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Is the TMS downhill going downhill?

What is happening to the lower section of Tai Mos San's downhill, ask Shaun Horrocks

On a recent ride, on the TMS downhill run, I was surprised to see construction is underway of a new/alternative section of trail that will by pass the now un-rideable bottom section to the dam.

You may think that this is in response to the growing popularity of the sport and to maintain the sustainability of the existing trail, sadly this was not the case. It turns out that the WSD had complained of muddy run off into the dam during the rainy season.

The response of the AFCD to this complaint was to begin cutting a new trail. Still under construction a lot of manpower and hours have gone into the creation of this new section, but to what end? The new section will veer right, about two thirds of the way down. Within seconds the rider will be thrown into steep downhill, slick smooth and fast. Then without warning and with no apparent chicken run there is a massive drop that even the ballsiest of bikers in Hong Kong will balk at. The landing is even more precarious – straight into a banked turn – admittedly the burm does look impressively built. The trail then descends off-camber, straight down with a few additional small drops, terminating with a nasty drop off and ninety degree turn onto the original lower section.

Who is responsible for the design of this new section? I realise it is still under construction, but from the initial look of it I cant see how any of sustainable trail building methods have been employed. The angle of the downhill is too steep, there are no switchbacks or water breaks, and within several rainy seasons I guarantee that this section will become as washed out and rutted as the trail it has been designed to replace. I find this incrediable that a trail like this can be designed the way it is when there is so much information available.

Members of the HKMBA had been in discussion with the AFCD over trail improvements, but it appears that they haven't been heard. " This is typical of how I see the problems in the country park. They consult us to see how to improve the trails then just ignore our suggestions." Says Tom McGuinness HKMBA director. "A lot of time was spent working with professional trail builders from the US to come up with sustainable trails for Tai Lam. And this is not what we suggested. We weren't even aware that they had started construction!" He continued bemused at the shear folly of it all.

So if it's not at the behest of the HKMBA could it be another user group? Or is the AFCD simply taking the meaning of downhill a little too literal! In the end there will only be one winner, the WSD. When the trail does eventually become a funnel for run off it won't go into the dam.

In defence of the AFCD I also noticed that there had been work done on other sections of the trail. Several banked burms have been added on some of the sketchier corners, making the ride smooth and fast. But as for that bottom section I'd sure like to know what trail building manual they are using.

Once the Chinese New Year festivities are over I'm sure the HKMBA would be interested in finding out more from the AFCD as to their trail maintenance and building methods. And whether it follows internationally set standards.

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