Sunday, 21 August 2011

Access All Feckin' Areas? Feck right off.

I like the current rights of way legislation as they relate to mountain biking. The mountain bike press love to make a ridiculously complex meal out of it, endless articles by experts and instant experts advocating wider access for bikes, same laws as Scotland, same rights as walkers and so on.

They need to get a grip. It's simple, really simple. The current rights of way legislation in England and Wales is comical. It's based on random historic accident and has nothing to do with suitability for purpose. Tracks which are sustainable for all-weather bike use are classified as footpaths, trails which run over delicate, friable peat or rare psychedelic lichens can easily be designated as bridleways. It's rubbish.

But here's the thing. Here in the real world where we actually ride, you can ride footpaths as long as you use a certain amount of discretion and, increasingly, even if you don't. Some of the best riding on this side of the Peak is technically illegal - I use the phrase 'illegal', but some magazine egghead will have different, more complicated take on it, so let's just say, it's on footpaths - and it's ridden a fair bit.

Meanwhile, the popular main routes in the Peak, the ones which are repeatedly reproduced by mtb journos and guidebook writers with minor tweaks so they can claim to be 'original' are over-run by mountain bike tourists - slow, fat, talentless weekend wannabes who buy the book or magazine and ride the routes.

Yep, the routes in the mags and the guide books. The ones which are strictly legal because they can't afford not to be. Now imagine a world where rights of way are thrown open. Imagine the updated guidebooks, the magazine articles - 'Ride The New Peak - we show you five great unridden trails' etc. Imagine hordes of riders descending on your favourite local trails in all weathers, because the bulk of mountain bike tourists have the environmental sensitivity of a Texan oil baron, and trashing them.

Mincing down the technical stuff, doing that grim-faced 'we're extreme sports people' face they pull for walkers, chewing the feck out the trails.

Stuff that. I like the rights of way legislation just the way it is. The guidebook writers and the mountain bike journos can go on rehashing the same old, same old. The bulk of riders can carry on riding those legal routes. And the rest can stay just the way it is, thanks.

And yes, that may be selfish. Or elitist. Or just plain unfair and wrong. But I really don't care. Thing is, there's nothing to stop you riding those trails right now except lack of initiative and laziness.


  1. All good points, but how do I know where these trails are if I can't download a gpx of the trail from a magazine or a forum? Can you send me the gpx file of these new trails please so I can session them? Do you think it will be OK if I build a few jumps into them?

    I got told off by another mountain biker for riding the "wrong way" on a trail in the woods the other day. I thin it was either part of the old BoigDOg course or on a magazine loop, from which he inferred the "correct" direction for riding it. Honestly. Good job I didn't tell him I also wasn't going to follow the prescribed loop but was, in fact, just going for a ride, wherever I fancied. His brain might have failed.

  2. It is pretty damn selfish and the non-sharing of bloody good cheeky routes is quite elitist, but I think you might just be right.

    Now I've agreed are you gonna send me some "local cheeky routes for cheeky local people" peaks routes? ;-)

  3. I can give you some OS map sheet numbers :-)