Happy Trails

Glen Jacobs has created over 300 kilometres of purpose-built recreational trails in Australia as World Trail Director. It sounds like a huge effort, but as he says: “You do something you love, you will never work another day in your life.”

We spoke with Glen recently about his passion for mountain biking and his work with one of the largest and most experienced MTB trail companies in the world.

Glen Jacobs.

Treadlie: When did you first start riding?
Glen Jacobs: I bought my first MTB in 1983 and took it on some dirt trails, but didn’t start really mountain biking until 1990 following logging trails in the rainforests [behind Cairns].

T: Tell us how you got into the business of creating MTB trails?
GJ: We started a club in 1990. We started building single track trails following old logging trails. We started cutting trails just with volunteers. We held lots of local events. This led eventually to a profession. The National Federation asked us to hold an event, they were blown away by riding single track in the rainforest. This led to the first World Cup cross country events being held in 1994 in Cairns. Then we had the downhill and cross country World Championships in 1996. I was then offered a job and I moved to Switzerland designing trails for the UCI.

T: What are the challenges you’ve experienced?
GJ: We were fined for riding in places we shouldn’t in the 1990s. So we took off, on a road of advocacy. Fast forward to 2020, there are still places that don’t understand – but the great majority do.

All these destinations (Derby, Stromlo, St Helens) that are fully legal – Parks and Wildlife and different agencies are all on board now. But there is still a lack of understanding of what a good trail is or how to build it. And the entry level for competitor trail builders is low.

T: Tell us what tools are used by World Trails?
GJ: We started making our own tools. Using hardox [resistant steel] for cutting our own tools for specialised tools including fire rakes, shaping rakes, drain rakes. We have been selling tools to European ski fields with open terrain. We have a rock carrying strap – it is a sling made from seat belt traps and rated up to four tonne. Everything else is standard excavator.

We have an in-house knowledge manual. Every person who starts with us goes through a skill base induction for the major pillars for trail building which are safety, drainage and predictability. You must have a strong understanding of these three factors.

Glen riding a trail.

T: What’s next for you?
GJ: We specialise in premium destinations and these take three to six years to roll out. We have 18 projects at various stages. There are some amazing destinations in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, Austria, Norway. The new one in Tasmania is at George Town.

The aim is to start with a coffee and finish with a smile.


Words Tom Bodycomb