Trail Riding - the untold story
When you think of off-road biking, the image that springs to mind for most people is tearing around muddy tracks in the country at 100mph – but that’s not necessarily the case.
We spoke to Jack Knight, membership director of the Trail Riders Fellowship, to find out what the organisation really does and what the fuss surrounding trail biking is all about. When we call, it’s obvious that he’s out and about in his car.
He, like most other TRF committee members, is a volunteer who fits in his passion for trail biking around a busy everyday life. As he explained to us, being a part of the TRF is all about principle:
“TRF has been campaigning to keep green lanes open so that we can ride them.”
Unpaved, rural routes – which have come to be known as green lanes – are found all over the country and it’s here you’re most likely to see Jack and his fellow members enjoying a ride-out. Jack’s one of many people choosing to switch to trail biking.
“Green lanes are enjoyable because they aren’t tarmacked. They might be gravel, rocky climbs, steep descents or just open moorland trail – and the weather isn’t a factor,” he says. “People worry about getting their road bikes dirty or put them away for the winter, but you can ride trail bikes without worrying.”
These green lanes are the places where the TRF was formed, in back in the ‘70s, to try and protect bikers’ access. This was as a response to restrictive legislation passed at the time. As Jack says, councils have been forcing closures on roads up and down the country ever since.
“They took some of the key routes and forced closures by putting traffic regulation orders on them, which regulate and restrict traffic on roads in the UK. They close a lane by saying that it’s unsafe or that it’s in need of repair but that’s just an excuse. Really, they just don’t want motorcycles in the countryside.”
Jack and the TRF believe that everyone should be able to enjoy the beautiful countryside and that includes motorcyclists – not just ramblers and hikers. He says: “Parks tend to have the focus that they’re supposed to be nice, tranquil places for going on long walks and they see bikes as being really contrary to that ethos, but we want to see other parts of the country and enjoy trail riding too.”
It’s not as if they’re tearing around the place either.
“Sometimes you might only be doing five or 10mph,” explains Jack. “You’re dealing with lots of different surfaces – it can’t be all about outright speed. Some of the trails are so technical: you have to get up steep slippery climbs, over boulders or deal with gravel moving around under your wheels. It’s a huge challenge and that makes it much more enjoyable than just being on tarmac.”
So what are TRF doing about it? Jack says they’ve become a little more militant over the past couple of years, organising protests and doing go-slow rides. They want to protect rights of way for all road users, and to send a clear message to the councils that says, “we’re here, listen to us!”
For Jack, the choice between road biking and trail biking is easy, and there’s one aspect that really sets off-roading apart.
“The social side of it is great,” he says enthusiastically. “When you’re on the road, you put your helmet on, drive somewhere, drive back and that’s it, but trail riding is so much more. You’re stopping at gates or at the end of a lane and there’s a lot more social interaction. It’s being out with a group of people, chatting, laughing when people fall off and just having a good time.”
Image credit: Trail Riders Fellowship