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  1. #1
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    Bikes vs Horses If you can't beat them join them.

    First off, I really appreciate all of the wisdom the trail builders offer on this forum. Now please chew on this and tell me why it is a bad idea.

    I posted a thread Compacting Tread for Horse / Bike use - Mtbr Forums a few weeks ago about compacting the trail and horses sinking into it. What I would like to know now is if anyone has ever tried the following and how did it work.

    Flag the trail route using 8% max grade, grade reversals, grub out all trees, remove leaf litter(so they can see where I want them to go), clear the corridor, then just let the horses loose and let them walk and compact the trail. I donít see the point of the volunteers and I killing ourselves digging out a tread surface just to have the horses destroy it. We are building 8 new miles in a park with an existing 6 miles of trails that included no planning at all. The six original miles (except the sections on the fall line or parts that are too steep) are well compacted and the horses seem to do little damage on them even when they are wet. The trails are also fun in a challenging way, but not so much as to prevent beginners from joining the sport, the trail is simply very narrow with a few more roots.

    This also brings into account a Dirt Rag magazine article from a few months back about how all trails are becoming the same. I agree that all new machine built trails feel similar though I happen to enjoy them. If we did the above suggestion it would make a trail with a sustainable grade with grade reversals (fits the IMBA model) but it would have unique feel to it, it would be true single track that is approximately only 12Ē wide without having to wait years for the trail to grow into a true single track.

    Also of note another machine built bike only trail is fixing to start construction at a nearby state park. This trail would be able accommodate riders that think the above suggestion is too difficult.

  2. #2
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    A couple of years ago we did an emergency trail reroute due to a private property closure. We didn't have the resources to complete the entire reroute immediately, so we completed the hard parts, layout the trail across the easy areas and removed the rocks. The downhill edge of the trail was marked with frequent plastic survey whiskers. Fairly frequently we had pairs of whiskers to mark both the uphill side and downhill side of the trail, so it was obvious which side of the lower edge markers to walk on. When we came back a year later the trail users had walked in a nice 12" wide tread.

  3. #3
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    If you get enough gee gees on the trail they could compact it better in theory than using hand tools and bikes. Trails almost always improve if gven time and use, but the only thing I would worry about is horses taking out the downslope edge of a bench on a trail as narrow as 30cm (12"). May not be an issue on flatter terrain, but if the sideslope is significant, horses can be a real pest.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    the horses seem to do little damage on them even when they are wet.
    And that's what ruins it. Horsers have no culture of avoiding wet trails. And they don't seem to mind that when they ride a trail in the wet that it ruins it for all other user groups - because nasty trails really don't make a difference to them.

    These posts about getting along with horsers and motos - great in theory, but in reality mtbrs want trails that can be ridden on a bike. Horses and motos destroy that if they ride them when wet, and a sizeable portion of those user groups simply don't care if mtbrs can't ride.

    Steve Z
    Pedaling when it's dry
    And paddling when it's wet

    My insignificant blog:
    http://swampboy62.blogspot.com/

  5. #5
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    And that's what ruins it. Horsers have no culture of avoiding wet trails. And they don't seem to mind that when they ride a trail in the wet that it ruins it for all other user groups - because nasty trails really don't make a difference to them.

    These posts about getting along with horsers and motos - great in theory, but in reality mtbrs want trails that can be ridden on a bike. Horses and motos destroy that if they ride them when wet, and a sizeable portion of those user groups simply don't care if mtbrs can't ride.
    I think a seasonal closure would go a long way to keeping the trails from getting torn up and a 24 hour closure after a rain even during drier times of the year. This is the way the GA DNR handles motorized trails.

    But to stay on subject please post any experiences with letting a trail work itself in.

  6. #6
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    don't know what soil conditions you have there, but I would think if there is 2-4 inches of organic laden soil on top of the mineral soil. you may have problems, the organic soil is a sponge, trail will take longer to dry.. the horse hooves will churn the soil and certainly kill or pound down any growth, but unless you remove that top "growth layer" of soil, and get down to the mineral level.. I think it will be problematic..

    without the outslope, I'd be afraid that your trail could become a channel or gutter for water.

    But if you proceed, would be interesting to hear how it turns out.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampboy62 View Post
    These posts about getting along with horsers and motos - great in theory, but in reality mtbrs want trails that can be ridden on a bike. Horses and motos destroy that if they ride them when wet....
    Horses will turn the entire length of a trail into moon dust, but motos just turn the "way too steep to be rideable parts" into moon dust, I know I want as little moon dust as possible. In the wet horses also turn the entire trail into a series of potholes and those potholes can persist for the better part of a riding season even on high traffic trails.

    Horses are far worse than any other trail vehicle.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    First off, I really appreciate all of the wisdom the trail builders offer on this forum. Now please chew on this and tell me why it is a bad idea.

    I posted a thread Compacting Tread for Horse / Bike use - Mtbr Forums a few weeks ago about compacting the trail and horses sinking into it. What I would like to know now is if anyone has ever tried the following and how did it work.

    Flag the trail route using 8% max grade, grade reversals, grub out all trees, remove leaf litter(so they can see where I want them to go), clear the corridor, then just let the horses loose and let them walk and compact the trail. I donít see the point of the volunteers and I killing ourselves digging out a tread surface just to have the horses destroy it. We are building 8 new miles in a park with an existing 6 miles of trails that included no planning at all. .......
    I considered posting this suggestion on your last thread but decided that fattirewilley's comment was enough. If your soil conditions are right nothing bets the compaction you can get from a lot of horses. Building private trails as a kid with my mother (horse rider) on primarily well drained decomposed granite we used a similar approach. The deer actually did a lot of the compaction on those trails because of the low user load. In the right conditions it is hard to beat hooves as soil compactors hence the history behind the sheep's foot compactor (google it if your bored). IMO a McLeod or bike tire just doesn't provide the pounds per square inch to actual compact tread.

    If you have the wrong soil (clay or sand), any wet spots in the trail, the side slope is too steep (or shallow), or the trail is too steep the horses will just make a mess. Your trail routing is going to have to be spot on for this to work. The horse/deer won't just follow pin flags so you will have to leave in plenty of trees as choke points to keep a tight corridor. Don't even think about berms on this trail since horses will trash those faster than you can build them.

    I think this would be an interesting experiment but plan on it being a 2 year build. The first year to get compaction (the trail is going to suck to ride this year) and the second to fix the routing errors that left mud pits. There are a lot of IMBA epics (Think North Umpqua or Mackenzie river) that were probably done this way by the CCC 70 years ago back when a mule was still a viable form of back country transportation.
    Last edited by faceplant72; 01-17-2013 at 06:06 PM.

  9. #9
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    without the outslope, I'd be afraid that your trail could become a channel or gutter for water.
    twright205. I think you are correct about out slope problems, if this is not address we would be doomed to failure. I have already considered the out slope and hoped to start addressing it as soon as a compacted path starts to take shape.

    As with most new trails we also have a man power shortage now, so I was hoping that as the trail takes shape and more people learn about the trail we can get more volunteers to help shave the back slope in and fix mud areas. We had 25 people attend an IMBA 2 day trail building class but have not been able to get many of them out to actually do much digging yet (admitted our 2 building days have been short notice and we are not organized on that front yet, but that is being fixed).

  10. #10
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    Peteuga, totally understand where you are coming from... I am always looking for ways to make things easier and quicker... I've built a few drag boxes to pull behind my atv.. that does a good job clearing the loose stuff, and scoring the organic mat that we have around here.. I had tried a gravely walk behind tractor with it's rotary plow. since it wouldn't jam up on roots and rocks, but it was a bear to move about in that kind of terrain. I am working on another drag box, and have one or two other "cheater" ideas,,,one involves reengineering a snowblower... into a power mcleod...... but it still does come down to swinging the mcleod, pulaski, rogue hoe, what have you.

    it would stand to reason if these trails will be multi use.. you want them as firm and dialed in as possible, before allowing traffic on them...are there horse folk helping out on the build?

    in the area I am in, the Land Manager's stance is , mtb'ers have their trails, and horsefolk have theirs... with only a few sections where there is some shared use.

    2-3 inches down we get to clay, mineral soil, so once we are there, and after a good soaking rain and drying cycle. the tread sets up well. but if we don't get that top organic soil off, it's like peanut butter..

  11. #11
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    are there horse folk helping out on the build?
    They are supposed to, they made up 1/3 of the IMBA class we had. (1/3 bikers, 1/3 horse, 1/3 city employees to match a RTP grant we applied for). So far it has been only a few diehard bikers and 1 horse person working but as stated before we are go to having to get better organized with true monthly work days.

    in the area I am in, the Land Manager's stance is , mtb'ers have their trails, and horsefolk have theirs... with only a few sections where there is some shared use.
    I had to talk the parks committee into allowing bikes, they went with the bike because I am the only person with trail building experience and I had already mapped out the trail for them and I knew the IMBA contact from an earlier class I had taken. So it is either horses with bikes or horses only.

    2-3 inches down we get to clay, mineral soil, so once we are there, and after a good soaking rain and drying cycle. the tread sets up well. but if we don't get that top organic soil off, it's like peanut butter..
    We have dug the top organic layer off the dirt but in this area it never seems to change to red Georgia clay. I will try to go further down but we don't have much slope just yet were we are.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by twright205 View Post
    I've built a few drag boxes to pull behind my atv..
    Can you post some pictures of this box? I've designed a device to drag behind a motorcycle that would go a long way to getting a trail established in short order and it would go over rocks and roots fairly easily, but at this point I still need to upload it to reality from my head.

  13. #13
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    Peteuga, where in Ga are you building?
    "Bikes aren't fast--people are fast. Bikes are overpriced. It's an important distinction."---BikeSnob NYC

  14. #14
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    I'll look around,,, here is the second trail gator.. since then a bit less rebar teeth...

    trail gator 2011

    can't see to post any pics

    will toss some up on another site and see about linking to it..

    one side has some pretty mean rebar teeth to tear up the root matter and duff... while the other side tends to drag it clear of the leaf litter, and the torn up organic mat... it takes a few passes, and I keep tweaking the design each year,,, it certainly doesn't replace hand work,, but since I am often working on the trails alone,, it helps things move along...

    it has also helped remedy the horse "post holes" and deep ruts when it's been too wet to ride, but some folks didn't listen..
    Last edited by twright205; 01-24-2013 at 05:55 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by twright205 View Post
    I'll look around,,, here is the second trail gator.. since then a bit less rebar teeth...

    trail gator 2011

    can't see to post any pics

    will toss some up on another site and see about linking to it..

    one side has some pretty mean rebar teeth to tear up the root matter and duff... while the other side tends to drag it clear of the leaf litter, and the torn up organic mat... it takes a few passes, and I keep tweaking the design each year,,, it certainly doesn't replace hand work,, but since I am often working on the trails alone,, it helps things move along...

    it has also helped remedy the horse "post holes" and deep ruts when it's been too wet to ride, but some folks didn't listen..
    Thanks for posting that!

    I'll try yo sketch up the idea I've got when I have some time.

  16. #16
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    Where are you building

    Peteuga, where in Ga are you building?
    We are building in a park called Cochran Mill in Chatt Hills (Palmetto, GA) just 15 minutes from the Atlanta Airport. Due to scenery, maybe the best in the state for a bike trail, and easy access to Atlanta the trail has the potential to be one of the top destinations in the state.

    I wish we had someone more experienced than we are helping us build.





    One of several waterfalls in Park, but the only one the new trail will pass.



    One of dozens of ruins in the park and along the trail.

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