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  1. #1
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    First week with a MT55

    Hi,

    We are building 26 km over 2 years here in Québec just next to the VT/NH border.

    We have started our season of trailbuilding and we are using a Bobcat MT55 with a 6 way blade. So far it has been nothing but problems. The tracks are coming off often, we tipped it over once and now the strap and pulley that engage the tracks is broken.

    The machine looses tractions often and it slides down the hill and then we get stuck. Are we doing something wrong or is the machine not really made for this. The terrain was not that knarly. Would we be better off with a mini-excavator?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deyv
    Hi,

    We are building 26 km over 2 years here in Québec just next to the VT/NH border.

    We have started our season of trailbuilding and we are using a Bobcat MT55 with a 6 way blade. So far it has been nothing but problems. The tracks are coming off often, we tipped it over once and now the strap and pulley that engage the tracks is broken.

    The machine looses tractions often and it slides down the hill and then we get stuck. Are we doing something wrong or is the machine not really made for this. The terrain was not that knarly. Would we be better off with a mini-excavator?

    Thanks.
    My experience is with a Ditch Witch and full-sized Caterpillar. For starters we were not able to cut as aggressively with the Ditch Witch as we had hoped, but we were able to use it in an environment with steep side slope, roots and rocks. A cut to start your bench and level the machine helps. I don't know if that machine has float, but don't use float when you are making a hard or initial cut and use float when the blade is doing the finish work.

    It is sort of an inch can be a mile thing.

  3. #3
    HIKE!
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    We got a long term lease on a Ditch Witch SK500 with a Sixway Blade, similar equipment, so that is my related experience. Our club is building a trail on USFS land in conjunction with our local GF&P as well. Full bench 34" or so wide, beginner to intermediate.

    The terrain is very rocky, rugged and with many large shelves of limestone and big fractured blocks imbedded to China (it seems) with pretty significant sidehill ( to 30%). When we got the machine in, we got to work straight away for about 6 weeks, started on the "easiest" looking sections, least rocks, least roots, and the least incutting on a scary sidehill to do. Did OKAY and were happy enough with our progress. But it was frustrating.

    Then we hired this guy:

    www.pumptrackbuilder.com

    Through contact with IMBA and IMBA Trail Solutions. Best $$$ we spent so far on the project. He trained us up over 3 days on our specific project and our specific machine. He covered maintanence issues, safety, track re-installation, transport, and of course, trail building. Moved things along far faster, we've since gone back and re worked that initial section with better success.

    It is worth it to hire training SPECIFIC to trail building with the machine you are using, and in your terrain. Start with a quick email to IMBA. Keep in mind the DW and MT55 etc are primarily landscaping machines, not heavy equipment! They are designed to have very very low ground pressure (like 7psi) so they don't leave big gouges in turf, so naturally they have less traction.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deyv
    The tracks are coming off often, we tipped it over once and now the strap and pulley that engage the tracks is broken.
    Welcome to the learning curve. How many hours do you have on the machine? On the East Coast you need about 100 hours before you really get past these problems. You also need to factor in equipment failure to the construction time. It is going to break down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deyv
    The machine looses tractions often and it slides down the hill and then we get stuck. Are we doing something wrong or is the machine not really made for this. The terrain was not that knarly. Would we be better off with a mini-excavator?
    The machine was not made to do this, really. They were made to move materials around landscaping worksites that are usually flat and smooth. Again, welcome to the learning curve.

    If you are just renting, try a mini-ex. With a compact utility, the operator has to be smooth at two things at once. A mini-ex requires an operator that can do three things at once. Also if you tip a mini-ex, you are going with it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by splitter_66
    The machine was not made to do this, really. They were made to move materials around landscaping worksites that are usually flat and smooth. Again, welcome to the learning curve.
    I hope my post did not sound too negative because we did get more done with to people in 10 days than we did with our typical volunteer manual trail crew efforts get done in 1-2 years.

    Good luck.

  6. #6
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    I used to own one and it was great on the construction sites.....but was not very stable on sloped terrain.

    Like any skid-steer type unit; the center of gravity changes drastically once the loader is lifted even slightly; and even just pushing loads, I found it to be a little unstable on uneven terrain.

    The mini-excavators are much better suited for trail work since they basically only push dirt with the front blade (not capable of lifting loads), and the excavator is capable of pre-working benches prior the unit driving on the newly cut trail. Plus they are great for moving small boulders by capturing the boulder between the bucket and the front dozer blade.

    Dollar for dollar, I think for trail work you get a better value by going with a small trail excavator like a Kubota. Kubota makes a very small unit that has an adjustable track width between 28" and 34" which is very close to the price of the Bobcat.

    Plus, I believe that Bobcat uses Kubota engines in their units which speak for the durability of the Kubota engines.

    We're having a Kubota excavator delivered early next week, so I'll post a follow up on how it performs on some trails we'll be working.

    My personal experience with my Bobcat unit is that it's not a unit I would take out on any of our steep trails to work with. I'd probably end up trying to retrieve it from the bottom of the canyon.

    Just my .02

    Good luck with your trails!!

  7. #7
    HIKE!
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    The MT is a legitimate tool. Get some specific trail building training on it. Call IMBA, get with any number of pro trailbuilders. Get help to your project. I'd chalk up some of your woes to user error. Our DW SK500 (similar) has tackled some very difficult terrain. We'll likely add a mini excavator to the quiver, but have no regrets having the SK.

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys, this is very encouraging. I was about to send it back and dig by hand like last year. I will post some pictures when a full size timberjack came to our help to put us back on track, pretty impressive.

  9. #9
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    Everyone has had some good input, pretty much.

    We use mini skid steers with little issue*. We own an SK500 and rent a Toro Dingo at times to supplement the work. We've also used the Bobcat. The operator certainly must understand the design and construction of sustainable trails before even attempting to build trail.

    As fas as using an excavator goes, whatever skills one has on a mini skid steer, they need almost a completely different set for the ex. If you're having a problem coordinating the movements, try flipping the switch that changes the controls from ISO to ASE or vice-versa.

    * We've ran the tracks off our DW several times. Some of it was due to new tracks stretching, some of it due to not checking the tension every 10 machine hours. Mostly, it's due to the track pushing sideways against a rock or the base of a tree while trying to move a lot of material. We have to pay attention to where the tracks are in relation to something that has potential to push the tracks off.

    As fas as the machine slipping down the slope, if you push material down slope, keep the bucket or blade as low to the ground as possible while backing it up slope. Also, push smaller piles of material. It's very easy to gather a lot of material; get in the habit of making several small passes and frequently broadcasting with the machine.

    If you have any specific questions, feel free to call me at 512-797-RIDE (7433.)

    Dewayne

  10. #10
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    It's fun to work in a small community where everyone helps each other. We got help straight away to put our machine back on track





  11. #11
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    that last pictures made me think of this. "Hey billy...we done got our bob tipped over yonder in the jones' woods. they promised us buscuits'n'gravy if ye'd hep get it out. I'd be much obliged to ye."

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by callmetheNewGuy
    that last pictures made me think of this. "Hey billy...we done got our bob tipped over yonder in the jones' woods. they promised us buscuits'n'gravy if ye'd hep get it out. I'd be much obliged to ye."

    I was thinking more along the lines of the "Hey Y'ALL! WATCH THIS!!" that was heard just
    before the tip-over.

    -- Evil Patrick

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    Ride everything! Remember, Elvis died pushing.

  13. #13
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    go with the mini excavator, excavators can drive on crazy terrain i use one at my work, i work for a demolition and excavation company. and some of the land slides we drive up i dont think i could ride my bike down

  14. #14
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    Now that we have seen the photos, we can better comment on the situation. The landscape looks super mellow by my standards. I think you are in fact doing something wrong and the advise for training from a professional is good advise. The MT is not my favorite machine, I prefer the mentioned Ditch Witch and we own a couple different models. But, I have used the BobCat and it should have no problems working in the area you show in the photos.

    Woody- Trail Dynamics LLC

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