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Digger, The Legendary
Trail Builder

By Adam Marsal

He spends up to ten hours a day working on trails for mountain bikers. Meet Todd Fiander, better known as Digger!

For many years, Todd has been the person behind the famous North Shore Trails in Canada. If you saw him in a photograph, you might think he looked a bit wacky, but for mountain bikers he is a true legend.

Why do they call you Digger?
I was building a trail one time and a young lad rode past on a bike. I was not using a shovel – I was digging with my bare hands. I had a beard, my face was covered with dirt, and I was much fatter than I am today. I was digging like a man possessed. They started calling me “Burly Digger,” but in the end it just got shortened to Digger.

(Photo: WeLoveCycling.com)

When you compare mountain biking today to back when you started, what is the difference?
If someone jumped from a couple of feet back then, we used to go wild and yell: “Hey man, you flew! Two feet! Jeepers! Oh my God!” We couldn’t believe it. Then I started building things that got bigger and bigger and now I’m making huge jumps right in the middle of the forest. The boundaries are constantly shifting.

Mountain bikers build trails, but they often run into resistance from conservationists. How do you deal with that?
When I started building trails, I never used to run into anyone. Now, that North Shore has become famous around the world, there are loads of people, but we keep things cool. The main thing is to respect the rules, be polite and not leave trash in the forest.

digger 2
(Photo: Youtube.com)

Apparently there are bears roaming in the forests near Vancouver. Is there a chance of coming across one?
There are more bears on the trails than there are people. Last time I came across one it was five yards away from me. I immediately climbed up a tree and straight away another one appeared. They were both milling around under the tree and trampling on my shovel. I was shaking like a leaf. I looked down and along came a third one and then a fourth one – a whole bear family. They were just after the blueberries – they couldn’t have cared less about me.

Working in the forests could be quite dangerous…
Sometimes it is. One time I nearly broke my leg. It got wedged between the trunk and a branch of a tree and I could almost hear the bone cracking. Even worse was the time when I was cutting down some young cedars on this one trail. They grow like weeds here round Vancouver and they are real sons-of-bitches. They have these really tough, whippy trunks, that you can bend right down to the ground without them breaking. Just for a laugh, I was rolling around on them and letting them whip me back up onto my feet. But then I bent this one trunk down to the ground and it snapped beneath me. The sharp stump staked me, straight up into my chest, missing my heart by an inch. That was probably the closest I have been to death!