Okay I've said this before, I don't really volunteer much (actually never) for trail building, so when I diss trail builders it's really a bit rich. Anyway last week Jonty Richie and Rosara Joseph popped in to the office after riding Belmont Trig and informed me that Baked Beans bend was... well... it was gone. Anyone that's ever ridden that corner would, I'm sure, agree that it was in fact the hardest corner in all of New Zealand. Queenstowners will throw their hands up and say the "Corner of Doom" is the hardest; it may have gnarlier consequences but in terms of sheer trickiness Baked Beans bend is it. I mean was.
Anyhow seeing as the track literally starts 100 metres from our office I thought I'd pop up and see for myself.
And boy was I in for a shock. After Baked Beans Bend the old track crossed a stream about six times and although close to town gave you a real sense of adventure and backcountry riding... well, from the looks of things that backcountry stream crossing feeling is also about to disappear in favour of a 1.5 metre wide digger-built trail...
To get to this bit of track is not super challenging but it's actual narrow singletrack—I mean if you're there you obviously like the outdoors and can handle a little cliff drop or two—so why they needed to do what they're doing is news to me, but I'm sure the local Hutt City Council has their reasons.
It seems things like this are happening all over the country, the dumbing down of tracks. Obviously it works well for encouraging beginners but what happens when those people want a challenge and the challenges are gone? How do you measure your success as a rider if you can ride everything?
My worst fear though is that councils will start saying "well you have a mountain bike park over there, so you can't ride here, this is for walkers". Mountain biking is about discovery and exploration, it's not about being hemmed in and being told where to ride. Bike parks are good, but good like a skate park is good for skateboarding; it doesn't replace the street, just like a bike park doesn't replace a real backcountry discovery mission. But that's a whole other Tuesday morning rant...
At 7:38 you can see what it used to be like... http://youtu.be/Me_Rd2xgxGI
At 2:40 in this video you get a glimpse of Baked Beans Bend. And it looks as if the whole track from there on out in this video will be obliterated by the digger and its crew.