Trail building is full of characters with interesting stories and one of the more interesting we’ve come across so far during this project is Brad Peterson. Now residing in Rotorua, Brad is one of those volunteers that usually flies under the radar, working away on trails because he loves building and riding. He’s adopted a number of trails and you’ll also find him out helping with other Club maintenance work around the forest.
Brad has been nominated a couple of times now for our Cactus Equipment “Trail Hero” award but the odds have not been in his favour to date. We’ve softened the blow with a Trail Fund NZ t-shirt from Burkes Cycles but we thought it was about time we did a bit of a profile on his trail efforts as he has an interesting story.
Like many of us Brad first built trails when he was a kid, somewhere to ride his BMX near the farm he grew up on. Back then he was poaching lines on neighbouring backyards. Like most of us he drifted away from building stuff and instead as an adult got into downhill riding and racing which is how many of us know him. But In 2007 he broke his neck while dual slalom racing and suffered pretty a significant head trauma resulting in brain damage. Brad says he’s recovered now but points out with a smile that others might disagree. He’s still sensitive on the right side of his body so falling off his bike these days isn’t good. The damage to his neck was a fracture in his C1 as well as having his C2 crush his C3 and managing to dislodge most of his vertebrae right down his spine as well as his pelvis.
That was the end of his riding, at least for the time being. As part of his early recovery when he was able to walk again he took to exploring his local trails on foot with his new friend, a black lab cross puppy called Maxxis. Brad tried all sorts of things to rebuild himself after the accident but it wasn’t until he tried his hand at trail building did he find an activity that worked for him. Starting off trimming he built up his strength to the point where he’s recovered a lot of movement and strength now, although he has more than his fair share of stiffness and pain.
That was five years ago and Maxxis is still hanging out on the trails with Brad. As Brad became stronger not only did he increase the amount of trail building he was doing, moving from clearing trails to rebuilding stunts, but Brad also got back on his DH bike. It seems the longer travel and slack geometry of the bike suited his body as he couldn’t arch his back anymore to see down the trail.
By 2010 Brad was revisiting a trail that he had been involved in building with his local club in 2007 when the hill was just replanted. By 2010 it was completely overgrown covered in scrub, the trees were 15 foot tall and growing all over the place. Armed with a rake, hand saw, mattock, shovel and loppers which didn’t survive the project, Maxxis and Brad worked on the trail over the Christmas break and into the New Year. After a few more months work the trail was back to its former glory as a mini DH track complete with new jumps, a decent gap near the bottom, added a number of drops.
About that time Brad moved back to Rotorua, a sort of homecoming if you like, where he quickly got involved in the Downhill side of things. Moving away from his pirate building past Brad got permission and took to putting some time in the National DH track which at the time was in need of some love. Working along side Steve Pattle on regular digs Brad also started getting in there more often. Eventually along with the junior downhill crew they managed to reopen the original Taniwha track, built and repaired other features and rebuilt some of River track including the gap jump at the start. Brad still loves gap jumps although apparently they don’t love him as much and after a while he wanted a bit more freedom to do his own thing and started looking for a track to adopt.
Choosing a track to take on is a complex process as Brad points out. The trail needs to suit the trail builder, kind of like choosing a dog. A trail needs to suit your energy levels and available time (stunts and downhill features can take a lot of time to build and maintain), your level of creativity and of course your style of riding and that of the riders who you intend to be able to ride it safely. At around this time that Brad was looking for a project he could ‘own’ North Face and Eastern Spice were two trails that had fallen on hard times and so Brad talked to the Club and they agreed he could adopt Eastern Spice and North Face if he wanted it. Rat / Ndo / New Exit was thrown into the mix and Brad’s been working on them all since. Brad’s also been co-opted to help with regular Club working bees so it’s not all under the radar trail pixie work for him and Maxxis these days.
As most trail builders know trail maintenance is a never ending process without which trails like those in Rotorua wouldn’t be half as good as they are, and maintenance doesn’t happen without the efforts of people like Brad and the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. If you are in Rotorua or nearby keep an eye on the RMTBC Facebook page for opportunities to head out and do a few hours work. It all helps. You don’t need to be out there as much as someone like Brad, even a few hours a year makes a big difference as long as we all try to do it.
If Brad’s experience is anything to go by you will get a lot more out of trail building than you put in. After all, if that wasn’t the case then folks like Brad wouldn’t do what they do.