We couldn't resist getting the lowdown on the new developments at Glenlivet.
New trails are always an awesome thing, but when they are THIS awesome - its really something.
The Edmondson family and their trail builder Paul, told us the story. A calculated leap of faith and a labour of love, has given a outlying trail centre the kiss of life - enjoy!
Most mountain bikers have a passion for the activity that extends beyond just getting out for a weekly spin. And parents of keen mountain bikers probably know how family life can start to revolve around bike trips, repeat unplanned visits to the bike shop, the occasional A&E trip. And when those kids get racing it can be a life sacrificing weekends, travelling, and sitting in fields nervously while the kids go and go their thing. For some families it goes further.
In the case of the family of Jamie Edmondson, a young rider from the Highlands who has progressed to racing World Cups and Enduro World Series, that meant taking over a trail centre, running a café, and building one of the best trails in Scotland. As if that wasn’t enough, it happened just as Covid-19 hit.
Barry, Jamie’s dad, explains why taking over a trail centre seemed like a good idea:
“We had followed the development of the trail centre since it opened in 2013 and could see there was potential to do so much more, so after a year of the building sitting empty we finally took the plunge and leased it. For us, it’s all about making it a great riding ‘destination’ for riders of all abilities, a place for Jamie to focus his digging and track building and an opportunity to expand our already established café business. Our only nervousness had been the remote location and the distance for people to travel. We can only hope the old adage ‘You build it, they will come!’ comes true!”
Glenlivet trails have always been a bit of a bit of an outlier. Geographically they are at the edge of the Cairngorm National Park, on the hilly Tomintoul road, well away from the busy hub of Aviemore. More of a traditional cross-country trail centre, with blue and red routes and skills area, its main feature the long 22km red trail. But the Edmondson’s saw potential for more than this, and when they took over the business, they negotiated with the landowner that they would also take on the trails and have potential to develop more on the land.
Paul Masson was the man challenged with making it a reality. Paul was behind the original Glenvilet trails, as well as Laggan, Learnie and more. As a rider and builder, Paul specialises in technical cross country, rocky, slabby, tight and technical – Laggan black is a prime example.
His kid’s, however, have other ideas and prefer to go big on the jumps and drops. After a family riding trip to Wales, he was excited by the prospect of challenging himself and moving out of his comfort zone and doing something exciting.
And so, Barry Edmondson and Paul Masson, and their kids, started planning. The vision was a progressive Orange jump line, which could be ridden by less experienced riders, but also challenge advanced riders. As Paul puts it, this could not be a ‘warmed up blue’, they wanted something that would stand out as being exceptional. The landowners, Crown Estate Scotland, gave the go ahead for the build in November, and to be ready for spring meant a full winter build in the harsh Cairngorm environment.
As Paul puts it, they assembled the ‘A team’ – Paul with his extensive experience managing trail builds, CR Contracting North, an Aberdeenshire based footpath and mountain bike trail build specialist with workers who have progressed through volunteer trail work with Aberdeenshire Trail Association, and Jamie Edmondson, on hand to keep upsizing the features beyond everyone’s previous concept of ‘big’.
The line of the trail was flagged, walked and re-flagged numerous times until they were happy, then a minimum number of trees cut – the trail was to fit into the pine forest rather than be imposed upon it. The build then started, with excavators and a team on hand tools working through rain, wind, and snow, carefully hand shaping the trail, test riding, making changes. And then reinstating the ground around the trail, clearing fall zones of dangers, and giving the trail time to settle – the one positive aspect of a global pandemic on the build…
From Paul’s point of view, the whole process was exciting as it progressed, and produce a high-quality ride experience, but also built great working relationships (hopefully one we see more of again!):
“This has been one of the most rewarding builds I have ever done, not only in terms of the trail we produced, but in the actual building of it whilst working with CRC and Jamie. Even in the most awful conditions the ‘craic’ amongst the team never faltered, the ideas kept coming right till the end and the test ride sessions had plenty of heckling!”
And then came the patiently waiting for lockdown to ease so the trails and café could be opened to the public. And it turns out it was worth the wait – the trail has had most who have ridden it buzzing, many commenting that it’s the best jumpy fun trail in Scotland, and there is definitely an enthusiasm for more. The Edmondson’s next plans are some rider-built trails in the dry well draining pinewoods, with Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association volunteers lending extra hands. The hope is to attract events to the venue, with the more natural and challenging trails and rider owned cafe giving a perfect race venue.
The development of Glenlivet, with motivated enthusiasts, a trusting landowner, experienced builders, volunteers from formal trail associations, and enthusiastic riders has been great in highlighting what is special about Scottish mountain biking. It will be exciting to see what is next for this wee gem - It’s well worth a visit!
More information - here you go!