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  1. #1
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    Anti-fall line and fall line

    One thing that I struggle with, is getting some bikers to embrace trails that are not aligned in the fall line.

    The trail system my husband and I maintain is full of heritage hiking trails that are all straight up and down and mostly eroded beyond bringing back. The park service considers the park full and no new trails allowed. After 10 years of repairing the same old few trails that bikes are allowed on, we have finally reached an agreement of rerouting sections to IMBA standards. The hikers even liked that idea, and we built new life back into our washed out trails. A few trails became so popular, that we may have underestimated the amount of use.

    We then negotiated with the park to put some love into a remote hiking trail that was located in a narrow corridor that would adjoin our trail system with another park. This trail had been hiking only and would become multiuse if we accepted. It also happned to be very rugged and was in extreme grades, 90% of it needed re-routes. This project has taken us 3 years and is well received by bikers as it is essentially a new trail. Now that we are finishing the last few reroutes on a connector (which was illegal before, but ridden by many, and is co-mingled with a hiking trail), bikers are all upset because we have rerouted a few short sections out of the fall line that were technical. I have stated that it was an issue of sustainability and securing access, but they seem to view it as sanitation, even though we just built them 3 miles of sustainable technical trail.

    These final re-route sections of mixed dirt and scattered rocks were not badly eroded yet, but were in the fall line, on mostly dirt and we feared the increased traffic might cause multiple lines and eventual erosion, ending in hikers having another excuse to try and shoot down multiuse. I am a technical rider myself so I know value of technical trails to bikers, but why do so many insist on them in the fall line? Am I missing something?

    I have spoken with people in other states and there seems to be 2 sectors with thought when it comes to trail builders: IMBA anti-fall line and old heritage trail (it ain't broke, don't fix it"). How have others dealt with these differences, and is there somewhere in between where we can build trails together.

  2. #2
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    What is your need to convince them?

    At the end of the day, no matter what you do, you will not make everyone happy. Ultimately the are free to form their own group and lobby land managers for access to build trails. If they find a land manager who agrees with their trail building vision, then they can build trails their way.

    My local trails started as a rouge set motorcycle and atv trails. Over the course of 9 years, we rerouted about 80% of the trails, to eliminate fall line trails and pull the trails out of areas prone to flooding. Throughout the process we got a lot of complaints from a small number of riders. The interesting thing is that we also saw more and more riders in the parking lot. Many riders predicted the demise of our group because we were sanitizing the trails, but today the trail is more popular than ever.

    Some general comments

    Fall line trails provide a false sense of technical ability. All you need to do is point the bike down hill and shift your weight back. If you watch rider go down a fall line trail you will typically see them riding the easiest possible line, even if that takes them off the trail (why fall line trails become wide).

    Most of the complaining has gone away now that we have had the chance to build truly difficult but sustainable trails. It's hard to ride around a feature on a trail bench cut into a 80% side slope. Many of those complaining that IMBA style trails are too easy can't ride our more difficult trails (Walnut and Schooner at Brown County State Park).

    Building beginner and intermediate IMBA style trails is the way to grow mountain biking. I spent time watching riders at my trail at what seemed to me easy fall line descents. While they were easy for me, they really were barriers to entry for beginning riders. They look scary, and are in fact dangerous if you grab too much front brake. As you get more riders and grow the mountain bike community, you will be more likely to have the man power and support to build more difficult (but sustainable) trails.

    From the photos on your blog, it seems you are doing great work. So explain to the distractors why you are doing what you are doing and then move on. Don't worry about whether they agree or not.

  3. #3
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    It looks like you guys have built some nice stuff out there. I really can't comment on the sanitation point of your trails, but here in Michigan we are facing sanitation epidemic. Its never fun losing you fav climb or decent, when it doesn't seem to be needed.

    I disagree with the guy above saying "Don't worry weather they agree or not" that is not how to build a trail system, user input is key to a great trail and I think that is why some of technical stuff is disappearing from MI area trails. Now if the riders disagreeing did not offer to help build and maintain, well that's another issue. I became part the Poto trail crew here to voice my opinion dumbing down trails and if your trail users want the trail built in way that suits their riding they need to get involved.
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  4. #4
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    One's right, and one's wrong. That's not really up for debate. If they can't see the mountains of evidence in front of them.... let them be bitter. Any reasonable land owner will agree with your approach.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for these responses. It does help confirm that what we are doing is indeed right. At our build days we allow some of our passionate and involved volunteers some freedom to put their mark on the trail. We feel it is a great learning experience and inspires volunteers to become builders in the future, but there will always be a bunch of riders that will never come out to help for whatever reason. I accept that, but I want to make sure riders know that we are open to different solutions, if they want to be a part of the solution process.

    I am still baffled with the fall line stuff. Like Indy said, I assumed it was a false sense of technical while descending, but some of our riders like going up the fall line as well. Please keep any information coming. I would like to compile it and try to get more education out to the people in my area.

  6. #6
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    Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone."

    If someone decided they liked the challenge of dodging eye-level branch stubs left hanging in the trail corridor, it wouldn't be very tough to reject that nonsense, yet being accused of trail sanitizing for closing sections that will self-destruct is enough to bring pause to any trail worker.

    Enthusiasts for challenging trail will, at times, deny the evidence under their noses that their favorites are not long for this world. Your job should be to make trails that will last, not to cave into pressure from people who don't know what they are talking about.

    Fall line trail is poor work, not only because it self-destructs, but it's also a waste of elevation change. I'm building a trail section that is mostly downhill for a half-mile and is a blast to ride. It only takes a few pedal strokes to build up enough speed to be going way fast. Down the fall line, the fun would be over in a couple of hundred yards of intense brake grabbing.

    Walt

  7. #7
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    One option is to leave the old fall line trail open with the understanding it is no longer maintained. The vast majority of trail users will use the new trail. The old fall line trail will self destruct because maintenance is no longer being performed on it. Then when no one can ride it any more, you can close it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide View Post
    One option is to leave the old fall line trail open with the understanding it is no longer maintained. The vast majority of trail users will use the new trail. The old fall line trail will self destruct because maintenance is no longer being performed on it. Then when no one can ride it any more, you can close it.
    Yeah, I agree with this. Let the market forces decide. I certainly agree with the sentiment that you want to stay out of the fallline, but there are places where it can work, and in the days of riding IMBA approved trails, it can also be a welcome novelty.

  9. #9
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    I know the trail you're talking about, Ellen, and I've ridden it enough times to know the fall line sections you must be talking about. Having seen and ridden the extremely fun, technical, and sustainable trail that you all built in RW (and the incredibly enthusiastic response to it from the NYC crew), I can't imagine that the re-routes you're doing are that much less fun. In fact, I'd be surprised if they didn't improve the trail experiences for 95% of riders.

    Over the years, I've taken plenty of riders up there, and have had a handful actually turn around and head back to the car because the trail was just so insane in spots. The positive gains in legalizing the trail for multi-use, and making the trail marginally more accessible for those who might want to link up longer routes in the area, far outweighs any criticism from a few crusty folks who love the gnar and dislike change...
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide View Post
    One option is to leave the old fall line trail open with the understanding it is no longer maintained. The vast majority of trail users will use the new trail. The old fall line trail will self destruct because maintenance is no longer being performed on it. Then when no one can ride it any more, you can close it.
    It took us 15 years to convince the park and the hiking group to allow us legal access on one of the several routes in this corridor. I do not see allowing multiple bike lines and self destruction of a trail to happen in front of the hikers eyes as soon as we finish this project, as a smart option, but in some cases a B line may work if your park is ok with that sort of thing. I was really hoping that our trail work would make the route look better that the original path, and hikers might appreciate our efforts enough to consider softening their hold on the many bike bans in the neighboring parks. It may be a pipe dream, but to us, it may be our only option.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbogner View Post
    The positive gains in legalizing the trail for multi-use, and making the trail marginally more accessible for those who might want to link up longer routes in the area, far outweighs any criticism from a few crusty folks who love the gnar and dislike change...
    Thanks Jamie, I think this sums up the situation pretty accurately.

  12. #12
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    Really sorry to report that our" fall line don't change the trail" users are vandalizing our work by rolling rocks out, damaging the the trail marking and piling logs in the new trail. This is very disappointing after explaining all the science. Our crews spent 4 hours repairing yesterday and I fear we may be doing it again next week. Good news, is that while we were working, users said they loved the new work, and thanked us. So I guess we just continue.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixy View Post
    Really sorry to report that our" fall line don't change the trail" users are vandalizing our work by rolling rocks out, damaging the the trail marking and piling logs in the new trail. This is very disappointing after explaining all the science. Our crews spent 4 hours repairing yesterday and I fear we may be doing it again next week. Good news, is that while we were working, users said they loved the new work, and thanked us. So I guess we just continue.
    Install a "game camera" and get evidence of who is doing it.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbogner View Post
    The positive gains in legalizing the trail for multi-use, and making the trail marginally more accessible for those who might want to link up longer routes in the area, far outweighs any criticism from a few crusty folks who love the gnar and dislike change...
    +1 There's always a small minority who will focus on one section rather than the big picture, and insist that it was better the way it was. Fortunately majority rules, so over time they'll have to deal with it and move on.

    I have found that often times riders feel some sort of ownership over sections of trail that they've ridden for a long time, even if they never actually did any maintenance to it. Consequently, they feel slighted if someone else comes in and makes improvements to 'their trail.' It's not very logical, but it does happen quite frequently.

    In my experience, the naysayers eventually give way and realize the improvements you've made. Try to include them in the building somehow - offer to build a technical section somewhere else and invite them to help. If they decline, then they've officially given up any right to complain.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly View Post
    Install a "game camera" and get evidence of who is doing it.
    and keep track of volunteer hours spent repairing the damage.
    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  16. #16
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    I've had the same frustrating experience with one particular trail. I block off the old fall line crap and they move the blocks and continue using it. There is one expert downhiller that does like the new route better-because he knows how to rail the turns, so there is some hope. The problem is the riders that think they're good because they go straight down the hill and when they can't ride something properly, they blame the trail. And MTB'er hate change, because they don't like having to re-learn the trail. I know it only takes one or two times to learn the new line, but I guess that's too long. All you can do is be more persistent than they are and make the old route as unridable as possible. Hopefully they will eventually forget about it.

  17. #17
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    I understand your frustration. my local trails got a complete overhaul a few years ago, designed by one of the pro builders who occasionally visits here (dburatti). Over the few years since, I've seen use of the system increase. I certainly enjoy the new trails more. They make better use of the small hillside we have to work with. There are 2 2-way lines and 2 downhill-only lines. There are even some nice features. Plenty of jumps, a dirt berm (our soil is super sandy, so we only found enough clay for one), a wooden wall ride, a road gap jump, a double step-down drop, a tabletop, a 5' tall elevated bridge with a drop exiting to a tranny, a flow section built into a spot with natural berms, and we even sourced some donated rock from a place that sells stone to create 3 rock gardens.

    By most accounts, the trails are worlds better than they used to be. Mileage was increased modestly. And yet I've still heard a ton of criticism from people because we closed the fall line trails. They were the most "technical" around. Blah blah. Same stuff you're echoing here. Our network is bisected by a pipeline ROW that happens to follow the fall line nicely (water tower at the top of the hill), and we had to gate the ROW in several locations because we kept getting meatheads bombing down the ROW with no regard for cross traffic (trail network crosses the ROW in 6 places) and one of them actually collided with another rider one day. You can still use it, but you have to lift your bike over the gates to do it. That made some people angry.

    I've tried talking to them reasonably and explaining the reasons for the changes and how they are improvements for the long term survival of the trails. We are really lucky to have been able to keep those trails. The land manager was ready to pave every trail through there and the meatheads would have LOVED that. But all explanations were lost on them. Typical meatheads. All testosterone and no sense.

  18. #18
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    I agree the downhill falline trails actually lack challenge rather than adding it. If you re-route a mess with a new contour trail, the vertical is still there! Just ride faster, or do more laps if you are that core an XC dude. Stop and smell the roses it you are Joe average. Going downhill around and over features at more speed increases challenge far more than burning your date out on the rear tire.

  19. #19
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    We have a very long IMBA standard trail system here and it is not unusual for riders to be posting anti-IMBA rants something like "this is the six time we have ridden that trail this year and my 13 riding buddies and I all hate that trail". So a small set of riders will complain while at the same time increase their usage of the trails.

    I think that there are two factors that really add to this issue of IMBA vs fall line.

    1) A false distinction that IMBA = easy and fall line = hard. An IMBA trail can be difficult but it requires land manager permission and a lot of work designing/building features. Most IMBA trails are requested by the land manager to be easy/intermediate trails or are reroutes of bad trails, so it is easy to get the idea that IMBA requires easy trails.

    2) A lack of purpose-built trails expert trails. Due to a general lack of expert trails, some trail users get very possessive of the harder sections of the existing trails.

    I have found that when I talk to people who are complaining the best course of action is to try to recruit them to help. This puts them in a put up or shut up position.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide View Post
    We have a very long IMBA standard trail system here and it is not unusual for riders to be posting anti-IMBA rants something like "this is the six time we have ridden that trail this year and my 13 riding buddies and I all hate that trail". So a small set of riders will complain while at the same time increase their usage of the trails.

    I think that there are two factors that really add to this issue of IMBA vs fall line.

    1) A false distinction that IMBA = easy and fall line = hard. An IMBA trail can be difficult but it requires land manager permission and a lot of work designing/building features. Most IMBA trails are requested by the land manager to be easy/intermediate trails or are reroutes of bad trails, so it is easy to get the idea that IMBA requires easy trails.

    2) A lack of purpose-built trails expert trails. Due to a general lack of expert trails, some trail users get very possessive of the harder sections of the existing trails.

    I have found that when I talk to people who are complaining the best course of action is to try to recruit them to help. This puts them in a put up or shut up position.

    Some really good points here. We actually have some advanced purpose built trails out here in Allamuchy, which are awesome!

    Just to share follow up information on our vandalized trail after it was rebuilt: My statewide organization released a public announcement in regards to the vandalization explaining the difference between state sanctioned vs unsanctioned trail building/unbuilding and consequences of the latter, along with the disappointment of someone undoing the efforts of many volunteers. Result: The repaired trail is still intact after 2 weeks, I'm not saying it will not happen again, but we have been flooded with positive feedback from the community and more volunteers came out to work last week. I also think the whole episode, including forum communication has netted a positive result in both education and rallying volunteer efforts. Those who did it probably still do not get it, but much positive has come from this, so I am feeling like we are still one step ahead.

    We have also decided to not rush this project through on the last few re-routes, but let it sit over the winter and sink in. Hopefully the extra time will allow to make our final re-route feature packed and sustainable.

  21. #21
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    bweide brings up a very valid point: the lack of expert level riding opportunities.

    Take Little League baseball for an example. The beginner players use a field designed for them. As these players progress, the fields progress also.

    Basketball. Many gyms and outdoor courts have a dedicated court with the hoop set lower than regulation.

    This is not a foreign or new concept. This is called progression. If land managers do not understand and accept this fact, they are contributing to unauthorized building. I'm not passing the buck nor do I condone any unauthorized trail building, but one must understand the core of an issue if one hopes to manage the issue.

    The OP is very wise to not rush the project through. Now is the time to reach out to the riders that have issues. Education is great but not the end all. Inclusion and a real effort to create the types of riding opportunities the trail users seek will have a better chance of not only compliance for your new trails but will help reduce the need for riders to build unauthorized trails.

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixy View Post
    One thing that I struggle with, is getting some bikers to embrace trails that are not aligned in the fall line.

    The trail system my husband and I maintain is full of heritage hiking trails that are all straight up and down and mostly eroded beyond bringing back. The park service considers the park full and no new trails allowed. After 10 years of repairing the same old few trails that bikes are allowed on, we have finally reached an agreement of rerouting sections to IMBA standards. The hikers even liked that idea, and we built new life back into our washed out trails. A few trails became so popular, that we may have underestimated the amount of use.

    We then negotiated with the park to put some love into a remote hiking trail that was located in a narrow corridor that would adjoin our trail system with another park. This trail had been hiking only and would become multiuse if we accepted. It also happned to be very rugged and was in extreme grades, 90% of it needed re-routes. This project has taken us 3 years and is well received by bikers as it is essentially a new trail. Now that we are finishing the last few reroutes on a connector (which was illegal before, but ridden by many, and is co-mingled with a hiking trail), bikers are all upset because we have rerouted a few short sections out of the fall line that were technical. I have stated that it was an issue of sustainability and securing access, but they seem to view it as sanitation, even though we just built them 3 miles of sustainable technical trail.

    These final re-route sections of mixed dirt and scattered rocks were not badly eroded yet, but were in the fall line, on mostly dirt and we feared the increased traffic might cause multiple lines and eventual erosion, ending in hikers having another excuse to try and shoot down multiuse. I am a technical rider myself so I know value of technical trails to bikers, but why do so many insist on them in the fall line? Am I missing something?

    I have spoken with people in other states and there seems to be 2 sectors with thought when it comes to trail builders: IMBA anti-fall line and old heritage trail (it ain't broke, don't fix it"). How have others dealt with these differences, and is there somewhere in between where we can build trails together.
    If you case is one where you truly MUST chose between either the fall line trail OR a more sustainable one, go with the sustainable one.

    However, if leaving the old fall line trail open (but not maintained) is an option, I would do that. The trail building organization I'm involved with has put in some re-routes for some trails deemed "unsustainable". Problem is, some people really liked them. In some cases, the fall line trail was closed down. In other cases, left open but not maintained.

    In the case where the old popular one was closed down, there were a LOT of conflicts (this was a section that many folks LOVED), and ultimately I think it has hurt the organization. Statements along the line of "this is right and you are wrong" did NOTHING but cause more animosity. Threats to put up cameras (which one guy was threatening to do) resulted in anonymous threats to mess with our equipment. Just a bad scene.

    In other cases, we just left the old trail as is, took down the sign, and stopped maintaining it. One of two things happen:
    1- In most cases, so few people are interested in it enough to keep it clear that it just shuts itself down. Perfect. Trail is closed and we don't get any flack for it. A few die-hards keep riding it over the next year, until finally it is just too much hassle, and the folks they are with want to go a different way. After a year or so, we might go back and do some re-naturalization (though little is generally needed)
    2- In a few other cases, people continue to ride it, and keep it clear themselves. In these cases, the reduction in traffic made the situation not so bad, and these sections actually get a lot of love. Further, since it is now essentially an optional line down the mountain, only folks wanting the challenge do it, so you do not get as much go-around and trail widening.
    Last edited by kapusta; 07-31-2012 at 07:21 AM.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  23. #23
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    Pixy - I'm on the other side of NYC from you in CT and we have one of the more popular beginner/intermediate parks under our care that gets a bunch of NYC-area traffic where we encounter similar issues. I have a couple local observations that may be helpful:

    - Northeast riders typically measure riding ability by technical capability and rate trail difficultly nearly exclusively on this this standard. This is challenging to deal with when we re-route fall line trail (we don't get flack when we re-route wet areas...), much like Walt mentioned we end up adding much more smooth flowy bench cut trail. People see this as dumbing down the trails.

    Took our build team a while to figure out how to change people's perspective quickly and effectively, we now say,"if its too easy, you're going too slow." (good sightlines are critical!) Most people never haul freight train speeds here except for bombing fireroads or in the DH park because trails were never designed more than up down, that leads to tunnel vision on what types of trails can handle speed from the riders perspective. Pointing out that speed adds challenge and mastering the flow seems to flip the psychological switch is in most riders. Once they do try to ride the trail faster and realize that when the trees are flying by them faster than the old fall line (which increase the pucker factor as well) but for 2x, 3x, 4x the time of the old line we typically never hear about it again.

    -We generally aren't as organized here as in smaller communities/cities around the country- a result of major population density and a bunch of parks scattered all over vs. a couple core riding spots (1 hr drive from manhattan gets you to how many good riding spots??). Someone commented on riders that feel "ownership of trails without work into them", that happens a bunch when you start working at a park that may be your local or a member of your crew's local, but the other person feels its more theirs than yours even when you're working with the LM and other user groups.

    Engagement is critical. In some cases peer pressure works, get enough of their friends or riders they respect involved and they will come around. Don't try to shame them. In some cases, we've actually taken a non-working complainer's suggestion, interpreted it into our design, and then gave them credit if it made sense... that always helps.

    -Only way to win against vandals is to keep undoing what they do, go bigger do more blocking and they'll eventually give up.

    Big fan of RW given everything I saw there even though I've only been once, with Blue Mt and a Bridge between CT and RW plus all the other riding options in CT & NY + a MCBP season pass, it's tough getting over there.

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