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  1. #1
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    Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic

    Good article for all "trail maintenance crews"/volunteers/DIY'ers

    Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic | Singletracks Mountain Bike Blog



    Quote Originally Posted by misterbill View Post
    You must be really bored if you have read this entire post.

  2. #2
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    I read a lot of complaints like this browsing the NSMB board. A lot of these technical trails are only technical because of a lack of maintenance, they would have started out smooth. While I don't agree with how the work was done in this specific case, I'm guessing it is more about restoring these trails to their original difficulty than dumbing them down.

    I found a great post by Dave Muse on the SORBA forum about this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Muse
    Per the USFS, there were three options at Bull/Jake: do nothing, do the work that was done or close the trails to all traffic, permanently. They have standards for the amount of degredataion that can occur on an inventoried trail over a period of time and for the level of impact that it can have on the environment and the Bull/Jake trails had never been compliant with either, so option number 1 wasn't feasable. That just left close them or rehab them and I'm glad they chose the latter.

    The few sections of Jake and Bull that were sustainable were preserved. Literally every bit that was rerouted was an unsustainable, fall-line trail that either required annual bulldozing or just continued to degrade every year. Sections of the Moss Branch, Black Branch and Jake Moutain trails had become so eroded that it took an expert horseman to ride them. For that matter, most mountain bikers avoided those trails for the same reasons.

    It's easy to point the finger at horses as they are heavier and if the trail is sufficiently steep then they overcome the shear strength of the soil if the trail isn't designed to withstand the traffic. However, the same is true of both bike and foot traffic. If the trail is sufficiently steep, then the force exerted by the traffic will overcome it's shear strength, the soil will crumble or become mud and water will wash it downhill. If downhill is off-trail then there's not THAT big of a problem. If downhill is just down the trail, then it will take more of the trail with it as it goes, rut out the trail and pile up at the bottom of the hill. As most of the old trail was fall-line trail, that is what was happening at Bull/Jake. It turns out that in the soil at Bull/Jake, about 18% is the maximum sustainable grade for bike traffic and 15% is the maximum for horses. Most of the trails that were rerouted exceeded that.

    ...[bit on horse impacts]...

    All that said, I totally understand the argument that the trails feel tame. They do. They are. But they are now maintainable and ecologically sustainable, which they were not before, and those are the minimum requirements for trails to exist in the NF. There are lots of trails in the NF that will probably get the same treatment over the next few years. They're doing it up in Pisgah too. Like it or hate it, it's the future of trails in the NF, if there is any future at all.

    I hope that what comes out of it is a better understanding of trail science by the mountain bike community and a better rapport with the hiking, equestrian and environmentalist communities who we have traditionally been at odds with but who now seem to be coming around to us, just as we are coming around to them. Time will tell.
    Edit: I'm also guessing that the USFS doesn't have the budget to cater to the full spectrum of mountain bike riders, so they make green trails that everyone can ride. Around here (B.C.) it is up to riders/volunteers to make they trails they want. I don't know the situation where you are, but if your local club has build nights I'm sure they will be happy to accept your suggestions if you want to put the work in (for go-arounds, features, etc.) This is often put pretty bluntly as 'show up or shut up.'

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerebroside View Post
    I read a lot of complaints like this browsing the NSMB board. A lot of these technical trails are only technical because of a lack of maintenance, they would have started out smooth. While I don't agree with how the work was done in this specific case, I'm guessing it is more about restoring these trails to their original difficulty than dumbing them down.

    I found a great post by Dave Muse on the SORBA forum about this:


    Edit: I'm also guessing that the USFS doesn't have the budget to cater to the full spectrum of mountain bike riders, so they make green trails that everyone can ride. Around here (B.C.) it is up to riders/volunteers to make they trails they want. I don't know the situation where you are, but if your local club has build nights I'm sure they will be happy to accept your suggestions if you want to put the work in (for go-arounds, features, etc.) This is often put pretty bluntly as 'show up or shut up.'
    We get this dumbing down and sanitising stuff here too. We don't want all trails easy, just the ones near the trailhead. In addition, every time we put in tough alternate lines, no-one uses them, or people who didn't help build rock gardens etc come and remove rocks. In addition, easier trails that flow are not easier if you ride faster. So in addition to ignoring the fact that there will be a progressive increase in surface difficulty over time, most whiners want to ride exactly as they always have because they really are not that great a rider. Rather, they know how to manage the trails they ride in a single-minded way instead of taking things as they come and having fun with it.

  4. #4
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    Re: Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic

    If you bring the money to the table, and do the project management yourself, you actually get more say you would expect. By doing so you are not held to some of the USFS' own shackles, like being required to take the low bid.

    By paying a contractor to do very specific, high quality work, and providing a budget for the right materials you can build bad ass trail. Then you can have educated (think trail building) volunteers polish it off with hand finishing. That is what is going to happen in Pisgah. Most of the trails here were old skidder trails that eroded into some thing great or heinous depending on where you are coming from. If you want to save steep eroding tech, then control the water and armor the whole thing, or make a entertaining reroute in the character of the old trail.

    The USFS has to obey the Clean Water Act. Their classifications and definitions allow for variations. You can make great trail within those perimeters. Don't expect it for low bid, by over worked land managers with no budget. Make the reroutes better, longer, and so they require less maintenance. If you finish what you start and play the game well, we win.
    He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.

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  5. #5
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    The author could have done so much better with that article. It reads like a whiny crybaby rant, rather than an educated counterpoint to what was actually done. Readers unfamiliar with the location have no idea who did the work the author is criticizing, or why things were done that way, for starters.

    I've heard all kinds of rants from people about trails that are ridiculous and completely off-base.

    "I don't know why all the hikers come over here to the bike trails." Well, first off, the trails are specifically labeled hike-bike multiuse trails. Second, these trails are better than the older hike-only trails in the same park. I'd rather hike here, too.

    "Mountain bikers seem to want to build a trail around every tree" (some hiker on the web speaking about a local trail system that gets VERY high marks from most who ride it). It's a concept called contour trails. It allows the water to drain off of the trails, which helps them dry out faster and prevents them from eroding. In terrain like is found here, building contour trails increases mileage in a relatively small area without needing things like switchbacks to get up a hill. It's the way it works.

    "These new trails are easier than the old ones, I like the old technical ones better" (same basic idea as this thread) The land manager said the old ones had to go. So, we could either have the trails we have now, with more mileage than before, or we could have zero trails in the park. The land manager also only wants beginner and intermediate trails here. There are expert trails at this park over here

  6. #6
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    People ride what is available. Trails change over time and over time people adjust and embrace the condition. It becomes a part of the experience you come to expect. Nasty bits and all cleaning such thing becomes a point of pride or the point of enjoyment for one or a group. The local culture builds around it.

    By that context sustainability, ecological integrity, or safety and such don't seem to matter much; they are, in spite of whatever administrative definition, beside the point. Pull the trail back into line with administrative standards (sanitized) and you piss people off. The challenge is that we lack any administrative body to support and sustain trails as entertaining as those so neglected.

    Administrative bodies which control land are our main adversaries/partners when it comes time to gain and retain access. Their standards are their standards. Effecting them requires a new relationship and active participation from mountain bikers.

    I wonder if the people who complain about "sanitizing" are willing to work to build what is needed to make the kind of trails they want.
    I don't rattle.

  7. #7
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    "I wonder if the people who complain about "sanitizing" are willing to work to build what is needed to make the kind of trails they want."

    No - but you already knew that. They are too busy whining and riding to help.

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    I have heard the phrase "trail building is a democracy and those who vote use a shovel." It may have even come from someones signature here. As others have already said: if you don't like what is happening, get involved to change it. Being a condescending buffoon on an Internet forum is only hurting your position.

    Locally, we have been accused of sanitizing trails after repairing badly eroded fall line trails that 98% of the users could not ride because of exposed roots, rocks, and ruts. These trails originally were not technical trails and only became that way because of soil erosion. We merely restored them to their previous state. That looks to be what has happened to the trails in that article.

    Even though some of the rock piles in the article photos were bulldozed through to create an easy line, can one not ride the harder lines that still exist or find even more difficult lines? I often find myself looking for more challenging lines if I think the main line is too tame. I have rarely seen trail braids form over more difficult lines, but the opposite seems to be a law of nature. So, why fight nature and just create optional difficult lines to begin with?

  9. #9
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    I have rarely seen trail braids form over more difficult lines, but the opposite seems to be a law of nature. So, why fight nature and just create optional difficult lines to begin with?

    Exactly

  10. #10
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    Every time the word "sustainable" comes out of someone's mouth, the word "sanitized" will come out of someone else's. Some people have no idea that you can build a technical trail that is also sustainable. Those people think "technical" means it goes straight up a hill and is washed out, rocky, and rooty. Those same people will whine constantly when they ride a tight, old school technical trail, with some run ins on it, as they huff and puff out of breath, about how slow the trail is, and it shouldn't climb so much. And I will ask them, 100 feet of climbing in a mile is too much?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    Every time the word "sustainable" comes out of someone's mouth, the word "sanitized" will come out of someone else's. Some people have no idea that you can build a technical trail that is also sustainable. Those people think "technical" means it goes straight up a hill and is washed out, rocky, and rooty. Those same people will whine constantly when they ride a tight, old school technical trail
    Yep, 29er riders are a pain for sure. They buy the ultimate trail sanitizer and then complain the trail is>>>>>>>>>>sanitized

  12. #12
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    Build MTB Trails for Everyone

    Hey guys, thanks for reading this article! While it's a couple years old now, and I might write it differently if I wrote it today, it is what it is.

    In response to all of the insinuations that all of the "whiners" don't do trail work... well for starters, you're just plain wrong. I've spent plenty of time clearing brush and swinging a mcleod and a pulaski on my local trails. Also, I don't feel the need to get into all of the inner workings of the local Dahlonega trail development situation when this article was written back in early 2012, because since that time the dynamic has changed drastically--and primarily, for the better.

    Mainly, I'm just dropping by to post a link to a follow-up article that I wrote. This article presents what I would see as the ideal trail development scenario. Granted, this is an best-case scenario, but I think it is achievable. The article is titled:
    A Modest Proposal: Building Mountain Bike Trails for Everyone

    Happy trails!
    Feel free to check out my personal website, Greg Heil.com

  13. #13
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    Greg - You're dealing with a curmudgeony bunch here who probably build as much as they ride (and go to planning/Land Manager meetings when other riders are out and about), so its going to be a bit less forgiving crowd here than other forums to this type of blog post.

    For some reason the 2012 gig is making its rounds (here and on facebook) so folks here probably looking to address it/pick a bone.

    I read the article (original and linked) and I think something big is missing in the assessment. Builders all work with Land Managers and they dictate what is built, and in many cases how. They DO limit our imagination and that is sometimes reflected in trail characteristics.

    There are bad builders. But sometimes your LM wants something very specific done. You do it and to keep access/trail mileage. You get complaints from all sorts, it gets your blood pressure up.

    Regarding Stacked Loops, if you're lucky enough to start from scratch, they're great and make a bunch of sense. If you have legacy trail, you're stuck with what you have to work with (i.e. reroutes).

    YMWV depending on Park Size, Geography, Land Manager, User groups (who also have input), etc.

    Lots of variables there beyond good/bad/mediocre builders.

  14. #14
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    Re: A Modest Proposal- I agree pretty much, although location may not allow for those exact divisions. Terrain dictates how flow will be achieved through it, and as long as flow is achieved, riders will enjoy the trail.

    We have a lot of similar trail terrain, so it comes down to describing a few easier and a few harder. The current ratio is 20 beg, 70 int, 10 adv. As a whole, our easy trails are hard and our hard trails are easy. They are almost all black on the imba scale based on width, height of obstacles, degree of incline, length of climbs, etc. Fortunately they were designed as stacked loops from the beginning, and there are enough canyons, mesas, and big western views to keep it interesting for all riders.
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  15. #15
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    Can't say I disagree with much in the original article. The main complaint was that "cleaning up" a rutted fall line trail by removing rocks does nothing to fix sustainability.

    Hard to argue with that assessment.

    "Trail sanitizing" is a pretty entertaining bone for people gnaw on, but I'm not sure it gets us much farther along in determining what to do with regards to trail maintenance. I lean more toward looking at sustainability, mostly because there aren't enough hours to do everything that needs doing.

    My $0.02 is the most difficult trail system in an area that has a lot of easy trails (as is implied in the article) is going to come under pressure to conform to the average. Riders get used to going fast, don't cultivate the skills involved in going over stuff, and see the alternative as inferior. Those who do make a point of getting good at the tough stuff are invested and don't want change.

    Back to the original point about the removal of rocks from a fall-line section. I would avoid doing that. I'd probably look at a reroute on a more sustainable grade as the author suggests. However, it's pretty easy to make that call not having to deal with the whole list of things that may need doing on that particular trail. It may have been a bad decision made out of laziness, or it may have been a temporary fix to free up time to deal with more pressing issues. Hard to know from a distance.

    The only certainty in trail work is someone is going to be unhappy with the results. The more vocal they are, the more certain it is they will never lift a hand to do anything about it.

    Walt

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbGreg View Post
    Hey guys, thanks for reading this article! While it's a couple years old now, and I might write it differently if I wrote it today, it is what it is.

    In response to all of the insinuations that all of the "whiners" don't do trail work... well for starters, you're just plain wrong. I've spent plenty of time clearing brush and swinging a mcleod and a pulaski on my local trails. Also, I don't feel the need to get into all of the inner workings of the local Dahlonega trail development situation when this article was written back in early 2012, because since that time the dynamic has changed drastically--and primarily, for the better.

    Mainly, I'm just dropping by to post a link to a follow-up article that I wrote. This article presents what I would see as the ideal trail development scenario. Granted, this is an best-case scenario, but I think it is achievable. The article is titled:
    A Modest Proposal: Building Mountain Bike Trails for Everyone

    Happy trails!
    Greg, your concept is fine. Except where it isn't.

    At a blank-slate starting point, designing a trail system to have beginner-intermediate-expert sections is a good idea. Stacked loops are excellent. But they don't work in a lot of places for many different reasons. 7-10 mile loops aren't easy to come by in a lot of places. Sometimes the topographic features that lend themselves to development as advanced trail features come close to the trail head. Sometimes areas of the land being developed are closed to trails. In a lot of cases, building alternate lines so advanced riders and beginning riders can enjoy the same trail make more sense.

    Like so much in life, trail design depends on a lot of things that can't be distilled into a small set of ideas.

    BTW, having an opinion doesn't put you in the "whiners" category. We reserve that for people who don't contribute!

    Walt

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy View Post
    BTW, having an opinion doesn't put you in the "whiners" category. We reserve that for people who don't contribute!

    Walt
    Haha, thanks!

    And yeah, I totally get that so much of trail design is dependent on topography, legal and political geography, and even the ecosystem and geology present in the area where the trails are being built. That second article is definitely an best-case scenario, when the possibility of building trails that way is available.
    Feel free to check out my personal website, Greg Heil.com

  18. #18
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    "Sustainable," says the person with no good design ideas and the urge to sanitize the trail.

    "Technical," says the person with no good design ideas and the desire to leave the eroded trail as is.

    "Fun" says the designer who can both think about what is fun to ride (for different people) and works for the environment/goals of the trail.




  19. #19
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    (moved to other thread)

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmc4130 View Post
    "Sustainable," says the person with no good design ideas and the urge to sanitize the trail.

    "Technical," says the person with no good design ideas and the desire to leave the eroded trail as is.

    "Fun" says the designer who can both think about what is fun to ride (for different people) and works for the environment/goals of the trail.



    I like the concept of "fun" as a guideline for trail design! It suffers even more from being vague than "technical" or "sustainable", but it brings in elements that neither category seem to cover.

    The idea of "fun" in trail design has come up repeatedly with my trail building partner and me.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmc4130 View Post
    "Sustainable," says the person with no good design ideas and the urge to sanitize the trail.

    "Technical," says the person with no good design ideas and the desire to leave the eroded trail as is.

    "Fun" says the designer who can both think about what is fun to ride (for different people) and works for the environment/goals of the trail.



    Well said! Fun is the umbrella I work under... only way to create a fun trail.
    I ride with the best people.




  22. #22
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    In graphical form:
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  23. #23
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    I think I'd be happier sterilized if it was always like this

    Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic-p1120826.jpg

    However this bit of trail was sterile from the start, so I guess it is just sad trail

  24. #24
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    Before I read, or even listen to a single word complaining about a trail, or modifications to it, I always ask "how many hours have you spent working on trails this year"
    If the answer is less than... about 15 hours, then the complainer gets to shut the fvck up - they have nothing to say on the subject, period.

    The author of this article didn't establish himself as someone who gets to speak about this subject, as far as I can tell.

    Now if you dig and try to build stuff you want to ride, and are steered by some external political or environmental factor away from the best trail you think you can build, fine, complain away. It happens where I ride/build all the time (95% of our trails have to have a pretty beginner-friendly line down the middle).

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy View Post
    In graphical form:
    Nice !!


    Note how IMBA juggles those three balls (circles) in this:

    Fifteen Tips for Building Excellent Downhill Trails | International Mountain Bicycling Association

  26. #26
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    Re: Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic

    Quote Originally Posted by Joules View Post
    Before I read, or even listen to a single word complaining about a trail, or modifications to it, I always ask "how many hours have you spent working on trails this year"
    If the answer is less than... about 15 hours, then the complainer gets to shut the fvck up - they have nothing to say on the subject, period.

    The author of this article didn't establish himself as someone who gets to speak about this subject, as far as I can tell.

    Now if you dig and try to build stuff you want to ride, and are steered by some external political or environmental factor away from the best trail you think you can build, fine, complain away. It happens where I ride/build all the time (95% of our trails have to have a pretty beginner-friendly line down the middle).
    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy View Post
    I like the concept of "fun" as a guideline for trail design! It suffers even more from being vague than "technical" or "sustainable", but it brings in elements that neither category seem to cover.

    The idea of "fun" in trail design has come up repeatedly with my trail building partner and me.
    Shhhhhhhhh . Some people call it the other F word. Flow. : )
    He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.

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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bfluid View Post
    Shhhhhhhhh . Some people call it the other F word. Flow. : )
    OK, but...

    You've never had fun threading through a tricky rock garden? Lifting your front wheel over a root otherwise impossible to cross? Riding a skinny?

    If so, your definition of fun is too narrow.

    Flow trails are great, I want more of them. But I don't want to build all flow trail.

    Walt

  28. #28
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    Big difference between flow and a flow trail.
    He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.

    Speed just slows me down...

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy View Post
    OK, but...

    You've never had fun threading through a tricky rock garden? Lifting your front wheel over a root otherwise impossible to cross? Riding a skinny?

    If so, your definition of fun is too narrow.

    Flow trails are great, I want more of them. But I don't want to build all flow trail.

    Walt
    Good point. I see great trail this way, you see it that way.

    We have been trying to get our land manager to endorse the concept of small groups of individual trail guardians - the adopt a trail theory. It is nothing new for dudes working on DJ or DH trails. We say it ensures a variety of trail characteristics, rather than the same feel all through the park, plus local knowledge of sightlines etc. They say we need more volunteers putting effort into less trail before they will consider broadening the current arrangements which limit where we work (except in an emergency).

    There's a problem right there - one standard and that standard is IMBA + local LM rules + limited minions working under the benevolent guidance of the anointed few. That anointment stuff feels good, but riders looking for a more gganarrly experience tend to coat it with a thick layer of flung dung. Fighting spontaneous combustion within the volunteer group here is a bigger issue than trail sanity.

  30. #30
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    Gnaturally gnarly...

    ...my $.02:

    I say if a local terrain was primarily rocks and roots before a trail was built across it; then that's how it should stay.

    If a trail erodes down to where it's primarily rocks and roots and has stabilized then that's how it should stay.

    (I don't need to say that "fixing" the above is a waste of time and only causes more environmental degradation???)

    But promoting gnarl that is the result of poor trail design gives MTB'ing a black eye. (We're talking public land here; on your own private property you can do what you think you can get away with)

    2nd point:

    Out here in Kalifornia if we're lucky enough to get trail access it'll probably be on an MUT. Multi-use (for review) = hikers + bikers + horses.

    Mostly lost on the MTB bike advocacy community are the new (not THAT new) ADA rules that require most new trails (and re-routes) that are accessible to pedestrians also be suitable for mobility devices.

    This requirement drives width, slope and trail surface quality; some trail sanitization seen is simply the land manager trying to accommodate these rules. The land manager could be sued/cited if trails aren't so maintained. Blame the hikers for inviting the "chairs"! (I've got nothing against the mobility-impaired)

    PS; I'm all for bike-only trails!
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by pliebenberg View Post
    But promoting gnarl that is the result of poor trail design gives MTB'ing a black eye. (We're talking public land here; on your own private property you can do what you think you can get away with)
    This is important. MTB has been inaccurately labelled as environmentally damaging, when it has really been the quality of trail at fault. Land managers want stable and sustainable trail. In our area, that means extensive trail changes. It's hard to have it both ways - old and eroded must be made sustainable or it could be closed. This is the reality most trailworkers live with.

  32. #32
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    My understanding is that the ADA accessibility rules apply only to gates and other obstructions, not the trail itself.

    See attached...
    Attached Files Attached Files
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  33. #33
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    Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic

    Quote Originally Posted by bsieb View Post
    My understanding is that the ADA accessibility rules apply only to gates and other obstructions, not the trail itself.

    See attached...
    How old is that document? As I read the new ADA rules a couple years back it sounded like they applied to the trails themselves and that land managers would have to provide sound management reasons why trails would not comply with those rules regarding access for mobility devices (wheelchairs). Otherwise, it sounded like all multiuse trails would have to be ADA compliant.

    They sounded like a slippery slope waiting to happen, yet I am not aware of any mtb trails being modified specifically to accomodate those rules. Maybe some clarification was issued or the rules changed yet again, I don't know.

  34. #34
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    The ADA rules were just ratified. For those not familar with ADA, an ADA trail is very similar to what mountain bikers would rate as Easiest:
    Clear tread width: 36" minimum
    Tread Obstacles: 2" high maximum (up to 3" high where running and cross slopes are 5% or less)
    Cross Slope: 5% max.
    Running slope (trail grade) meets one or more of the following:
    - 5% or less for any distance.
    - up to 8.33% for 200' max. Resting intervals no more than 200' apart.
    - up to10% for 30' max. Resting intervals 30'.
    - up to 12.5% for 10' max. Resting intervals 10'.
    No more than 30% of the total trail length may exceed a running slope of 8.33%.
    Passing Space: provided at least every 1000' where trail width is less than 60"
    Signs: shall be provided indicating the length of the accessible trail segment.


    Here is the section that is important to us.

    "F247 Trails
    F247.1 General
    This section contains the scoping requirements for trails. The terms trail and trailhead are defined in F106.5. A trail is a pedestrian route developed primarily for outdoor recreational purposes. A pedestrian route developed primarily to connect elements, spaces, and facilities within a site is not a trail. A trailhead is an outdoor space that is designated by an entity responsible for administering or maintaining a trail to serve as an access point to the trail. The junction of two or more trails or the undeveloped junction of a trail and a road is not a trailhead.
    Where a trail is designed for use by hikers or pedestrians and directly connects to a trailhead or another trail that substantially meets the technical requirements for trails in 1017, the section requires the trail to comply with the technical requirements for trails in 1017. The Federal Trail Data Standards classify trails by their designed use and managed use.8 A trail has only one designed use that determines the design, construction, and maintenance parameters for the trail. A trail can have more than one managed use based on a management decision to other uses on the trails. Trails that have a designed use for hikers or pedestrians are required to comply with the technical requirements for trails in 1017. Trails that have a designed use for other than hikers or pedestrians are not required to comply with the technical requirements for trails in 1017.

    A trail system may include a series of connecting trails. Only trails that directly connect to a trail head or another trail that substantially meets the technical requirement for trails in 1017 are required to comply with the technical requirements for trails in 1017."

    This can be good or bad. Terminology is going to be very important. If a new trail is officially labeled as multi-use (hike/bike) or a hiking trail, (even if it allows mountain biking), it will have to be built to ADA requirements, unless the reasons for not doing so are documented. Existing trails are supposed to be upgraded to ADA if significant work is done to them (unless reasons for not doing so are documented).

    I do not know how this will play out. There isn't agency that is going to run around enforcing the rules. But if a person feels they were not provided access to a park, they can sue. So it will be up to each land management entity to determine how much legal risk they wish to take by not providing new ADA trails or bringing existing trails into compliance.

    The good news is that a trail designated and designed for mountain biking as a primary use, is not held to the ADA standards. In one park system I work with, we historically had to call our trails "Multi-Use Trails", Now they are being called "Mountain Bike Trails (that allow hiking).

    I personally think that many in the hiking and trail running user groups have been asleep at the wheel on ADA. Hikers and Trail runners are like mountain bikers in that they as a group like a wide range of different trail types. Many like steep, technical, single track, and those segments of the hiking and trail running groups are not going to be happy with the Super Sterilized multi-use and hike trails ADA is going to drive Parks to build.

    In some places the only way hikers and trail runners are going to get new technical trails, is to call them mountain bike trails!

    But of course some land managers will be dead set on calling trail multi use. They will require trails to be built to ADA standards. And local mountain bikers will be upset, and likely will blame IMBA or the local mtb advocacy organization.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by indytrekracer View Post
    The ADA rules were just ratified. For those not familar with ADA, an ADA trail is very similar to what mountain bikers would rate as Easiest:
    I wouldn't say "just ratified"; this egg was laid back in 1999, it hatched in 2006, made it to the market in January 2009, and was served up on a plate in March of 2012. The deadline for public comment was in October, 2007.

    Many trail advocacy groups were "asleep at the switch" with this; sort of a "that's about wheelchairs; can't apply to us" mentality. The US Department of Justice had other ideas!

    I will say that there are quite a few loopholes that will allow for "gnarly" trails; but these must be carefully exploited.

    Yes on "Mountain Bike Skills Trail"! (or perhaps "Bouldering Training Course"!?!?)

    FWIW; local to me a county parks dept. has been building multi-use trails to the "new" standard for a couple of years now and the results are impressive. Fast with lots of flow; they don't feel like "wheelchair" trails.

    The best site I've found to keep tabs is American Trails - Accessible Trails and ADA

    Here's the ADA.gov homepage site.

    Most applicable to the trails MTBers would be building is the USFS site: USDA Forest Service - Caring for the land and serving people.

    Here's California State Park's take on it http://atfiles.org/files/pdf/CA-acce...elines2009.pdf

    264 pages; only 4 pages relate to trails:








    Page 225 describes the amount of acceptable gnarl; 2" diameter roots and rocks---3" on trail grades 5% and less. So a totally smooth trail surface is not a requirement.
    Content here does not officially represent the CA DPR.

    Windows 10, destroying humanity one upgrade at a time.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    How old is that document? As I read the new ADA rules a couple years back it sounded like they applied to the trails themselves and that land managers would have to provide sound management reasons why trails would not comply with those rules regarding access for mobility devices (wheelchairs). Otherwise, it sounded like all multiuse trails would have to be ADA compliant.

    They sounded like a slippery slope waiting to happen, yet I am not aware of any mtb trails being modified specifically to accomodate those rules. Maybe some clarification was issued or the rules changed yet again, I don't know.

    I'm not sure about the validity or timeliness of the doc (it's what I was sent), but this is the standard that the District/Region just recently applied to singletrack trail cattleguards. They said if the trail keeps going on the other side of a fence crossing, and the crossing is usable by a pedestrian, then the crossing must also meet wheelchair width (32") and slope (1:9) requirements. They also said this didn't apply to the trail itself, just the CGs and other pedestrian crossings, such as walk through gates, which require an WC accessible gate next to them.

    A thing to keep in mind with accessability issues is that we have a growing number of handcyclists who benefit from these accommodations that would otherwise prevent them from continuing down the trail. None of the handcyclists I know advocate sanitizing trails, it's just that they can't lift themselves and their bike over the fence.
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  37. #37
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    I think the sterilized-singletrack really is a spreading epidemic. I recently moved to Anchorage, AK from CO and before that MT. It seems that if you ride any of the recently built trails in any of these states with very different terrain, you are almost riding the same trail but with different scenery.

    The problem I think comes from a combination of using a trail machine instead of hand-building (I know it's a cost saver but it really builds one type of trail) and building to spec rather than the local terrain.

    When I picture singletrack, I imagine something closer to 12" wide, not 36" wide, without every rock and pebble bulldozed out of the way. Google Whitehorse, Yukon, and see how they have somehow managed to build 700km of real singletrack, and it looks like a large amount of it was done without a mini-bulldozer.

    It would be really nice to see clubs/groups that stand up for unique-ness, rather than just "some dirt is better than no dirt." It is a real bummer when you travel over a thousand miles only to ride the same trail which is being built in every town in the country, blind of the individual traits of that local area.

  38. #38
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    It's just the timeline. Previously trails were gnarly quicker and badly damaged quicker. Now it takes longer for them to become more natural, but they still do.

  39. #39
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    It would be really nice to see clubs/groups that stand up for unique-ness, rather than just "some dirt is better than no dirt."
    You have a choice to make, get involved locally and commit to making a difference, or stay on the sidelines and hope that others will build what you want.

    The fact remains that the main reason trails are built as they are is because the landowners/landagents define what they will allow. It's not up to the designers and trail builders. This will take much time and effort to change that midset, it's not as easy as trail organizations just saying "hell no, we won't build it". The land agents just shrug and have it built anyway.

  40. #40
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    The "park" that I regularly ride in used to be called a park. As these new rules started to become an issue the name was changed and it is now called a wildlife conservation area. Thankfully here that does not preclude mechanized travel only motorized so bicycles don't need to be excluded. It is also in a watershed and the flowing water areas can not be altered so it does not need to meet the new requirements of width and smoothness because the rocks in the creek crossing can't be moved and the banks can't be reshaped.

    Maybe some places need to have their designations changed...

  41. #41
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    If you are posting here about sterilized trails, and you haven't yet made yourself an indispensable part of your local club/advocacy group and put your boots and tools in the dirt/ass in chair at meetings, then honestly, STFU. Probably if you were doing those things, you wouldn't be here, or at least you'd understand better how trails evolve and how designs get done in collaboration with *all* user groups and managers.

    Want gnarlier trails? Make it happen. Posting here won't do it.

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    Browsing this forum and others, in addition to speaking with riders on the trail and during build/maintenance sessions, it seems that a lot of riders are disgruntled with the direction that many clubs and groups are taking when designing and building trails. These people, including myself, also volunteer their time, sweat, and money...

    Unfortunately, the one-size-fits-all problem is more systemic than local, and it makes a lot of sense to discuss it on an online forum. It's part of the 'doing things right the first time' philosophy, so that in 10 or 20 years we don't look back and wish we hadn't built the same style of trail every single time, all across the country.

    Thanks for the lecture though. I aspire to one day be as good of poster as you.. 10,000 hours, ya know? Being great at a forum takes time, and your ass is obviously in the chair more than mine.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by SknnyTrlzRbttr View Post
    Browsing this forum and others, in addition to speaking with riders on the trail and during build/maintenance sessions, it seems that a lot of riders are disgruntled with the direction that many clubs and groups are taking when designing and building trails. These people, including myself, also volunteer their time, sweat, and money...

    Unfortunately, the one-size-fits-all problem is more systemic than local, and it makes a lot of sense to discuss it on an online forum. It's part of the 'doing things right the first time' philosophy, so that in 10 or 20 years we don't look back and wish we hadn't built the same style of trail every single time, all across the country.

    Thanks for the lecture though. I aspire to one day be as good of poster as you.. 10,000 hours, ya know? Being great at a forum takes time, and your ass is obviously in the chair more than mine.
    Walt was pretty blunt, but is correct. Trails happen because the person or persons building them wanted that sort of trail. Personally I like flowy trails, so that's what I build. I'm a volunteer, I'm not going to start building trail I don't want to ride. If you want to put in the time to shape a trail to your requirements I'm sure your local club would be happy to accommodate you.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    If you are posting here about sterilized trails, and you haven't yet made yourself an indispensable part of your local club/advocacy group and put your boots and tools in the dirt/ass in chair at meetings, then honestly, STFU. Probably if you were doing those things, you wouldn't be here, or at least you'd understand better how trails evolve and how designs get done in collaboration with *all* user groups and managers.

    Want gnarlier trails? Make it happen. Posting here won't do it.

    -W
    This. The loudest complainers I know never touch a tool to work on a trail. Even when completely new trails are being built, and they have a chance to affect an entire project, they won't do it. But they will complain about the new trails when they get to ride them.

  45. #45
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    I take it you are pro anonymous-internet-complaining to solve real world problems, then?

    Touche, sir!

    -Walt
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  46. #46
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    I think some people think flow = no tech. I find as a DHer you can find flow in most situations, its about how hard that line is to find or power it takes to generate.

    Its really not easy building a flowy trail that has tech, its easier to build a "flow" trail.

    I'd say its taken me a good three-four years of trial and error to really nail both those concepts together well. Like that rock garden and smooth section that transition from one to the other seamlessly.

    Build crews matter too, if you teach people to bench and you only have once/twice in a season volunteers, you're going to try to manage them to plug out identical product. If you as the head builder flagged lines appropriately and incorporated options where things might otherwise get funky (like running and trying to stop while running down a hill feeling) and you have a good crew or regulars and bosses, you can get away with more creativity and tech.

    Now how you get to a volunteer "regular" though is where some volunteers get frustrated and stuck. They don't want to build the "product" to the standards and when you ask them to they have other ideas, they want to show up once or twice and get taken seriously. Takes a good dozen sessions in the dirt, and a couple meetings, to really get to know another builders' capability/"trail vision".

    Besides, if everything is gnar gnar and not beginner friendly, how will we grow the sport/funding base/advocacy/lobby/fight the powers that want to keep us out of the woods?

  47. #47
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    Totally agree that flow and tech can exist harmoniously. Routing the trail so that you can carry a bit of speed through the rocks and roots seems to help a lot. Most of the stuff I work on must be ridable in both directions, so a slightly easier climbing line is built in, or develops on its own pretty quickly. I get abuse for pulling bigger roots sometimes, but sometimes they have to go. Most people [i.e. the vast majority] just ride around off-camber roots anyway, so I'm okay with "sanitizing" 6' of trail once in a while. There are plenty of other challenges on the trail...

    Managing workers on trail days can be challenging, and we definitely get green volunteers out on a regular basis. I find that doing a quick demo of the desired technique and outcome helps a lot. Also, initially explaining which roots and rocks to remove/keep, and walking the line answering questions for the first 30-60 minutes dramatically improves the quality of the finished product, at least in my experience.
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  48. #48
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    [QUOTE Around here (B.C.) it is up to riders/volunteers to make they trails they want. I don't know the situation where you are, but if your local club has build nights I'm sure they will be happy to accept your suggestions if you want to put the work in (for go-arounds, features, etc.) This is often put pretty bluntly as 'show up or shut up.'[/QUOTE]
    Some of our trails are definitely getting sterilized.. Like richard Juryn trail. They did a boat load of of work on it this year. Last year it was rooty & techy. It has now been "flowed" it is smoother faster and way eaier too ride than it used to be. Im not complaining but I do miss some of what they flowed over. But it is still a sweet trail. Ive been using it year round for three years as training ground. It is perfect for that.
    It have very technical extreme climbs, good roots sections still and some very fast sections now. All with a beautiful BC views
    I just did squamish last weekend half nelson and such, it was my first time on a Bike park style trail. A lot of fun so buffed and flowy. Fastest trail I have ever ridden. I still prefer tech single track as that is what got me me to lose 30lbs.. Still got another 15 to go...

  49. #49
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    I thought a pic and a few lines may be a way to keep this thread going, as it has lots of good perspectives. After doing some work yesterday, we went for a walk through a planned trail line with a local pro builder - Pete Wilson of Trailworx. There is some grant money available for building, rocks etc and Trailworx is offering a quote.

    Obviously the issue of trail characteristics was a big part of the discussion. It is always good to hear alternate ideas, like what features and alternate lines can do to regulate trail speed and how realigning trail that riders are taking too fast may be less successful than re-modelling the exit for the fast riders who will still blow out of the new line.

    Of course any pro builder knows the old "you pulled out all the rocks and ruined our trail" line better than volunteers do. Pete added to that argument with a story of hearing the need for rocky tech from a very elite racer and then after an hour of chasing her hard (something he seemed to have fond memories of..), watching her riding around the rocky tech like everyone else.

    Anyway, I thought I'd post a pic of a little test riding on what can only be called sanitized, new trail, because it is smooth. It is also in terrain with limited surface rock and is incomplete, but has been ridden so much the built sections really do look sanitized as the rest is just a rougher line through the bush. No problem, it's only national park. Signs were torn down, again. I guess signs asking time to complete the trail the tearer-downer obviously already loves enough to poach makes sense to some riders.

    Things may get more than a little tense when wet weather arrives in ernest. Until then, here's some sanity

    Sterilized Singletrack: A Spreading Epidemic-p1150692.jpg

  50. #50
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    Two things came to mind as I read this:

    A) I get a lot of the whole too much trail is sterilized and not techy enough comments when I tell people I'm building some new trail. Those same people have come out and ridden the trail I'm working on and done things like ride around a set of rock step ups. I've also had people complain that there's no "way to ride around" a particular rock garden. The trail is rated "Advanced" or "More Difficult" - why should there be a way around the rock garden? And why would ride around a rock step up (or step down) not 10 minutes after telling me trail is too sanitized? Because people like to complain, and sometimes the easiest way to complain is to repeat the complaints you've heard from riders you respect, or riders that are better than you. On of the local riders I respect most likes my trail - he said it's technical enough to provide opportunities to work, but not so technical that you don't have to work if you don't want to, and that it's ideal for having fun. This cat frequently blows people's minds with this track stands and other antics on his rigid SS. My conclusion, in listening to people talk, is that people will complain.

    B) In building trail around here, I've found that some people think they're entitled to ride trail any time they can figure out where it is. When trail is built around here, it pretty much HAS to be rained on before you can let people start riding it. It's all the clay. If the soil is dry, you put a trail together, and the tread is baby powder. If people ride it before it rains, you just get blown out grooves. As a result, I try to connect trails right before it rains, but sometimes, that rain never happens, and I have to keep tape up across a new trail entrance for some time, as well as signs asking people not to ride it. Want me to tell you how well that works? I've had people take down the tape, and leave it laying in the woods next to the trail, I've had them tear down the signs, I've had them wear a path in the woods going around the tape - in short, if you build a trail somewhere, someone is going to disrespect it, from the second it's finished, until it's completely obliterated.

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