“I’m just a bloke who rides a bike in the Peak District and lets people know when it’s muddy,” claims the ‘Keeper of the Peak’.
Until last year, the Keeper of the Peak’s identity was a closely guarded secret.
It was only after three national cycling award nominations that the Keeper’s alter-ego was revealed as Rolls Royce communications manager Chris Maloney.
“Friends who knew said I was like Batman,” he jokes.
The Keeper of the Peak’s key superpower is a Twitter account with more than 32,000 impressions a month - and growing.
Every Peak District mountain biker is a source of information, says Chris, so Keeper of the Peak asks riders to tweet about conditions where they ride, to help others choose where to go, with ‘resilient’ routes promoted in the winter when weather is bad.
“The purpose is to help riders get out and have a good ride, but also to reduce mountain bike damage on sensitive areas,” Chris says.
“We want to get people riding places that can take it.”
As well as his social media activities, Chris advises bikers to consult MTB groups about poor weather riding, and think twice about open moorland trails that hold water, since after weeks of rain or snow, rockier routes are far more enjoyable.
He’s also worked with publisher Vertebrate on free downloadable all-weather routes on Kinder and the Peak’s Eastern Moors.
“Mountain bikers are also walkers, and we all see the impact any of us have on the places we go,” says Chris.
“The Peak District has been here for millions of years, and I think we all have a responsibility to look after this place, no matter what we do.”
Apart from cycle trails and tracks, bikes are only allowed on roads, byways and bridleways, so if a follower tweets about a footpath, Chris contacts them offline and explains why the Keeper only retweets about permissible trails.
“I haven’t had a single user who’s had a problem with that. People are able to make their own decisions, all we can do is educate them about what’s going on,” he said.
The Keeper’s voluntary work has come a long way since his story began after leaving a message on forum in 2013, suggesting a certain route might not be the best place to go after heavy rain.
“Someone posted back: ‘Who died and made you Keeper of the Peak?’ So I thought ‘I’ll use that,’” said Chris, who’s now also in the process of setting up a Keeper service for the Lake District. In the Peak District, he’d like non-cyclists to post about trail conditions too.
“It’s about having a bunch of people out there acting as digital rangers,” says Chris.
“What I say is, you’re all keepers of the Peak.”
- For more information about the Keeper and route guides, go to kofthep.com