For those that don't know, the term "chaining up your trails" normally refers to tying a chain across the trail-head so that people aren't riding without a local present. While there are massive benefits to this it also has some notable drawbacks, particularly for a public trail spot.
One of the biggest criticisms of City Dirt has always been that it's incredibly prominent location means builders have a serious lack of control over how the spot gets used (and abused). This was highlighted very early to us when an entire sessions work was undone by someone dry-riding the next day. Despite this, I have long opposed chaining City Dirt and a lot of it has stemmed from the idea of being inclusive and educating people to gain an appreciation of what it takes to keep the spot rolling.
To date, this has been quite effective, and in the intervening years our crew has grown well beyond just myself and Callum - to the benefit of the trails. In addition to this, there are two main reasons I feel that City Dirt shouldn't be chained:
- Firstly (and most obviously) is that the trails are located in a public space so they should be for the public to use, vandals and arseholes included. I live just 5 mins ride from the jumps and being able to go riding when ever I like, even if it's just 15mins, gives me a sense of freedom that's hard to beat. If the trails are chained my fear is that it may put people off coming down simply because it might not be open when they want to ride.
- My second reason was a concern that the people who have control of the access may become too controlling and I've seen how even well-meant chaining can change the way people approach the ownership of a set of trails for the worse.
Installing a chain at City Dirt has always been talked about in vague terms but it wasn't until one of the main diggers, Gus, put it forward that I seriously considered it (I think at the time i actually shut him down outright (sorry mate!), but he definitely planted the seed). I am not a person to stagnate and for me one of the most important parts of trails is change; dirt is always different and no two jumps are the same.
While what we have works well I believe there are always better ways to do things and I have begun to realise that limiting access can benefit the community as well as the trails.
To me the main gain of restricting access to the trails is improving quality. We have to spend huge amounts of time fixing and patching the damage caused by dry riders and users that just don't look after what they ride. If this damage wasn't caused in the first place we could spend far more time making real improvements instead of working just to keep things at a usable standard. On top of this, the trails would be opened when people with the knowledge of how to look after them are present. Newcomers would be able to learn from these people about how to properly care for the trails and gain a better appreciation of the time and effort involved, which can then, in-turn, be passed on to more people.
The second, and arguably most important benefit to chaining the trails, is safety. It's all good and well to have the trails open so anyone can ride at any time, but the reality is most people that ride even medium jumps have been riding for at least 2-3 years. Imagine little Jimmy spends a night surfing the 'gram, checks out some people roasting lips and gets all stoked to roll down to City Dirt the next morning to try and do the same thing. Chances are there won't be a local to show him what it takes or even just to say "Hold on Jim mate, that's the big set and you're riding a fully-rigid-kmart-bike; this just isn't going to work". More importantly, no one might be around to call the ambulance or his family when things go wrong. It's pretty obvious that riding trails can be dangerous (even for the experienced) and the bigger the jumps the more things that can go wrong - if the larger jumps at the trails are only open when the locals are present I feel it will make the place is safer for all users.
In the last few years the crew has been to spots all over the world and my own visit to the infamous Catty Woods has showed me the kind of advantages chaining can bring to a well run spot. Having seen it for myself, I am starting to feel that chaining the trails (even if it was only the larger sets) would increase participation at the trails rather than limit it. The appeal of a better standard of jumps and the incentive for more people to ride at the same time is likely to encourage more joint participation and a greater sense of community. One of the best aspects of City Dirt is that it acts as a focal point for the local scene; motivating people to ride at the same time will strengthen this and ensure the scene continues to blossom, not just survive.
Trails are about evolution and I feel I need to be open minded to new ideas to continue to make City Dirt the best it can possibly be. We already successfully manage access to our toolboxes (it's now been almost five years without issue) and it's easy to see the trail access working in a similar way.
For myself and Callum, the benefits of locking up the trails have to be overwhelming and they need to be felt by everyone that uses the spot. Having read my thoughts on the idea i'd love to hear yours; hit the links below to drop us a message on FB, Instagram, email or grab me for a chat next-time you seem me.