Mark Smith: The Tokai Trails’ Unsung Hero

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Get to know one of the trail builders who keep the Tokai MTB Park in Cape Town running

Who is Mark Smith? A small part of the committee that keeps Tokai up and running alongside Tim (chief writer of letters), Warren (organizer and motivator), Nikki (memberships), Deon (planning and trail building) and last but not least Lionel of Freewheel Cycology who provides boundless energy and pulled together the membership and sponsorships that allow us to keep improving the trails. Thanks to the work all these guys put in we don’t just get to build trails it means we can offer safety patrols, trailside support and rider assistance in the event of an emergency. At this point, I should add our Euphoria Telcom sponsored emergency number – 087 059 0000. If you are in Tokai and need help this is the number to call to get assistance in the fastest possible time.

Where do you live? Marina da Gama but by the start of September I will be moving to Lakeside, just that bit closer to Tokai. Assuming the bond attorney actually gets his act together…

What do you occupy your days with? Roughly three days a week out on the trails either rebuilding or repairing, one or two days on the safety patrols we put into the area and one day on admin and accounts. Away from Tokai when time allows I put a couple of evenings into teaching Jujitsu, but that has been shelved for a while because of Covid.

What is your trail-building philosophy? It’s simple really, try and build something fun for as many levels of rider as possible and at the same time will stand up to the rigours of a Cape winter.

Any advice for aspiring professional trail builders? Just keep plugging away and make sure you have a very understanding partner / wife…

Where is your favourite place to ride and why? Tokai, hands down. It’s the reason I first got involved with volunteer build days, the place is really special to me.

What projects are you working on at the moment? We are in the early planning stages of a new climbing trail in Tokai.

Hypothetically speaking, you have got three bikes in the garage; a jump bike, a fixie and Minnaar’s DH bike, which one do you pick to go have fun on? If put on the spot it would be Minnaar’s DH bike which I would do my best to not give back…

It takes a crew and lots of sweat to keep the trails maintained.

When are you happiest and why? I think the happiest I have been is lashing around Tokai trying to keep up with my son, sometimes, but not often, I can almost keep up with him. Annoyingly he isn’t even trying…

What is your greatest fear? Losing at anything

What’s the best piece of advice for bike riding you have ever been given and why? At the risk of sounding like a Nike advert: ‘Just do it’. The more you ride the more at ease you are and the more fun it is.

If you won an all-expenses-paid bikecation: would you pick a holiday in Whistler to shred with your mates or a Cape to Cairo bike ride, and why? At a push… Whistler because there would be more chance of getting my son Ben to tag along. And I don’t think I would get very far towards Cairo before wimping out.

Meet Mark Smith, one of the unsung heroes of the Tokai trails
“… the place is really special to me.” – Mark

What has bike riding taught you about yourself and about life in general? The main one is that I don’t bounce back from injury half as well as I used to. But, on a day-to-day basis while we are on our safety patrols I see riders looking out for each other and helping out in an emergency which gives me a lot more faith in people than I used to have.

If you could do a bike ride with three famous people who would they be? John Lennon, singer/songwriter Paul Weller (ex of The Jam), damn that dates me, and Jeremy Clarkson just to annoy all the guys that don’t like him. I’m adding a fourth – Bill Burr because anybody that can rant non-stop for two hours is just going to be fun…Absolutely no politicians because why ruin a good day out.

What makes you stop, pause and think? E-bikes, I used to hate the very idea but I’m slowly coming around. (I’ve at least stopped booing and hissing when I see one now).

Meet Mark Smith, one of the unsung heroes of the Tokai trails
Morning sunrise from Tokai – not bad.

If you had to ride one pump track or bike park in your hood, for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? The Bike Park at Uitsig, Chris Nixon has a great thing going there

How many hours a week are you riding? Thanks to a combination of illness and injury none at the moment. Prior to that it was four to five times a week for a couple of hours at a time and will hopefully be back there soon.

What does the future hold for you? Not a clue and I like that.

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