The Brotherhood of Stoke
Matt Hunter travels to South Africa and meets a trail builder who's carved a mountain bike network to rival the best trails the world over. This episode serves as a reminder of what a connection to homeland means, and how people can express it, through the eyes of local trail builder Hylton Turvey.
The Trail Whisperer
Hylton “Hylly” Turvey is a man of few words. Conversations are punctuated by long pauses, and he seems to put as much care into answering a question as he does to building a trail. There's quiet contemplation of the situation at hand, followed by a thoughtful response.
“I want to create this feeling of what I want to feel on my bike,” he says, explaining his basic trail building philosophy. It can be summed up in one word: Flow. “I enjoy flow,” says Hylly, “So I imagine the mountain and me riding down it on my bike—and that's where the trail will go.”
Flow. It’s that feeling all mountain bikers chase. Found in that euphoric moment when the switch flips from riding the trail to becoming one with it. And in that moment, there's nothing but you, the bike, the trail, and the earth. It is effortless.
Matt Hunter is no stranger to flow, of course, but the trails Hylly and his brother-in-law, Fanie Kok, share with him in Karkloof catch him off guard. These trails, built by Hylly throughout the Karkloof valley, were intended to be the appetizer on the trip, set to whet the appetite for the main course of Drakensberg. But something unexpected happened, and it felt so organic that they switched their focus. Sure, they’d still go ride Drakensberg—the berg itself is an UNESCO world heritage site, but the foothills with ripe with rideable trails—but it felt natural for their experience on Hylly’s trails in Karkloof to set the tone for this episode.
“I think the way he’s [Hylly] connected to the land has allowed him to build a trail network through a valley he was born in and loves,” says Matt. “He really created something that wasn’t there before. I don’t think many people do that—live in a place and change it vastly for the better because they love it.”
It was a love born of necessity—a passion ignited by the hills and valleys of his home.
“I didn't really specifically set out to be a trail builder,” says Hylly. “But growing up where I live in Karkloof, […] we didn't really have anything to ride, so whatever we wanted to ride we had to create.” It wasn’t an easy career trajectory for him either—the expected path is doctor, lawyer, accountant—but he saw no other option for himself. “When I said I wanted to be a trail builder, I got a lot of funny looks. I can't really explain it to people, you know? When something resonates with you, you can't really explain it, but it just feels like this is what you're meant to be doing.”