Congrats to the QECP and Revs crews!

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We’re celebrating the hard-working folk responsible for the trails we love to ride with our MBR Trail of the Year competition in association with SRAM.

>>> 23 best mountain bike descents in the UK

So without any further ado, the winners. Drum roll please…

The winners of the MBR Trail of the Year

Revolution Bike Park – Freeride Trail

Winner of Best Commercially Built Trail: Revolution Bike Park – Freeride Trail

QECP Trail Collective – Blue Trail

Winner of Best Volunteer Built Trail: QECP Trail Collective – Blue Trail

mbr Trail of the Year 2018

Not to put too fine a point on it trails are the reason we ride. Without these ribbons of dirt and rock there would be no mountain biking. Our sport is literally built from the ground up, or probably more accurately the ground down, and trails provide the answer to a lot of the big whys behind mountain biking. It’s not about the bike, as the saying goes.

Despite being hamstrung by archaic access laws (with the notable exception of Scotland) the UK has a real breadth and depth of choice when it comes to trails that we can ride. The majority of these trails we’ve inherited and are shared with other user groups but increasingly we are able to ride on trails that have been purpose built for riders by riders. Some of these have been built by large commercial enterprises and even larger plant equipment while others are the product of the hard work of a small group of volunteers armed with hand tools and a real desire to improve their local riding scene. All are helping to add to the great variety of trails we can enjoy riding today and make riding a mountain bike more accessible and enjoyable than it has ever been.

We believe these trails are worth celebrating and just as importantly the people who built them deserve thanks and recognition for their contribution to improving our sport. We’re not the only ones to think so, which is why we partnered up with SRAM to create the 2018 MBR Trail Of The Year Award. With so many great trails out there we wanted your help to narrow down the trail that was most deserving of the award so. We wanted to know which were the trails that have lit a fire under your riding this past year and find out the trails that you think everyone should ride.

We split the award into two categories: Best Commercially Built Trail and Best Volunteer Built Trail and asked you to nominate the trails you think are deserving of being awarded the title. As well as winning bragging rights both winners would receive custom Trail Of The Year trail markers and the winning volunteer trail group would also be awarded funding for future projects courtesy of SRAM.

“Building great bicycle products and building great trails have a lot in common,” says Alex Rafferty from SRAM. “They both inspire and empower people to ride bikes to the best of their abilities and achieve their goals, whether that’s simply to have fun or win medals. That’s why we are stoked to partner with MBR on the Trail Of The Year Awards – to acknowledge and thank the volunteers and full time builders who create brilliant locations for riders to enjoy.”

The response to the call for nominations was incredible. Trails up and down the country were put forward and after collating your suggestions six finalists for each category emerged. We then asked you to vote for your favourite online and when polling closed we were left with two very worthy winners.

Team Revs

Revolution Bike Park – Freeride Trail

Winner of Best Commercially Built Trail

Revolution Bike Park best represents the progression we’re experiencing in mountain biking right now and as well as a fork in the evolution of the UK trail centre.

Tucked away outside the village of Llangynog in north Wales Revs, as it’s affectionately known, has over its eight years become a regular hang out for those looking to get their kicks from a more gravity based style of riding. In the process it’s become a go-to venue for pro-riders and a proving ground for bike manufacturers thanks to the quality and variety of riding here.

While trails like the impressively sculpted 50/01 pro-line might make the headlines thanks to some incredibly ambitious trail sculpting (building seems too vulgar for the beautifully crafted features) and a host of internet videos it’s the red Freeride trail that is a most deserved winner of the TOTY award.

Freeride means many things to many riders but at Revolution it describes a trail that has been put together to test your skills and provide huge amounts of fun top to bottom. Jumps large and small, steep sections, berms and turns of all descriptions – it stacks a broad range of features into just one run down the hill. This is impressive in itself but what makes the trail really work, and is the secret to its popularity, is the way it has been expertly designed and built to work for riders of all abilities. Whether you’re looking to spend more time in the air than on the ground or you never want to feel air between tyre and dirt this trail will work for you while always remaining a challenge. It’s a trail with real depth that offers the chance for real riding progression and with a trailer to get you back to the top in no time at all you’ve plenty of chance to ride, learn and repeat. Simply put this is a trail that will make you a better rider.

While uplifts are usually associated with DH bikes the current breed of trail bikes will happily take on a weekend of riding here at Revolution, indeed a lot of long travel trail bikes feel more at home here than on a traditional trail centre red. Riding and what we want from it has changed and bikes and trails have had to keep pace – the Freeride Trail is a perfect example of this.

It’s Friday when we visit to hand over the award and there is already a steady flow of riders being shuttled up the hill. The vast majority are on trail bikes with the occasional DH bike snuck in between.

“Trail bikes are perfectly suited to the Freeride trail and we’re getting to the point where people are happy to pay for an uplift to ride, so more and more people are finding their way here” says Revolution’s co-owner and chief trail digger James. He’s happy to admit this is no small part to other venues who offer a similar set-up but the combination of feel-good trails as well as the efficiency of the reasonably priced uplift have obviously struck a chord with voters. “You can see that the money gets spent on the trails, everything feels well looked after.” explains one rider as we bounce up the fire road in the back of a Land Rover.

The Freeride Trail was originally built four years ago and finished half way down the hill. The plan had always been to take it from top to bottom and last year work started to complete the trail. Rather than just tag a second section on to the existing trail the team of builders took the opportunity to rip up the whole thing and start again from scratch. “It nearly broke us to be honest, but we’re happy with it and considering the length of it and the number of features I’d say we’ve got 95% of it right first time and we’re going to tweak the rest”, says James. Building a trail that works and is appreciated by everyone is tricky but feedback from riders, and obviously winning TOTY, shows that the crew’s hard work has paid off. “I didn’t think we’d have a chance of winning, but we’re blown away and really appreciate it. It’s great to get some recognition both for the park and the guys who have slaved away for a year building it.”

The Freeride trail has definitely caught the imagination of riders but Revolution are not complacent, plans are afoot for more trails and improved facilities in the near future. Mountain biking is ever changing and you can be sure there’ll be plenty of evolution from Revolution.

Revolution Bike Park Freeride Trail need to know

Billed as having 45 chances to get airborne the Freeride trail is the trail to head to if you want to get some air time. If that doesn’t sound like you, fear not – everything is rollable and you’ll still have a bunch of fun doing it.

Uplifts are £33 for the day and if you don’t hang around you can cram in runs into the double figures, making it great value. A full face helmet and knee pads are mandatory.

www.revolutionbikepark.co.uk

Team QECP

QECP Trail Collective – Blue Trail

Winner of Best Volunteer Built Trail

Blue trails are the unsung heroes of mountain biking. They are the gateways into the sport, acting as a hook for new riders and giving younger riders their first taste of riding off-road in a safe environment. The mistake a lot of riders make is believing blue trails are just for beginners, bypassing them for harder red or black trails. There’s plenty of fun to be had on a well built blue trail even for experienced riders. It’s good to see there are plenty of other people who think the same and that the blue trail at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) has been voted TOTY.

The trails at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) in the South Downs are built and maintained by volunteer trail building group QECP Trail Collective. The group formed nine years ago when local riders approached the council about repairing the existing trail network that was starting to become unsafe. The trails had originally been built 30 years ago but been untouched since then. With the council short on finances and local riders keen to keep the trails safe and rideable throughout the year a test dig day was organised. 12 people turned up to fix an accident black spot and the council liked what they saw. Since then there’s been a dig day every four weeks, come rain or shine.

The blue trail came about after the group had finished the red trail and were looking at what would be a worthwhile project. A family trail existed at the park but this was essentially a loop of the fire roads that was shared with horse riders, dog walkers and sightseers. After initially approaching the council with a proposal for a dedicated family blue trail four years ago the group completed the final phase of the build last year.

On the day we visit to present the award to the group the last part of the descent is closed and is being given a thorough overhaul. A digger, tipper truck and a cheery group of hand tool wielding volunteers are remoulding the berms to make them bigger, altering the lines of a few corners and improving drainage in line with feedback from riders – there’s no laurel resting here and where improvements can be made to the trail they are.

The blue trail consists of three sections – a climb, a middle section and a descent. It’s the descent that has most likely won over voters and netted the trail and the group TOTY. Firstly it makes great use of the hillside metering out the gradient just enough to keep the flow going and allowing you to build momentum without arriving at the bottom of the hill too quickly. The trail winds through the trees keeping you on your toes as well as helping with speed management. The gradient and way the turns have been built mean a good rider won’t need to touch the brakes while a less experienced rider will still get to the bottom safely with a smile on their face. You don’t need to spend long by the side of the trails to see all manner of people and bikes come through from juniors followed by mum and dad to e-bikes and Enduro riders – the mix is proof of the diverse audience this trail successfully caters for..

So, it’s easy to see why the nominations piled up for this trail but there’s likely a little more to it than just the quality of the actual trail.

“There was nothing here before and now there is something,” says one of QECP Trail Collective’s longest standing members Scott Fitzgerald. “I think people realise the effort that has gone into building this trail, it wasn’t developed or adapted from an existing trail it was built from scratch. It also filled a gap. There was no all-weather blue trail in the area, in fact it’s the only all-weather blue trail in the whole of the South Downs National Park so people appreciate the effort the volunteers have put in to make it happen and the fact that we’ve worked with riders to make sure it’s right.”

By building a trail that fits with demand and building it to such a high standard to an appreciative riding community is what won QECP Trail Collective the award and thanks to SRAM’s generous financial prize the group is already making plans for the next stage of trail building in the park. In keeping with the ethos that won the award they have mooted the idea of another trail that will appeal to riders of all abilities – after all it’s a winning formula.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park Blue Trail need to know

Currently 3.7miles long the blue trail is aimed at novice riders, but don’t let that put you off – if you love fast singletrack (and who doesn’t) this trail is for you. The fact that it’s so short means you can ride it over and over, and chances are you’ll want to.

To find out more about the QECP Trail Collective and how you can get involved go to:

www.qecptrailcollective.co.uk

The other Trail Of The Year finalists: Commercial built

Root Manoeuvres – BikePark Wales
ACDC – BikePark Wales
Dubby Skipper – Flyup 417 Bike Park
Leeds Urban Bike Park
Bendy G – Antur Stiniog

The other Trail Of The Year finalists: Volunteer built

Y2K (Dean Trail Volunteers) – Forest of Dean
The Long Way Down (PMBA) – Gisburn Forest
Follow the Dog (Chase Trails) – Cannock Chase
K-Line Trail (Hamsterley Trailblazers) – Hamsterley Forest
Cooking on Gas (Ride Sheffield) – Lady Cannings

Blessed Are The Trail Builders

Our winners as well as the other nominees prove that trail building is alive, well and on the increase. As more riders get together and look to create and maintain the trails that they ride week in and week out we all benefit. Mountain biking as a sport is maturing and with it comes progress, responsibility and a realisation that we have the power to shape where we ride, whether that’s with our words, our wallets or our spades.

“The winners of this years awards, Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Revolution Bike Park, are two brilliant examples of passion and hard work being combined with careful planning and development to deliver inspirational places to ride bikes.” says Alex at SRAM and we agree. The ability to inspire people to ride their bikes is what a great trail has always done, we look forward to seeing where they take us in 2019.