EaRTH Trails offers bike based training and opportunities.


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Testing the Haibike from Bike Motion

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One evening this week I was offered to take the Haibike – an electric off road bike for a spin across the common.

I don’t think I stopped grinning! To get to the common was a doddle, shooting up tracks and roads with ease. The bike’s electric motor is limited to 15mph – to go faster than that you need to use gravity or your legs to go faster. Once you are on the tight, muddy, rooty singletrack trails of the common this feels easily fast enough – especially on the climbs. At these speeds you have to treat the climbs the same as the downhills, picking a line, shifting your weight and leaning the bike to keep your momentum.

At first, the bike felt a bit cumbersome, but no more than any large full suss bike does compared to the light hardtail I normally ride. Pretty soon you get a feel for the bike and can chuck it about as normal. The power is controlled in a couple of ways – firstly you can select on of 5 modes from Eco (pretty slow) to Turbo. I rarely left Turbo mode, except on slow, technical bits where the bursts of power came a bit unexpected leading to a few slides of the front wheel! The bike coped really well with the thick mud that was all over the common, easily ploughing straight over that and other obstacles you might normally avoid.

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I thought the weight of the bike would be more obvious on the trails, but they do handle well and it is only a problem trying when you’re lift the bike over obstacles. On steep downhills, the extra weight means the bike feels really grounded, but I wouldn’t want to ride it far without the motor going still!

For many people, electric bikes have still got a way to go before their viable, but I think these bikes show they’re already there. A good 2 hour thrash only used a quarter of the battery – so I’d guess it’d be good for a full days riding. They’re not cheap, but they do seem really well built, and with all the components and features of a high end bike you’d expect.

IF you’re interested – head over to Bike Motion’s site and arrange a test ride. You won’t regret it!

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Pump track video

After all the hard work recently from volunteers, I was pleased to come back from the break and see the track still in one piece! Even the large canvas sign, built very much like a sail, was showing no sign of falling down after the gales over the winter – testament to the volunteers who had been tasked with putting it up.

Here are a few of the students practicing their pump skills. ‘Pumping’ is a way to keep and increase momentum, and uses the riders body weight to exaggerate or soften the features of the pump track.

Next week the students will be helping maintain the pump track and the rest of the trails at Bicton, learning how the tracks are maintained and helping to shape the new sections.


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All hands to the pump..

Things are rolling along very well, with a new additions of volunteers the track had leaped forwards these past few weeks. Most recently, it’s been great to have a team from Elsevier publishing come and lend a hand with spreading the grit for our track.

Giving the surface an extra layer should help it last longer and provide a faster running surface to pump against. It is no easy task wheel barrowing and raking it all out, but was made much easier with the help of the volunteers, and of course, a good number of cakes and teas..

We were also pleased to get our very own whacker plate – no more rentals for us (once we’ve worked out how to put it all together…)

Here are a few pictures from the day, and a big big thank you to everyone who helped on the day.

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Pump Track flow test!

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We are pleased to say that after a very successful pilot, our Pump Track is now well on the way to being finished! With much of the structure and shape in place, we have begun with ‘flow testing’.. our chance to finally get on our bikes and test the track out! There are a few improvements we’d like to make, tucking in one berm to give us a bit more of a fluid corner, and  a little more shaping to a couple of the berms, but we are all very pleased with progress. We are also working on ideas to join up the rest of the trail we have built into a complete loop – and would welcome any input or ideas people might have!

Looking back over the courses we’ve run it is clear we have learnt a lot and come a long way – all with the help of our wonderful volunteers and trainee trail builders, so Thank You!

Next steps will be to surface the bike track and make some helpful signs on how to get the most out of the berms in the safest way possible.

As always – if you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch!


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With our track pegged out we were soon ready to get digging. Luckily the earth we were working on was relatively easy to work – and with 12 eager volunteers we managed to make a good 25m track in our first afternoon. We were using what is called a bench cut – essentially cutting a track into an existing bank or slope. Working this way enabled us to work directly with the mineral soil (the layer we want to tide on, beneath the organic top soil).

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Once again, we had to remember what we had learnt in the class room – maintaing a slight 5 degree slope to the track to help shed rain water, and digging in the slopes either side to further help with run off – if the water gathers too much speed then it will start to take earth with it, degrading and eroding our track much faster. We want to build tracks that are sustainable in every sense – not only sourcing our materials locally (much of this was spoil from a build elsewhere on site) but also long lasting.

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Things were going smoothly until we reached a large boulder buried right where we wanted to ride. We gathered round and suggested a few possible solutions, deciding finally to raise the level of the track from a couple of metres before it. That way the rock would instead help keep the bank together and the added slope would help control riders speed without them using their brakes before the corner (potentially leading to the dreaded braking bumps!). First, we began to shore up where we had begun digging with large rocks, essentially making a strong patio-like layer of interlocking rocks with smaller rubble and then earth on top. Once the whole track was compressed it worked really well, job well done!

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Although the above picture shows one way of compressing the earth (in order to give a faster, more durable riding surface) a much more effective (and noisy!) technique involved a whacker plate. Here we are compressing the rollers built earlier in the week with the local pupils. This was also run over the length of our track 5 times to ensure a good, firm surface.

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All in all a very good weekend – I’d like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and enthusiasm, and an extra big Thank You to Karl and Mark from IMBA! We will now be finishing and expanding the trail, especially the pump and skills track. Check back soon to see more!

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EaRTH movers! A weekend of trail building – Day 1

After the young trail builders came and made a great start to the pump and skills track, we now had a 12-strong team of adult volunteers eager to learn all about trail building and get their first track cut. We were lucky to have a great mix of volunteers – some experienced trail builders there to hear how it can be done sustainably, some bikers who were keen to contribute more to the trails they ride and some simply wanting to gain new skills!

We began with an in-depth discussion and presentation from the chaps at IMBA – Karl and Mark taught us all about the golden rules of trail building. We learnt the importance of planning, a number of tricks to ensure the track sheds water, and how important gradients are. A key thing many people noted was how much fun (and fast!) a trail can be without having to be steep and run straight down the hill side (or ‘fall line’ as it is called). By using turns, grade reversals (or dips and hills!) and features we are able to build a lasting, dynamic trail that offers something for different skilled riders, and allows individuals to progress and gain new skills as they go.

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With all these new ideas we visited our site to see what there was already to work with – identify control points (things we either want to or don’t want to include). A big part of this was trying to imagine what it would be like to ride – and to do this well it helps to put your arms out infront like you’re holding on to handlebars! By imagining its turns, dips and peaks we could imagine the flow of the course and start to get an idea of where it might head.

Just as before with the school group, we now had to see if this plan was workable using our Inclinometer. This simple but accurate tool gives you an idea of the gradients across the site, allowing us to keep within the advisable limits. It is important that the trail does not exceed 15% gradient, and if working on a very slight slope, it mustn’t exceed half of the gradient when you are cutting in to an existing hill. Working in this way ensures the trail doesn’t just become a convenient route for water to head down hill – taking your trail with it as it gains speed!

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Happy we had our route planned – and after a few more imaginary ‘air bike riding’ over the top, we set to work. This would be a great example of a bench cut – cutting the trail into the side of an existing incline, the most common method trail building. Under guidance from Mark and Karl (wise owls of trail building!) we set to work..

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Find out how we battled boulders, bricks, midges and those pesky inclines in day 2!!

As ever, we are always looking for more folk to get involved – keep an eager eye on the Opportunities page to hear more.


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First days at Trail School!

This week saw the first pupils from local schools taking part in our 4 week bike and trails course. Mark and Karl from IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) got us started, using videos and playdough to show us the differences between rollers, berms, tabletops, gap jumps and hip jumps.

Armed with this new knowledge we began to design our track, but first, we had to measure the patch of grass that would soon become our pump and skills track. Using tape measure and distance wheels, we drew up a great plan of the area, using scale to make sure it all fitted well. We marked the distances with pin flags.

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Now is was time to get creative – putting in rollers (low, smooth, wave-like hills used to build speed) and berms (carefully banked corners) into a loop, a simple design with room for expansion as our bikes skills develop. Playdough models were arranged on the plan, and by imagining what it would be like to ride we were able to space out the features.

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Now it was time to put the plan into action – a digger had been in and cleared away the top soil, allowing us to dig more easily, saving the turf to put back in later. After spraying on the lines we want the gradient to follow, we began to shape the mounds that the digger had left – carefully working together and stepping back to check our progress. After the first couple of days we had made really great progress, and will be back next week to finish!

 

 

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