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Thread: Tech or Tight?

  1. #1
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    Tech or Tight?

    Seems these two charcteristics of trail have a hard time existing together on public MTB trails. What is more important to your riding experience? Should builders leave the trail highly featured, knowing that as time passes the trail will widen as less skilled riders look for easy lines? Or should builders provide a tight, but less tech trail that will retain it's single track asthetic?

    Attempts to provide both have proven to be difficult to achieve. The sense of ownership by local riders has resulted in removal of objects placed to direct traffic over technical features. Then at the same time they feel like by benching and surfacing we are taking the technicality of New England MTBing out of the experience.

    Are we as builders mistaken in the assuption that people want to ride singletrack most importantly, or is it more important to keep the trail surface natural even if sections where roots or rocks are left exposed for challenging lines will inevitablly and quickly become several feet wide?

    Do people like trail options or does this break the flow of the ride with too many intersections for people navigating the trail system as visitors?

  2. #2
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    I will usually ride the proper trail line rather than cut out sections I do not find appealing. The only exception to that is large mud puddles.

    This is a hard one to figure out. If a trail is built to be technical and twisty then it should be ridden that way. I love flow but not all trails should be built to be fast and rolling. If it is designed to go over rocks and roots, then that is how folks should ride it. Unfortunately what this means is increased trail maintenance to keep the lines true to the original design.

    However, I do like trails that have man made features with ride-arounds for the less experienced.

  3. #3
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    Natural and technical with rough lines over rocky features all the way, as tech as possible! That's my preference. If trails built like that get widened, then at least the difficult lines might still exist as an option for some riders up to the challenge.

    Some trails made like this will resist widening--to an extent--based solely on the lack of suitable ride arounds, but this depends on the general terrain on which the trail was cut on. In Lynn Woods, some tech trails are built on hill sides that are so rocky or steep, that no suitable ride around exist and the trail itself, being highly challenging, is actually the easiest route through. I think building tech trails on such terrain is most ideal. Also another factor is that the general area is ridden by bikers that look for similar challenges and understand when to dismount to walk over obstacles instead of creating a new line. However, I really think that most all trails are inevitably subject to widening over time through use.
    Remember, you are unique, just like everyone else.

  4. #4
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    I believe understanding your audience is the key to any performance.

    If a trail will get a lot of traffic from a wide variety of users, the only way to prevent go-arounds is to use the natural features to confine riders to the route you want them to take. Thick vegetation, big rocks, and steep slopes are your best friends for this.

    If a trail will get less traffic and from more like-minded users, you can get away with routing the trail over tougher lines without the inevitable go-arounds that would form on the same trail if it received more traffic.

    In general, though, if you route the trail adjacent to an easier line, and nothing is preventing the easier line from being taken, tires will eventually wear their way into the easier lines.

    An alternate way of dealing with this is to proactively build the B-lines into the trail from the start. I'd much rather see some long B-lines than the short go-arounds. If you've ever been to LDTF, there are some trails that have a lot of these, and I feel it's a good way to accommodate the full range of trail traffic without ruining the singletrack experience.

    -Pete
    Last edited by Pedalphile; 01-07-2013 at 03:33 PM. Reason: stoopid typos
    I can barely get my mouth around it.

  5. #5
    the train keeps rollin
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    I'd agree with Pete, incorparate B-lines around the bigger features, rider choice. I've seen this at Lowell, or Marshabesic, it's effective.
    beaver hunt

  6. #6
    think
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    I like to see the speeds kept high and the trail built with good flow (I mean flow as in conservation of momentum, not smooth easy trail - but you already know they're not the same thing). If the trail is fast and fun with good rythm and flow it will be a blast regardless of if its super rough or just smooth dirt.

    I don't hate low speed tech, but it has to be pretty hairy to be interesting. Slow, rough, and not that hard is the worst of all worlds.

  7. #7
    MC MasterShake
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    That's a tough one as the type of rider you are and the type of bike you are running will dictate what you prefer. I know you are a "one bike to rule them all" kind of guy but there are a ton of folks that have multiple bikes to deal with the type of ride that you want to do. Personally, my 6x6 is my goto bike so I prefer to hit trails with lots of TTF's. But there are times that I just want to get out there and spin away so I'll take my 5x5 and choose faster trails.

    So yeah, I prefer techier trails as I will almost always hit the techier/more challenging line. I don't mind at all when those types of trails turn into doubletrack. Like others have said you can keep the trail tighter by making A and B lines and having those be separate enough so that it doesn't turn into double-track, but you don't have to go crazy. National Trail in Phoenix, AZ comes to mind as it's double-track to fireroad wide and it would suck if someone tried to make it tight single track as there are always multiple lines on the trail and sometimes several options on the same segment.

    That being said I do love a nice tight fast/flowy type trail and it does upset me when those trails get braided because someone can't get over an off-camber root or something. Willowdale (Ipswich, MA) comes to mind. There is barely any natural rock with only mild hills so it's the perfect terrain for fast and flowy. This type of trail I want to see kept tight w/o braids. These trails are about speed so you want bench cuts, berms, smoother TTF's. There are some spots on these trails where it's off-camber and too choppy and it's not really challenging it just kinda sucks.

    In your case it's kind of tricky. The trails you've taken us on could easily go either way. Some of that stuff was super chunky and technical so it was nice having the bigger bike. But I could easily get away with riding my light bike there as there is so much climbing and smoother trails. So maybe you develop things at a per trail level. Make 1 trail fast, flowy, tight and make sure the entire trail has that same character. Make the next trail techier/more natural and keep this trail the same to the end. Once the riders get to know the trail system they can decide which trails to hit and avoid. A good example of seeing this in action was when I went out west to Bellingham and Squamish. You had full body armor DH bikers and spandex XC'rs suiting up in the same parking lot and riding the same trail system. So you'd see both on the same trails at times but in most cases they had their own trails and everyone was happy. Those trails were pretty amazing as you'd climb up a fireroad for like an hour so and then blast downhill forever. The harder trails had full on jumps like you'd see at a DH park while others had smaller more manage-able hits, while others were so buffed out that it was basically a giant downhill pump track. So, uh, make that happen please

  8. #8
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    I'm happy to ride whatever hard-working trail folks feel like building. I've only got one mountain bike (currently a rigid 26er) and I have to adapt my riding style to the terrain. I don't buy the different bikes for different trails philosophy for 90% of the riding I do. Definitely see the advantage to having more than one bike (especially a non-rigid one, it beats the hell out of me), but I think it's silly to build a trail to suit a certain type of bike.
    Then again, I'm pretty old school and remember when a DH bike meant you took of your bar-ends...

  9. #9
    beer thief
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    I think the responses above have pretty much nailed it. Build the best trail you can with what the terrain offers. A lot of people want technical features so include them where you can. If the majority of the trail is buff & flowy, build a b-line for the big tech features.

    It is amazing what minor features cause people to create go arounds and it seems like fighting the tide to try to eliminate it. I share your frustration.

  10. #10
    JDM
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    If the majority of the trail is buff & flowy, build a b-line for the big tech features.
    This is an important point. The extension of this idea is that if you want a tight, techy trail and don't want people to create b-lines then you need to make the trail long and consistent in style and difficulty. Preferably, put some qualifiers out near the ends of the trail. It also helps to approximate a stacked loop architecture. If your techy trail is farther from the parking lot then it will get less traffic from beginners.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    I think the responses above have pretty much nailed it. Build the best trail you can with what the terrain offers. A lot of people want technical features so include them where you can. If the majority of the trail is buff & flowy, build a b-line for the big tech features.

    It is amazing what minor features cause people to create go arounds and it seems like fighting the tide to try to eliminate it. I share your frustration.
    Not really frustration, more of a time-management question for me. I think I waste alot of time trying to dictate specific lines when the end result a couple years into usage is the line gets burned in sometimes on, some times feet away from how it was envisioned. At that point in it's evolution the problem areas have become very clear weather they be a addional trees to be removed, turns opened up, water, or any onther (however tiny) issue that is pushing people off the otherwise prefered line. Basically saying some finish work can be done a year or two after a trail is in use (or maybe never is it's in light use). I think this method is only possible in the best-case-scenario terrain with ultimately a limited number of users.

  12. #12
    beer thief
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveVt View Post
    ... Basically saying some finish work can be done a year or two after a trail is in use (or maybe never if it's in light use). I think this method is only possible in the best-case-scenario terrain with ultimately a limited number of users.
    Yes, I fully agree. We built the Red Tail Trail a dozen years ago and sections that were originally only raked became "tire benched" fairly quickly because many people shuttle it for DH. This can work pretty well as typical speeds dictate the line, then we clean up the tire benched lines after the fact. But wait too long and the tread gets blown out wide in the process. This "tread definition" (not to be confused with sanitizing) - providing one line through a rooty section - seems to work well.

    Our terrain tends to be well drained sands & gravels, where in VT it seems like you guys deal with more fines/clays (correct me if I'm wrong). This may have some effect.

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