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  1. #1
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    breaking new trail with tiller?

    I am breaking a new trail on my property and have found much of the soil is extremely rough/uneven to the extent I can barely walk it without ankle sprains. I was thinking about running a walk behind rear tiller around it followed by a roller to flatten things out a bit. Has anybody used this method? Any other suggestions?

  2. #2
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    I would just start riding it in if you could get a tiller down it. Any pictures?

  3. #3
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    A tiller isn't going to actually displace the dirt. You need to actually bench cut in a trail. You could work up the ground with the tiller if it's really so hard that you can't dig it with a pulaski or mccleod, but you need to move the dirt and get down to good mineral soil to make a trail tread surface.

  4. #4
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    I have used a tiller to break trail and bench cut and it does work if the soil is not too rocky or rooty. You still have to move the dirt by hand, but it can replace the cutting and digging of a pulaski or rogue hoe. If the trail is flat and you just want to smooth it out with the tiller, this could work too but you will have to compact the soil really well so it doesn't get rutted up.

  5. #5
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    My troy bilt 'bronco' walk-behind tiller is a handful in my garden in the spring, I don't think it would be workable in rough/hard soil with or without rocks and roots. If it's that bad, can you rent a small cat or excavator?

  6. #6
    JDM
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    I've had great success benching with a tiller. I run a front tine unit at right angle to the trail so it is pulling dirt down the hill. You still need to do some work with hand tools to create a proper full bench, but 70% of the work was done with the machine.

    I think it will depend a lot on your soils, but it is definitely worth a try.

  7. #7
    cowbell
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    Personally, I tend to avoid using anything like a tiller on a trail. Ultimately, you want to churn as little as possible, otherwise any organics on top might get mixed into where you decide your mineral soil is, then it's less stable. In point of fact, when I have crews working with hand tools, I tell them to keep the tools low, and keep cutting strokes precise, because we're not trying to till up the soil, we're trying to remove specific types and amounts to achieve a result.

    Clearly other people have had some success with tillers, but as mentioned, if you do use one, you will have to compact any loose soil left over on the trail very well.

  8. #8
    Old Man on the Mountain
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    The above posters are all somewhat accurate and seem to have good experience, your soil type will dictate what method will be the most beneficial to your cause Sandy Loam soil with a low/small gravel ratio will work with a tiller, clay soils can work when dry. Sandy soils, would just be displaced and return to a like condition. If you have access to dirt, a turnpike or elevated trail with compaction and water may be the way to go. clay soils can be "ridden in". Another major player is topography. Soils will erode depending on your soil type and mixture if your grades are steep (above 10 percent in most soils) for extended runs without rolling/dipping grades. Avoid water bars, they are a past technology that do not work. For a GREAT resource, you can buy IMBA's guide to building sweet single track. It has some amazing tips and information. If you have a consistent slope, the full bench cut is the best method with rolling dips (or commonly called "grade reversals") for shedding water. In a low drainage situation or flat country, you definitely want to build an elevated trail. And a tiller can break up clumps so you can start compacting and then build up a durable surface. If you have natural material, you can utilize rock, logs, or clay based soils to build up your surface, or if your rich, Geomax materials can be purchased. Depends on if you want your trail to last Most folks build quick ride quick and have a trail last one or two seasons. If you take your time, you'll have a trail your grandkids can ride!

  9. #9
    middle ring single track
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDM View Post
    I've had great success benching with a tiller. I run a front tine unit at right angle to the trail so it is pulling dirt down the hill. You still need to do some work with hand tools to create a proper full bench, but 70% of the work was done with the machine.

    I think it will depend a lot on your soils, but it is definitely worth a try.
    I've got a buddy who basically uses the above technique building 2' trails on his property in the Santa Cruz mountains with good results. He uses a 7 hp rear-tine tiller and sort of hops it along the hillside but maybe at 60~70 degrees to the trail. This cuts a rough platform which he then trues-up by making a longitudinal pass followed by final grooming with hand tools.

    Of course, as with any trail building the duff has been scraped from the route beforehand.

    This method does seem to take a certain knack plus the strength to man-handle the tiller; not for everybody but a tiller is ahelluva lot cheaper than a mini-ex.
    The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent any policy of the CA Dept. of Parks & Rec.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the replies. I tried to take pictures but they didn't really show the soil. Its all clay and was a hay field 30 years ago. Most of the problem areas the soil its crazy bumpy. Would be too jarring to just try to ride in as the ground is too hard. Its kinda like having thousands of large clay bowls upside down with cracks in between. I wonder if using the tiller (or some other machine) to scrape off the first 1/2" to 1" then discard the loose stuff would be enough to then shape the trail by hand. I understand I need to bench on slopes, its just the mile or so of flat ground with the soil issues.

  11. #11
    Old Man on the Mountain
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    So your major concern with tilling would be soil compaction and having a "burned in trail" this is a trail with a lower tread than the surrounding soil. Hay fields were traditionally leveled the best they could be. After you till, and compact, you'll want to elevate your tread so that it is higher than the surrounding soil to prevent the trail tread from becoming a water catch/route. You should be good! if you have any small arroyos make sure to provide for them by building rock structures for through water flow so runoff doesn't cut your trail tread. Keep riding! our latest is a pump track in my buddies back yard! We're having fun building up higher burms right now, looking for an inner jump line to augment our current outer wave pump line Happy riding!

  12. #12
    JDM
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    Here's a picture of me playing with the 'tiller:

    breaking new trail with tiller?-imag0019.jpg

    Here is picture of some trail roughed with the tiller and touched it up with hand tools. Although it looks like the tread is in-sloped in the picture, in reality it is slightly out-sloped.


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    Name:  powermcleod.jpg
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    I've been playing with this idea, remove the auger and chute from an old snowblower, attach rubber blades to auger's shaft... (thinking pieces of car tires), then seeing how well it removes the leaf litter and the first inch or two of soil..

    my hat is off to the folks who have successfully used a tiller.. but in my area the roots and rocks, and not wanting to disturb the mineral layer , has prevented it being used...

    don't know when I will finish with this build.. but if I do.. I'll post the success or failure...

  14. #14
    JDM
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    Twright, I like your idea! I would also consider metal brush bristles like in a chimney sweep's brush.

  15. #15
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    I played with a light tiller once. It jumped and danced all over the place as it churned along. Eventually got it to rip out a foot-wide strip of organic, but we still had to hit it with hand tools to form a bench of any sort.

  16. #16
    I build my own.
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    Not where I am. We have a plant called Salal with tough runner roots and also cedar roots. They just wind up in the tiller and stop it.

    I've been thinking about trying a snowblower. If I can set the auger about 3" below ground, it may be of use to chop up all the roots.
    I have a device that can access the total knowledge of man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  17. #17
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    We have loads of Salal here too, mixed with huckleberry. I have most always just used small hand clippers, cut it off close to the ground, wind through around the bigger stuff, that seems to be an effiecient way to do singletrack.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jnc4evr View Post
    So your major concern with tilling would be soil compaction and having a "burned in trail" this is a trail with a lower tread than the surrounding soil. Hay fields were traditionally leveled the best they could be. After you till, and compact, you'll want to elevate your tread so that it is higher than the surrounding soil to prevent the trail tread from becoming a water catch/route. You should be good! if you have any small arroyos make sure to provide for them by building rock structures for through water flow so runoff doesn't cut your trail tread. Keep riding! our latest is a pump track in my buddies back yard! We're having fun building up higher burms right now, looking for an inner jump line to augment our current outer wave pump line Happy riding!
    This^^

    In a flat area (slope 3% or less) your major concern will end up being poor drainage. Since you may have to build the tread up, don't get too hung up on flattening the bumps until you figure out how you are going to haul in material to build it up.

    Walt

  19. #19
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    starting the project above, an older honda track.. snowblower .. wondering if any folks out there have ideas on the blades. wondering if i should keep the auger set up and toss somewhat flexible strips of car tires to help churn up things. and then mount something on the impeller.. I think someone suggested wire brush type stuff..but figure the chimney sweep brush wouldn't last too long.. thought of those spring loaded hay rake teeth? but also thought of going with car tires again...

    any ideas of sources or supplies... plan on trying it out and as I said will post success or failure.... (and I release any of you from my potential injury if I elect to take your advice)
    Last edited by twright205; 06-04-2013 at 10:21 AM.

  20. #20
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    Here in Bend, OR we've built miles of trails using a rear-till rototiller. For those that have riden here, the first few miles of both Funner and Tiddlywinks were built with a rototiller. Also the first sections of our three main trails leaving Phil's Trailhead were also built with a tiller. The advantage for our terrain is that it breaks up the bunchgrass clumps. Our soil is mostly sandy/silty. Rocks were a problem in some areas. Basically it gave us a leg up when first constructing the tread. As a bonus the 18" width of the roto was perfect for singletrack.

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