What should a club pursue? Pondering...
Recent thoughts in a thread in the VRC forum about old vs new trails, and is a pre-IMBA trail a bad thing? I will concede that not all pre-IMBA trail is equal, some game path/fall line trail is not the same as what the conservation corps have built years ago.
IMBA design trails - better than old school?
It got me thinking - what should a local club think think about and pursue? I know the allure of a new trail system instead of going after something that has been deemed off limits. (As example NIMBA's [Indiana] decision a couple of years back to go after Potato Creek SP for new trail instead of some other county parks that had existing, but not legal trail.)
Does it boil down to people and politics, or is it more about desiring something new, creating your own mark? And just because it's old doesn't mean it was bad.
Should the good fight be brought to some of the old trails, and patiently - but very persistently go after some of the old stomping grounds? I know that I'm not the only one who has ridden trail that has 'become' illegal, and questioned that decision.
Just wanted other thoughts.
From one flat land to another.
Advocate as if your ride depends on it...
Maintain old vs. build new??
Here is another question for a MTB club to ponder. Should you put your limited resources into maintaining old trails or building new trails?
Maintaining those old fall line trails, the expert mountain bikers love, can be a year after year drain on club trail volunteer resources. But if you don't maintain them deligently they will usually destroy themselves. However, battling to maintain something difficult to maintain is not very motivating for volunteers.
You could invest the same resources into building new miles of sustainable, relatively-self-maintainng, IMBA-type trails, but then your expert users will complain about the lack of challenge.
Lots of IMBA-type trails are being built simply to reduce the long-term maintanenance needs of our trail systems. Alternatively, expert trails are being built out of materials that don't requirement long-term maintainance either, like rock or wooden structures.
Interesting thread actually. .... most of our trails are old and need regular maintenance, credit to the guys who built them though for doing nearly all the maintenance. We are about to build a new single track, and I was debating, is it going to be too boring to the mostly hard core guys that currently ride the trails... but is it because the trails are mostly hardcore that they are the only ones on the trails ?
My gut instinct is to make it a rolling contour single track (Ah la IMBA), easy to little maintenance (berm reduction mostly and fix up the odd cock up after the first good cyclonic rain event we get in here in the tropics) but I am meeting some concern from better riders about the ease of the last trail we built, very valid concerns, as I like a challenge myself and can see the point of view but knowing that when the housing estate near it is finished, it will leave the end of the trail as an easy access makes me think we should be looking to the future... might trail an a. line and a b. line where possible and we do have another project coming up that even the good riders think might be a little too much ... one extreme to the other
My thinking is that you should build new trails that are enjoyable for everyone. To make the trails more enjoyable for the hardcore riders you can add berms, grade reversals and smaller rock drops. Here's an example of some grade reversals:
There should be a grade reversal before and after a berm to prevent erosion. But the most important thing is having good flow.
Our newest trail (which was built by an IMBA Trail Care Crew) incorporates rocks, has awesome flow and is ridden by everyone.
There's no way to make an overarching rule about this. Every situation is different, every political climate has its own nuances. The most important thing any club leaders can do is *listen*, and find ways that they can bring the resources of the club to bear on issues facing land managers. When we solve problems for strapped agencies, we gain access to trails and land for new trails.
Originally Posted by JmZ
Very well said. There are thousands of miles of existing trails, that with a little re-routing and erosion preventative elements built in, can provide trail users quality outdoor experiences.
Originally Posted by jbogner
Anyone that believes a trail built using guidelines adopted by IMBA is sterile, doesn't provide advanced users challenges, etc. either doesn't know what they are talking about, or have been sold something that falls short of the goal.
The suspension of your bike sucks if it's different than mine. Really. It sucks. Big time.
what should a local club think think about and pursue?
What a club thinks about doing and what it pursues are two different things I think.
You can dream all you want, but you need to have both a cooperative relationship with your land manager and a volunteer base to actually pursue it. If you can develop a joint vision, that's even better.
I think it's more of a challenge to find the balance between what the land managers want and what local riders want. What if people want a whole bunch of new trails but the LM thinks trail density is fine, and only wants maintenance/reroutes/restoration etc done? Then what do you do? You have an education situation, people who don't want to help because they aren't getting what THEY want and so on.
You learn pretty quick there's no pleasing everyone with anything you do. You make choices that you ( the club) think will serve the greater biking good and keep your LM happy. Someone who never shows up to help will complain. Other folks will give you thumbs up and a "cool, this is fun, thanks", and your LM will thank you and those are the moments you live for.
sorry for the ramble, need more coffee.
The Voice of Reason
we try to maintain our existing (pre imba) trail as best we can but we still have erosion problems. the trail is on university property so who knows how long it will be available. most of our trails are old motorcycle trails that have been taken over by bicyclists. we don't have huge amounts of terrain but given most of the soil is sand, any slope over 5% starts to erode. the erosion makes for some challenging riding and it never seems to get out of control but it is ugly and could potentially get us in troble with the land manager.
i'm building some new trails (post imba) in the local forest and that land manager is very concerned about erosion. i don't have any slopes greater than 5% so to try not to make it boring i added some sections with tight turns and narrow sections. most people *****ed about it being so tight so i've straightened it out in places. i've added a few skinnies to help with the challenge part but i guess adding distance will be a draw for those seeking some excitement. we have the potential of building on 220,000 acres.
these are our only two trails and having ridden the old trail for over 10 years i was dying to have something else local. as far as pursueing illegal trails vs building new ones, why not do both?
I'm never gonna be a Rock Star
If you've got alot of members....you could always split'em up. There are always folks who just like to rake and stuff like that and some just want to build. I'm more leaning towards building and laying out but enjoy the mindlessness that comes with raking and running a weedeater too!
You can build up a good regular building crew and then advertise the regular TM events to draw in fresh volunteers to get their feet wet and get them involved and hooked. Let them start with the meanial things and give'm a crew to run as they grow.
IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE NOT RIDING (or building)!
Please, bare with my long windedness.
I’ve been a mountain biker since I was a kid in the 80’s. I grew up in an area where biking was quickly banned in most areas and seriously limited across the board. I was discouraged as were many others. Property owners and managers would not budge or waver in their stance to stop this “fad.” The Fire Roads were boring to ride. I was 16 and stopped biking.
I have returned to where I grew up and found a good job that I love. I started biking again and will never stop. To my delight some were not discouraged. Cyclist organized and created strong mountain biking organizations. My story is not unique, there are thousands like me. I differ from most because I work for one of the land agencies that tried to stop the “fad.” In my agency a majority are Mountain Bikers.
What should a club persue?
The easiest answer to this question is; Get people involved. If people want pump tracks, dirt jumps, easy trails or hard, give them hope. Work to find ways people in the community can participate in these activities legally. Even if the agencies you are working with don’t want these facilities now, they will in the future. Maintain every legal trail and facility you can. Fewer problems with the feature for the land owner the more likely access will be granted in the future. Illegal trails and eroding trails give more fuel to the minority, who disapprove of our “Fad.”
Get kids involved. Public Lands are preserved for our future, and the children are the future. Don’t let them loose hope, emphasize your victories. Get them working on the trials they ride and give them some pride. At public hearings people listen to children, they have a voice needing to be heard. Help direct them in constructive ways to forward our image.
The hard answer to accept is we must give this process time. An older generation is in charge of most land agencies. They have different personal values and goals. Most were hired during the beginning of mountain biking or before. As they retire they will be replaced. I heard a majority of Americans have mountain bikes, so prospects are bright.
In my mind, it's good to go for both. Maybe not at the same time, but say you score a victory and get some new trail opened up. If you have the opportunity to get an old trail reopened later, I say go for it. It might take more work to harden problem spots, but it's the kind of thing that will get old timers interested in the club.
I'm glad someones asking these questions. IMO, IMBA has done a good job with what they have to work with. They have managed to come up with a trail design that satisfies a large amount of people. Federal, state and private land owners and managers lived in fear of liability and the financial $ustainability of the trails, and IMBA designed trails to meet their needs. Why? So they could simply get the OK to build more trails for us to use, and that's a good thing. But are these trails built specifically for mountain biking? No, because in order to build on state and federal land they had to be multi-user friendly. In other words, built for the masses, or "everybody" trails. The trails built by the CCC and FS were "everybody" trails back in the days before mountain biking. Mountain bikers are the weakest user group, not only in population but in ability, horses and hikers can use trails far rougher than a biker, and there lies our problem. How hard is too hard? How dangerous is too dangerous? Who will maintain these rugged trails? Who will make these decisions? And finally who will ride these trails and why?
The trails we work on now will be here 100 years from now. What is the future of mountain biking and are we working on trails that will advance our sport? Are we mearly building more trails so "everybody" can ride off-road?
Just my two cents, thanks for your time.
Last edited by Shelbak73; 10-04-2008 at 10:00 AM.
More questions than answers
I don't think there is a single answer to your question.
Originally Posted by JmZ
In my experience, it's difficult to keep a group focused on trail building and maintenance. That kind of focus almost killed off our club. We recently elected a president who was more in tune with the racing crowd, and it has done wonders to rejuvenate the club.
I've had to scale back my ambitions to build new trail. It's partly due to the fact that most of my fellow club members aren't into it as much as I'd prefer. It's also due to the fact that we had massive rains early this summer, and some areas that I thought would hold up for several more years are suddenly in very poor shape and need to be closed and re-routed.
I could probably get away with letting the older trail go, but I like to ride it and it pains me to see it washing away.
My take on the situation is that you have to find the right people to do the job either way, because in the end it's going to be two or three individuals who end up doing the majority of the work (but definitely with club work days in early spring). If the individuals with passion for the trail aren't there, it's not going to happen regardless of what you decide the club should do. If they are, they will tell you what they value. If it's you, then it's your decision and you should go with what makes you satisfied. Asking for opinions from people who may or may not contribute hasn't been helpful to me.
I also agree with the comment earlier that well constructed trail is inherently not as challenging as fall line trail. Challenge the mind set that mountain biking as about riding ruts in the steepest slope you can find. Find a counter-example they are familiar with to remind people that giving up cr@ppy eroded trail is not necessarily a sacrifice. I just returned from riding a section of well contoured trail that is a joy every time I ride it. Even the fans of the adjoining super-techy trail like it.
old school vs new school
It looks like there are some Midwesterners on this thread, so I thought I throw in my 2 cents.
Here in Indiana, Brown County State Park is our showcase of what an IMBA trail system can be. We are approaching 20 miles of trails, ranging form Beginner to Expert level. While the beginner trail meets the beginner IMBA spec, it is like a big pump track for rider who push the big ring. The Expert trail is not completed yet. But we have already had rider find it. There are many who thought they are hard core riders, only to turn around and find an easier trail.
If anyone in the Midwest doubts that an IMBA trail can be challenging, Come check out Brown County State Park next year and check out the expert trail.
Most of those building the trail at Brown County State Park previously spent a lot of time riding non imba trails near Brown County State Park.
Valley Branch Retreat and Gnawbone Camp are private property near Brown County State Park that have close to 50 miles of trail between them. There are a few trails that were built close to IMBA spec, but the majority is good old "old school" trails.
Also near by is Hickory, which is National Forest. They have miles of trail that are Hike/Bike/Horse, which means they are primarily horse trails. But there is some nice stuff in there, especially Nebo Ridge. These trails aren't quite to IMBA specs, but not quite old school.
Last weekend, riders from Ohio came over to ride Brown County State Park, and our local trail builder talked them into riding at Gnawbone camp on Sunday. Here is there ride report
If your goal is to get more mountain bikers (which then makes it easier to get more access), then you need to think about what type of trail get new riders into the sport. Right now, most riders choose the IMBA spec trails at Brown County State Park. These riders range from beginners to expert riders. The old school trails get a lot less riders while the vast majority of the riders on these properties are the more experienced local riders. While it is awesome to clear a steep fall line climb, those climbs discourage all but the elite from mountain biking.
So if you goal is to get more people into mountain biking, IMBA spec trails are far more accessible to beginners. Hopefully as they grow in skill they will then appreciate the more challenging IMBA and Old School Trails. Also keep in mind that if the trail gets more riders out, it is even more important that it is sustainable, as it will take a lot more abuse).
Some times, it seems like people take sides, IMBA style trails vs old school trails. I like riding both and ideally would like to have both available to me. The key thing to remember, is that the land managers have the ultimate decision what standards trails on their properties must meet. If you goal is to build trails on Public Land, it is unlikely that you will be able to promise any thing less than a sustainable trail. If you goal is "Old School" trails, you should focus on private land.
Keep in mind that if you are building on private land, that you are at the whim of the land owner (unless its your land). They could sell, log, change their mind about letting you on their property, etc... So I would be hesitant to invest the thousands of hours required to build a epic IMBA trail on private property, unless I was being paid. Fix the trails up as best you can and then enjoy riding while you can.
The properties that cause the most heartache are public lands with existing trail systems. All this talk of mountain bikers needing to build sustainable trails is funny, considering the miles and miles of unsustainable non MTB trails that exist on public land. So, when there are properties that mountain bikers rode on in the past and were eventually banned, the efforts to regain access often require the local organized club to fix/rebuild the trails. The old school riders are expecting the trails they road 10 years ago to be reopened and instead they find they are being asked to build a new IMBA style trail system.
So I guess my point is that whether a trail is IMBA spec or not doesn't determine how fun or challenging it can be. The fun and challenge depends on how skilled and determined the trail builders are.
If you want to see the potential of IMBA trails and also sample some old school trails, spend a weekend in Indiana and see both the IMBA and old school trails that are available in Brown County
Our club has been working for the last several years doing both. The older trails need the love to make them sustainable; armoring, rerouting etc, etc. But the enthusiasm is certainly about new. I think it has to be a mix.
The goal is to bring the old stuff up to standards and then just deal with yearly maintenance like cutting back the brush and raking.
I think the IMBA standards serve two purposes, and both of them are to avoid bad results.
One purpose is that they provide a recipe that agencies or individuals with little or no trail building experience can follow.
The other purpose is that they are a set of design standards to prevent problems such as erosion. With this second purpose, I think there's plenty of room for innovation or alternatives, since it is the results that count, not the route that takes you there.
I'm not real sure what you mean. My understanding is that if it is long term sustainable, then it meets IMBA standards. Give me an idea of what you are thinking regarding innovations or alternatives.
Originally Posted by HarryCallahan
Kept my nose out of this one for a bit to see the discussion. Looks like most of the discussion is on IMBA standards.
Some of the trails I've been on, and maintained were (at the time I was there) not to IMBA standards. 10% Rule, No fall line, the whole shibang. They did take a lot of work.
I've seen a number of ideas to try and keep the character of those trails intact, but also seen some of those trails with foot and a half deep ruts develop too. (Alum Creek in Columbus just as COMBO was starting to take care of it. I'm sure it's changed since then.) I've seen some others too - Ft Custer in Michigan has sections that are not up to IMBA standards, but is a blast to ride, and even back in South Bend - Rum Village has sections that take regular work.
But all of these trails are still legal and have not been closed.
Even the worst sections of the few trails listed above can be armored, re-routed, and built to become IMBA standards sustainable. All are currently open, and I know at least 2 of them were built as new mountain bike trails at one point or another.
The issue of building new or rescuing old trail wasn't too big of an issue. The old stomping grounds around South Bend were turned into a gated housing development (nothing left ), and the other trails that were in the county park were run by people with a near pathological hatred of bicycles. (Or at least to hear the veterans around.)
So our options were to scout out new trail. Luckily there were a few semi-local parks that worked with us. And when the trail was built - building it to standards was part of the deal.
But back around my hometown - Cleveland - I still hear of the hassles and idiocy that abounds in the big park system. Before a decent sized trail appears in the Metroparks - I suspect the local guys will be boasting about the trails they've built on federal lands. There are a significant number of miles in those parks - and the fight for them has been going on since before I left for college.
For the Indy guys - it's their fight for Ft. Ben. The decision to build new vs reclaim the old hasn't been touched yet - the parks there are not even talking about it yet. It may be another year, or another decade the way the parks work. Sigh.
And Formica and CnB - seen both of that firsthand. Seen people beaming after the first ride on new trail, and then seen someone saying the same section was a waste of time better spent elsewhere. Guess who was more likely to be involved. There really isn't keeping everyone happy. It does figure into getting (and keeping) more miles of trail locally and keeping the LM happy. I firmly believe that there has to be a decent amount of local trail to have any type of riding base, and that is where any club will draw it's members.
Originally Posted by JmZ
From one flat land to another.
Advocate as if your ride depends on it...
I was afraid I'd get that response. I deleted a couple tries before that post, and it still isn't as clear as I'd like or it needs to be. I don't have a lot of time right now. Let's try this:
Originally Posted by ricks_smbc
What I mean by a recipe is a rule that says: "Make your grade no more than x% of the slope." That recipe / rule is supposed to prevent certain problems.
What I mean by innovations or alternatives is that there might be other ways / recipes to prevent the problems. Maybe your slope can exceed "x" because of soil type or more frequent grade reversals.
Does that help?
Harry - Sure, but I think that you fall within the standards. I'm not an IMBA spokesperson, but I think we're talking the same thing. If it's solid rock, you could be pretty steep, probably steeper than I would want to ride. And that would never degrade.
We have a lot of trail that we would like to bring up to better standards and put work into. Our problem is that we don't know how long we will keep them - private property and it could all get developed - so we still ride them and do minimal maintainence. These are some of our most fun trails. The ones we know we will keep, we spend more time bringing them up to better standards so that we won't have as much work to do every year and can actually enjoy the ride!