While their brand may not be a household name in mountain bike circles, they’ve built some of the most recognizable trails in one of the biggest mountain bike towns in the country. The Shire Built trail crew, consisting of Spencer Baldwin and Scotty Scamehorn, (though not entirely limited to these two) have crafted some of Bellingham, Washington‘s most popular mountain bike trails on Mt. Galbraith, they’ve dug for athletes at Red Bull Rampage, and are digging themselves an even sweeter career path.
Baldwin grew up in Bellingham and Scamehorn grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington, south of Seattle, but moved up north when he was older. Baldwin started digging as a kid on his parents’ property.
“They just let me build jumps in the yard around the house and didn’t care about their grass, so I’ve always been building my own jumps with my buddy Andy, who was my neighbor. So that’s kind of how the whole thing started. We didn’t have [any jump spots] in Bellingham before that,” said Baldwin.
Scamehorn and Baldwin laugh about how they met each other, more than ten years ago now. As the “no dig, no ride” mantra runs deep amongst trail builders, the two say they met after the younger Scamehorn poached a jump spot that Baldwin dug at. Eventually they came around to each other and dug at these jumps together until they were plowed.
As one door closed, the group of young riders wanted something new; a dirt jump spot tucked away, built by riders for riders, with sharp brown launch pads woven under a green canopy. The crew got to work and built “The Shire,” a community center for boosty dirt jumpers who lap it for hours.
The Shire gave the group a home and it also showed what they’re capable of doing; building immaculate trails that can create community and encourage stewardship.
What built Shire Built though was their first paid gig, installing the Waterfront Pump Track at the Port of Bellingham in 2019, the crew said. Baldwin’s family owns a construction business and by working for his father, he learned how to navigate contracting bids with a municipality. After submitting the proper licensure, estimating the cost, and finding the 9,000 tons of dirt the Shire crew needed to build the pump track, they landed the job.
And while the talented and multi-skilled riders/diggers have built exclusively for pros and private property owner, they still know how to craft an area for everyone, like these public bike skills parks and trails.
“The Shire Crew are insanely talented bike riders, but they’ve really shown the ability to look at a project and design it around the goal of the end users,” said Eric Brown, the executive director of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. The WMBC have taken on Baldwin and Scamehorn as part-time employees at times to revise and enhance trails around Bellingham, but they’ve also piloted builds like the highly film-able Mohawk trail on Mt. Galbraith, a fast flow and jump trail that riders can’t seem to get enough of, and the Cedar Dust jump zone.
“Both of those projects have had huge impacts for the riding community on Galbraith because they promote rider progression on jumps,” said Brown.
“[They’re] good about adding sneaky side hits or double/triple options for the expert-level riders and Mohawk is a prime example where intermediate riders have a blast while expert riders boost all of the big options.”
A blend of backgrounds
Baldwin also learned how to work an excavator like a puppet on strings. Usually on digs, he’s in the cockpit of the rig masterfully finding the best dirt, shaping the trail as Scamehorn guides him over the terrain and tests the lines.
As the mountain bike trail building industry booms, it’s not always experienced riders who are surveying the land, plotting the turns and jumps, and shaping them. There are of course a lot mountain bikers who own and operate great trail building companies, but the Shire Built crew exudes the characteristics of a classic sports team or rock band—where a few unique talents lends to a grand collective outcome.
“Spencer is an amazing rider, and an amazing operator and that combined makes a completely unique type of individual that can put together a pump track, a trail, without being told to follow this design that someone else came up with because they might not have a clue to what works,” said Steve Vogel, a friend and part-time builder with Shire Built. “I mean, we’ve had a skate park built in town by a concrete company. And we’ve had a skate park addition built by a company who actually has skaters working for him. And it’s a day and night difference. And it’s the same with biking. They’re not going to understand the flow and the ins and outs of what makes a good bike trail.”
Both Scamehorn and Baldwin have dug for Brage Vestavik and Thomas Genon at Red Bull Rampage too and recently completed a goodwill trail building project outside of Oaxaca, Mexico.
“It kind of happened organically, with all of us coming from bike backgrounds and then Spencer already coming in with a construction background on normal construction jobs,” said Scamehorn.
Baldwin says they didn’t set out to create a trail building business, but that’s how it’s evolved. While both were working steady municipal construction projects, building infrastructure, roads, water mains and other contract gigs, they were always trail building on the side in their spare time. For 2023, the crew looks forward to focusing primarily on trail projects; some public, some private, and some just for video viewing pleasure.
A good edit needs good builders
By promoting the Shire Built name on local trails like Mohawk and The Shire, the trail crew has attracted more athletes to work with on film projects, like a release video with Reed Boggs for a Stans NoTubes launch. Their favorite yet is Crossover with BMX to MTB athlete Christian Rigal, known for blending the raw style of BMX edits with mountain bike capability. They recently partnered with Rigal for another video which took them to 16 different locations around California to build and link together street spots for filming. The blend of disciplines that Rigal and Shire Built share make them a perfect match.
“We just happen to ride BMX and mountain bikes, so it works out good,” said Baldwin. “We can see the vision he has and we’re like, ‘yeah that makes sense,’ whereas if you’re just a mountain bike builder, you’d probably think half this shit Christian does isn’t gonna work. I mean I even think that sometimes, but he’s proven me wrong.”
That vision can be seen in the Crossover edit, with Rigal riding and Shire Built digging in tandem. The video has huge hips, narrow quarter-pipes built on tree trunks, and telephone poles propped to send Rigal between the arms of oak trees, all while he floats through, seeking new lines like a skate park edit in a forest.
Beyond the Shire
Watching Baldwin and Scamehorn work is where you can really see their dynamic come to life. After scouting for two or three hours around the mountains of the Ixtepeji Bike Park in Mexico with Vogel, the crew identified a dig zone, and then within four days, reversed the controls on a rented excavator, dug a beginner-level flow trail with rollers, a berm, three tabletops and a stepdown, and then built an advanced flow/jump trail integrated with a road bench for a distinctive style. While most people wouldn’t look at the divide between former road and shelf and imagine a trail, the feature immediately called out to Baldwin and Scamehorn. The trail was decisively progressive giving many of the local riders something to reach for.
“I was actually excited to build something that was a little above most of the local skill level to let them have some progression and work toward the line, rather than being like, I could already ride that line perfectly,” said Scamehorn.
When Shire Built returned to Washington from Mexico, they went back to the grindstone, at full speed. This year, the crew might have the most momentum ever, working with new bike brands, digging with athletes for video edits and sculpting jumps for freeride competitions. Their work load has mostly flipped, as the majority of their work is now trail projects, with construction gigs taking a backseat.
“We’re just trying to keep pushing to organically grow our company and have as much fun as possible while doing something that feels good and is beneficial to the community around the world,” said Scamehorn.