- Derek Nicoloch


Searching For Corridors of Flow

Photography by Sven Martin. Videography by Sam Needham

Trails can’t be measured on a universal scale. There doesn’t exist a comparison of flow to stoke that equates to a universal metric—no ‘trail spectator’ out of 100, no simple charts or graphs. Rather, the experience of the trail, as related to euphoria, is a continuous collection of multitudes extending in all dimensions. There are too many variables to include in the equation, and a limit to the math. It takes a special cultivated knowledge of proximal landscapes to understand and create the right experience. And to maximize this experience it's not just about finding amazing trails, but the process of linking landscapes through a vast network of natural terrain. Ash Smith sums it up best:

"Yes, you're looking for awesome trails, but you're also looking — on a bigger scale — for corridors of flow, through this network of nodes and edges. Through this network which we’ve been blessed with from the agricultural past and trading past. It’s all there; we just need to find the best ways through it.”

Ash has a “sixth sense of sniffing out a trail,” as Sven Martin puts it. A local to South France via Yorkshire, England, Ash is responsible for executing the now legendary Trans-Provence each year. A purist in thinking trails ridden blind can offer something more enriching than perfecting that step-up on the local shuttle run. He finds comfort in the middle of a venn diagram between journey and exhilaration. Earlier this year we were beneficiaries of his skills as he introduced us to the networks hidden in the Hautes-Alpes département of France.

The geography allowed for an ideal location to test the mettle of some friends and to explore routes contrived by past societal pursuits. Sven Martin was there to eternalize memories as he captured the moments on the “traverses and on some of the climbs and summits, working to not upset the delicate balance of a long group ride.” While surveying a mountain range sitting outside France’s highest city, “We were never stuck with one back drop or one type of light. We would start early and end late allowing plenty of different moments. Storms, thunder, lightning and an ever changing sky; from stark blue to stormy black with its angry clouds only enhancing the visual experience.”

Coupling turns like a condor riding a thermal and tracing antiquated paths from ruins to water both share a sense of exploit. But when we found trails never done (by us), and were confronted with with the mystery of novel lines around each turn, we knew we had found what we were searching for. As Ash describes it is this “exhilaration or shred factor (or whatever you want to call it!) that distinguishes mountain biking from other cycling disciplines." It’s this feeling that keeps us longing for our next ride and in a never-ending search for corridors of flow.

“Expanding your horizons and riding different terrain, different dirt, and different styles of tracks like the ones we sampled on this trip opens new doors as to what is possible. Ride your bike, feel the wind in your face, go fast, go slow, get off and walk, find new trails, go on some road trips, push hard uphill or walk (again), try stuff, feel uncomfortable, feel confident, and remember to do something that scares you a little bit or a lot every single damn day”

- Anka Martin

“Managing to link these turns and have a good run on a first decent is an amazing feeling and it’s this feeling we keep in our heads when spending hours staring at maps searching or when we have our bikes on our backs to reach the top and drop in continuing to the next valley.”

- Bryan Watt

“The funny thing is there has to be so many more ‘best-ever’ trails lying waiting to be caressed as I think we only just scratched the surface”

- Sven Martin

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