Trail Design - Dirt Rag Article
There is an article in the new Dirt Rag (#167) discussing whether things have gone too far with new school (machine built) trail design. The author (an IMBA regional director) argues that he understands the interest in narrower, more difficult, primitive trails, but that easier new school flow trails bring out more new riders (because the majority of bikers are recreationalists) which increases ridership.
This is personally interesting to me because I've watched the success of the Sandy Ridge trail system near Portland for the last couple of years, but I've always been wanting for some more narrow difficult fall line trails to go with the machined berms.
My own personal view is that I think things work best when the decision makers try to accomodate a wide spectrum of interests and skill levels--regardless of the user (bikers, skiers, hikers, you name it). In other words - I don't have a problem with the majority of new trails being machine built and intermediate difficulty, but there should be an effort to also include at least some of the really steep narrow difficult stuff. That gives something to everyone and allows skill levels to progress. A good example is a ski area--the best ones still have mostly blue and green runs, but they still have lots of great blacks and double blacks (that aren't just steep moguls). From the places I've ridden, I think BC does this best.
Curious what others think.
I am not sure who makes the trails around your way but I feel if the trails are being paid for by "government" I think they would almost always build an easier trail as to get the most out of the money. If you want the more difficult stuff your going to need to get out and do it yourself (volunteers) since about let's say 20% of the riders in your area may try the more difficult lines. I see what your saying with the ski mountain design. It would be nice to see it that way but like I said before the trails are going be built with the recreational rider/hiker in mind not the gnarley riders you or I would be.
A bit of everything is great. The trails I build reflect what I enjoy to ride: tight twisty singletrack, preferably with some good technical sections.
There is a lot of local debate on this subject on the BC north shore, as most of the new construction (which is done on city permits, depending on the area) is geared towards smoother, flowy trails. The steep, gnarly, and heavily stunt-driven trails that made the north shore famous aren't being built as often anymore. It's a sign of the popularity of mountain biking around here - before, it was a small fringe group that didn't generate enough publicity for the dangerous and un-authorized trails to be shut down. Now, safety is of much higher concern as many more citizens are out there doing it. High consequence lines have a lot more red tape than they used to.
I agree that a good mix of difficulty levels is important, as is a variety of trail types - some like the steep and rocky, others the fast and flowy. And some, like myself, like all of it.
Some discussion on this exact article going on over here on ridemonkey:
Trails and how we build them
Come ride Cape Mt. on the Oregon coast we got a nice mix of groomed and rough trails, plus the horses are always ripping the trail to shreds so the trails are different every time you ride them.
^^^ From that thread.
Aside from the safety/liability factor, there is the concern about sustainability. Any trail that is approved by "decision makers" will have to pass this test. It costs money to maintain any trail. A gnarly, fall line trail needs work constantly to keep it rideable.
Those flowing side walks are often a result of sustainability.
All over Canada local governments were given federal grant money for infrastructure improvements. A lot of communities chose "trail building" or "trail improvement". In a lot of areas, that consisted of paving existing trails. No one wanted to be saddled with the ongoing costs of maintaining those trails.
The North Shore, Squamish and many other areas of BC have a dedicated group of people who constantly maintain the unofficial and even some of the official trails. Whistler and Mt Washignton have paid crews to do the same job.
Anything new that gets built with official approval will likely be machine built, sustainable IMBA style trails.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
That's certainly a good point. But I have a couple of issues:
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja
(1) Whatever difference there is in sustainability, from what I've actually seen, its only a slight one. Far and away the most common bike driven trail damage I've seen is ruts and bumps leading into switchbacks and turns from fast sections on heavily used trails--read IMBA grade flow trails. Slower more technically advanced trails certainly are subject to damage and I've seen it, but I'm not sure enough people ride them to make it a lot worse. And, if its really not that much a difference, is it a good reason to not include any of them in a new build area?
(2) Isn't it ironic that many of the most famous and epic single tracks out there (including IMBA designated) epics could not be built under the new general trend. For an example, take Comfortably Numb in Whistler. That trail is a true gem--it's fully an XC ride, but its hard and has wonderfully challenging technical climbs and descents. However, I question and worry whether it could/would actually be built using these newer trail standards. And there are a lot more examples than that! If the only epic/famous trails are the old ones and ones that are secretly or illegally built, then I worry a bit about the direction things are headed.
(3) Skills. Enduro is looking like its really going to take off on an international level--especially in the context of the european races. In the US, how can we expect our riders to be really competitive on that stage if they don't have access to trails that push those skills.
My bottom line is lets work harder to make a little something for everyone. Easy loops--great! I love seeing new people in the sport. Blue single track and descents -- build lots of it, in fact make most trails this way. But don't forget the importance and benefit of the challenging iconic trails.
Love to ride hand built trails!
Hand built trails are a hard sell. Machine built trails are something most land managers can relate to because they usually build roads. If you can assure a hand built trail will be built for an acceptable coast than it may be funded. Another concern for a land manager is emergency access and that may be harder to obtain on hand built trails.
I would love to have a machine built trail like this one near me!
Bend:JumpsGOPR0013 - YouTube
You can build technical, sustainable trails, even steep fall line trails but they are very labor intensive to build and maintain. For as many people how complain, many, I'd even say most agencies and clubs have a tough time getting the kind of volunteer hours it takes to build steep trails with lots of "features" and "stunts" so it's easier to hire a guy with a machine and a couple employees. That's one reason DH trails are mostly located on ski areas where riders can be charged a fee that pays a crew to maintain the trails.
While I enjoy technical trails just fine, That's not my favorite kind of riding. My Dad was a race car driver and there's a race track called Mid Ohio that many people call very challenging and although my Dad was a very competent and respected driver, he never really liked the track that much. He used to say "because something is challenging, it's not necessarily fun" What I find most fun is roller coaster, fast, buff single track. That said, I don't think, or want every trail to be like that.
Technical trails don't have to be steep and fall line. There can be plenty of rocks and roots with short little drops/steep sections thrown in here and there and still fall within a general guideline for grades and standards. One problem I see a lot though is people tend to try to go around rocks and roots and the trail tends to get wider and wider. (Yes, we all do it, even you rad, AM stylin' brahs with mad skilz) so the trails need to be designed in such a way that people can't go around.
The bottom line though, is almost always this: Don't complain unless you're willing to step up to the plate to do something. That usually means volunteering but it can also mean things like fundraising. You might want to emulate those guys in the bike porn vids doing to totally gnar stuff, but those vids don't show or talk about impacts and the implications those impacts can have on a public trail system (that isn't even going into the implications of an illegal trail system). Making things happen can be done, but it's a lot of work and those with a short attention span won't accomplish much.