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 131 – JANUARY 2013
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Andy Lloyd
Described locally as a, ‘genius of creating intricate shit–house little sections that are very difficult to master’, Jared Watkinson is a great one for building trails which you cannot ride on a cross country run. If a rider could, well, that would make him beat the grass with his spade. In the Mendips there has to be absolutely no place but space around jumps. Big holes. Jump or Keep Out. Master of concealed entrances, the locals say this year he’s been amazing, so here we have…Jared Watkinson.Dirt: Background?
Jared: I only started riding about 12 years ago, as it was a fun way to get a change of scenery and to do something other than making electronic music and DJ’ing. I guess getting into biking with a lunatic skateboarder and a bunch of competitive junior DH racers was always going to have me either building or racing. It’s not that I don’t have other things to be doing with my time. Because I don’t have much time, when I do ride it’s gotta be on my doorstep and it better be worth riding.
About eight months ago I moved away from my hometown out to the Mendip hills, effectively resetting the counter to year zero. It was a big decision, as it meant leaving behind all the old–skool DH trails, my personal secret bikepark, including trails that are short but insane to ride, plus the best dirt jump spot, which had grown over the years and even included a pump track and a short 4X trail for the nippers to get involved with. The quest to fortify the seed of my purpose had begun again.Need mountains?
Of course not, but as soon as I fail to make my trails feel like mountain descents, then I’ll be upping sticks and off to live with me mum in Utah. The shortest trail can feel like you’re descending an alpine epic with plenty of spade work, it’s all about linking up those interesting natural sections, whilst keep it high octane.Much time building?
The joy of a day’s ride on a fresh track is serendipitous to returning day after day, to an unshaped pile of dirt. If I ain’t gonna head out for a shred, then it’s punch–out at two, on the hill by three. Despite cloaking it to others as an outdoor gym, new members will usually last a day or half. This ain’t down to the lack of equipment in use, more a shortage of mirrors and camel toe.What types of trail you been building?
Besides getting involved with council sanctioned projects for the nippers, it’s all about a high level of race style practice for myself and the rest of the seaside mafia. The hardest element to include has to be an open interpretation of how the track will be ridden. I’ll often build little berms on the wide line to lead people away from the fun lines. Strangely, builders with the least experience can sometimes gift you with a wide–open, multi–lined gem.
The work I’ve done recently has been on a bunch of tracks intended for all to find and ride. Kind of like a reminder to others of how different your local can be with just a little selflessness. I’m also currently planting seeds around one of the many XC groups that meet in my local pub of building a basic skills style mega loop.What’s your view of freeloaders?
Freeloaders find it hard not to show their real colours. Unless a demo of track building converts them, it just allows me to keep the people I have least respect for even closer. If I build it to ride with my homeboys, then natural selection normally takes care of unwanted glory hunters. Not that I intend for people to get hurt riding, that wouldn’t look good to the forestry. To quote me homies, “just build a no mincer device” and allow fear to work its magic.Can riders maintain tracks?
This can be an emotive subject. I meet builders whose tracks are classics. Then in the name of maintenance it’s turned into a rootless, dug–down motorway. How can it be beyond people’s reckoning that instead of debating what root makes them look like a struggler, put spade to turf on the new line.Erosion problems?
I always prefer to put a little more spadework in if it looks like it’ll be taking some abuse. If I’m not wanting a big rut to appear then I’ll make the dig hole deeper, and get down to some hardcore material. As for the long term, any resistance I try and make will be futile and not long after I stop riding it’ll be lost.Any bust ups?
Only the odd busy–body or ill–informed RSPCA inspector. A few summers back I did have to teach English manners to three generations of Frenchmen on Pleney.>>