Croft Trail


Who designed the trail?

The existing trail layout is the result of several different people and groups working over several years. Phil and Tom (two of the founders of MBSwindon club) got involved in late 2008 when about three quarters of the main loop was already laid out. They designed the layout for the last quarter of the trail (North side of pitch onwards).

Phil took over responsibility for the trail in early 2009. From that point onwards Phil and Tom worked on the overall plan for the trail in conjunction with the most active trail build volunteers. The main concepts have been developed by walking the area, discussing ideas, drawing up plans, discussing these with interested parties and a lot of thinking. The details of the layout and features have been developed on build days involving everyone who is present. The trail is a group effort and the club has strived to involved as many people as possible in decision making. People who turn up on build days get the highest priority – armchair experts are not taken too seriously.

The output of this has been numerous alterations to the layout and several sections being completely rebuilt during 2009 and 2010. The original route had several shortcomings including not using the limited gradient in the best way, too many tight corners, and poorly planned features.

Historical trail maps.

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Who built the trail?

Before late 2008 the trail was built by the Nationwide Bike Club, Nationwide volunteers and community payback teams (probation service). During 2009 the trail was built by a collective starting with Phil and Tom who were soon joined by people they met riding the trail or on the facebook group. In 2010 the group formed MBSwindon club who continued with the trail building and development.

Trail build diary.

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Who owns the land?

Swindon Borough Council own and manage the Croft Country park. The rangers from Coate Water are responsible for the area. MBSwindon and Croft Trails have direct contact with the open spaces manager at the council who is a supporter of the whole project.

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Who paid for the trail?

The trail construction work before 2009 was funded by a £9,000 National Lottery “Awards For All” grant. During 2009 the trail was funded from personal donations from riders and people working on the trail. A lot was achieved with very little expenditure. From 2010 the trail was funded from personal and business donations plus additional money from club membership, website advertising, sponsorship, fund raising events and some small grants.

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Why is the trail 85% flat?

This was a serious question someone once asked us. The reply was “because the area we’re using is 85% flat”. Then somone mentioned a well known importer of gradient who we should have used to magic up a mountain.

The area is reasonably flat, but there is enough gradient to be entertaining and we’re working to make the most of what we do have.

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Why don’t you use chicken wire on the wood sections?

Chicken wire was once the most common method of providing grip on slippery wood surfaces. All the big mountain bike centres in the UK used it.

Then they started removing it. This is because when people fall off onto worn chicken wire the exposed metal tears into their face. The big centres are now using sandy resin or grippy wood types instead.

We’ve experimented with several ideas including a sand-varnish mix. The most effective was thick bitumenous roofing tiles (like roofing felt but 4 times thicker). These are no longer so easily available so we’ve tried grippy roofing felt and this works just as well.

It appears that some hardwoods grip better when wet than cheap softwoods. Routing a cross hatch also helps.

Our long term plan is to cover any poor wood with grippy surfaces of some type. For now be aware some of the wood can be slippery.

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I’m an extreme rider, why aren’t there bigger jumps and drops?

The trail must not be dangerous for a novice rider. Hence it must be possible to roll over features or there must be a bypass (chicken run). We are also limited on the height of features. These are requirements we have to meet and the trail is regularly inspected by the council.

This doesn’t mean the trail has to be boring though. Features can be rolled at low speed and jumped at high speed. We’ve got a jump that’s between knee and waist height on the start red section and it’s great fun to clear. If you get it wrong you’ll just end up rolling onto the down ramp. We’ve got a 3m log over a knee deep trench but it can be bypassed.

If you still think all of this is boring and yearn for some gap jumps and big drop offs then Croft trail is never going to meet your requirements. In that case you’ll have to find somewhere that does. Take a look at our UK mountain bike centre map for ideas.

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Why isn’t it a downhill trail?

The trail is intended as a cross country training loop that can also be used by novice riders.

Why aren’t there any table top jumps?

We want some tabletop jumps. We’ve built a few and then demolished them because they didn’t work. This was due to lack of approach speed. We’re still thinking about this.

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Why is the trail difficulty grade so low?

The trail was once described as being “sub-beginner”. It was not long after we got involved though and the rider in question was expecting a downhill course. It is being developed by a group who have ridden virtually every trail centre in the UK and beyond. They still ride the Croft Trail and enjoy it.

If you think it’s too easy then try riding it faster. You’ll need to be fit and to know the route in detail.

If you still find it too easy then you can either get involved or find somewhere else to ride.

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Why don’t you build a tunnel?

The tunnel at Cwm Carn was initially built out of plastic. It wasn’t long before some local yobs had started a fire inside it. This melted it. We’d have to use a crane to lift in concrete pipe. Then we’d need to move an enormous amount of  mud. We don’t want to move that much mud by hand.

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How can I give you feedback about the trail?

Give us feedback on

We’re happy to receive positive and negative feedback. Please bear in mind that things like “your trail’s crap” and “you wasted your volunteer’s time because there’s no aerial boardwalk” is of limited use to us.

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How can I influence the trail design?

You can give feedback (see previous answer). The trail is being developed by a team of enthusiasts, so please understand that there are a lot of ideas being discussed.

If you want more say in the trail layout and how features are built then you need to come along to the build days. See our events page for upcoming build days. We work in a collaborative manner and everyone present is involved in decision making.

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Do you have rides for under 18 year olds?

Due to the mountain of legislation and issues surrounding child protection we are currently unable to accept minors into the club. If you would like to join the working party investigating a juniors club and family rides then please contact us.

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Where and how can I do more mountain biking?

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How can I improve my cycling skills?

We have a number of trained MTB instructors and run regular training courses. See our training page and our events page.

We have regular novice friendly rides.

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I’m not a club member. Can I come on club rides?

Yes. Non members are welcome to come on a few rides to see if they like the club. See our events calendar for upcoming rides. Also look at our ride reports to see what we get up to (we run events for a wide range of experience levels, so don’t be put off it looks too easy or difficult).

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I’m new to this. Are the club rides are going to be too difficult for me?

We work hard to make new riders feel welcome and to introduce people to the fun of mountain biking. We run regular novice friendly rides. Look out for the L sign icon on our events calendar. Also see our training page.

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Can I borrow lights for night rides?

Yes. We have a few sets of Magicshine lights that we lend out for trial use. Non-club members will need to bring their driving licence/credit card to leave with us as a security deposit. Club members will just need their membership card. To book a light please contact us.

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Do I have to wear a cycle helmet?

We think you should wear a cycle helmet and virtually everyone wears one, but we can’t force one upon you. However, if you do not wear a cycle helmet then you do not comply with our insurance requirements and are therefore not covered. The exception to this is training courses where we operate a strict no cycle helmet = no training course policy for insurance purposes.

See accident statistics in our safety gear article.

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How do I get involved?

The easist way is to come along to one of our events and say hello. Alternatively contact us.

Maybe you have a great idea or you want to help the club out in a particular way. We’re really keen to get more people involved so don’t be shy.

All of the club staff were people who came along and got involved with doing things.

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Can I submit photos or write articles for your website?

Yes. We’d like original articles or images relating to mountain biking or from our events. We can help with finishing – grammar and details etc. Contact us for more information.

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I’ve organised an event. Can you add it to your events calendar?

Events calendar.

Any event that would be of interest to MBSwindon members is a candidate for inclusion. Contact us with information about the event and we’ll discuss adding it.

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Can I advertise on your website?

The website attracts a good level of mountain bike related traffic and we are happy to discuss advertising opportunities. Money from this will be used to fund club activities and trail building.

Contact us to discuss further.

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How can I share a route?

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I’ve got a great idea for an event. How do I make it happen?

You can contact us.

If the team like your idea then they’ll support you with whatever level of involvement you want in planning the event. For example you might want to show people the best bits of your favourite wood, or fancy attending the annual 48 hour solo winter peat bog endurance race.

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Can I enter a race as an MBSwindon rider?

Yes. We like the publicity. Contact us and we’ll promote it too.

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Does the club loan specialist tools for maintenance such a headset press?

We’ve looked at it, but there are issues: The club is very short of storage space, with our assets spread all over the place already. The club is short of volunteers to administer such a scheme. Also, what happens if someone breaks a tool, looses a tool or, worse, trashes their frame because they don’t know how to use the tool? Overall we feel it’s much better that we concentrate on building a vibrant MTB community where you can ask to borrow specialist tools and/or get a good support and a discount from your local bike shop mechanic.

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Julian Marshall

    Can I just come along any time and ride round it?

  2. Phil

    Hi Julian. The trail is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is free to use.

  3. Richard

    We stopped off for a couple of laps as a warm up ride, on the way to Wales . You have done a brilliant job with what you have available.

    I even saw an eagle hanging around, not sure what it was exactly but it was a big bugger.

    Thanks for the opportunity.

  4. Rafe

    Hi Richard,

    Glad you enjoyed the trail.

    Perhaps you saw a Red Kite? There’s loads of those near where I work (about 20 miles from the trail as the Kite flies), not seen any down near the trail myself though.

  5. Chris Bevington

    Hi All

    First of all, I’d like to say what a blinding job you’ve all done on the trail, I’ve rode it at least twice a week for the last month an i love it, definately feel more confident to venture further afield……however more to the point, just an idea and one im sure thats already been mentioned but would it be worth having a furum added to your webpage, would be nice to see faces, bikes, have discussions, better chances to organise events between the locals etc etc.

    Apologies again if this has already been mentioned!

  6. Rafe

    No worries Chris. We did have a forum but it got hacked and as almost everyone seemed to prefer facebook anyway, we ditched it. See you on a ride soon?

  7. Dora

    Hi there,

    Just to let you know that the new blue trail is awesome! Went on it yesterday after a long time and was surprised to see how longer and more demanding it has become! Last time I was there, about 6 or so months ago, I found it far too easy (although I’m only but a novice when it comes to MTBing) and rather short; I also felt there was too much of a skills gap between the blue and red trails at the time.

    The new blue trail made me squeal on more than a dozen occasions! Looking forward to trying out again soon!

  8. Simon Smith

    Just ridden the trail. Liked it so much I rode it twice! Big thanks for all the voluntary effort in creating & maintaining it.

  9. Simon Smith

    Oh and the eagle thing. Forked tail and hooked back wings is a red kite. Rounded tail & wings is a buzzard. Both present in the area. Lovely view of a sparrowhawk when I was riding the trail this morning. Cheers.

  10. James Addison

    On a course in the area and rode the red trail twice this evening. It’s a cracking little loop, you’ve done a great job with what you had available to you and there was more than enough little technical sections and jumps to keep it interesting and a challenge to ride fast! Thanks for your efforts, well worth it!

  11. charlie

    Can under 18’s ride on the trail?

  12. Rafe

    Yes they can, it’s just official club rides they can’t come on due to the child protection stuff.

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