Heading west from our Inverness base is second nature, each contour and corner of the road has been passed over hundreds of times as we go in pursuit of Scotland’s finest singletrack. The van was fully laden as normal but with a distinct lack of bikes, in their place was a stack of spades, shovels, and picks. We were on our way to take part in the ‘Take Care of Your Trails’ Day.
The ‘no dig, no ride’ motto seems to be thrown around left, right and centre on internet forums; but how often, or what portion of the world’s riders actually put back into the trails that their wheels pass over? As individuals, we can be just as guilty as the next rider, apart from H+I seasoned guide Alex, who jumped at the opportunity to get us all involved in IMBA’s ‘Take Care of Your Trails Day’. The day wasn’t about carving new turns and trails, but looking after existing trails that were in need of some TLC. With groups of riders all over Europe venturing into their trails armed with tools, we decided upon the ‘Tea Hut climb’ as our patient in need of a face lift.
“no dig, no ride”
Above + below: Travel, planning, and hard work make for happy trails
Our riders, who come from all corners of the globe, love pedalling through this fantastic Torridon landscape, but being deep in the Scottish Highlands means it’s regularly ravaged by harsh weather and the full force of Mother Nature. Drains had become blocked, more were needed, and in some places the trail surface had felt the full force of the surface water and the passing of feet and wheels over the years.
Leaving the vans at the foot of the trail, the thirteen-strong team of trail warriors picked up their weapons of choice and prepared to do battle. Swift progress was made, puddle bashing and clearing drains until we reached a section of trail which needed a little more attention. Using this trail in both our coast-to-coast and Torridon + Skye tours for ten years, we’ve ridden it in completely contrasting conditions – from bone dry to biblical rain – and had already highlighted the problem areas in the back of our heads. Lying on a bed of moorland means soft spots are common and when it comes to ditches and drainage bars there can never be enough!
Below: Wind, rain, sun, tea and mud all made for a brilliant day with smiles all round
A fresh fifty metre section of ditch was dug and at least six fresh drainage bars put in, no mean feat but a marked difference to a problematic section of trail. Clearing, filling, and cutting until we reached the top cairn where we were rewarded with a bite of food and a spectacular vista as the clouds finally released their grip from the mountain peaks surrounding us.
With five kilometres back to the vans we could plod back making any last tweaks and admiring our handy work, taking satisfaction from the vast improvement made, not only to the trail quality, but also its longevity. Something we’ll be able to take from over the coming summer and years of riding the Tea Hut. So next time you’re on the trails and notice a tired or wet section, take half an hour, give it a fresh lease of life and take care of your trails!