Built to Last

Todd “Digger” Fiander pioneered a number of trailbuilding features and brought a DIY ethos to mountain biking which continues to influence us today. We took a trip to Mount Fromme to test out a few of Digger’s handbuilt classics that are still running strong after 30 years.

02 November 2022

Long before there were bike parks and blue trails, mountain biking existed on the fringes of society. Trails were built by hand by a tight-knit band of outsiders who sought thrills in nature’s playgrounds. In North Vancouver, British Columbia, one such outsider went by the name of Todd Fiander, more commonly known by his descriptive nickname, Digger.

Digger spent hours on Mount Fromme building hend-hewn cedar slat rollercoasters that allowed a rider to carry speed over boggy, drenched ground. When that didn’t feel like enough, he created the world’s first teeter-totter on his famous Ladies Only trail. The first stump jump. The first suspended wallride. Digger brought an entirely different mindset and vernacular to trailbuilding.

Digger trails aren’t just built for stunts, or thrills, or speed – they’re built to last. As the man himself puts it, “I’m a bit of an environmentalist, so I want it to be done properly. My motto is: you’re out there changing the environment forever. You can’t just build a trail and walk away from it.”

Not only did Digger build these trails for himself to ride, but he also brought others up with him, producing a series of films called North Shore Extreme that kickstarted the careers of some of the North Shore’s most famous riders. Before the internet, before Rampage and Hardline, these video tapes spread the gospel of mountain biking to groms in neighborhood bike shops across North America. It wasn’t always pretty.

Digger recalls a gruesome injury that occurred while filming Wade Simmons’ part in North Shore Extreme 6. “I broke Wade’s femur on a creek gap that was 60 feet across the canyon. The jump was perfect. So Wade hits it, and he slides off his bike down the bank, and his hip catches on this root and it stops him dead. His femur breaks, his leg flips up, and his shoe just goes flying. In North Shore Extreme 6, you can see his shoe go flying off his foot. [NSX 6: Diggin’ It, 46:47] People think it’s a piece of wood flying off, but it’s his shoe. I still have that shoe.”

In the midst of a notably dry autumn, we brought the next generation of riders and trailbuilders out to meet Digger, to experience the trails he built, and to swap stories. He watched gleefully, his face lit up like a kid on Christmas, as riders aired into the 30-foot rock drop known as the Egg. Digger says the best thing about building trails is seeing people ride them – that’s why he still does it, even into his 60s with two replacement knees. For this mountain biking legend, the stoke is still alive.

“I want people out here. I built it for people to go ride. There’s nothing better than one of your chumlies going, “Now THAT was a fuckin’ ride!” Yeah! That’s what it’s all about: your friends having fun on a trail you built.”

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