November 3, 2020

Trail Advocate of the Year 2020 (m)

In 2019 we introduced the Trail Advocate of the Year award to highlight the exceptional work of trail advocates advancing mountain biking opportunities in their MTB community. There is no lack of passionate riders but sometimes we simply forget to give the tireless advocates the recognition they deserve. It should come as no surprise that this award will also be presented in 2020.

Meet Mike Hanson, our Trail Advocate of the Year 2020 (m)

Mike is leading Woburn Bike Trails, a volunteer group of trail builders who design, build and maintain the Longslade and Danesborough mountain bike trails in Aspley Woods. Mike and all other volunteers have been working in partnership with the Greensand Trust since 2014 to help protect, manage and maintain all of the mountain biking and cycle trails throughout the Aspley Woods area.

‘Mike is someone who spends more time walking the trail, digging, carving, raking, planning, talking with land managers and solving problems with zero budget to his name. He gives up his time to create, maintain and enhance our permissive trail network, whilst organising an ever evolving and changing group of volunteers, whilst acting as spokes person and liaison all as one’, said James MacKeddie.  MacKeddie is one of the volunteers of the group and nominated Mike for the Trail Advocate of the Year Award.

‘Mike does not seek the limelight, talks about Woburn Bike Trails to volunteers and community as we, and over the past 6+ years has logged more hours in woods than anyone, however not on a bike but with tools. The best way to summarise – Mike is Woburn Bike Trails and there would be no Woburn Bike Trails without him’ continues MacKeddie.

Considered as one of Mikes biggest and latest achievement is pivoting throughout Covid 19, to ensure that the trails get much needed attention, as riding usage has seen an all-time high with people staying/forced to be more local. The volunteer group also established 4km of newly build trails, sanctioned by the land managers, that work around existing badger sets and ground nesting birds. The new trail is graded to accommodate new riders to learn skills and gain confidence. Expanding the trail network reduced the wear on the existing trails and increased the permissive riding in the area, which is a hub for mountain biking north of London. Becoming part of the Take Care of Your Trails campaign resulted in a big shift in numbers of volunteer attending in the following months, willing to give their free time to contribute to the trails


photo credits: James MacKeddie

Aspley Woods (UK) – Not the easiest place to develop trails

The trails that have been built and maintained by Woburn Bike Trails are on private land which is a commercial forest. The group works closely with the land managers to ensure that the trails reduce conflict with other users and provide a good riding experience. All works is basically done without any funding. All volunteers have to provide their own tools and only the materials that are available onsite can be used.

Some trail sections had to been put in less than suitable terrain to prevent wildlife disturbance. This has resulted in a huge amount of extra work but also led to some new creative ideas an innovative solution to work with what little you have. For example, the crew had to build over a spring outflow but with nothing to build a sustainable bridge (it is a softwood plantation). What they did was roll-up the plastic tree protectors into tubes, bury them under the trail allowing the spring water to trickle from one side to the other.

Besides the honor,  our Trail Advocates of the Year will receive the Showers Pass IMBA Jacket. This feature-loaded lightweight yet durable waterproof-breathable hardshell is ready to hit the trails and to resist UK wheather conditions. Congrats Mike!