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A Trail of Two Cultures

 

For those who've ridden our trails, they will know what we mean when we say we have some of thetrail crew nicest (not necessarily easiest) riding trails you'll find anywhere from the novice level to the advanced Tinker's Trail. They run through jungle, up and down hills, and by centuries old ruins as you ride into the past by way of the present.

Our trail research took us to the site of World Cup cross-country races and to well-respected recreational trails of varying skill levels throughout the US and Canada. We learned a lot about trails and how to get lost on them while at it. We quickly learned that we didn't like seemingly unnecessary trail hazards. We encountered vertically cut, sharply pointed roots in the middle of a narrow run seemingly poised to shred tires. There were the low lying, head crunching tree limbs lurking unseen around tight corners and trail signs at odds with trail maps and compass. We didn't care too much for the horse poop on the trails, either.

But we also learned what we do like. We like the varying terrain that paced itself or allowed you to pace yourself. We like trails put in places that combine the joy of riding with the scenic beauty of the area. And we like the variety of trail choices available in many areas.

Armed with this wealth of knowledge and a clear sense of balance between the past and present, we entered the dense jungle bush the old fashioned way using cutlasses (machetes), picks, shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows while doing all we could to preserve and enhance the natural beauty and the historical integrity of the location.

Our trail cutting crews began as novices but quickly became seasoned as they acquired a tremendous amount of skill overcoming terrain that was forbidding making it rideable. The accompanying photos show the crew at work on some of the lower mild portions of Tinker's Trail. Even there some of the slope angles are 50-60 degrees.

To design a new trail, we first we feel our way along attempting to discern the best route. Once the marking is complete, we rough cut the trail so we can see what we've done. We then analyze every root, every turn, and every rock with the level of trail

in mind. Then we implement the changes we want. Once this is done, we ride the trails over and over again at the level of rider the trail is designed for and make final adjustments. Only then is the trail opened for riders.

Trails are covered and maintained with a combination mulch made from shredded plant debris and sawdust which binds the soil in place and helps to soak up rain water reducing the potential for ruts which leads to erosion. It also makes the trails look aesthetically better and reduces the amount of mud riders must deal with. It must be noted though that we have kept a few mud holes for hard-core purists!

The basic trails have been groomed to allow a novice to have a great first time experience. Yet the trails are wide enough that we've left naturally occurring challenges such as rocks and roots for the experienced rider so two people of differing levels can ride together. For the experienced riders, we have dedicated single track intermediate level loops to challenge your skills. All the trails are marked for levels of expertise recommended to ride them.

We do plan to continue the development of new trails at Anse Mamin as there are many places yet available that would be exciting to ride through. When you come to St. Lucia, we invite you to ride with us. We know you'll have a great time riding the trails within our lush coastal tropical jungle.

Custom Designed Trails: accommodate both the first time rider and experienced riders. The basic trails have been groomed to allow a novice to have a great first time experience. Yet the trails are wide enough that we've left naturally occurring challenges such as rocks and roots for the experienced rider so two people of differing levels can ride together. For the experienced riders, we have dedicated single track loops to challenge your skills. All the trails are marked for levels of expertise recommended to ride them. We also provide a location map with key features. When you need to refill your water bottle, you can easily find the nearest water station. If you want to find the shortest route to the swimming hole, it's all there.

Challenge from Tinker Juarez at Bike St. Lucia's Jungle Biking™ Adventure: Anse Mamin Trail Development

trail crewFor those of you who have been here riding our trails, you've seen that we are making efforts to curb erosion by mulching the bike trails. We use a heavy duty chipper/shredder to mulch debris up to 5 inches in diameter that falls to the ground. Rather than let it decay, we use it to prevent erosion of the trails. It also helps by putting nutrients back into the soil as it breaks down by riders riding over it. As it wears down, we replace the mulch. This also provides a smoother ride. The bikes have more traction than they normally would both in mud and very dry conditions. An added benefit, our Cannondale F800 bikes are much cleaner at the end of the day and therefore easier to maintain.

So far the only comment of a disappointing nature has been that there is not a long, challenging trail for more advanced riders. To this end, we invited Tinker to come down to help us design a heart thumper trail. And we did. The trail is under construction. It is on the side of a mountain or hill, depending if it is at least 1000 in height or not. Regardless of its exact height, it will be challenging to ride. When Tinker saw the terrain over which we have to make the trail he kept saying, "I don't know how you guys can do it." But we kept reassuring him, we've done it before in various places along the existing trail system and no one realizes how different it looks now compared to its prior condition.

But we do have a good size task ahead of us. We are looking to finish by September/October so we can have the official opening after the racing season. "Tinker's Trail" is the working name of the trail although Tinker will have the final say on the trail's name. We will have to use numerous switchbacks to make it to the top and then back down again. We estimate it will take 30 minutes or so to make it to the top. And the exciting downhill portion will probably take only 7 or 8 minutes.

There are many ledges and drop-offs along the way, so curbing momentum will be a key factor in the design of the downhill run. The uphill will really test one's conditioning and aerobic capacity as it will essentially be one continuous climb. But the reward will be worth it once you reach the top. See the photo of Tinker at the top. We will have a large bell at the top, so when a rider makes it up, he or she can ring Tinker's Bell.

The development of trails at Anse Mamin will continue for quite some time as there are many places yet available and exciting to ride through. When you are coming to St. Lucia, check us out and come riding with us. We feel that you'll have a great time on the trails riding Bike St. Lucia's Cannondale bikes throughout a coastal tropical jungle on our Jungle Biking Adventure!

The Ninth Trail

"Bike St. Lucia's Jungle Biking™ Adventure has added its 9th trail to its existing trail system. The new bike path is called "SAWÉ TRAIL." Pronounced 'Say Way' in patois, you will have to ask the bike staff what the hidden meaning of SAWÉ is and how the trail got its name.   "SAWÉ TRAIL is the furthest trail up the valley to the east of the bike facility. It can be reached by heading up the Creeping Fig Loop, an intermediate level trail, just past the swimming hole on Riverside Trail until you come to the sign pointing the way. SAWÉ TRAIL is rated lower intermediate so just about everyone can ride it.   You come to a point where you have to cross the creek, which most days is rather easy.

On those days when the cats and dogs are falling out of the sky, it will be a bit more of a challenge. Once on the other side, you head away from the creek, turn around a bend to find a fallen coconut tree across the path. Just scrunch down to pass under the "low bridge." If you hear the 'thwack' of plastic, you didn't scrunch quite enough. The trail twists and turns, crosses a dry (most days) ravine, goes up a little until you have a very nice downhill to a shaded, wooded glen alongside the river where the trail makes it end.   It's a great place to cool off, soak your feet in the creek while sitting on a rock listening to the trickle of the water. Take a nap, or just hide away from the world for a while.

The trail makes its return along the same pathway in, so you need to be aware of 2 way bike traffic especially on the uphill on the way out. One side is rather abrupt down to the river. We recommend bikers pass each other walking at this point, carefully.   On the way out of SAWÉ TRAIL, you make a turn to the left at Creeping Fig Loop to exit back down to Riverside Trail. Just follow the signs! We look forward to seeing you on the SAWÉ TRAIL soon."