Beyond Hully Gully

Gisburn has a new red-grade trail called The Long Way Down to tempt you away from the over-subscribed Hully Gully rollercoaster

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This bring the total of trails at Gisburn Forest up to an impressive 28km kilometres of trail.

Gisburn Forest. You can probably picture it even if you’ve never been; it’s the place with those huge, sweeping banks where you can go as high as you dare. A place local riders know as Hully Gully.

It’s tougher than it looks too, enticing many a new rider onto its tricky black-graded features, riders who’d really rather be tackling a flowy red trail, if only there was one. Well, the waiting’s over those local trail builders have caved out a new, sweeping crimson trail and it’s open now.

Up on the northern side of the red loop, this fresh section is an undulating, well-armoured bench cut trail. It’s close to the famous black-graded downhill plunge that fires riders up and down on consecutive sides of a steep valley, but considerably less full on. The original Hully Gulley’s almost a decade old now and weathered by northern winters and big traffic, including plenty slower, hard-braking riders who are undertaking the challenge of this black-graded section.

This new red called The Long Way Down, will cut out a small fireroad climb and should lure riders going black to avoid extra mileage, hopefully reducing erosion and puddles as well as bringing a different flavour to the Gisburn menu.

Meanwhile the flowy Park Wood descent has been reworked with a smooth, fast-rolling limestone surface and berms to boost the fun factor.

The way we build

The days of massive funding for big trail centre loops now appear over, but the legacy of this first generation of projects continues to inspire. Shovel-armed volunteers have essentially taken up the austerity slack and marched on with designing and building trails like this rollercoaster red in their own time, with man-hours on the ground often proving one of the only ways to achieve ‘match’ funding for essentials like materials and plant to actually complete projects.

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If this new order of DIY sculpting and funding is how official trailbuilding has panned out, then maybe it’s time to reflect on the best way forward for man-made trails, especially in the north. Some hands undoubtedly have to get dirty, including younger, faster riders scratching about in the woods on their own, but it’s hard to imagine volunteers, however keen, can ever construct the same sophisticated quality as that produced by professional, experienced outfits such as Trailcraft.

Bike capability and rider skill levels are rocketing, but there’s a sense that trail design has stagnated a litre, falling behind the pace of equipment development. Are we stuck in terrain suited to 26in wheels and 120mm travel when everyone’s on an enduro bike now? How about a future where enthusiastic volunteers focus on maintenance – clearing puddles, filling holes, reshaping poor trail sections – and then top-level, professional trail-building ‘artists’ plan and shaper out the fresh lines to develop our sport and challenge all levels? And prioritise spending with truly inspiring, infinitely repeatable shorter trails, raher than continuing to judge trail quality in terms of length?

>>> How and why you should do a bit of trail maintenance

A vision that sees locals gathering extra cash through events, clubs, Ride Sheffield-style crowd-funding or subscription is all merely food for thought. Whatever the best solution is, it’s no good sitting here talking about it and relying on others to do the dirty work. Get involved, just like the good people at Gisburn, if you want more stuff to ride. Pick up tools, get talking, get plotting and join the karma crews local to you and then one thing’s nailed on: every rider in your area will be a winner.