Soil Searching: Given to Fly
Building the Perfect Lap
Some people change the world and are beautifully oblivious to the fact.
Ron Penney, Brad Stuart, Luke Beers, Eric Simmons, and Krystina Green, together, make up Landmark Trailworks and are some of these people.
Lining up at the Runway.
It’s the ‘90s. Mountain biking has firmly established itself as a sport with distinct disciplines but freeride is still coming. It is widely acknowledged that British Columbia in Canada gave birth to this phenomenon. The term and lifestyle already existed in snowboarding, so it’s no surprise that many of these early freeride mountain bike pioneers were also avid snowboarders. A convergence was inevitable.
“What if you could hit the same stuff we were hitting on our snowboards, with mountain bikes?” Ron cites the memory with prudence, as if some part of it is still left unanswered.
What started as a notion, soon transpired into an epiphany, which then gave birth to a revolution.
Cabin crew, take your seats.
Some revolutions start with a small step, others with a giant leap. Ron’s case was the latter. He went from a small BMX dirt jump to the 50-foot tables in his snowboard park, literally overnight. “Life changing,” says Ron. Then he quickly adds with a chuckle, “It also helps when the groomer of your local snowboard park is a fellow mountain biker, who shows you where the park’s master light switch is, just before he locks up for the night. . .”
Ranches, Yards, and Farms. What a view from up here.
This was the age of mountain bike films, which served as further catalysts of inspiration, in addition to snowboarding. These, however, mainly consisted of segments with choppy “one-hit-wonders,” as Ron christens them. “Even if you did come across a stunt from the movies, it was a side hit at best,” recalls Ron.
This set him off on a single-minded pursuit to combine all these heavy hitter moves into one, continuous trail. To this day, Ron refuses to build one-hit-wonders. Even if it’s for film segments, like the latest Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Film, it WILL be part of a bigger trail. Ron reckons that if it’s not on a trail, it’s not mountain biking.
A movie premier is actually where Ron learnt about the mythical trail builder, Brad Stuart. When the segment of Brad’s infamous “Yard” came up, Ron was mesmerized by the trail features, rather than the riding. “Instant respect,” he says.
These features were the creation of another snowboarder. Brad was well acquainted with air time, his specialty being backcountry booters of the extra-large variety. His education from winters spent stacking lips transferred directly to mountain biking. His jumps rose from the earth’s surface like mystical creatures of logs and rocks, robed in the finest designer dirt.
Brad’s trail creations were truly monumental. Not only in size and stature, but also as living sculptures of art. His influence in trail feature aesthetics and flow, to this day, stretches beyond what is quantifiable.
Word of Brad’s Yard spread like poplar seeds in a stiff nor’wester throughout the world of mountain biking. Freeriders from all corners of the globe came to seek refuge at this sanctuary. Ultimately, it was in the heart of the Kamloops community where these seeds would find fertile soil.
Today, Brad has carved out what is arguably one of the world’s most renowned and celebrated inner-city bike parks. The Kamloops Bike Ranch (or, just The Ranch, if you’re in the know). Brad’s imagination and descriptions might be tough to follow, but his builds certainly aren’t. At the Ranch, Brad’s ideas come to life and are changing the experience of mountain biking as we know it. He’s been knighted with his own hashtag in honor of his relentless care and dedication — #nobradnoride. Brad does not care about this.
In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above you.
Ron’s revolution continues in his own yard, which is complete with a mountain. From the seemingly impossible, 115ft world-record gap jump to dirt jump lines designed to work on 12-inch wheels, you can find something for everyone at the Farm. What you won’t find is anything that doesn’t flow, that kind of thing just ain’t tolerated out there.
The Farm set the scene for the beginning of the next chapter. As friends gathered to share the rides, they also shared dreams for future builds. The convergence continues.
Please adjust your headrest as we prepare for landing (Coming in sideways!)
Ron and Brad are joined by Luke Beers, Eric Simmons, and Krystina Green, and together they make up Landmark Trailworks.
Luke brought his Carpenter’s Red Seal and fastidious work ethic. More commonly known by his last name, Beers has a contagious passion to share the stoke of riding and building with the youth — a man with a heart (and hands) truly larger than life. Beers was raised in an environment of getting things done and getting them done right. He sorted out a lot of the wrong way of doing things early on in his riding career and emerged with a toolbox of skills. The skills are a combination of a whole lot of common sense to how-the-fuck-did-you-do-that-ness, with a side of efficiency. The efficiency is a noticeable trait, dirt is where it needs to be and not where it doesn’t. When you’re riding a mountain that Beers has spent time on, you know it.
Eric, or Rico as he is more commonly known, is the nephew of freeride. Uncle Wade made a career of pioneering giant and technical freeride moves around the world, he became well known for actually landing them. The Simmons family genetic code is expressed in the loose knees and ability to ride anything. Rico quite naturally and literally fell into the role of guinea pig to test these trail creations. He’s quiet, calculated, and versatile. This, coupled with an acute sense of fine tuning to get the right amount of flow, makes Rico a critical component to the mix — the seasoning that perfects the dish. Ready to serve.
Krystina — the glue. She singlehandedly keeps this contingent moving forward, albeit sideways and skimming off the rails. This ability is a reflection of her own skills. On the bike she’s capable of anything, whether it’s giant jumps or the steepest tech, but she’ll never tell you about that because she’s too busy taking care of you. Krys is invariably making sure that the ride is the best experience for everyone on the trail. She’ll stoke you out, describe features that are coming up, and then drop in and apply her signature precision to the trail.
Collecting the baggage at the odd-size carousel.
Landmark Trailworks did with mountain biking what Led Zeppelin did with the Blues — a supergroup of trail builders who stayed true to the origin, roots and soul of rock ‘n roll, but at the same time redefined and recreated it into something timeless.
Something to declare at customs.
“Having ridden and worked with Brad, Ron, Luke, and Rico individually for years, the news that they were teaming up to form a trail building super group was exciting. The collective potential that this group of shredders and progressive builders possess seemed endless. Only one year later and everything that they have put the Landmark name on has surpassed expectations. Their skill and experience as riders shine through in their building, every corner and feature connected seamlessly to create the best experience possible. Whether you have ridden one of their creations or seen them in your favorite mountain bike film, there’s a pretty good chance that the Landmark crew has shaped the way that you’ve seen or experienced mountain biking in some way. Our sport is lucky to have them.”
“I could go on about how much of a beast Brad is when it comes to trail building, but what always stood out to me was his building style. Brad can be very creative when it comes to working in difficult environments, there’s been building techniques I’ve seen him use that I would never think of trying, but with many hours invested in his craft, he’s discovered these hacks which always impressed me. And It’s people like Ron who help carry our sport. Not only has he built trails for his local community, but he’s also created a MTB paradise to share with his friends. This compound in particular has helped push the progression of the sport countless times and Ron is probably the gnarliest and most core dude to step foot there still.”
“Here’s an example of a thought process, most people vs. Landmark. Most people finish riding a trail and think, ‘Holy shit that was amazing, best day ever, I’m so stoked.’ But to these guys it’s, ‘Holy shit that was amazing, almost the best day ever, imagine how stoked everyone would be if I steepened up that corner, rerouted that section, put a roller before that turn, and added 2 feet to the last jump?’ I’ve met many builders who have done bike pilgrimages to Kamloops, and applied the learnings to their own builds. This indirect sharing of knowledge and techniques is the most exciting aspect to me. It’s wizardry performed with a shovel and rake.”
“They see the best in the sport, and in their friends, and they manifest that vision with an unapologetic confidence that’s very uncommon in our world. They care about you, and your ride. Nobody isn’t cool enough, and nobody isn’t good enough. Everyone is invited to experience these highs. And with not only the terrain, but also the vibe that the Landmark Crew injects into mountain biking, the core culture and image of mountain biking is shining bright and beautiful.”
“Very few heavy hitters fly this low under the radar. Some of the biggest, baddest moves in the industry have been created by these dudes. Visionaries that understand and harness the flow we are all looking for.”
“My nephew Eric ‘Rico’ Simmons is an amazing, humble young man. He makes me so proud with the contributions he has already made to this amazing sport. I’d like to think I had something to do with his fluid style, and his quiet, confident, mastery of the bike, but he has definitely carved his own path. And now, using his keen eye for fun, challenging, and inventive lines, he creates progressive mountain bike awesomeness for many to enjoy. I know first-hand, because I’m one of those riders woohoo’in soaring through the air at Sun Peaks, or Harper Mountain, or any other epicness he has had a hand in. Keep it up Eric!”