we live in. The can-do attitude here, great fun trails and the idea of looking after yourself and others without any hidden agenda is exactly what today’s mountain biking mountain biking world needs loads more of.