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  1. #1
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    XPost from 29ers: How have 29ers changed trail design?

    Something I've been thinking about as we are closing in on finishing a trail project in my neighborhood...to what degree do you think 29ers have changed expectations for what a good new trail is?

    Down south USA where I live, the flow trail has gained a lot of currency. Undulating, rhythmic, not a lot of stopping and starting or stuttering over tight technical bits. How much is that a function of more folks riding bikes that are more fun when you can keep the speed up?

    Conversely, do you expect more technical features on your trail to make counteract the inherent ease with which the big wheels plow over the chunder?

    What do you think?
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  2. #2
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    I've been thinking about this too. Apart from improvements in technology making larger wheels more sturdy without weighing a ton, I actually think the development of contour and flow trails has made 29ers more popular rather than the other way around.

  3. #3
    Heavylegs
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    My thinking is some what different in the reguards to in Ohio there seems to be a large push for as many rocks as possible. Riders here seem to want nothing on a trail but rocks. The 29er has much better roll over than a 26er so here it seems to be influencing builders to construct alot of rock gardens.

  4. #4
    memento mori
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    I do a bit of trail building and ride 29ers,if anything I've been trying to keep a slightly larger radius in the turns. Fairly rocky where I live so the trails are technical. Rocky-flowy is the goal.

  5. #5
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    I don't think you can focus on 29" wheels as a cause of design change but it might be part of a suite of hardware trends that drive what riders ask for. Singlespeed bikes, wider handlebars, STRAVA in addition to 29ers(and more stuff I am sure) have all played a role in what riders ask for. It seems like anything that causes riders to touch brakes will get negative feedback around here. Of course if you build a more open trail that allows riders to keep up speed you will hear some grumbling from riders that say they want more technical difficulties but evidence on the ground suggests they are small in number. If we put in a minor tech feature in the main line it will immediately get either a bypass or modification. If we do an optional line the easier fast route will be heavily used and the tech feature will be overgrown and almost lost in a short time.

  6. #6
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    The comment about corner radius gets at what I am talking about. Some of the more established trail on the project we are finishing has some corners which you really have to slow down for/haul the front end around for on a 29er. They have been complained about by our almost universally 29er riding local crew. I just got my 26 inch hard tail back from a long term loan...I'm looking forward to slinging it around theses corners to see the difference.

    As to the point about the larger wheel size being part of a suite of technological features that could be driving trail design....when did we hit the tipping point from designing bikes to accommodate the terrain at hand to sculpting the terrain for the bikes we prefer? I know heavily manicured bike parks are nothing new, but that's still an interesting point.

    In my case I am talking about minimally manipulated, follow the topography Xc trails.
    "Bikes aren't fast--people are fast. Bikes are overpriced. It's an important distinction."---BikeSnob NYC

  7. #7
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    With regard to turn radius, most of the trails around here are/were hiking trails, which means they're fairly straight with few tight turns. I have been asked to leave trails very root, but that doesn't seem to be a wheel-specific request. When I build a berm I aim for a larger radius to accommodate longer wheelbases, not specifically bigger wheels.

  8. #8
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    We build 95% multi-use trails, and so far, no horses or hikers have switched to 29ers, so no design changes for us. I guess they are just slow adapters.
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  9. #9
    Delirious Tuck
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    Note: This is somewhat incendiary in a push to get discourse going. I have been thinking about this all off season, discussed it with shops and other builders, and its seasoned with feedback from newer riders on 29ers.

    I think 29ers (or their riders) have contributed to dumbing down and sanitizing trails. Yes, 29ers like rocks, but anything that requires wheelie, manual, floating the front, step up, will get dumbed down.

    Seriously.

    Since the big brands have shifted to moving 29er and touting the benefits of "smoothing out the trail" I've seen a bunch of technical sections rearranged or sanitized, log overs and rock ups ramped.

    The larger and newer population of 29er riders, not the early adopters, are looking for an edge of some sort. The 29er has been sold to them as that edge,"You'll be faster!" Faster is equated with better, so when that rider feels a bit faster seat of the pants on the 29er, they assume they've ALSO gotten "better." Yet still can't clean the techy section giving them trouble pre-29er. This dings their ego and by their logic since they're now better, the techy section must be impossible therefore there's no reason the challenge shouldn't be removed or made more accessible. I have had this conversation with multiple riders, pre-dominently newer 29er owners, and people I kinda like socially and that come out on build days (so otherwise good peoples).

    As a builder, I now assume that even on challenging trails, the main line has to be a rollable option where momentum alone will cover the up/over. Anything that requires front tire loft or manual/up skill that is on the "A-line" will get ridden around or ramped... thus designing a B/Skill/Feature line to keep flow for the skilled rider gets more challenging (but challenges are why we love building). So I build a dumbed down variation "A" to appease and keep vigil on making sure the TTFs stay as hard as they were built to be (which means isolated vs. trail wide focus).

    In CT, the Wisconsin glacier dropped a ton of rock and glacial erratics and luckily there are still places where its impossible to not progress your skills regardless of wheel size. Some of these parks have natural barriers to entry so to speak, but you'd be surprised at the attempts some folks will go to to make the parks accessible to them. At those parks we can keep things interesting and punish a bad pedal stroke or misplaced line and make it a walk if you miss.

    The false "skill" imbued by the 29er is one of the largest contributors to why we've seen widespread trail sanitzation in CT over the past 3 years or so. Nothing is sacred to these cats except their ego.

    The IMBA folks will say that having more accessible trails is great for our sport, more voices + more hands, etc. I agree, but I think we shouldn't be conveying that every trail needs to be accessible or reverse engineering old good trail (i.e. sustainable shared use), it ends up instilling a false sense of confidence and skill and leads to us fixing things elsewhere.

    Improve your skills, not the trails is my riding crew's motto.

    Note: I ride a 29er SS HT and a 29er Trail/XC bike, and I can do a manual on both bikes.

  10. #10
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    I don't agree at all. People are lazy and scared of trying anything new. If they wouldn't ride a techy section on a 29er, they weren't gonna ride in on a 26er either.

  11. #11
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    It is the massive influx of new riders that cause trails to be sanitized. The sport has been growing every year. The more total new riders we see, the more they will sanitize trails, sad but true.
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  12. #12
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    Re: XPost from 29ers: How have 29ers changed trail design?

    Wow, I have not noticed this 29er dumb down phenomenon. I would assume the opposite since 29ers roll over bigger obstacles with less input. You sure it's not 26ers dumbing down obstacles that aren't affecting the bigger wheels?
    I don't think the difference is enough to affect the lines after observing for several years. Wheelbase varies considerably with both wheel sizes, but I would expect it to be a bigger factor on trail lines than wheel size.
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  13. #13
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    700c wheels have caught on big here, but I don't think there has been any impact on trail tech because of it. If anything, I see trails getting gnarlier due to lack of maintenance. Trails that were a little rough with a Mag 21 are now sketch on 5" FS bikes. I'm exaggerating a bit, but I don't see things getting easier.

  14. #14
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    I have to agree with the people about dumbing down the trail. Here in gulf coast we have near zero rocks and flatish terrain, so there are few barriers for those riding trails who have little skills. I grew up mid-atlantic and we had trails with plenty of trees cross the trails to have to cross over with your chainring digging into the tree, rocks, roots and tricky bits.

    A new trail was cut I found out about and tried recently, its nice but even small dia trees that fell across the path were removed, its basically like a narrow dirt sidewalk its very smooth. I was glad my 10 year old daughter with basic skills could ride the whole thing w/o too much effort, but when I contacted the trail steward online, he said that he is a "racer" and prefers flowing smooth trails where speed can be maintained like was described above. He is open to adding technical features and ramps in the future, but wanted to keep it smooth. I noticed a guy last time out there who appeared to be race training like he had a stopwatch on himself and low and behold, he was riding a 29r.

    I had not thought about it but maybe there is something to this theory.

    I am looking to build a trail in a spot I found and just saw this forum and thought I would look around for some pointers.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasquatch1413 View Post
    I don't agree at all. People are lazy and scared of trying anything new. If they wouldn't ride a techy section on a 29er, they weren't gonna ride in on a 26er either.
    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus View Post
    It is the massive influx of new riders that cause trails to be sanitized. The sport has been growing every year. The more total new riders we see, the more they will sanitize trails, sad but true.
    ^^These are the reasons trails get sanitized. Trying to blame it on the diameter of your wheel seems a bit far fetched to me.
    I'm sure there correlation between new riders, "racer" types and 29'r bikes. These are the folks most likly to buy 29'rs and coincidentally the folks most likely to sanitize trails. But to blame the wheel diameter for trail sanitation? Really?

    In regards to 29'r changing trails design... again, really?
    I think it is more of a desire to ride "flow" trails. Lets face it, flow trails are fun and are a fairly new concept to the masses. Here in NY we have plenty of technical knar that is slow going and requires a decent level of skill to clean. I've been riding these type of trails for years and LOVE them. However "flow" trails offer a very different and fun trail experience. There arn't many "flow" trails around my area so when someone is planning a new trail they tend design a "flow" style trail because it's a nice departure from the techy trails we already have.

  16. #16
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    even before 29'ers came on the scene there were often an A line and a B line. I've never been on a trail day and had folks say we need to widen this turn for the new wheel sizes. etc...

    regarding the jabber about the flow concept taking hold. .yes, over the last few years I have heard and seen a lot of support for creating such...I don't think it's due to 29'er folk newbies or otherwise.

  17. #17
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    Good discussion. Keep it informational, don't yell at each other. As with all things Internet, your results may vary.

    The racer culture is huge in my town. That has always led to a preponderance of trail elves cutting roots and the like. Even long before the big wheel craze. Rogue changes to trail aren't what I'm talking about necessarily.

    Little design cues on the front end like turn radius, mentioned above, are more like it. Other examples....when we were building some rolling compressions, we (maybe subconsciously) paid attention to hollowing them out to accommodate the big wheels. There's a downhill section on our trail that, though there is very little pedaling, is kind of a bear on a 29er. All tree slalom, you see. Just feels awkward. Not the way I would have built it, again, with my 29er in mind.
    "Bikes aren't fast--people are fast. Bikes are overpriced. It's an important distinction."---BikeSnob NYC

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrantB View Post
    The comment about corner radius gets at what I am talking about. Some of the more established trail on the project we are finishing has some corners which you really have to slow down for/haul the front end around for on a 29er. They have been complained about by our almost universally 29er riding local crew. I just got my 26 inch hard tail back from a long term loan...I'm looking forward to slinging it around theses corners to see the difference.

    In my case I am talking about minimally manipulated, follow the topography Xc trails.
    In my town the 29er guys all develop low-input rake'n'ride trails (when they do trail work at all) with super tight, twisty turns. These are mostly the older guys in town (45+) who don't push themselves in speed very often. Our younger crew, who ride mostly 26" bikes and do the vast majority of the trail work, are the ones who open things up a bit more. So kinda the opposite of what you'd expect.

  19. #19
    Delirious Tuck
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    I still think the tougher manualing characteristics of the 29'' wheel and bike designs make some of our newer and less skilled brethren and sisters think its not the bike/them, its the trail.

    On new trail builds we really try to get the most flow possible and are in the camp that believes a rock garden can be flowy if its placed appropriately in the trail system (i.e. what's before it or after it and surrounding trail difficulty). Especially if its launch or gappable or you have the power & stall moves spaced to create some rhythm. A good "in" or previous section of trail that appropriately adjusts rider speed/momentum is absolutely critical (i.e. can't have a bomber DH smooth dirt ribbon hit a right turn rock over into an uphill mini trials course).

    Don't really consider wheel size in turning radius or how we actually construct the trail. We have some wicked lil groms on 24'' wheels that can shred the tech too so we just build a trail that will be:
    -sustainable - require minimal tweaks/long-term maintenance and low impact to resource
    -fun & different ride both ways, i.e. flow and challenge and character are similar enough but different enough that it does feel like another trail the opposite directions (no using same line in both directions if there's a rock garden isn't easy to design)
    -appropriate sight lines/minimizes negative user interactions
    -Avoids barberry

  20. #20
    I need skills
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    "to what degree do you think 29ers have changed expectations for what a good new trail is?"

    Absolutely zero.

  21. #21
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    sambs827, that was an interesting idea.
    "Bikes aren't fast--people are fast. Bikes are overpriced. It's an important distinction."---BikeSnob NYC

  22. #22
    Builder of Trails
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    Quote Originally Posted by thefriar View Post

    I think 29ers (or their riders) have contributed to dumbing down and sanitizing trails. Yes, 29ers like rocks, but anything that requires wheelie, manual, floating the front, step up, will get dumbed down.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sasquatch1413 View Post
    I don't agree at all. People are lazy and scared of trying anything new. If they wouldn't ride a techy section on a 29er, they weren't gonna ride in on a 26er either.
    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus View Post
    It is the massive influx of new riders that cause trails to be sanitized. The sport has been growing every year. The more total new riders we see, the more they will sanitize trails, sad but true.
    I agree with Sas and Slo. I started riding in 1992 and have seen the dumbing down of trails since then just about everywhere I've ridden. Even with technology making more capable bikes (more gears, quicker & crisper shifting, disc brakes, suspension, geometry, better tires), trails still get dumbed down.

    I've never understood taking something technical and making it easier when there are easier trails to ride. Certainly, it's partially due to an increase in the number of riders and thus the number of riders building or attempting to build their skills and maybe not being satisfied with the progress. I've even seen it on private trail I built with very limited access.

    Potentially, you might be able to chalk up an altered feature to maybe it not being the right feature for the trails speed, but, even then, that's probably a small percentage.

    D

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by dburatti View Post
    . . . . . Even with technology making more capable bikes (more gears, quicker & crisper shifting, disc brakes, suspension, geometry, better tires), trails still get dumbed down.
    . . . .

    D
    that is definitely true... but on the flip side, technology has also allowed people to ride way more difficult trails than in the 80's.

    look at Downhill and Freeride. without suspension, they wouldn't be what they are today....

  24. #24
    Builder of Trails
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmc4130 View Post
    that is definitely true... but on the flip side, technology has also allowed people to ride way more difficult trails than in the 80's.

    look at Downhill and Freeride. without suspension, they wouldn't be what they are today....
    Oh, for sure. The same technology has allowed riding longer and farther, hucking from higher and higher. I wouldn't attempt a third of the features I know ride using my first bike, a rigid Univega Alpina 5.0.

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  25. #25
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    Here's the photographic evidence. Ashley is a diehard 26 rider (after grudgingly letting go of his 24 passion a bit). This is his first ever ride on a 29er. It was donated by a passing friend and used to test out a bit of trail. Note the clipless pedals and full safety gear. Conclusion - even a 29er rider could have fun here....

    XPost from 29ers: How have 29ers changed trail design?-p1110148.jpg

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