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  1. #1
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    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.

    I just got back from one of my local rides. I found that one of the more challenging sections of trail had a very large boulder removed to make the section passible to those who lack the skills to ride the section or perhaps a Strava user was looking to trim some time from his ride. Either way I feel it is important to let newbies know that this kind of trail maintenance is just not acceptable. In this particular case that boulder was supporting several larger and smaller rocks which will now eventually collapse onto the trail. There is a difference between removing a hazard such as a fallen tree and removing a trail feature. Those of us who have taken the time to develop skills enjoy being challenged. Please take the time to develop your skills and don't make unauthorized changes to the trails. If you are unable to ride a certain section there is no shame in walking it.
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  2. #2
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    The trail builders at Wilton Woods in CT feel the same way. This pic isn't the greatest, but read the "fine print".

    It was definitely a "rugged" section.

    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.-raptor-rock-garden.jpg

  3. #3
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    I don't understand. Wouldn't trail improvement mean adding new technical features, obstacles, jumps and drops. Because I would be all in favor of that.
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  4. #4
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    One of my local trails has cheater lines for all obstacles. There was a rather large argument this year over whether the tech obstacles should be on the main "faster" more "natural" line, or whether the obstacles should be "side" lines. Current practice is for most obstacles to be in the main line, and the people who were complaining about it were essentially told to deal with it. None of the obstacles are too big or difficult to ride on any XC bike by people with moderate skill, and the trail has been that way for many years, and nobody could come up with a solid, reasonable reason to change the trail wholesale, other than to make it faster. Which is not a very good reason at all.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattnmtns View Post
    I don't understand. Wouldn't trail improvement mean adding new technical features, obstacles, jumps and drops. Because I would be all in favor of that.
    I agree but most of our trails have enough natural features given the rocky terrain and large boulders. Lots of our trails are in canyons or along hillsides eliminating the option for cheater lines because there simply isn't enough real estate. We do have lots of riders who like to add log rollers or stack rocks near boulders which adds some nice tech for those that choose to try them. Unfortunately those obstacles only last a few days as hikers and equestrians who hate bikers tear them down quickly. We had a section of trail that was burned several years ago leaving tons of dead trees. Riders used the deadfall to make some very fun challenging log rollers, ladders etc. A local hiking group complained as did a local equestrian group stating that these obstacles made the trails more dangerous when in truth since they were off the main trail and forced riders to slow down they actually made the trail safer for hikers and horses. I guess they were protecting us from ourselves.
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  6. #6
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    Lol, not much of a problem with anyone moving the large trail "features" around here. Most consist of bedrock in one form or another sticking out of the sides of the hills or just straight up out of the ground. Would take a good amount of dynamite to even get it's attention.
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  7. #7
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    We have had this problem with some noobs. They think they are doing everyone a favor and just don't know any better. We have tried to educate. We have put pleas on trail maintenance do's and don't next to maps at the trailhead. We haven't had it happen in a couple of years now....that means we are probably overdue.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandmangts View Post
    I just got back from one of my local rides. I found that one of the more challenging sections of trail had a very large boulder removed to make the section passible to those who lack the skills to ride the section or perhaps a Strava user was looking to trim some time from his ride. Either way I feel it is important to let newbies know that this kind of trail maintenance is just not acceptable. In this particular case that boulder was supporting several larger and smaller rocks which will now eventually collapse onto the trail. There is a difference between removing a hazard such as a fallen tree and removing a trail feature. Those of us who have taken the time to develop skills enjoy being challenged. Please take the time to develop your skills and don't make unauthorized changes to the trails. If you are unable to ride a certain section there is no shame in walking it.
    What is the difference between removing a fallen tree and removing something else? What exactly is the difference? I recently came upon a fallen tree. It required special skill to negotiate, but was negotiable.

  9. #9
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    Would have to do with the size and attitude of the downed tree. 10" in diameter, laying flat on the ground, leave it. Any size, a foot above the ground, move it. Around here they seldom fall flat on the ground, usually fall on a side hill and are at an angle and propped off the ground too. A lot of times the branchy part is over the trail. Gotta either get off and climb over/through/ around them, or bring out the chainsaw and remove them.
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  10. #10
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    100% agree with the OP and DO NOT get the mentality it takes to do such a thing, but I guess that's why people take performance enhancing drugs and find other ways to cheat, just don't have the real skill or desire to become better, naturally. When I first rode 1 of my favourite trails, it was super hard, think I WALKED 90% of it, but I didn't leave there thinking I was going to come back with a saw, shovel, pick and make it easier, I saw it as a challenge, a goal to improve my riding skills to eventually one day be able to ride 95% of it and you know what, I do now regularly ride about 95% of that trail and absolutely love it.

    SIMPLE, the tree was not there when the trail was built, it came upon the trail by the forces of nature, obviously the downed tree you came upon was not very big. Personally I tend to leave fallen trees, if they can be added into the trail as a feature, but if there are multiple down trees which would present a hazard more so than a rideable object, they get removed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    What is the difference between removing a fallen tree and removing something else? What exactly is the difference? I recently came upon a fallen tree. It required special skill to negotiate, but was negotiable.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillbillyTom View Post
    Would have to do with the size and attitude of the downed tree. 10" in diameter, laying flat on the ground, leave it. Any size, a foot above the ground, move it. Around here they seldom fall flat on the ground, usually fall on a side hill and are at an angle and propped off the ground too. A lot of times the branchy part is over the trail. Gotta either get off and climb over/through/ around them, or bring out the chainsaw and remove them.
    The OP stated quite clearly: "If you are unable to ride a certain section there is no shame in walking it." The tree I had to negotiate required me to get off my bike, climb on top of the tree, lift my bike up set it down on the other side, and then climb down. That is how one negotiates it, but it is negotiable. The tree is certainly natural.. Why should it be removed if a boulder should not be removed?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    SIMPLE, the tree was not there when the trail was built, it came upon the trail by the forces of nature, obviously the downed tree you came upon was not very big. Personally I tend to leave fallen trees, if they can be added into the trail as a feature, but if there are multiple down trees which would present a hazard more so than a rideable object, they get removed.
    As noted above, the tree I came upon was very big. I had to climb it and lift my bike. I am sure there are some riders who could jump their bikes up and onto the tree. I've seen such things in videos.

    As far as justifying removing the tree because it wasn't there when the trail was build and came by force of nature, what about rocks that find their way onto trails by force of nature after the trails are built?

    What to leave and what to remove is a tough issue. The more we consider and discuss the issue, the better we will be able to handle matters when we are on the trail.

  13. #13
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    You decide what to move off the trail by the overall difficulty of the trail, so if you're on an intermediate trail and a 3ft wide tree falls, it's a 99% certainty that most riders will not be able to hop their bikes up onto it and off the other side. You remove such obstacles because it's about riding your bike, not walking and having an obstacle on a trail that maybe 1-2% of the people riding the trail can clear is just stupid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    As noted above, the tree I came upon was very big. I had to climb it and lift my bike. I am sure there are some riders who could jump their bikes up and onto the tree. I've seen such things in videos.

    As far as justifying removing the tree because it wasn't there when the trail was build and came by force of nature, what about rocks that find their way onto trails by force of nature after the trails are built?

    What to leave and what to remove is a tough issue. The more we consider and discuss the issue, the better we will be able to handle matters when we are on the trail.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LyNx View Post
    You decide what to move off the trail by the overall difficulty of the trail, so if you're on an intermediate trail and a 3ft wide tree falls, it's a 99% certainty that most riders will not be able to hop their bikes up onto it and off the other side. You remove such obstacles because it's about riding your bike, not walking and having an obstacle on a trail that maybe 1-2% of the people riding the trail can clear is just stupid.
    A much better analysis!

  15. #15
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    The tree is certainly natural.. Why should it be removed if a boulder should not be removed?
    Unmaintained dead-fall can essentially close a trail and have it reclaimed by nature in very short order. The occasional bolder dislodged from it's footing is far less of an issue, simply because boulders don't usually clog up a trail every off-season like fallen trees.

    Loose boulders sitting in the middle of a trail that have been recently dislodged from an embedded state...and cannot be ridden over or walked over because the are loose and may move....remove them without hesitation imo. Or better yet, try to re-embed the rock in it's previous spot. Large boulders that are too heavy for 2 or 3 people to move probably become 'trail features'.

  16. #16
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    It was determined by all, to leave this fallen tree, and to modify the trail instead.

  17. #17
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    I recently came across the same type of thing as the OP. As I was psyching myself up for a section of trail that had given me a problem or two, I approached it to find that a small bush and rock had been removed for a "work-a-round" which totally pissed me off. This was the ONLY tech section of a very easy trail and it made it more fun. Like a 5.10 move on a 5.7 route.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    The OP stated quite clearly: "If you are unable to ride a certain section there is no shame in walking it." The tree I had to negotiate required me to get off my bike, climb on top of the tree, lift my bike up set it down on the other side, and then climb down. That is how one negotiates it, but it is negotiable. The tree is certainly natural.. Why should it be removed if a boulder should not be removed?
    All this is well and good if some people have been clearing it. But if it's something that no one can clear, and everyone has to stop, get off, and drag their bike over it, it's not a trail feature, it's just a PITA. The other option is to move the trail around the fallen tree. But this very often isn't an option here as many times the terrain is very steep up on one side and over the edge and straight down on the other side of the 2 ft wide trail. And these steep side hills are where the trees usually seem to fall. Off the ground and at a 45 degree angle over the side of the trail. Flat land, yeah, leave it in case some wandering pro trials guy comes along that can get over it, and just route the main trail around it.
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  19. #19
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    My home trail system was recently taken over by a new organization and the first order of business was to take out a bunch of the few technical features the trail had, because they said they have to make the trails accessible to everyone and those obstacles were too difficult for children and beginners. I hate it because it was pretty easy already, there was nothing there that couldn't be cleared by an advanced beginner. Seems to be their standard is that if it can't be cleared by a kid on their first ride, then it has to go.

    As far as clearing deadfall, I'd say you'd have to decide on a case-by-case basis. If a tree fell in a location and in a way that it could be incorporated into the trail as a new feature, and was consistent with other obstacles on the same trail, then I'd be inclined to keep it.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrmas View Post
    We have had this problem with some noobs. They think they are doing everyone a favor and just don't know any better. We have tried to educate. We have put pleas on trail maintenance do's and don't next to maps at the trailhead. We haven't had it happen in a couple of years now....that means we are probably overdue.
    overdue they just might have moved the trail on you.

    Trails should be left as is unless you are adding features
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  21. #21
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    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.

    Um is it confirmed that it was a newb rider as everyone pointing fingers. Of course this type of thing has happened but I wouldn't blame all trail changes on them. I think hikers and animal slave drivers are more at fault for it.


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    I prefer to leave the trail as it is, even if a tree falls you can pile smaller logs on either side of it to go over it. I mean is some cases if the tree is 4 foot diameter it may need to have a hole cut through it to pass. If it posses as danger then by all means it should be repaired, water wash out and what not but for most things you can leave small added features by mother nature alone. It took me years to have the skills I do now for going over trees at least 2 feet thick, I don't agree about making it easier, practice and practice to ride it, way more fun.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by HitmenOnlyInc View Post
    I recently came across the same type of thing as the OP. As I was psyching myself up for a section of trail that had given me a problem or two, I approached it to find that a small bush and rock had been removed for a "work-a-round" which totally pissed me off. This was the ONLY tech section of a very easy trail and it made it more fun. Like a 5.10 move on a 5.7 route.
    While I agree that the feature probably made the trail more fun, as a lifelong climber i disagree with a 5.10 move on a 5.7 route. Routes are graded based on the hardest move, therefore that little technical section made the trail as a whole technical. The difference in cycling is it is a lot easier to walk around a harder section that it is to "skip" hard climbing moves.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by serious1 View Post
    While I agree that the feature probably made the trail more fun, as a lifelong climber i disagree with a 5.10 move on a 5.7 route. Routes are graded based on the hardest move, therefore that little technical section made the trail as a whole technical. The difference in cycling is it is a lot easier to walk around a harder section that it is to "skip" hard climbing moves.
    More like chiseling a hold in the 5.10 move making the route a 5.7.

    There is a old school tight and twisty trail that I ride a lot where cheater lines and cut trees have really changed the nature.

    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.-818384d1374559771-dumber-downers-again-img_20130722_200920%5B1%5D.jpg

    This is one cheater line that we final left alone since it would not have been long before someone cut out the tree in the center of frame. for reference the historic line was between the 2 trees.

  25. #25
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    I think it's pretty cool that a lot of you get to ride trails specifically built for mountain biking with designed features. Just about every trail I've ridden started out as either an old mining road for hauling out ore, horsie roads for wanna-be cowboys, or multi-use trails mostly built for hikers and equestrians. They were all "sanitized" at one point or another and just because a boulder got washed into the middle of a trail during a flood or a storm blew a tree down does not necessarily make these items permanent trail features IMO. This is an pre-sanitized trail-

    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.-dense_forest_with_ferns_afr-n-5301.jpg


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  26. #26
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    After reading the posts that have been made here, I'm thinking I see why moving a down tree out of the trail at the mtn bike riding area is a bigger problem for some than others. We are very fortunate to have different kinds of trails to ride here. A specific mountain bike park with on site management and volunteer worker groomed single track. An unmanaged mountain bike park. Multi use horse, hiker, mtn biker, whatever trails. And a 12 square mile mess known as Chadwick ATV use area. Then if you want to travel a bit further, there are several other bike parks and trail systems to ride. We even have a couple short downhill courses around.
    So there's a ride for everybody. Don't like one, there are others to chose from. Fast, slow, easy, hard, or just plain ugly, it's all here. So moving a downed tree out of the trail at one of the mtn bike parks doesn't hurt anything. You can always go to the backwoods horse riding area where nobody is going to pack a chain saw that far back in there to cut out one down tree. A rock in the trail, lol, some of these places the trail is nothing but big ledge rock and boulders. So once again, it doesn't hurt to "sanitize" the mtn bike specific parks a little bit.
    If there was only one place to ride like it seems to be in many places, yes, I can see where moving a new challenge be a royal bummer.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    One of my local trails has cheater lines for all obstacles. There was a rather large argument this year over whether the tech obstacles should be on the main "faster" more "natural" line, or whether the obstacles should be "side" lines. Current practice is for most obstacles to be in the main line, and the people who were complaining about it were essentially told to deal with it. None of the obstacles are too big or difficult to ride on any XC bike by people with moderate skill, and the trail has been that way for many years, and nobody could come up with a solid, reasonable reason to change the trail wholesale, other than to make it faster. Which is not a very good reason at all.
    It's sad that this happens. I went back to a trail I rode years ago, during the ride I kept thinking, what happened to all the log overs and other tech sections. Sure enough the second ride there I started to see all the unused trails leading to those.

    I'm not trying to be a mountain bike snob, but honestly if you're just going to ride smooth dirt and avoid everything, why not just ride a paved trail?
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in SoCal View Post
    As noted above, the tree I came upon was very big. I had to climb it and lift my bike. I am sure there are some riders who could jump their bikes up and onto the tree. I've seen such things in videos.

    As far as justifying removing the tree because it wasn't there when the trail was build and came by force of nature, what about rocks that find their way onto trails by force of nature after the trails are built?

    What to leave and what to remove is a tough issue. The more we consider and discuss the issue, the better we will be able to handle matters when we are on the trail.
    You're being purposely obtuse, a tree across the trail at chest height isn't getting ridden over or under, so that is a case for removal.
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  29. #29
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    We have had a rash of "improvement" on our local trail network in the last 5 years or so. The culprit doesn't really understand what he's doing and ironically often ends up making things more difficult. For instance, when he tried to hammer out a bedrock ledge, he ended up making a pointy fin that's harder than what was originally there. Off-camber, tight radius ride-arounds on sidehills create erosion issues where there weren't any to start with.

    I don't really understand why there is a debate about fallen trees. Bedrock outcrops, boulders, root ledges, etc. may all be part of the trail design. They're part of the experience. And while a downed log might be part of that design, random deadfall is not. For example:

    Dumbing down/sanitizing trails.-macpassdeadfall.jpg

    Thanks to pine bark beetles, we're going through a few years of particularly heavy deadfall. Clearing downed trees is a pretty regular chore.
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  30. #30
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    As a moto guy, why don't tracks have only 120' doubles? I have jumped them, so why not improve your moto skill, or roll the double, instead of make a tabletop instead?
    Beginner riders need to have something that is capable of being done, to BUILD the skill. Simply saying "improve your skill or walk it" isn't going to help the beginner get better at it. There need to be stepping stones to get from one end of the spectrum to the other.

    That said, I hate it when a log cross has been cut up and removed. I prefer when a log has been partially built up. You have the built up line, and you have an original segment where it is still quite challenging. Rocky sections, if possible, should have areas that have more "ramping" to make it much easier to go over them. Obviously local terrain will vary greatly, so what works here may not work there. Nevertheless, if someone does screw something up, and make it easier, it's not the end of the world.
    Heck, want to make it more difficult again? Dump the new bike with fancy suspension and jump on a rigid bike with tubed tires, and run 40 psi and do the section fast. That's going to build some skill up quick....

  31. #31
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    I think sanitizing tough trails is a shame.

    That said, does anyone have any photos/videos of technical trails that are sanitized? I am curious to see just what some people feel the need to dumb down.

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    One thing that hasn't been mentioned is what the Forest Service considers a sustainable trail. Unfortunately a lot of local IMBA and SORBA trail volunteers get a bad rap maintaining national forest service trails. I am sure this differs from one district to another but in the south east a lot of our "natural", rugged and technical trails aren't considered sustainable. Usually due to improper grade and the trail following the fall line. So often some of these technical features are features due to erosion.

    Kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. In order for your local bike association to have any say or be allowed to do any trail maintenance they have to do on the Forest Service's terms. This often isn't what us riders, especially us who prefer technical and rugged trails, think is the best solution. I have personally seen trails go from awesome to boring due to trail maintenance. Some was due to local volunteers other was due to contractors who won the lowest bid.

    Sometimes that includes clearing tree falls. I personal don't mind smaller ones. Typically riders will make it rideable even the larger ones. Unfortunately they normally get removed if they block the entire trail. Remember most of our trails if not all in the the SE are mix use trails. Hikers and equestrians don't find our features so inviting.

    So really I think the best thing we could impress on new riders is that if they wish to have a stake and say so in the trails they ride it's best to get in on ground up. Join or volunteer with your local IMBA/SORBA club. I think most would have a better appreciation of our trails, the maintenance done, and the potential users conflicts.

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    Rule of thumb for 'fixing' trails: if you didn't build the trail yourself, or aren't in sync with the people who did (or at least with whoever has been maintaining it regularly up until this point), leave it the hell alone. Exceptions IMO are faceslappers, litter, small deadfall that wasn't part of the original design, and trees that have newly fallen across the trail but aren't resting on the ground (as in the pic above).

    I've got a local trail I built where there are a couple deadfall logs (about 8" or so dia) that were purposely included in the trail design as speed checks. Pisses me right off when somebody that couldn't be bothered to show up a single time in the years we spent laying out and constructing the trail takes it upon themselves to show up after the fact and start changing things up with no idea as to why things were done that way in the first place. Specially when it's one of very few minor obstacles they have to deal with in miles riding. Same goes for go-arounds and shortcuts. If the trail was meant to have go-arounds, they would've been designed in in the first place. Not every trail is meant to be 100% rideable by beginners and little kids. If you're too proud to get off and walk once in awhile, you should stick to trails that fit your ability level better.

    As said above also, get involved with your local club if you want to learn more about what you should and shouldn't do as far as trail maintenance. And never take it upon yourself to modify a trail you didn't help build. That's a dick move.
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