As promised, this series showcases the talents of our many trail builders around New Zealand and as you'll see too, the world. Unlike the latest Youtube trends with failing ratings on MTB channels who, have resorted to buying vans then small blocks of land and are now building their own tiny networks, the builders we will be showcasing are community based builders and professionals. The type that build for literally everyone else's pleasure. Not their social media content, affiliate gains or a direct attempt to beat the other channels repetitive content.
Without further ado, we introduce James from Ride BC based in Squamish, Canada. Disguised as a guide and MTB coach for Squamish's thriving MTB industry, James is a superhero builder that flies well under the radar building some dreamy, flowing masterpieces in all sorts of flavours. I was lucky enough to meet James back in 2018 on a fleeting work visit through BC and sample some of his handy work in Squamish to what can only be described as life changing. James and his peers have poured hours of volunteer labour into the local trail networks and organisation of SORCA which is by far one of the worlds most prestige riding locations and benchmark trail organisations. Over the years I've kept in touch with James and shared build stories and projects with one other and to say he's made a lasting impression on me would be an understatement.
I'll cut the chit chat and get to it:
Q: First of All, Why do you build?
A: Honestly, it suits my character. I've never been one to sit still and trail building is a creative outlet that keeps me fit, focused and allows me to spend even more time in the woods. It complements the introverted, OCD side of me! I love the idea that people are choosing to spend their coveted "fun" time on something I built with my own hands. Trail building is also therapy for me and it helps me deal with anxiety issues I've struggled with. I'm always relaxed in the forest!
Q:How long have you been building?
I started building when I was 11, and I'm 32 now. So 21 years. The trails and the sport have evolved an incredible amount over that time.
Q: If you could build a trail in any country, any park or wilderness area where would you and why would you?
Iceland comes to mind. I've been once. Was 2009 (without bikes). Wide open space with tons of flowing low angle terrain. Kind of the opposite of what we have here. Steep and thick forest!
Q: What do you enjoy more, building or riding?
I enjoy them both and I can't have one without the other! The antisocial half of me could trail build all day every day, but I also love being social and exploring new places... so that half of me prefers bikes! Both allow me to push my limits and express myself. If you told me to pick one I'd have to drop them both haha!
Q: Do you believe in trail karma?
Don't really believe in karma generally. All I know is that people who choose not to dig are missing out big time. Sucks to be them! (if that's karma then maybe I do believe in it haha). Digging is good for the body, the soul, the community, and makes you a better rider! I also find it helps people connect with nature on a deeper level. When you're riding you don't get that same connection.
Q: How do you imagine or think up your line/trail/flow?
Builders all have their own take on line choice. I look for lines that will keep riders engaged and keep them pushing. Even if it's a blue. I look for shapes whether natural or built up. Flow isn't necessarily keeping an even pace through the trail, but more about maintaining that focused mental state that makes you excited and stoked! I also look for lines that naturally keep you off the brakes and help you dump speed using the terrain.
Q: What do you suggest the best direction for any budding trail builder is?
To build variety into your trail network. Look for opportunities to give the local riders something different to expand and challenge their riding!
Q: And the Million dollar question, what’s your most memorable trail build and why?
Haha definitely Pamplemousse. When Jesse Melamed tells me it's one of his favourite trails in town and so does the 65 year old Grampa and the 8 year old kid you know you've built a good one!! One of the most rewarding and challenging elements of building is creating something that genuinely appeals to a wide range of riders. Get everyone stoked, leave no one behind!
So thank's James, not only for your time for this QnA, but your ongoing contribution to both the worlds trails and my motivation when building. If you're interested to follow's James Guiding business and his trail building, head to @ridebc_squamish and give him a follow. If you happen to find yourself in Squamish BC, look him up, book a days riding with him and go sample some of the most insane riding you will ever experience.
Next month, we come back home to feature Local Legend Wayne Davis, AKA Trailtroll, hailing from home base here in Whangarei.