"Did you ride here yesterday?" Growled the man, knuckles turning white on the shovel by his side. Standing over the young lad and looking down, the Trail Boss repeated himself, this time yelling.
"Did you fucking ride here yesterday?!"
The lad took a step back and began sliding down the hill; literally shrinking under the Trail Boss’s glare. His inaudible stammered response was cut short as the Boss continued his accusations.
"Someone fucking rode here yesterday and destroyed my freshly groomed landing - ‘sure hope it wasn't you"
This man was me 8 years ago and the young lad was Connor Fearon (now a World Cup DH racer). Connor wasn't alone in receiving some aggressive questioning. Around this time I found myself constantly in confrontations at the trails: if it wasn't the dry riders, it was the RC car drivers or the regular swarm of children climbing the jumps. Once it was a footy coach and his team of 30 who thought it would would be good training to use the jumps as an obstacle course. At the time it didn't take much for me to go from relaxed trail hessian to ‘maxed-out and ready to punch-on with someone I had never met.
After each incident I was left feeling bitter and, in a strange way, dirty (beyond the dust of the trails). Through the mix of anger and regret I could tell my behaviour was alienating people. While I felt justified in what I was saying - these people were literally destroying hours of hard work - I could feel my bitterness seeping into everything to do with the trails. After wrestling with the problem for quite some time I realised how intensively protective the hours spent on the shovel had made me. I treated the space as if it was exclusively mine. But the reality is City Dirt is not mine, it’s everyone’s.
Herein lies the mother of all public trail problems: If this is a place for all, how do I get the hundreds of people who ride the trails to respect the work of a handful?
The answer, as I saw it, was if I could get people to understand trails and trail culture more, the respect would follow. So when I found someone trashing the trails, instead of ripping their heads off, I began to use the opportunity to teach them how to get the most out of City Dirt. At first I found this seriously challenging, and while it didn’t always go right, each time it did there would be one more person to help and one less person to shout at.
In the last few years (and after literally hundreds of conversations) persistance in this has really started to pay off. The trails are rolling better then ever, but most importantly, the scene is strong. The hours of work and tonnes of dirt moved have played their parts but the real reason they are so good right now is because it's not just me treating the trails as if they are mine. It is the wider community coming in with that same vibe of respect and ownership.
Our main goal with City Dirt is constant improvement and while the respect for the trails is all-time, I’m aware more than ever that a little shared knowledge goes along way. Below are my top ten for showing respect and getting the most out of City Dirt:
- Ride in the late afternoon. It's cooler, there's often no wind and the trails are in shade which means less watering is needed.
- No dry riding. Always water the trails before and during a ride
- If you get to the trails and someone is watering, help them out, then start riding.
- If you see one of the crew digging, ask to help. Even one barrow makes a difference.
- Put your rubbish in the bin
- Always put the tarps back on after riding.
- Don’t skid. Scope your runout; locked brakes chews up the trails.
- Talk to us about becoming a volunteer and actually dig. You’ll never be short of mates to ride with again.
- If a feature is being worked-on and there’s a sign saying don't ride. Don't ride it.
- Don't ride in the wet. If your tyres are sinking into the trails it’s too wet to ride