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  1. #1
    JmZ
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    A fundamentals question - people?

    How to enlighten the troops?

    Working with a variety of local trail builders, and they have some good (even potentailly great) ideas, but the basics of trail building don't always come across.

    Maximum slope, average slope, bench cutting for outslope...

    It isn't always followed, and some even say that the hands in the field know better than some "self procalimed experts" or "book knowledge". After riding several of these areas, just months after building, I can say, with certanity, that this isn't the case.

    I've seen singletrack that met IMBA's design criteria - and I've seen ones that don't. The amount of work and effort that goes into maintaining the latter is amazing, the amount of time that they should not be rideable after the first speck of rain is depressing.

    Short of landing a TCC visit, what can be done to help educate our local riders, and workers, on the best way to build trail. I know my expertise, but the short-cut to getting a 'ride-able' trail is just way to strong of a temptation when the other riders claim to see no benefit of doing 'extra' work in building a trail. I am simply have not been able to explain how much extra work doing it right will save later.

    Build it, or raked out in some places, is supposedly enough.

    Any insights, or opinions, are greatly appreciated. I've seen this hinted to in other threads on here, and I think this can benefit a bunch of us.

    Thanks!

    JmZ
    JmZ

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  2. #2
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    Ummm....

    Quote Originally Posted by JmZ
    How to enlighten the troops?

    Working with a variety of local trail builders, and they have some good (even potentailly great) ideas, but the basics of trail building don't always come across.

    Maximum slope, average slope, bench cutting for outslope...

    It isn't always followed, and some even say that the hands in the field know better than some "self procalimed experts" or "book knowledge". After riding several of these areas, just months after building, I can say, with certanity, that this isn't the case.

    I've seen singletrack that met IMBA's design criteria - and I've seen ones that don't. The amount of work and effort that goes into maintaining the latter is amazing, the amount of time that they should not be rideable after the first speck of rain is depressing.

    Short of landing a TCC visit, what can be done to help educate our local riders, and workers, on the best way to build trail. I know my expertise, but the short-cut to getting a 'ride-able' trail is just way to strong of a temptation when the other riders claim to see no benefit of doing 'extra' work in building a trail. I am simply have not been able to explain how much extra work doing it right will save later.

    Build it, or raked out in some places, is supposedly enough.

    Any insights, or opinions, are greatly appreciated. I've seen this hinted to in other threads on here, and I think this can benefit a bunch of us.

    Thanks!

    JmZ

    I tried to send you a PM but your mailbox is full.

  3. #3
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    Tell them you want to do just one trail "by the book" and then compare the trails after time. If they don't agree after that...find new volunteers or a new trail construction manager.

  4. #4
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    I've been wondering the same thing since I finished a trail management class this past week. I gave a little detail in the post: Trail Building School - BLM Style

    The amount of detail these instructors gave in two 8 hour days of training was great -- but how do you get the general volunteer to understand those principles in 3 hours of training (or less)?

    We just scratched the surface in areas like geology, hydrology and topography. Once people can understand the overall picture of our trails process -- it's easy to understand the building of features required for a sustainable trail. One of my instructors had issues with IMBA's trail building practices. His issues had merit at one level -- however in practice it is really hard to fault our IMBA programs for providing education to the masses. Not everyone has access to these guys and their two day or week long workshops. Heck, I was the only mountain biker at the class.

    The workshop did open my eyes to many of the details in setting trail corridors that are missed in IMBA TCC schools. But again, I had more than twice the classroom time and GIS and topographic data to play with.

    I was invited back to do the weeklong National Trails Class offered at the Red Rock Training Center next year by the same training team. It would be great -- but I think it would just piss me off to learn more about how bad our trails are without having any authority to mount an effective trail rebuilding program.

    I guess I can work to become the Sustainable Trail Guru in Las Vegas -- and then the BLM would have to listen to me -- right?

    mbb

  5. #5
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    Credibility is the issue, not understanding.

    I guess I can work to become the Sustainable Trail Guru in Las Vegas -- and then the BLM would have to listen to me -- right?
    Bingo!

    I'm facing this a bit as well. Fortunately I'm becoming known as teh trail guru by both the cycling community and the land managers. Building that credibility is different with each group.

    What I've found with the cycling community is that the "old guys" think they know better because they've been doing this since when I was in diapers. I'm an upstart and I don't have to be paid attention to. Well at least that's how it was. I was fortunate to build a relationship with a good land manager that allowed me (and a bunch of others) to build things properly. The "old guys" have seen the effort we put it, see how the trail holds up, and like the how it flows. So now they are converts. I'm a good guy now.

    Land managers want something different. They was to know that you know what you are doing, that you can actually deliver and that you'll be reliable. Like I said I was able to get in with a good land manager. They talk to other land managers, and it makes it easier in the future. All you need is that thin end of the wedge and you will start to make progress. Don't be afraid to use political pressure if you are being stonewalled. And always make sure that you are viewed as being reasonable.

    As for educating the crew. We don't educate them on all aspects of trail building anymore. We used to, and we might again if there are enough people who show interest. On any given project we have a head leader who oversees the entire project. Under them are a number of crew leaders who deal with the specifics of a give section. Then we have the crew itself. Division of labour works wonders in this case. When you get a "troublesome" crew member who is asking questions or saying "that's not how they do it" their crew leader can send them to the overall project leader. The project leader has the uneviable task of dealing with these kinds of people so make sure you choose the right overall project leader. Diplomacy, tact, expertise, persuasiveness are all good qualities in a project leader.

    One last thought: it doesn't happen over night. It will take at least a season or two, maybe up to five if things are really slow moving in your area. But stick with it, it's important.
    Jason Murray
    Rep for Ontario, IMBA Canada
    Visit the IMBA Canada site to keep current on all things IMBA in Canada.

  6. #6
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    Do you have any "old" trails that just so happen to have been built correctly? These would be trails that everyone loves to ride and have been around since before IMBA came about.

    I was lucky as we had 2 of these - old in age, but pretty much by todays standards of sustainablity. We have 4 others the same age, but not done correctly. All of these are over 30 years old. I can point to the full bench cuts, on the contour, w/ outslope that is 30 years old and is still 12" wide - perfect trail to ride. People love it. Then I can point to another trail, that is 8' wide, rutted, rooty and just a mess. People hate it.

    I then can explain to them that the way we are doing it, the trail will be like the "one we all love to ride" and the shortcuts will give us the trail the people never go ride. I can explain why it is in both scenerios.

    At this point we have won the hearts and minds of both the land managers and the riders.

  7. #7
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    I haven't been real active on trail crews in my area, but it is hard to imagine this being an issue in our locale. The trail work projects have and are always cleared and planned with the land managers in advance, usually State Park Rangers in Santa Cruz county as an example. The trailday is scheduled and publicized well in advance, including the work area and project for the day. The crew assembles, goes to the work site, and executes the scope of work planned, period. Doing otherwise would find our efforts unwanted very quickly. Even so, it is a collaborative relationship.

    Your situation sounds way different, as if your crews have way more latitude and discretion.

    I like seenvic's suggestion of having a couple of comparison trails that folks are familiar with. Maybe some large sketches on a flip chart, or a binder of pass around pictures would be helpful in showing folks the desired result. In addition, I think you can and should just boil the classes down to simple fundamentals for the day. Most people who come out don't want or need to know al the details, just that there is a real point to why you need to do the extra work.

  8. #8
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    One thing our group has done has had trail work days that are specifically geared towards learning/teaching proper trail work techniques. We are very fortunate in that our local IMBA rep is a really excellent teacher.

    But yah, I know what you mean about people that have "developed their own techniques".

    formica

  9. #9
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    Compare Sweet Trail to Eroded Trail

    Vic's suggestion is right on: Here’s a simple method for demonstrating that trail erosion/trail damage is greatly effected by trail design/trail construction techniques. Think about one of your favorite trails back home. Chances are good that some sections of trail are eroded and damaged, while other sections are in pristine condition, and remain in good shape year after year. It is likely that both the damaged and undamaged sections receive the same traffic, the same mix of users, the same weather, and are built on the same type of soil. So why is one section sweet and the other a mess? The determining factor will usually be trail design. The sections of trail that hold up well will probably be aligned across the fall line, with gentle grades and adequate drainage. While the sections with steep grades, fall line alignment, and poor drainage will probably be eroded, widened, muddy, and rutted.

  10. #10
    JmZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by seenvic
    Do you have any "old" trails that just so happen to have been built correctly? These would be trails that everyone loves to ride and have been around since before IMBA came about.
    Several old(er) trails. That's the majority of the trails in the area, but not built to IMBA standards. So many of our locals don't have this as a frame of reference, or if they see sustainable trails when on vacation and don't see them during maint or building days.

    Quote Originally Posted by seenvic
    I was lucky as we had 2 of these - old in age, but pretty much by todays standards of sustainablity. We have 4 others the same age, but not done correctly. All of these are over 30 years old. I can point to the full bench cuts, on the contour, w/ outslope that is 30 years old and is still 12" wide - perfect trail to ride. People love it. Then I can point to another trail, that is 8' wide, rutted, rooty and just a mess. People hate it.
    Many of the local trails are not models of trail design. Isn't a huge issue to many in the city since the trail's built upon a dump. I wish there was a nice sustainable trail that I could easily point to, but nothing that's close.

    We fought (and are fighting) battles to keep things on the straight and narrow. Those perfect 12-18" wide trails are things we're working towards, but it isn't a battle won, not just yet, anyways. We've addressed problems before they've become the 8' wide morass, but have not always stayed at the 12-18" that they were built at.

    Quote Originally Posted by seenvic
    I then can explain to them that the way we are doing it, the trail will be like the "one we all love to ride" and the shortcuts will give us the trail the people never go ride. I can explain why it is in both scenerios.

    At this point we have won the hearts and minds of both the land managers and the riders.
    I'm hoping to use our new trail to illustrate this point, but gotta win the battle before we can win the war. The DNR wants the trail built to IMBA standards, and this should help matters.

    Thanks for the posts. A partial vent, and a chance to try and put some solutions out there for everyone else who may feel the same frustrations at some point.

    JmZ
    JmZ

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    Advocate as if your ride depends on it...

  11. #11
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    Here's a shot of a trail we built to IMBA specs...by the book...and a shot of the same trail three years later. This area recieves 800 passes every weekend...it's located near the NYC Metro area.

    The old time trail workers were saying that this trail will never last...they weren't familiar with bench cut trails.

    The first picture shows a smiling happy trail worker...we wheel barrowed the excavated soil to the bottom where we built a switchback. We were careful not to disturb the trailside plantings or create any collateral damage.

    The second picture shows the rough finished trail...the beauty of bench cut trails is that they can't get any wider and ATVs can't ride on them.

    The third picture shows the trail three years later...it have grown in quite nicely and has even become narrower despite over 800 passes a week.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Nice turn!!!

  13. #13
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    Thanx...what you can't see in the pix is there are two grade reversals..one before and one after the turn. I think we measured 25 feet from the outside edges of the turn. If you miss the turn and fall down the hill...you'll be on the railroad bed. Also, it's about a 2,000 foot re-route...the trail leading to the switchback is like a roller coaster. It took three months and 375 hours. We had to build two 40 foot long 2 foot high retaining walls out of old railroad ties we found nearby to repair a sandy washed out section.
    Last edited by sick4surf; 10-31-2006 at 07:01 PM.

  14. #14
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    You don't want a trail that looks good the first summer, but gets blown out during the first winter storm.

    I once had an excellent quick and dirty explanation of why the different standards and techniques for trail construction and why they change from one section of trail to the next. We were laying out a P-line for a proposed trail, and part of the group was an FS soils engineer who also was a mtn biker. He began to talk about how for the next 50 meters the downhill side will need support, and the tread will need to be wider and sloped differently. It all looked the same as the other sections to me, but he stuck a shovel in the ground, pulled up a bladeful of soil, and explained shear factor, porosity, ERH, and some other techno-jargon terms that went over my head. The dirt was different there.

    I took his word for it. The roads and trails he designed need a lot less routine maintainence than the ones built by others.

  15. #15
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Sick

    Any issues with hikers cutting that switchback? That appears to be a text book IMBA switchback. We have one switchback like that, and issues with cross cutting by hikers. One hiking oriented construction book suggests a larger separation between the legs, and I'll likely give that a try the next chance I get.

  16. #16
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    One thing that has really helped raise everyones trail building skills in Michigan is our MMBA/REI Trail Building School. MMBA members as well as land managers have taken the classes. There's contact info on that web page to get more info on the curriculum and format.

  17. #17
    JmZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishtoes2000
    One thing that has really helped raise everyones trail building skills in Michigan is our MMBA/REI Trail Building School. MMBA members as well as land managers have taken the classes. There's contact info on that web page to get more info on the curriculum and format.
    Yup.

    I was up at the Arcadia TCC visit. Very informative, and great to meet some new faces. Do the other days expand on the TCC visits? Or are they additional opportunites for a similar experience.

    Thanks!

    JmZ

    p.s. Are there any REI's up in MI? I thought all their grant monies went to projects that were somehow tied to one of their locations. Just curious.
    JmZ

    From one flat land to another.

    Advocate as if your ride depends on it...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JmZ
    Yup.

    I was up at the Arcadia TCC visit. Very informative, and great to meet some new faces. Do the other days expand on the TCC visits? Or are they additional opportunites for a similar experience.

    Thanks!

    JmZ

    p.s. Are there any REI's up in MI? I thought all their grant monies went to projects that were somehow tied to one of their locations. Just curious.
    You were at Arcadia? Did you go to the Friday night social in Manistee? That's the only part I could make.

    I think Dan's curriculum is very similar to what the TCC preaches. Our 201 class is probably more advanced since it gets into trail advocacy. Dan's also added special classes such as rock armoring.

    We have two REI retail outlets in the Metro Detroit area. Their initial grant let us buy books and tools for the trail school. REI's been so incredibly good to us.

  19. #19
    JmZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishtoes2000
    You were at Arcadia? Did you go to the Friday night social in Manistee? That's the only part I could make.

    I think Dan's curriculum is very similar to what the TCC preaches. Our 201 class is probably more advanced since it gets into trail advocacy. Dan's also added special classes such as rock armoring.

    We have two REI retail outlets in the Metro Detroit area. Their initial grant let us buy books and tools for the trail school. REI's been so incredibly good to us.
    Tried to send ya a PM, but looks like those are turned off currently.

    Drop me a PM or email through the profile.

    JmZ
    JmZ

    From one flat land to another.

    Advocate as if your ride depends on it...

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