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  1. #1
    Bike to have fun.
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    First time building my own trail

    I'm building my first trail on my 100+ Acres in Loudoun County, Virginia (Suburb outskirts of Wash. DC).

    I got ATV's (transporting and getting around on the land to reach certain spots), a shovel, a pick-axe, and a heavy duty rake.

    Any tips?

  2. #2
    Bearded highlighter
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    Might want to pick up a a trailer to go behind the ATV, a Firerake, and chainsaw

  3. #3
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Trail Solutions, IMBAs trail building manual, has everything you need to know.... you have read it, right?

  4. #4
    saddlemeat
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    You are creating a riding experience...

    keep that firmly in mind.

    Make sure you know your entire area like the back of your hand so you can make good decisions.

    You only get one try, generally.
    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  5. #5
    backwoods and backwards
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    I can tell you from experience, I have built 3.5 miles on 100 acres myself, that having a private trail is amazingly sweet. It's also a ton of work to build and maintain. When I started, I just kinda hacked away at it and made some mistakes doing so. Now it's at the point where I can add a feature here and there to really express my personal style of riding.
    Like bsieb said, knowing the land really well is important. Leave the atv at the house and walk in and out when you aren't carrying a ton of stuff.Flag your proposed trail with surveyors' flags now. Maybe move the deadfall out so you can ride some of it to get a sense of flow, but don't dig/cut in the tread until spring. You'll want to see where the wet spots are at spring thaw and may have to re-route some parts. When you watch or read the IMBA stuff, pay close attention to the whole "grade reverse dips" thing ( it's important ). Spray some bright orange paint on all your tools' handles (trust me on this). Wear thick gloves.
    Lastly, make it all a little more challenging than you first visualize it. Having a home trail means that you will know it intimately. You'll know the left side of every rock from the right side because you're the one who chooses where that rock sits on the trail. If you dumb it down when you build it, you'll find it all less rewarding two years down the line when you've dialled in your technique for every turn and bump.
    Please keep posting your progress. It'd be cool to have someone document the process from start to finish. peace K.
    Moonbeam's compost-powered hybrid generates a respectable 32 fruit flies per rotting banana peel.

  6. #6
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    I second the IMBA book. You'll want to have it handy. If at all possible, get someone to walk your proposed trail with you who has more experience than you (and a clinometer) to help you flag. Two sets of eyes really helps.

    I am building my own trail as well. I use a mini-tiller to do a lot of my bench cutting. Saves me tons of time since I do all the work myself. I also use a weedeater, loppers, a hand saw, chainsaw, collins axe, shovels, a tamping tool and a wheel barrow. You can see some pics of my trail so far HERE.

    It is rewarding but slow to do trail work on your own. Plan twice cut once.

  7. #7
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    Careful using the ATV too much on the trail. You'll make it wider than it needs to be. Also, it may cause crowning which will lead to drainage issues.
    Texas based trail builders: www.sstrails.com

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MOJO K
    I can tell you from experience, I have built 3.5 miles on 100 acres myself, that having a private trail is amazingly sweet. It's also a ton of work to build and maintain. When I started, I just kinda hacked away at it and made some mistakes doing so. Now it's at the point where I can add a feature here and there to really express my personal style of riding.
    Like bsieb said, knowing the land really well is important. Leave the atv at the house and walk in and out when you aren't carrying a ton of stuff.Flag your proposed trail with surveyors' flags now. Maybe move the deadfall out so you can ride some of it to get a sense of flow, but don't dig/cut in the tread until spring. You'll want to see where the wet spots are at spring thaw and may have to re-route some parts. When you watch or read the IMBA stuff, pay close attention to the whole "grade reverse dips" thing ( it's important ). Spray some bright orange paint on all your tools' handles (trust me on this). Wear thick gloves.
    Lastly, make it all a little more challenging than you first visualize it. Having a home trail means that you will know it intimately. You'll know the left side of every rock from the right side because you're the one who chooses where that rock sits on the trail. If you dumb it down when you build it, you'll find it all less rewarding two years down the line when you've dialled in your technique for every turn and bump.
    Please keep posting your progress. It'd be cool to have someone document the process from start to finish. peace K.
    I agree keep us posted, pics of your progress would be cool.
    The way we ride today shapes mountain bike trail access tomorrow. -IMBA

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the help guys.

    I'm heading out tomorrow morning to start scoping things out and getting dirty.

    Ive been riding ATV's and target shooting on the land for about 4 years now, so no worries on knowing the wet spots and what not, and since I've been away at school all I have done is been thinking of where I want my trail to go and how I want it to look.

    Sadly, I lefft my SLR camera in Richmond where I go to school, but I may be able to borrow one, it would be pretty cool if I documented it all.

    For the record, I ride a 29er and I love singletrack, rock gardens, large roots, and drops.
    I'm saving up to get a FR bike so odds are I'll be keeping my eyes out for some more extreme stuff later on.

    I'll keep you all updated!

  10. #10
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    My suggestion is to definitely get the IMBA books, study the all of the resouces at IMBA's site...there's tons of stuff there, Get you a bunch of pin flags from somewhere like http://www.forestry-suppliers.com or similar (I've even seen them at HomeDepot) look for your major features and drops and run your stuff to the side as an easy/hard option, Run your layout on foot to get the flow right. Take your time and do it right. GRADE REVERSAL is KEY! Keep us posted!
    IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE NOT RIDING (or building)!

  11. #11
    Fahrrad fahren
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    Come to a MORE workday in the spring. You can get a good idea of what is involved.

    And then invite us all over to ride :^)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hjalti
    Come to a MORE workday in the spring. You can get a good idea of what is involved.

    And then invite us all over to ride :^)
    Definitly would love to, I was thinking of going to the Richmond chapter also (I live in Richmond also)

  13. #13
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    Update: got all my stuff together to go get a start, and I forgot, someone hunts on the land today and will be there tomorrow and Friday. Got work off on Saturday and plan on spending the whole day on the trail.

  14. #14
    love my Simonds 519
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    I agree the IMBA books and trail care crew visits are an excellent starting point. But I wouldn't say they tell you everything you need to know. It sounds like many of their weak spots won't matter to you (bridge building, DH, dirt jump, FR, tree extraction) and they're certainly solid on the basics of building singletrack. It's pretty much guaranteed they'll touch on almost anything with regards to planning and treadwork, but almost any topic has details which are useful to know which aren't in the IMBA books. Two things which seem particularly likely to come up for you are tread width and compaction. A private trail is low manpower in construction and in use, which means it's tempting to build it skinny and it'll take a while to ride in. The problem with the former is the trail tends to ride in jerky and have poor flow and the problem with the latter is it'll be slow for quite a while. Our solution is to build the tread four feet wide and switch from work parties to work party+ride the new stuff as soon as enough gets roughed in to make the riding worthwhile. Catches spots that need reworking earlier and makes buffing the trail in go a little faster since the work's more targeted, too.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by grantheppes
    I'm building my first trail on my 100+ Acres in Loudoun County, Virginia (Suburb outskirts of Wash. DC).

    I got ATV's (transporting and getting around on the land to reach certain spots), a shovel, a pick-axe, and a heavy duty rake.

    Any tips?

    Get a topo map of your property. Laminate it, so you can easily design, redesign, then have something durable in the field w/ you for reference. Use permanent market and erase w/ nail polish remover. Design on paper then go out and flag, saves lots of time.

    Understand that perpendicular to the topo lines means you're running straight up and down (violation of the 1/2 Rule...get the IMBA Book). You want to run no more than 45 degree angle to topo. When you turn up across the topo (past perpendicular, headed the other way), it "should" be a switchback or berm turn on the ground. That's several hours in one spot, so keep that in mind when designing and try to minimize the number of those.

    ALL your trail will be bench cut into the side slope if you're worried about top quality work. If the land will have houses on it in 10 years, don't go through the trouble of benching, just blow something with a leaf blower and be done with it and ignore the rest of this page.

    Buy a clinometer, keep your steepest grades under 15% and under 10% on average. Hint, tie your surveyors tape at eye level on trees, use it to site off of with the clino.

    100 acres, you can probably get 10 miles if you pack it in with a good design, but you may see another rider when the trail loops back cause you'll always be near another section. You can probably build 4 miles and never see another rider or section of trail through the trees. Density your call.

    Get some friends to help. I'm a club trailbuilding crew leader, but I have private neighborhood land with 8 miles which is not aided with club volunteers (potential 501c3 status violation....). Solo building is very tedious, so I hit up a closer group of people for the private trails.

    If you got the coin, rent a SK650 with a six way blade or mini excavator, but not til you understand how to build a trail correctly. You'll make a mess if you don't know what's going on.

  16. #16
    Bike to have fun.
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    Update!!!

    So I got out there today for a good 3.5 hours. After walking through where I wanted the trail to go I decided that I want to just build up a bunch of short trails that hopefully will all end up intertwining with each other. It will be fun to have a network allover the place so that i can at least get a variety.
    This was all done with a heavy duty rake, a shovel, and of course my bare hands.

    From there I started the first spot, the entrance inst cleaned up very well just due to the fact that I got very distracted on my first down hill.

    First Down hill: Almost just a straight shot down, gotta squeeze between a few trees but overall a 50 foot strip that picks up a shitload of speed.

    First Turn: a sharp right, right at the bottom of hill one, the plan is to build up a burm for that spot, but hitting the brakes to avoid slamming into a big tree to take the turn isn't a huge problem right now, (i'd rather get enough of a strip that I can enjoy riding then take a 3 days of building to get a burm built that isn't too necessary).

    Pile-o-logs: about 15 feet after the turn there are about five small logs lined up one after the other for a few bumps.

    PILE-O-LOGS: Then took four (not huge) trees that fell, lined them up with some rocks that allow you to get over them all. (plain old fun 29er stuff).

    First Mistake: after the PILE-O-LOGS I started raking out the next part which would be a long single track. I made it go too close to the creek right after the logs and had a small incline causing me to slide into the creek when trying to turn with my trail. Had to shovel out some tree roots and made it work eventually.


    Marked out the next 300 feet:I pretty much found a little deer trail which was perfect for a a long single track part. It goes up and down on the hill side (which is the base of this specific trail I'm doing right now), its sweet, its gonna have a few drops caused by tree roots.


    So Far So Good. I came to realize that I have a ton of land so I just decided to have an idea of what I want and just kinda wing it. (not gonna do much damage with a rake and shovel, but dont underestimate the power of a good rake and shovel).

  17. #17
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by grantheppes
    Update!!!


    First Down hill: Almost just a straight shot down, gotta squeeze between a few trees but overall a 50 foot strip that picks up a shitload of speed.
    Lots of good advice on this thread, but you post up asking a question and now you aren't hearing anything. That's fine, your land, do what you want. But you need to ask yourself if these are trails you plan on using for 5 years or are they something your grandkids will ride 50 year out. If its a five year trail for you, carry on.

  18. #18
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    Lots of good advice on this thread, but you post up asking a question and now you aren't hearing anything. That's fine, your land, do what you want. But you need to ask yourself if these are trails you plan on using for 5 years or are they something your grandkids will ride 50 year out. If its a five year trail for you, carry on.
    Ouch, well I don't have the resources for all the tools,books etc. I can barely keep up my bike haha.

    I came to the realization today that have one of the best city trail systems about a third of a mile from my house in Richmond, VA (Thanks MORE!), so why not just mess around, try and build up some quicky trail stuff while I'm here on winter break from school.

    I've been taking into consideration what I've been told, sadly as a 19 year old college student, I'm not gonna be able to make this the best it can be.

    Sorry guys, I'll post pics soon.
    I'm pretty happy with my trail, so thats good enough for me!

  19. #19
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    .,,the only reason I'm replying is 'cause of your silly avatar; give Colt another 16 months to learn the system and he'll lead the 'Skins to the Division play-offs... "Aloha"!

    ...but, really, think about exactly about what you want to accomplish. A piece of land that big is a lot for anyone to tend. What I'm trying to say is. . . is it just you? If so, build something sustainable - built to last so you can enjoy it once it's complete. Include your riding buddies: more eyes = more perspectives on the possibilities of the terrain (this will mean more people to assist with moving dirt). What are your abilities and preferences? Maybe this design will satisfy your "cravings" now; will it still be fun next summer? Using logs/branches for "filler" in jumps and berms not only reinforces it, they'll be easy to dig-up later if you decide to re-structure. Take the opportunity to analyze the effects of wet-weather; take note of where puddling occurs (hint: the dampened-soil removed/relocated will be easily shaped) and "re-route" the flow accordingly.

    And, if you haven't had enough of my mindless-banter. . . remember this: once you start, the work's never complete!"

  20. #20
    backwoods and backwards
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    I understand where you're coming from, and there is something to be said for "just starting at the beginning." You're right that a shovel and rake construction doesn't do a lot of damage. Problems do arise down the line when that trail is ridden in and the best grooves start to hold water. Most of us have seen this happen and are trying to save you trouble later on.It's way easier to avoid certain situations (by making sure you include your grade reverse dips) than it is to fix water flow problems once they start.
    I also like the idea of building a main loop that covers the bulk of the property and adding short trails to different features after the main loop is in place. I don't like of spider web trail systems much. Since you don't live there full time your approach might suit you better for now, but...
    Think about your favorite places to ride and the coolest features of those trails. If you could import them to your property, what would that look like? Is that the kind of trail you've started to build, or are you rushing yourself. I'd made the decision that I want my home trail to be my favorite place to ride. Very few of us have this kind of opportunity. I'd hate to see you short yourself. peace K.
    Moonbeam's compost-powered hybrid generates a respectable 32 fruit flies per rotting banana peel.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by emptybe_er
    And, if you haven't had enough of my mindless-banter. . . remember this: once you start, the work's never complete!"
    I'll post pics, I dont think that what I've done so far is necessarily a f*ck up. It's actually pretty sweet!

    (BTW when i said that the down hill is a straigh shot down, i meant like I go from the top of the hill down to the creek area just cause at the moment I didnt want to deal with a hillside, especailly cause I dont have the proper tools to build a trail on the hillside, which is fine because i got like 6 other hillsides, this was just the steepest hill, but its not steep enough that i couldn't pedal it out up the hill. Its not like a 60 degree angle lol)

  22. #22
    JmZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by grantheppes
    I'll post pics, I dont think that what I've done so far is necessarily a f*ck up. It's actually pretty sweet!

    (BTW when i said that the down hill is a straigh shot down, i meant like I go from the top of the hill down to the creek area just cause at the moment I didnt want to deal with a hillside, especailly cause I dont have the proper tools to build a trail on the hillside, which is fine because i got like 6 other hillsides, this was just the steepest hill, but its not steep enough that i couldn't pedal it out up the hill. Its not like a 60 degree angle lol)
    What most people are wanting to suggest is to build a sustainable trail. A lot of us have ridden (and a few of us have built) the straight up and down (fall line) trails. We just know how much of a pain in the arse it will be to reroute later. The ONLY fall line trail I've found that stays close to sustainable is when it's armored with a LOT of rock. (In Michigan at Ft Custer).

    You are absolutely right that it will be more work to do a sustainable trail. It also will mean once you have built it, you won't have to spend time re-building it before riding it again next year. (You won't even have to ride it, water will do it all for you.)

    Riding down those fall line trails is a blast, can be one heck of a challenge, but it also means that downhill is over in a matter of seconds. If you built it sustainable it could be several times longer and feel like one of your favorite roller coasters.

    Good luck,

    JmZ
    JmZ

    From one flat land to another.

    Advocate as if your ride depends on it...

  23. #23
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    [QUOTE=grantheppes]I'll post pics, I dont think that what I've done so far is necessarily a f*ck up. It's actually pretty sweet!

    ...I never implied the trail was f*cked-up. What I meant is you'll always be making modifications to your trail. The perspective on foot while building and shaping is different once you've actually ridden the finished piece. Then, after a few times, you'll end up reshaping a berm here, maybe changing a single "booter" into a set of doubles....

    Like JmZ said, try to weave your way down the slope. You can actually dig into the hillside (bench-cut) and add features in the slope - from Shore-style stunts to drops and steps. Try to imagine a skier going down the face of one of those huge mountains - everywhere the skier turns is potentially a berm - you can add little "booters" in the straight lines between. It'll make the experience more entertaining and add to the length of the downhill-run.

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