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  1. #1
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    Building on the steep

    Just went out yesterday and laid out the general route for the trail we'll be starting in the spring. It's going to work its way down the western face of a ridge that got plowed over by the ice sheet back in the day. Since ice was moving NE-SW in these parts the back (western) side of the ridge is steep and rocky with an abundance of boulders littering the hillslope.

    This is going to be a "most difficult" trail, which naturally is all very relative to the area. The intent is for it to be a mile-long technical descent or climb (depending on direction) with no break for your legs on the way up. Since there is a lot of rock available on the surface (I'm talking slabs up to 6' diameter and 6" thick) we may even end up manufacturing some graveyard-esque rock gardens along the way.

    The 68 year old guy who has been integral in advocating access here was with me laying it out yesterday and he said he wants something he has to dab or get off the bike on. We've got plenty of beginner and intermediate-friendly terrain, but nothing that is properly nasty and technical.

    Any wise words to keep in mind as we're moving forward with this?

  2. #2
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    I guess I should quantify "steep" to help. the GIS program tells me 35-40% slope, but there are spots where we're looking at more like 45 when we drop from one terrace down onto another.

  3. #3
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    I know what you want to do but I'll warn you that if you don't build a chicken run into your trails, users will. Sometimes it just can't be done but people will try really hard to do it.

    As you're going, think "How are they going to try to get around this and what can I do to either help them or stop them?". That will keep them on your route and not one that they choose.

    Glad to see you're getting more trail. Is this part of the school system?
    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.

  4. #4
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    I know what you mean, but I actually quite doubt that there will be too much of that problem. We're going to go with the approach that keeps people funneled in in most places with only a couple spots having a way around. The rock gardens are going to be choked in with plenty of natural-looking because the whole point is for this trail to be a bit of a gauntlet.

    I suppose I should mention that the trail in question runs parallel to three easier routes that all start and end together.

    As to the question about the high school trails, these are in a different system just a mile or so (read: riding distance) from the high school. We are working on a short section at the high school though. I laid it out but am staying pretty hands-off in construction. My efforts to teach the current club e-board how to build trail seem to have been fruitless over the past year, so now I'm letting them learn the hard way: Build it, test it, hate it, fix it.

  5. #5
    zrm
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    At 35-40% grade (especially if that's average) you'll not have any uphill traffic.

  6. #6
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    that 35-40% is the SLOPE (of the hill), not the grade. shooting for <7% grade.

  7. #7
    JDM
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    I like a difficult but low risk qualifier at the ends of the trail. This helps people who aren't going to enjoy the trial make the decision to turn around right away.

    Moving rocks around is a lot of fun and makes for a great trail, but it is slow going. I like to cache my tools on the trail so I can ride out and work for a few hours without hauling heavy rock bars around (you'll want at least 3).

    Technical terrain at 7% avg grade sounds about right for a fun, challenging climb. It also sounds about right for a good descent that you don't need to constantly be on the brakes.

  8. #8
    zrm
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    Quote Originally Posted by sambs827 View Post
    that 35-40% is the SLOPE (of the hill), not the grade. shooting for <7% grade.
    OK, got it. That didn't make much sense.

  9. #9
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    IMBA recommends keeping the average grade under 10%. You're aiming for 7%. That's good.

    Properly built switchbacks require a lot of work, and improperly built switchbacks require a lot of maintenance. Route the trail to minimize the number of switchbacks, and place the switchbacks where the slope is less severe.

    Use gravity to your advantage. Locate rocks above the trail and roll them into place. Route the trail over exposed bedrock to add challenge. Get a rope puller or winch to move the big stuff. There are some good tips here on moving big rock:

    Stone Work

    Use cliffs with scenic views and large glacial erratics as positive control features and route the trail near them.

    If the final trail turns out to be as technical as it sounds and you want it to be ridable in both directions, add in grade reversals. If not for drainage reasons, then to give climbing riders a small break so they don't totally cook their legs on the way up. It will still be plenty tough.

    You have lots of big rock to work with. Sounds like a fun project. Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Try to have a visual signal of increased trail difficulty immediately visible from the trail junction. Maybe some large rocks creating a pinch point in the trail. Then put your gatekeeper obstacle a bit farther down the trail.

  11. #11
    JDM
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    Quote Originally Posted by bweide View Post
    Try to have a visual signal of increased trail difficulty immediately visible from the trail junction. Maybe some large rocks creating a pinch point in the trail. Then put your gatekeeper obstacle a bit farther down the trail.
    I want to understand this advice a bit better. Can you explain what the advantage is over just putting the gatekeeper near the trail junction?

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the replies. Some valuable stuff in here.

    Laid out the rest of the trail yesterday and figured out where it will link into the existing trails. Ended up not straying as far into Hartwick College property as had thought we would, which will make them happy. Towards the lower (and southward) end the trail runs directly under some cliffs for a a coupled hundred yards on a glacially plucked surface (read: lots of boulders).

    The main line of the trail will be right up against the cliff with an option to actually get up onto the rock. The notches to get on and off the ridge from the main trail are super technical and rad. Once on top users can see the trail they were just on, the trail that they're going to end up on next, as well as a great view of the surrounding forest. Once we start building I'll try to post photos regularly.

    Right now we're working on an easy ~250 yards of beginner-friendly trail that provides a new entrance to the trail system, as well as a ~1/3 mile more difficult to build and to ride) section that begins and ends at the same locations as the beginner trail. The more difficult trail features a sick jump run in one direction, and some sweet snaking S-turns and a log ride in the other. The beginner section is going to have a tame boulders along the trail to play on and to provide ego-boost opportunities for the newbies.

    I'm hoping for an easy winter with minimal ground freeze so we can keep digging. Last year we were able to work on a skills park in February and it would be great to do so again.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDM View Post
    I want to understand this advice a bit better. Can you explain what the advantage is over just putting the gatekeeper near the trail junction?
    Just swinging in the dark here, but.....

    -A visual deterrent at the split can make newbies or more casual riders subconsciously choose the easier line, which happens to be the easier trail.

    -The gatekeeper feature just into the trail will then only be encountered by those who did the visually challenging feature at the beginning. If they got through that, great. If they had to walk it, then the gatekeeper in the trail then serves as a means of saying "you can't get this either? Maybe you should go elsewhere."


    Just my guess at the logic.

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