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ED THOMSETT INTERVIEW | HAND CUT LEGENDS

OSMOTHERLEY, NORTH YORKSHIRE

Carving arcs, fashioning flow within the country’s varied slopes and soil structures, the unsung heroes who handcraft trails where root and rock still play a major role.

DIRT ISSUE 132 – FEBRUARY 2013

Words by Mick Kirkman. Photos by Mick Kirkman

Not all trail builders are grizzled ex–downhillers. North Yorkshire builder Ed Thomsett had carved a national level DH track by the age of twenty and, inspired by a few seasons riding in France and Whistler, moved on from sculpting dirt jumps down his mum and dad’s front garden to cutting in steep and technical tracks in his backyard on the edge of the North York Moors.

Dirt: Can’t help noticing Ed, you’re a fair bit younger than the usual suspects the wrong side of 35 building secret trails aren’t you?

Ed: Yeah, I got started young. When I was 16 some trails up in the local forest at Silton got ploughed because of the North Shore structures on them, so instead of doing something unofficial, me and my dad got in touch with the Forestry Commission about building a new trail up in the woods. My dad also stumped up the cash for some basic materials and I basically rebuilt it all again by hand.

Is he a rider?

He’s more into road and touring bikes, but he was good at dealing with all the official, bureaucratic stuff, and we got offered an area that had an old track on it. I sorted it out and Singletraction then helped us keep it running so it was part of the trail network up here, but forestry work ended up ruining most of it. What remains today, alongside the other under–the–radar tracks, still gets ridden a bit. It’s not in great shape, and you get a lot of people slagging off the official tracks, but if you organise a dig day virtually no one turns up or just jiggles the dirt around if they do. People need to appreciate how much work goes into it beyond just kicking out a line.

Is there a lot of traffic damaging the trails?

There’s not a huge scene up here to be honest in terms of real locals. Riders from Teesside and York (where it’s pretty flat) make their way over here and a few kids are coming through locally and getting DH bikes and starting to get into it from riding my tracks, which is cool.

What kind of mentality gets you into building tracks in the first place?

I dunno, I suppose I’m a bit of a loner (laughs), but I just like making something, seeing it progress and then you ride it at the end of the day and it can feel like it’s worth it, but, at the same time you can never fully enjoy it because you’re always thinking about the bit that could be improved or tweaked while you’re riding it. There’s so much of that trail centre stuff around now, and I want to ride something really hard and slippery that scares you. I don’t want it all laid out in front of me either or it loses that sense of getting out there in the outdoors. Another big thing was getting an XC bike (a Specialized Pitch) that changed the game, the way I thought about trails and what you could ride and link together.

And your newer, less legit trails, they are for that bike?

Well I did a couple of seasons in Whistler and was blown away by the XC stuff, how technical it is. It’s not smooth singletrack, it’s the hardest, most natural rocky trails you’ve ridden and you’re doing it on a XC bike. I came back from my first summer inspired to try and build something like that in the local woods. I basically started working on the steepest parts, doing a couple of hours digging on an evening or around my college work and making sure it was hard. I’d underestimated how steep and dense the trees were, so in a few places where it goes down chutes and things it’s more out of necessity than anything. I’ve also been racing DH so I end up away in the weekends and abroad each summer (working and building some tracks with mates in Morzine like Best Kept Secret) so I only finished it a couple of months ago. It has taken almost two years in total.

Isn’t there still some height left at the bottom too?

It could go a little bit further, but it’s getting close to the gamekeeper’s territory down there and they rear pheasants and keep game and I’ve had few near misses already where I’ve had to chuck my rucksack and tools in a ditch and sneak past Land Rovers or whatever. I don’t want to get busted.

Is that track purely for your own pleasure or do you want other people to ride it?

I don’t mind other people enjoying riding it, so long as people keep it quiet – don’t tell the world about it and don’t put it on Strava. Just by the nature of where it is it’s quite hard to find so not that many people are going to stumble on it.

What’s next?

I also built the newer Carlton Bank DH track with my dad for a planned national race a few years back and it has really got potential, but we had setbacks with flooding and it passes through an SSSI and is in the National Park and stuff. Hopefully we can get that going properly. There’s so much variation in it, steep rocky bits, open moorland with super steep 180º turns where you just fall in Llangollen style bracken and then ash woods at the bottom. It would be good to have a big track round here.

I like to see people actually getting their hands dirty with the mate’s races and things like that in Sheffield where I’m at Uni as well. There’s so many people these days doing ‘media’ kind of things and starting their own production company or calling themselves ‘so and so productions’ or whatever, but if they spent that much time and effort getting out there and digging stuff the scene would be a lot stronger for everyone, even if it’s less known about.

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