Ask an enthusiastic mountain biker for advice, and they will likely suggest keeping the pedals pushing and the wheels turning as often as possible. As riders, we hop on our bikes not just to explore a new trail but to gain more appreciation for ourselves, our riding community and the world around us. Even when we don’t set out on the trail asking for answers, often we receive them. So like many others, at PTD our team speaks to the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between work and play. As professional trail builders, our work is our passion. Check out our first Tales from the Trail, a series dedicated to uncovering the lighter side of the trail builder’s lifestyle. This month, our Vice President Clayton Woodruff recounts what it’s like to travel, work and ride solo.
Bikes have taken me all over the country - and even outside of it. I’ve always been a rider, and as our trail building profession has grown roots I’ve been given the chance to take my riding to the next level. Building professionally has introduced me to some of the sport’s original, renegade trails and the people responsible for building them. As Vice President, I oversee the design and build of a lot projects we’re a part of, and so travel has become etched into my life’s schedule. The last couple years have been monumental – not just for work, but for my love and appreciation of solo travel and riding. Work-travel time skyrocketed last summer as PTD’s project load reached an all-time high, sending me from the Ozarks, to the Rockies, to the Pacific Northwest and back in just one month. Pushing so many miles on the road, what I did with my spare time was mine to decide and I knew just how I would be spending it. What I didn’t know was how much I would learn along the way.
In May 2015, from Arkansas I set out for Colorado with no less than two dirt bikes and three mountain bikes packed in my Subaru WRX. I didn’t know what I would run into along the way, but I knew I needed to be prepared! PTD was designing a flow trail on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs, so I met my brother on site to oversee it. After Steamboat the two of us would have to meet again just east of Salem, Oregon for a master plan design in Silver Falls State Park. I had some downtime in between these two commitments and while I could have stayed put, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride the loamy soil of the Pacific Northwest. After the dry and dusty trails of Steamboat, Hood River was a mountain biker’s rainforest. I had to be in Oregon for work anyway, right? I set off, bikes and all toward Hood for my trip’s first solo ride.
It’s always humbling to ride where it feels unfamiliar. I arrived to the trails with little information on the “best” directions to ride or how to avoid getting lost. Some extra pedaling and wrong turns later, I realized I could have chosen a more organic route if only I’d been familiar – but I didn’t mind. Getting lost, riding the wrong direction – it felt like part of the process. I rode alone, taking in a landscape with a solitude that I didn’t often get the privilege to explore.
After my restorative session at Hood, I set out south to Silver Falls through Portland. I knew there was some solid riding there, too, but after playing I had to shift gears. As it turned out, however, the Silver Falls meet up would transform into more than just our newest design project. There, I met the local builder responsible for the Sandy Ridge trails just outside of Portland. He offered to take me riding, so after completing our work we drove a couple hours back up north to grant me a second date with the lush Pacific NW landscape – this time, through its creator’s own eyes. Hearing him recount his love for his own trails, I remembered exactly why I choose to build too.
There’s unparalleled beauty when work and passion collide.
In just one month, bikes had taken me across two time zones, thousands of miles and deeper still into my love for riding. It didn’t matter that more than 75% of my time was spent completely by myself – in fact, I had preferred it. The trails kept me happy, and there was nothing that a little music and some time on the bike couldn’t fix. I parted ways with Oregon and began my journey back home. Local projects awaited my return and the rocky Arkansas trails again called my name. It was June by now, and already I had to gear up for a round two trip starting in August. The trail building lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just keep pedaling!