Big jumps and drops with track builder Stuart Jones
We catch up with Hand Cut Legend Stuart Jones from Dirt #134
Hand Cut Legend from Dirt issue #134 featured Stuart Jones from South Wales. We popped up to his local woods on a cold, dark evening a while back with a camcorder to check out this "downhill BMX track" that he's built.
HAND CUT LEGENDS OF THE BRITISH WOODS
Words by Steve Jones
Photos by Andy Lloyd
Logo: Gareth Weston
Carving arcs, fashioning flow within the country’s varied slopes and soil structures, the unsung heroes of British track building. The men that craft trails where root, rock and old fashioned mud still play a major part. Stu Jones – doer rather than talker – on hard labour and love in south Wales.
STU JONES, QUANTITY SURVEYOR, NEWBRIDGE
Stu, you spent many years riding BMX?
I rode BMX for 12 years on and off, mainly trails. I got burned out on it age 30 and rock climbed for a while, then I bought a trail bike two years ago and a DH rig last year.
You have many purpose built tracks in South Wales, surely you don't need more?
I enjoy riding all the trails on offer, but I've got this 'itch' that I can only scratch with fast flowy, and big jumps and berms, plus I like being in the woods creating and testing stuff.
What's different with your creations?
Some bits are very BMX inspired, lots of jumps and berms, like downhill rhythm sections. Other 'bits' are just plain big, bigger than would be allowed on a purpose built trail.
Building a track requires a lot of hard graft?
Yeah, one particular landing ramp took me about 20 hours of work, about ten 2 hour sessions. I enjoy it though – from conception to testing, I like the solitude too.
Every now and again someone does an hour or so with me, which is nice, but I do find myself watching them closely and re–doing some of their work! Oh yes, my chiropractor is a great help in keeping me moving. I've inherited some dodgy hips and back!
A different environment from the day job?
Hell yes, I sit at a desk most of the time, I'm a Quantity Surveyor.
How do you feel about people freeloading off your graft?
The first mini trail I built is for trail bikes and it's great to see people riding it, I really hoped to inspire others to build their own tracks, but I don't think that has happened. My main tracks are very rarely ridden by others, I think only three of us have ridden the full track with the ladder drop. I've kinda given up on inviting people up to ride, even my old BMX pals that now ride DH, they have seen my videos and make their excuses (except Rowan Sorrell, he pops up when he's got a few hours spare).
What do you look for in a track?
I look for natural features on hills that aren't too densely forested that I can shape into something interesting. I've just found a big gully/half pipe feature running for half a mile down another hill, can't wait to get in there with the tools.
How much time do you spend building?
At the moment I go digging or looking for new spots twice a week for two hours a time or so…usually until it gets dark, sometimes later.
Do you think riders know how to maintain tracks?
99% of riders don't seem to know anything about building or maintaining tracks. And they don't care, we do seem to be producing some ‘fast food, trail centre, self–entitled’ riders at the moment, but I think I should stop there.
What's your view on uplift at the moment?
Great, I've been to Revolution and Gawton recently, can't wait for Gethin to open, and I wanna check out Hopton and a few others too.
Do you still need to go other places to ride?
Definitely, I enjoy riding all sorts these days and I suck on technical, rooty, rocky steep stuff so I plan on riding more of it. The Alps last summer was ace, I was nursing whiplash but I made the most of it. Hoping to get to Whistler this year.
The possibilities within twenty miles of your house are insane really when it comes to building?
Yeah buddy! Big hills, and the mining and quarrying industries have left some impressive 'features' behind to develop. I've got a list of spots as long as my arm that I need to check out, or get back to build on.
Talk about flow on a track?
Flow seems to be in your mind and linked to your strengths, I ride with some fast DH guys that can flow through steep rocks, roots and corners that I just can't. When I feel like I'm flowing it's when I don't think about what's happening I just push hard and enjoy it.
What about un–flow?
As I said earlier, I'm no expert on steep tech, I think about what I'm doing the whole time and feel sketchy and un–flowy. I hear people say that a track has flow or not, from my limited experience I think I disagree, I think a good rider can get flowing on any track that suits his strengths.
Do you leave your tools in the woods or take back with you?
Once I've found a project I leave a spade, mattock, rake, saw and flexi tubs in the woods until I'm done.
Any other news?
Yeah, recently I sent my biggest step–down yet. I built it a few months ago, It's got a short, steep run–in which made it hard to judge speed for take off, so I decided to wait for it to harden up. It had been weighting quite heavy on me (or my ego) that I had been up to it a few times without sending it so I was very happy to get it done clean first go on a frozen February day. I think some of my climbing experiences gave me the strength of mind to walk away when it felt wrong. It was a bit of a mental struggle.