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A critical view of the new “Tin Fu” trail....

6 years 5 months ago #2473 by ratcat
Yes I was there with my pack. I must say it was beautifully constructed. In fact it is the most beautiful trail in HK from the point of view of construction. I salute to all who sacrifice their time to make this happen. However, as the title suggest, I have my doubts.
Like any other Sunday, the boys made their pilgrimage to Tai Mo Shan to get that religious experience with the spirit of the mountain. We were all exciting to ride the Tin Man legally. Somehow we had the expectation that this is the legal alternative to the great Tin Man. When we got there and learn this is a loop, we had an uncertain feeling that this is not what it is cracked up to be. But anyhow, what’s done is done. As beautiful as it is, we the ride last about five minutes. And so we began to think……
We rode down the hill to Ho Pui off road junction. We push up the stairs and rode up this hill. We climb on road to an elevation of about 430 meters and the trail lasted five big minutes. All in all, from the bus stop, we spend more then an hour of really fun trail (with rocks, roots, mud and sand) to get to the trail head of “Tin Fu” to have a five minute ride. Hum… am I saying this correctly?
So in a sense, no, it doesn’t really work for us. A ride down the old Tin Man is a much more rewarding experience or the Hornet is one funky trail that always promises a smile after the climb. Hence all three of these trails are located side by side of each other, a place in the middle of the mountain.
So take a step back I thought to myself. I must work for some people. Since it is a loop, it can be a good training ground for people who like to do enduro and xc racing. For xc dudes, I think they might want to ride the loop counter clockwise. For serious enduro training, well, trying to get top the trail head via Tai Lam is training by itself. Hey, it is a 430 meter climb just to get there….cool. And when these self mutilating all mountain animals get there, they can do about 20 loops to shape up.
Ok I found value for the “Tin Fu” trail for some folks. Good let’s hope the trail are targeted for them and they will find this trail useful. But I am afraid of what the trail doesn’t do.
One of the incentives of build new trail is to divert MTB traffic from illegal to legal. It won’t convert down hill folks whose main thingy is shuttling. It does nothing to these guys. And people like us, all mountain folks who like to have long relaxing rides extending into the night. It won’t do good to beginners cause since it is in the middle of the mountain and it will take a lot of power to the pedal to get there. I mean if you have the ability to get to Tin Fu trail head, you are all ready a fairly strong and able biker, not a beginner. Ok the easiest way to get there is by on road from the bus stop. That will take a beginner about an hour to get to the trail head. The same beginner will take around ten minutes to complete the trail. Hum….the mathematics is puzzling.
If the Tin Fu is located within ten minutes of ‘easy’ riding time, it would work amazingly I think.
So, after these thoughts and with a little bit of disappointment, we decided to go down the Hornet. I hadn’t been there for over a year since I am riding very conservatively after the injury. And that manage to bring back a smile to everyone’s face, including mine.
So in conclusion, if the birth of Tin Fu means the death of Tin Man and the Hornet, thanks, but no thanks.
Now there might be a hidden agenda to this ‘symbolic trail’; to get people together with the AFCD to get more trails open for the great future. Good idea, it is education for AFCD on the topic of mountain biking. Now education is fueled by information. The information that I presented is information. And hopefully, this information can be shared by all people concerned when the time is ripe for truth.
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6 years 5 months ago #2474 by tom
Hi Rat Cat,

I was shedding tears of joy as I experienced the finished trail for the first time. The construction is all natural and a new visitor to this trail would not know that the trail was only built in the last 3 months - it seems like it had been around for over 10 years. I was joking with the AFCD officers that once the hikers experience such a beautifully constructed and naturally flowing trail without knee crunching stairs like this one that they will be demanding that all the hiking trails in HK be refurbished to IMBA standards!

Excellent review. It is a short trail and I think it should be reversible so as to allow riders to climb up the trail to the fire lookout (I think many will do anyway). And you are correct to worry about whether trail work will continue forward with the real Tin Man or not... I worry about this all the time. The Tin Man has the potential to be a special experience making all that climbing to the top pay off. So in a way the Tin Fu Tsai North MTB Trail is a bit of teaser...

Fortunately, I took frequent breaks from the work yesterday to chat with the AFCD officers and this is roughly a summary of what I learned:

1. AFCD are committed to eventually bringing all Mountain Bike Trails in Tai Lam CP up to IMBA standards.
2. Resources are limited to do all the work at once once so they are picking their spots.
3. Revamping and legalizing Tin Man is on their radar but at this point the IMBA specialists recommend extensive trail amouring (over 1km in all) which likely means helicopter drops and placement of massive stones on the steeper hillside sections of the trail.
4. Ho Poi, which is by far the most popular trail, requires extensive work (possibly rerouting) in spots and they are considering making that their next target.
5. Building a high quality, sustainable trail like this, that adheres strictly to IMBA standards, progresses at a rate of roughly 100-150m per day.
6. AFCD will discuss with MTB groups and other park users about what the next preferred target is. (Tin Man or Ho Pui)
7. Any new trail work in 2012 will likely commence after the rainy season.
8. The park staff are very keen to monitor how well this new sustainable trail holds up to the rainy season.
9. AFCD plan to continue recruiting volunteers to assist in further trail projects.
10. The AFCD own a mountain bike and use it too! Field Officer Andy was having a blast doing laps on the new trail with other riders.

AFCD are also extremely fortunate to have HM Lim from DirtTraction in Singapore so close at hand. He is an IMBA trail specialist who is fluent in both Cantonese and English. HM has closely monitored all the trail work and ensure the work is upto IMBA standards.

I will let you guys interpret the above info how you may but I feel extremely confident that the AFCD are sincere and committed to improving the trail conditions and quality of experience for mountain bikers. The HKMBA's relationship with the AFCD has never been healthier nor more positive than it is now.

Building trails is far more fun than the very painful work of advocating for them and in 2012 we saw the creation of two new, albeit short, trails: The Twisk beginner track and the Tin Fu Tsai North MTB Trail. These are the first additions to the legal trail network since 2005. Its a good start but unfortunately we have to be patient as they build up their confidence while learning the art and craft of sustainable MTB trail design and construction.
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6 years 5 months ago - 6 years 5 months ago #2478 by ratcat

Your information is extremely useful, truthful and hopeful. In a way, I kind of guess where this is going but having you confirmed the intentions in here, I feel much better. And yes, it was definitely overwhelming to see the workmanship of the built. I hope relationship will grow between AFCD and MTBers over projects like this.

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6 years 5 months ago #2487 by StanleyJ
Nice to finally meet you in person Tom (introduction via Steve) and being a resident of Ho Pui village, good to see some positive action from the AFCD (the WSD still makes me want to hurt them, but that's another thread!). It's a pity all the workshops to date have fallen on weekend, which actually doesn't work out so well for me...

Anyway... this new, very catchily named "Tai Lam Mountain Bike Trail - Tin Fu Tsai North Section" that it is classed as an IMBA "Blue Square" (Intermediate) trail. As a comparision, the AFCD hosts the joint IMBA study ( here ) where Tai Lam's easiest "legacy" trail (ie: excludes the recently built beginner's "Green Circle" rated (?) loop at the top of Twisk) is the reservoir loop... yet the reservoir loop is rated in that document as "Blue Square" (Intermediate) for the flatish stuff to "Black Diamond" (Advanced) for the hike-a-bike stuff near the dam. Hong Kong MTBers have a hard life... learning to walk via running! ;)

That basically means all the other popular trails (legal and illegal) like Ho Pui (DH from Twisk and the Reservoir loop), Tin Man, Wanton, Hornet, etc all firmly in the "Black Diamond", some "Double Black Diamond" (Expert) level.

Some/All of them, the water erosion is very bad (and often made worse from previous concrete-mania), which themselves cause yet another hazard of pointy rocks/concrete and metre deep gullies.

As for the new trail itself, I like it and agree with the general concensus it should be usuable either way, since riding up said trail is a heck of a lot more interesting (and kinder on tyres) than slogging it up on the concrete (which shouldn't really be classed as trail anyway... ho hum). It would be nice if the AFCD can put together some sort of masterplan for Tai Lam CP (hey, HK Airport has one, after all!) and then everyone can see how this new trail fits into the grand scheme of things. I for example had been under the impression you guys had managed to revamp Tin Man (from the Fireman's Lookout going down to the Ho Pui section that leads back to the Tai Lam Reservoir)... since that was what the older workshop maps said you guys were working on. ;)

Not sure where I'm actually going with this, but I guess for whenever the next Olympics/(East-)Asian Games rolls through some part of China, that it would be foolish to consider some place other than Hong Kong for the Cross-Country and Downhill MTB events, on established trails with plenty of IMBA Double Black Diamond stuff to keep even World Class atheletes on their toes. ;)

PS: Nice photos in the gallery... will there be more? What about the videos... saw more than one person sporting a video camera! :woohoo:

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6 years 5 months ago #2490 by tom
Hey, if you can ride the trails in HK then you can ride anywhere!

After 10 years of solid XC experience in eastern Canada I felt like a complete novice here and I have heard that over and over again from MTB fanatics who have moved here...

What HK really needs a closed off MTB competition venue which could combine XC, DH and Freeride . Unfortunately this will never be realized within any CP because its impossible to legally exclude hikers and other trail users from these kinds of trails if they were ever built. So Hopefully the HKCA and the sports policy makers will wake up and do something for the more popular cycling activities like MTB which have been neglected for so long. AFCD can adequately take care of recreational MTB pursuits but its the officially recognised sports bodies like HKCA, the Olympic Association, and Home Affairs Bureau (LCSD) that are really responsible for developing venues for competitive sport and even recreational sport. It was a big embarrassment for all of HKs MTBers when MTB events were excluded from the 2009 East Asian Games that HK hosted. And HK is likely to repeat that mistake in 2023 if it does host the an Asian Games.

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6 years 5 months ago #2492 by StanleyJ

tom wrote: What HK really needs a closed off MTB competition venue which could combine XC, DH and Freeride . Unfortunately this will never be realized within any CP because its impossible to legally exclude hikers and other trail users from these kinds of trails if they were ever built.

Is this actually worrying about a non-existant problem? After all, the IMBA is an advocate of shared trails:


As far as I see it, any trail that is rideable, it should also be hike-a-bikeable. Having foot access means it is open to hikers and runners.

As and when there are competitions, close sections/divert paths as required. Hong Kong does this on the roads pretty much every other week be it for fireworks, horse racing, larger trade shows, Standard Chartered marathon, 1st July protests, etc, etc, etc. The problem with a dedicated MTB trail centre (of LCSD jurisdiction rather than AFCD, say)... which would sit idle most of the time. Leave these big white elephants to the velodrome cyclists! ;)

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6 years 5 months ago #2499 by donkeyman
All very good points raised. I would love to see Ho Pui renovated as it is a good, fun trail and very few hikers so lots of good potential here.

Where is this Hornet trail that you guys mention?

In terms of a competition venue, there is a push to get the Tsueng Kwan O landfill into a XC competition event.

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6 years 5 months ago - 6 years 5 months ago #2502 by Jeff
@Ratcat: I was also initally a bit confused about the point of Tin Man- it's such an easy trail that it was a little disappointing to be building something that would be comfortable on a fully rigid bike.

But after a couple of days of trailbuilding, and talking to the HKMBA guys, the IMBA and even the AFCD I'm now pretty much with Tom on this one. After years of mountain bikers having a completely adversarial relationship with the AFCD, it was great to spend time working with some of them building trails. Some of them at least are really decent people and hopefully the relationship continues to improve.

What I was personally disappointed in was the turnout from mountain bikers. There are easily hundreds of regular riders on TMS on the weekend, dressed in the latest fashionable gear, sporting Leatt braces and 30+K DH bikes, and a lot of them knew that there had been a request for volunteers to work on a new trail. Yet the vast majority of them didn't care enough to give up a day of riding for a day of trailwork, all the while saying "yeah, I heard about that trail and we'll check it out once it's been built" (this is a real quote).

The vast majority of volunteers I met were not TMS 'downhillers'. They usually rode in other areas, they were new to Hong Kong, or they were even new to mountain biking. I even met a group of road bikers who were willing to help build the trail. Generally, a lot of them were exactly the kind of riders that'd be happy to slog it out there on the concrete road and then do a bit of easy singletrack.

Seriously- to the TMS downhillers: WTF kind of attitude is that? Are the regular TMS bikers really so apathetic or so happy riding the same small number of erroded trails over and over again that they can't wield a shovel for a day?
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6 years 5 months ago #2503 by YW-Slayer
Rode it on Saturday with bikesteve and some of my mates. First time riding in the area. It was very muddy, but still very good fun. I thought it flowed very well, just like the singletrack you see in some of the better MTB videos/photos out there. Definitely different from the "good" part of the Tai Lam Chung reservoir loop, which we rode in the afternoon, and which is definitely more of a mixed hiking/biking trail, as well as Shek O.

The only criticisms I have have been set out above, namely: (1) It's not the most accessible trail particularly to less-fit riders (2) It is a bit short (3) The relatively steep climb up the road to the start is also off-putting, which is made worse by the other 2 criticisms!

However, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, it being a fun trail which can be ridden after warming up on the beginner tracks near Route Twisk. It is also very good as a "Starter for 10" (perhaps more, even) in developing the relationship between MTBers and the AFCD. Thumbs up.

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6 years 5 months ago #2504 by ratcat

Well I didn't help out with the digging and I am not really a down hill person. But one thing I know, some downhill folks do dig trails but they are not working with the AFCD. On that particular Sunday, one of these trail digging downhill folks actually was diging and he had just finished work when we arrived at the bus stop. He wouldn't tell us where it is yet. Downhillers and AFCD are mortal enemies. They built trails but they like to do it illegally or in land not governed by AFCD (like Tin Ping Shan).
By doing the Tin Fu trail, it is a great chance for MTBer and AFCD to get know each other in a legitimate fashion. But keeping in mind, there will be mountain rebels who will ride anything that is ridable whether it is legal or not. And in ways this is a card that can be used for legit organization to push forwad in opening up more trials since illegal riding is a sign that new trails are badly needed.
Anyway, what I want to say is, any riders doing any kind of riding in the mountain helps move this sport forward. Well excepts if you crash into a hiker, that will be a horrible set back.

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