Any opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own, and may or may not represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
Flow trails get a bad rap. To purists, their growing popularity is the death of the sport as we know it. After all, flow trails allow riders of all skill levels to enjoy a sport that only a brave and hearty few once participated in.
I have a different view of flow trails. I believe they deserve equal billing alongside the gnarly, technical trails that have defined mountain biking as we know it. If you don’t ride flow trails, here are four reasons why you should try them.
Flowy trails are fun
I dare you to ride a flowy trail and not have a big grin on your face when you are done. The sweeping turns and rollers make them a joy to ride. Add in a few punchy climbs and descents, and you have a recipe for a rollercoaster-like ride. You can fly around these types of trails on the edge of control, or go slower and soak in the nature that surrounds the singletrack. I have never had a bad ride on a flow trail.
Flow trails can be technical trails too
While you won’t find rock gardens, drops, or rooty climbs on a flow trail, the trails can still be technical. My local trail includes a series of tight, twisty turns through a pine forest. Riders’ bars barely squeeze through the trees as they whiz by. It takes a lot of skill and focus to keep the flow going and not clip a tree.
Also, flow trails get progressively harder as you go faster. Good braking and cornering skills are essential for maintaining momentum, and to avoid skidding off the trail. They may look easy, but flow trails have their own challenges that aren’t obvious from looking at them.
Flow trails emphasize skills over equipment
Some technical trails mandate the use of an expensive rig with several inches of suspension travel, which is way beyond the budget of money-conscious riders like myself. Flow trails, however, deliver fun to riders regardless of what kind of bike they own. You can have a blast riding a flow trail whether you are on a budget hardtail or a high-end carbon fiber trail bike.
The lack of steep climbs and descents, along with smooth surfaces, levels the playing field. A good set of lungs and legs, as well as the proper balance and control, are more valuable than a fancy bike when riding flow.
Flow trails are vital to the growth of our sport
Every rider has to start somewhere. A rough, rocky, and rooty trail is not the best place for a new rider to learn the fundamentals. He or she will quickly get discouraged by having to walk the trail more than ride it. Flow trails allow beginners to learn how to balance, corner, and brake while having fun and building confidence. Even the purists of our sport must acknowledge and appreciate the presence of flow trails as a key to the future of mountain biking.
Just go with the flow
While I love the challenge of riding rough, technical trails that beat me up both physically and mentally, my body doesn’t handle the abuse as well as it used to. Flow trails give me a fun, physical ride that isn’t so punishing and still leaves me grinning from ear to ear.
I’m glad flow trails are a part of our sport. They are fun for riders of all ages and skill levels. Additionally, we need flow trails in order to help new riders discover the joys of mountain biking, and allow older riders to continue riding well into their golden years. I hope all riders will appreciate what flow trails add to the sport. I certainly do.
What are your thoughts on flow trails? Please share them in the comments section below.