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  1. #1
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    Advice: Machine Built Trails

    I’m looking for some advice on trail building machinery. My club is considering renting a piece of equipment to build some new trails next summer. We have a lot of experience building trail, but little to no experience using machinery to build trail.

    There are a few different machines we’re looking into. One is a mini-excavator (Kubota K008). Has a 28” blade and a 6 way bucket. The other option is a walk behind dozer (Dingo). Has a 36” bucket that is 6-way adjustable. Any pro’s & con’s between these two options? We are not limiting ourselves to these 2 options, but these seem like the best options we can find at local rental places (Albany, NY).

    We would like to keep the trails fairly narrow….approx 18”. We’re working with typical east coast terrain. Some rocks, roots, etc. Some of the new trail would be cutting across fairly steep sidehills. 20 percent or better.

    Looking for any advice you guys can offer. We’re trying to get as much info as possible so we can make a good decision on which machine to rent, and how to best use it.

    Thanks!!

  2. #2
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    Typical east-coast?

    1) Forget about the KX008. It's a toy. You want an Kubota U17 or something similar. The operator will make the difference and can close the thread to a narrow 12-16" if you want, despite running the machine at full extension (48" wide).

    2) For typical east-coast terrain, the Dingo cannot be used alone most of the time. It's a good tool to finish a wider trail behind a mini-excavator, but cutting a singletrack with this machine will not result in pretty good result unless you're a semi-god running this machine and have a lot of experience on it. Also, it will create a wider-thread singletrack since you cannot "close" it back as much.

    3) Whatever the machine you choose, hire a pro to train your operator(s) properly. Check out the PTBA website for more details (trailbuilders.org).

    More details on the job, terrain, photo of the forest, etc will help us recommend you the best machine for your specific situation.

    -J
    A trailbuilder from the north

  3. #3
    Almost Human
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    +1 on the mini-ex. And +1 that it's worth the time to find someone who knows how to
    use it. If you can't find a trail pro, maybe ask a DOT or Parks Dept. if they have
    someone who might be interested in helping who can run a mini-ex..

  4. #4
    Zach Attack
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    We use machines a lot. I am an operator but been at it for 20 years and own two of my own. Forget about learning how to use one unless you want to purchase and train your brain. We use a mini TB016 36 wide and DW650. Excavators are very tippi and dangerous. But they are the tool for steeper and mixed terrain and soils followed by a skid steer with shape blade.

    Check out this video of 650 with shape blade. Skid steers are sweet because they allow for you to change the forward pitch of the blade making it like a trowel to lightly compress the soils as a finishing move. There is a cool video of this move on the top of a feature called the Spiral (trail loops around and through a tunnel) on our FB site... Forest Trails Alliance | Facebook
    Last edited by zachi; 10-08-2012 at 02:59 PM. Reason: link woul d not work
    Learn to love it[SIZE="4"][/SIZE]
    www.foresttrailsalliance.org

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the feedback! Please keep it coming! Here are some more details on the job...

    The project we would be working on is a 3 mile trail. Starts at 700', climbs to 1300', then descends to 900'. The side hill at the bottom is approx 5 -10 degrees, middle section gets steep at 20-45, and the top levels off a bit at 10-20.

    The soil near the bottom has high clay content. Soils in the middle and top of the hill contain less clay - more mineral soil.

    The terrain is best described as mixed. The lower sections run through red & white pine forest, with some hardwood mixed in. The upper sections are mostly hardwood - oak, maple, birch. The forest is not very dense. There are many open corridors that we will take advantage of.

    Not a lot of rock in the lower sections, some small rocks & baby heads here & there. The terrain gets rockier as you climb. The mid section has a fair amount of rock & shale. The rocks are up to 1 cu ft in size, some may be slightly larger, and they are fairly spread out....no large "rock gardens". The top section has many glacial boulders to work around (or over), and some large rocks in between. The trail going through the top section may get cut by hand.

    Here are some pics. They are in order from the lower section of the hill to the top of the hill.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Advice: Machine Built Trails-img_5835.jpg  

    Advice: Machine Built Trails-red-pine-2.jpg  

    Advice: Machine Built Trails-img_5198.jpg  

    Advice: Machine Built Trails-01.jpg  


  6. #6
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    Forget about the walk-behind. You want a mini-excavator in that terrain. And a skilled operator.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  7. #7
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbcbike View Post
    Here are some more details on the job...

    The project we would be working on is a 3 mile trail. Starts at 700', climbs to 1300', then descends to 900'. The side hill at the bottom is approx 5 -10 degrees, middle section gets steep at 20-45, and the top levels off a bit at 10-20.
    Those two boulder pics are cool features, but the way I read the post, they are not representative of 50% of your property. You could hand build those short rocky areas to preserve some technical areas.

    You're talking in degrees, most builders think in percent or rise over run. Your steepest section, 45 degrees is a 100% grade. That's mini x territory. With a mini x, you don't make forward progress pressuring the tracks or fighting to maintain your traction, instead you carve your platform, pull forward, carve the platform, pull forward. Most of your property isn't near that steep.

    With a dozier, to build, you need forward progress and traction. On a 50%+ grade you get into situations where you find yourself having to run the outside track on excavated spoils and it gets hairy real quick. A quick spin of the downhill track and you may find yourself unable to get the machine back where it needs to be to make forward progress. If you can not safely turn the machine around 180 degrees on the natural slope (or operate without relying on spoils to keep from rolling down the hill), you're in an area that you need a mini ex. I've pushed through and piled spoils to get through 10 or 15 feet in steeper areas, but going further, finding that inopportune rock, has needed a grip hoist to recover the machine before rolling it down the hill (the fun of the learning curve...no I didn't roll it and it was private property). I have no idea if a heavier dozier like a Sweco works better in the steeps because it can cut a full width in a single pass or not, but a Sweco is not a realistically obtainable rental.

    Most of your terrain, anything up to 35% or so appears very mini skid steer friendly. The issue is, many rental places don't have the blades. Some clubs buy their own for $2,500 or so and simply rent the machine. The mini dozier or skid steer will cut bench faster than a mini ex and get in and out of the project at 5 mph or 6 mph instead of the 3 mph of the mini. The dozier works best also if you have volunteers available for hand work cleaning up after and blending the back slope. If it's a solo project, a mini ex might faster at the end of the day.

    Having both on a project at the same time would obviously be nice. If this is your ONE trail, hiring a pro who knows all the tricks is way to go. If you can experiment somewhere it doesn't really count before building the real trail, that would help. One trick it takes time to learn is that you can keep a lot of your spoils on the trail and simply position them where you want with a dozier. The result is a more flowy, up and down, more fun, more sustainable sort of trail. It's real hard to convince volunteers to move dirt like that by hand rather than just tossing the dirt down the slope. Another tip is to go ride and study a pro-built machine trail. It will change the way you think about building.

    Sorry for the length, hope it helps. I'm not a professional builder, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn.
    Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club
    www.cambc.org

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the replies! Great info!!

    Sorry for the difference in terminology (degrees vs %). But yes, the steepest sections we would build on are 100% slope. The length of trail on the steepest slope would not be very long….less than .25 mile.

    The pics of the boulders are at the top of the hill. We would probably hand cut that section, it will be approx .25 mile long section through the boulders.

    You mentioned using a mini skid steer with a blade attachment. What are the benefits of using a blade vs a bucket?

    The trail I described in my last post is one our top priority for next season, but it’s not the only trail we have planned. We’ve put in approx 2.5 miles of new trail over the last year, and we plan to put in 5+ more miles over the next few years. We also have another property with an extensive trail network that we are looking to expand.

    Please keep the info coming. This is really helping us make an informed decision!

    Thanks!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbcbike View Post
    You mentioned using a mini skid steer with a blade attachment. What are the benefits of using a blade vs a bucket?
    A blade can be twisted/tilted/angled to "cut" the trail from the side slope. Excess material get discarded on the downslope. It can also be used to clear the drainages ditch or such. If you're good, you can also move material on short distance. A good operator will leave a few debris to clear by hand. A 6-way blade does wonder, but with some experience, a 4way blade will give the exact same result.

    A bucket imply scooping and dumping, plus a lot of back/forth. It also require that you're trying to keep the machine at 5% outslope (which is the desire thread outslope). Not the best idea.

    We cut the trail with a strong-as-hell 4way Bradco blade on our Ditch With SK650 and keep the bucket nearby for when we have to move a lot of material.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  10. #10
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbcbike View Post

    You mentioned using a mini skid steer with a blade attachment. What are the benefits of using a blade vs a bucket?

    If your skid steer is sitting along the 25% contour and you want a tread w/ a 5% outslope, you can't cut that with just the standard bucket. You can dig a hole w/ a 25% slope, but that won't help you. However with the blade, you can control the angle which it cuts at.

    This tilt attachment is needed to really make a bucket work like a blade. I've seen this, but have not used it, and I don't know if it cuts bench faster than a blade. However it's a very good do it all tool. Lots of times I'll take the bucket and blade and end up swapping back and forth. This would prevent that.
    Tilt Attach - Order Online! Bradco Tilt Attach for Skid Steer Loaders is the must have tilt attach. This durable Skid Steer Tilt Attach is made to let you tilt your chosen attachments. Tilt almost all your skid steer attachments with the tilt attach.
    Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club
    www.cambc.org

  11. #11
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    A tilt attachment add 200# to your setup. Add the weight of the blade/bucket and the machine become a bit more tippy, but it works. I've spent 4 months on a setup like that on a Bobcat MT55. Turn out we used a 4way blade + tilt attachment (so a 6way) most of the time. The 4 way blade is much stronger than the 6way out of the box.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  12. #12
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    I've located a SK500 that is in great shape and we are going to purchase it. I've used both a SK 650 and SK500. Our soil here is high clay and very little rock.

    It is unfortunately fairly flat here with most of the side slope in the 10-20% range and many sections where it is in the 5-10% range. I have used a bradco 6-way blade and a strait 4-way. I've read various posts warning regarding durability of the 6 way blades and issues but also the benefits of it's ease of use in dialing in trail.

    I'm very interested in the attachment that Fat Tire Willy posted and the "strong as hell 4-way Bradco blade that Jerome mentioned as perhaps the ideal set-up. The DW dealer that I'm working with is very willing to help but only seems to sell to landscapers that don't need or use such a beefy blades. Can someone give me a part number for the blade from Bradco that you recommend for our trail building purposes?

  13. #13
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    Our blade came directly from Ditch Witch. It's actually a rebranded Bradco HD mini blade. On our 650, we use a 4way, 48" wide x 20" high. We work mostly in rocky/rooty soil so I had to replace all bushing after 400hrs, but we're not in a typical situation. We also busted few hoses when we got it because they were improperly routed and got squeezed when you tilted the blade sideway. Took a while to figure out.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  14. #14
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    you can teach an experienced mtber that has some experience with machines to build better trail then an experience operator that doesn't mtb very much or at all.

    It's looks like you get grass veg in you zone and lots of leafs. If the trail ends up being wider at first it will re-veg in no time there. just use natural anchors to turn people where you want the trail to go, other wise they will end up taking the straightest line.

    1 ton mini will work fine if your build a standard trail.

    This is what I like for narrower progressive trails. Tracks move in and out.

    Kubota Tractor Corporation - Construction Equipment | KX Series | KX41-3V Compact Excavator
    or
    324 - Bobcat Company

    This is the best thing ever for progressive trail building. (Jumps, berms, lots of grade reversals and anything else that doesn't make a flat trail) plus you can dial the back slope and out slope with it.
    Hydra-Tilt™ Swing Accessory for Excavators - Bobcat Company
    or
    Tilt buckets, Tilting mud buckets, Excavator tilt buckets OZ Buckets Tilt buckets, Tilting mud buckets, Excavator tilt buckets |

    and a thumb at the least is a must.

    a trail a group of us just got done building this summer. we built it with a 2 ton mini where we could and hand built on the steeper side slopes.
    New East Tiger Summit trail - YouTube

  15. #15
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    Kubota KX41 is the older generation, standard swing machine (the back of the machine swing outside the tracks when you turn, so you might hit a tree). I would suggest the Kubota U17 which is more powerful and zero-swing.

    Bobcat have some issues with multiple commands at the same time, specially on the smaller machines. Avoid if you can.

    Tilt buckets are nice, but if you have a crew to finish behind, it's not worth it for trail work. We use one on jump trails or for bike park, but not trails.

    I agree on the thumb. You will really boost your productivity with one!
    A trailbuilder from the north

  16. #16
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    I think the kx41 is just as powerful or a hair more, plus that ass end helps it be a little more stable and the bigger cab makes room for my dog to lay at my feet while i build.
    Forgot about the Deere, Deere's 17hp mini is more powerful then both those. it's been a over a year since i've been on the Kubota for my new project. I miss the Deere.

    17D Excavator from John*Deere

    has a bigger pump, which= more power and more power for using more controls a one time.

    I dont build flat trail very much, it rains so much in the northwest that flat standard trails just dont work hear with out being muddy most of the time. tilt buckets are amazing for grade reversals, rolling grade dips, in sloped trail and truns, and they work so good on berms. we in-slope a lot of trail hear, hold the water to the back slope then piss it out down trail as we can. a 5% out slope doesnt last with all the rain we get. A berm of mud builds up fast.
    Epic trails get built in the Northwest by epic people!

    Sustainable quality trails please.

  17. #17
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    Yes, we have a lot of grass & vegitation. So the trails should narrow up over time.

    We've been building our trails with 5% outslope and a ton of grade reversals. This has worked well for us in keeping the water off the tread.

    I like the looks of the tilt-bucket. However we would probably have a hard time finding that attachment for a rental (w/o purchasing it). We'll have a finishing crew following the machine, so we can probably get away without it.

    Are there any machines out there that come standard with a 6-way blade? My club might have a hard time spending $2K on an attachement for a machine that we don't own.

    Also, you mentioned that a "thumb" is a must. What exactly is a "thumb"? Sorry for the noobie questions!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbty View Post
    Forgot about the Deere, Deere's 17hp mini is more powerful then both those. it's been a over a year since i've been on the Kubota for my new project. I miss the Deere.
    According to a lot of operator that use it, our 2011 Deere 17D have smoother control than anything else on the market right now, including Kubota. If only the damn hose routing on the boom would be like on the Kubota, it would be the ultimate machine for trailbuilding. In the meantime, we replace 1-2 hose per year because they are on the side of the boom.

    Quote Originally Posted by cbcbike View Post
    Also, you mentioned that a "thumb" is a must. What exactly is a "thumb"? Sorry for the noobie questions!
    It's an hydrolic clamp, or thumb, that close on the bucket to allow you to grab stuff, like logs, rocks, vegetal. Pretty useful!
    A trailbuilder from the north

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly View Post
    If your skid steer is sitting along the 25% contour and you want a tread w/ a 5% outslope, you can't cut that with just the standard bucket.
    Although the bucket does not articulate to cut a particular outslope you can fill just the corner of the bucket and dump it on the left or the right side of the trail as needed to tilt the whole machine to %5, then cut forward till you are no longer happy with the outslope and drop another corner bucket (and back drag to smooth it) to adjust the outslope to %5 and continue on. Depending on the soil driving on spoils can vary, IMO a tracked machine works better for this, I actually think a tracked skid steer works better for EVERYTHING compared to a wheeled one. I do like to keep a level laying on the floor of the machine so I know for sure where the water is going...

    I'm a trail building noob, but I did build some jumps for my town recently, mostly with a bobcat T190, and also some backhoe work, and I've built a lot of concrete skateparks so I've spent "some time" in machines, fwiw.


  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jackbombay View Post
    Although the bucket does not articulate to cut a particular outslope you can fill just the corner of the bucket and dump it on the left or the right side of the trail as needed to tilt the whole machine to %5, then cut forward till you are no longer happy with the outslope and drop another corner bucket (and back drag to smooth it) to adjust the outslope to %5 and continue on. Depending on the soil driving on spoils can vary, IMO a tracked machine works better for this, I actually think a tracked skid steer works better for EVERYTHING compared to a wheeled one. I do like to keep a level laying on the floor of the machine so I know for sure where the water is going...

    I'm a trail building noob, but I did build some jumps for my town recently, mostly with a bobcat T190, and also some backhoe work, and I've built a lot of concrete skateparks so I've spent "some time" in machines, fwiw.

    Your technique work in dirt, but in a forest with rocks & roots, maintaining the machine at 5% outslope is very, very hard because you're not cutting a straight line, you want a trail that meander, follow the contour, has some flow. The blade is a better tool for that specific job.

    I have a fair amount of time on various walk-behind and skid steers, and played with a Sweco as well. I still prefer a mini-X for most trail work.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by HypNoTic View Post
    Your technique work in dirt, but in a forest with rocks & roots, maintaining the machine at 5% outslope is very, very hard because you're not cutting a straight line, you want a trail that meander, follow the contour, has some flow. The blade is a better tool for that specific job.

    I have a fair amount of time on various walk-behind and skid steers, and played with a Sweco as well. I still prefer a mini-X for most trail work.

    Given a choice of tools a mini x or 6 way blade is certainly better, but if the only tool you have available is a bobcat with a bucket it can still be quite useful, the jump line I built was contoured almost exclusively with a bucket on a bobcat.

  22. #22
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    Most rental store will buy the attachment you want if you commit to a semi-long term lease (months). Cat/Hewitt Rental have virtually all the attachment available for rent, even tilt bucket. A Bobcat, despite what you say, is NOT a trailbuilding machine... unless you want a 8ft wide jump trail. A machine for singletrack is supposed to be narrow. If the ONLY machine you can find for your project is a huge skid-steer, DON'T DO IT. Keep looking or hire a pro with the proper equipment!

    That being said, one of my favorite machine on the market right now is the Kubota SVL75 skid-steer. We use it a LOT for bike park, pumptrack, jump trails, etc.

    A Ditch Witch SK500/650, Bobcat MT52/55, Terex PT30, Sweco 480, Sutter 500, Sutter Flowmaster are great dirt pusher/mover. The Singletrack ST240 and most micro/mini-excavator are great polyvalent trailbuilding machines.
    A trailbuilder from the north

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by HypNoTic View Post
    A Bobcat, despite what you say, is NOT a trailbuilding machine...
    I posted up a technique that can be of use in certain situations with a 4 way bucket, I never stated that "a bobcat is a trail building machine" and I never stated that somebody should go out and rent a bobcat to build trails, but of you want to continue arguing points I have not contested have fun doing so!

    I have also already posted that there are better tools for the job, but sometimes you have to use the tools you have available/donated/free even though they are not the best tools for the job, so I posted some info that could help someone in such a situation, and I'd do it again

  24. #24
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    Good discussion! Let's keep it rolling - Keep it positive!

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