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  1. #1
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    How wet is unrideable

    Hello all.

    I have a question that maybe should be made sticky for the PA riders here.

    How wet is too wet to ride a trail. Here in the western part of the state I think its unreasonable to wait until every part of the trail is completely dry to ride as that would leave maybe August and September. But its also irresponsible to ride on a sopping trail. So what is the rule? I ride on trails built and maintained by mountain bikers.

    My rule has been if the tires sink in and leave a noticeable basin or indentation I won't ride. If its just tread marks then I will. Is this correct? What would the "experts" here advise.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    Hello all.

    I have a question that maybe should be made sticky for the PA riders here.

    How wet is too wet to ride a trail. Here in the western part of the state I think its unreasonable to wait until every part of the trail is completely dry to ride as that would leave maybe August and September. But its also irresponsible to ride on a sopping trail. So what is the rule? I ride on trails built and maintained by mountain bikers.

    My rule has been if the tires sink in and leave a noticeable basin or indentation I won't ride. If its just tread marks then I will. Is this correct? What would the "experts" here advise.
    People might not like my opinion but I think it has a lot to do with where you ride and how much trail damage is done. When I lived in the UK, I only rode in mud, I don't think I ever rode a single dry trail in my 5 years!

    However, here is the eastern part of PA (Philly), things are different. There are more trail users and the trails can't recover from the damage done. So, I have a general rule: In the winter, when the ground is frozen, I ride. When it is not, I don't.

  3. #3
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    Yeah I've been using that rule this lately. But now I see temperatures are starting to get warmer and trails won't be frozen.

    What should be done in the rainy muddy season we have that lasts mostly from March until Mid June?

    Interesting there hasn't been more interest in this thread. Plenty are quick to jump on someone for riding a trail that is too wet!

  4. #4
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    I guess it depepnds if you are willing to go out on a build day and help fix trails that get messed up. I do agree that most people act like the trails are their children (and believe me I hate fixing trails because a&&holls dig them up) But also anybody that gives someone a hard time for riding on "soggy" trails really need to relax (I've had people get in my face about riding with too aggressive of tires)

    The spring is a hard time to ride in our neck of the woods. And people do have a point (a good point) of asking you not to ride on wet trails.
    But also it is unreasonable to ask someone to walk the trails before you ride to check them (again someone said this)
    Basically I think if there is standing water on the trail. Or if it just rained the day before. You should stay off.
    The thawing time (basically the next 3 months) is an iffy time.
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  5. #5
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    at school i ride in all types of weather, but i live in Erie. If i didn't ride in the rain/snow/messy times i wouldn't ride at all.
    In Pittsburgh, i try to only ride when its not messy

  6. #6

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  7. #7
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    I ride in the rain and snow. There is ALOT of state land around me, never heard of any complaints about bikes on wet trails. Some of these trails are open to ATV's, snowmobiles, and equestrians, MTB tracks really aren't noticeable.
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  8. #8
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    just wondering, does anyone ever ride a trail where horses have been?
    people say bikers ruin trails, they haven't seen what a horse does.

  9. #9
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    Yeah but if a trail gets destoryed and has horse tracks all over its unlikely mt bikers will get be blamed. If it has bike tracks on it...

    Maybe this isn't as big an issue as it seems. I've never had anyone say anything to me yet if anyone posts a picture of a bike with mud on it here its almost certain at least one person will attack them.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    My rule has been if the tires sink in and leave a noticeable basin or indentation I won't ride. If its just tread marks then I will. Is this correct? What would the "experts" here advise.
    If I followed that rule when I lived in the PacNW I would have never ridden. When I moved to Bloomsburg in the fall and guys saw me with front and rear fenders they though it was silly. They're still laughing and I still have them on, but really haven't ever needed them. Stuff here (in the east of the state at least) drains so much better than anywhere else I've ever ridden it's weird to me.

    You hear a lot about how mountain bikes really erode the soil, but any trail use is about the same be it hiking boots, hooves, or fat tires. Mankind can't do 1/100th of the damage in a year that mother nature can do in one good storm.

  11. #11
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    The half-ton four-legged post hole diggers can really do some damage to trails this time of year, I've witnessed this first hand.

    riding and hiking it seems have similar impact, weight and foot/tread print are very close.

    most trails will heal with weather and seasonal change, but there are exceptions.

    The real issue, I believe, is public perception. If the trails of concern are in a heavily used park, or places that clubs have worked to make buff trails, and/or there is potential for complaints to the land manager thus threatening access; then definitely stay off during sloppy conditions.
    IF it's backcountry, state forest, gamelands, rarely used places, etc, then I really don't think it's an issue because by the middle of July, it will be so dry and overgrown at places, you may have issues even keeping that trail from being reclaimed by nature.

  12. #12
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    Great points!
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  13. #13
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    Buy a Road Bike and ride roads in the spring, when the trails dry up I promise you faster trail rides. If you cannot afford a road bike use slicks on your mountain bike cheers.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sloppy second
    Buy a Road Bike and ride roads in the spring, when the trails dry up I promise you faster trail rides. If you cannot afford a road bike use slicks on your mountain bike cheers.
    I don't mean to attack you but I am getting somewhat frustrated. Is this what we as MT bikers are "officially" supposed to do? Here in the western/central part of the state march april and may are all wet spring months. Its possible to have a rainy june(IIRC 2007 was like this) late september its possible to get hit with the remanants of a few tropical storms leaving the trails wet for most of october. November may come with cold, rain, and snow melting. Are we as mt bikers really supposed to only be on the trails for 3 or so months? I find it highly unlikely.

    The problem is nobody(ok hardly anyone) can identify when we can ride, yet we get plenty of Monday morning quarterbacks saying we shouldn't have been riding that day. It would be nice to have a set standard for this area. I think it would make things much clearer for everyone!

    I think a part of this comes from the limited interest in mt biking we have in the states(western part anyways). Which is odd because we have some great riding around.

    BTW. I do my method of testing the trail mostly as a courtesy for the sport. The trails I often ride are seldom used by anyone (hikers, bikers, horses) and often grown in by July and some are used by everyone(trucks, tractors, quads) all year. Growing up on a farm I've seen what a mess 6-7000lb tractors can make on wet soil, only to be erased by the next big rainstorm. However, I greatly error on the side of caution to ensure the sport is projected in the best light possible. But I do become frustrated when we are told in a round about way that our riding season is 3 months by some, and 12 months by others.

    Yes, when its really wet, and I get concerned I will damage the trails, I ride on the road.

  15. #15
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    my mountain bike season starts around may and ends in december, I usually start rideing roads around march thru may for fitness reasons I usually dont think of myself as an mountain biker I am a cyclist.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    Hello all.

    I have a question that maybe should be made sticky for the PA riders here.

    How wet is too wet to ride a trail. Here in the western part of the state I think its unreasonable to wait until every part of the trail is completely dry to ride as that would leave maybe August and September. But its also irresponsible to ride on a sopping trail. So what is the rule? I ride on trails built and maintained by mountain bikers.

    My rule has been if the tires sink in and leave a noticeable basin or indentation I won't ride. If its just tread marks then I will. Is this correct? What would the "experts" here advise.
    Rules for riding wet trails...

    1) If you are causing more damage than you can (and will) repair, stop riding.

    2) Respect the fact that the more users a trail has, the more likely your damage could give mt bikers a bad rep before you get a chance to do maintenance.

    3) If all you are gonna do is b!tch to your buds the whole ride and the whole way home about muddy clothes and a muddy bike, stay home.

    4) Go straight through puddles and swampy areas on singletrack. If you ride around, you are just (eventually) going to have a wider puddle or a wider swamp A deeper puddle or swamp, on the other hand, will eventually dry out (or lead to a re-route, or armoring, if necessary...)

    It is nice to know a local area that is rockier/better drained/better compacted for riding this time of year.
    You better just go ahead and drop that seatpost down to the reflector... the trail gets pretty rough down there.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Six Pack
    Rules for riding wet trails...


    3) If all you are gonna do is b!tch to your buds the whole ride and the whole way home about muddy clothes and a muddy bike, stay home.
    Haha, good one!
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Six Pack
    4) Go straight through puddles and swampy areas on singletrack. If you ride around, you are just (eventually) going to have a wider puddle or a wider swamp A deeper puddle or swamp, on the other hand, will eventually dry out (or lead to a re-route, or armoring, if necessary...
    This is one of those pretty key items in riding in mud. Riding through BB and hub deep mud and getting mud all over yourself is the fun of mud riding. Riding around he puddle take s all the fun out of it.

    Heck around here there are so many flat rocks it's easy to just stop and build a stone crossing. There are also tons of dead falls around that can be used to create an an up-and-over or skinny. It's just general improvisational trail maintenance.

  19. #19
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    Bingo! If the trails are muddy for most of spring, then they weren't designed properly. The trails I ride here in NEPA are almost always dry and it isn't by accident. When we're building trails, drainage is of utmost importance, and when we're riding old established trails and we see a problem area, we fix it.

  20. #20
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    Good job!

    The question couldn't be answered here!

    I guess if you look at your front tire and see it up to the axle in mud then it's too muddy!

    Trail design has everything to do with it. Trails that shed water last longer and need less maintenance. In NEPA we have basically 6 inches of top soil then hardpan (clay) or rock. Since we speak of dirt here. We all fight the same war on keeping the soil under our tires where we like it.

    3 basic ill fated senerios are:

    1.Trails in low lying areas with no dranaige (must be elevated with rock armoring or man made structure(boardwalk))

    2. Trails that directly or at any severe angle follow the fall line of a steep grade. (must be repaired by switchbacks or lesser angle diversions to allow water to flow off at a slower speed)

    3. Trails at the base of a ridge where water has the natural path to drain to a lower open area.(In this topic 'water on, water off" are the words of the day) Parelling a ridge is always a fun trail as it gives the user an elevated view of lower surroundings.

    In a perfect world everyone who rides should help in anyway they can. Join your local group help with trail days, set up a mt bike picnic at your local park to generate networking with others as it alows others an opportunity to meet the trail managers and learn. Visit your local trail in the spring and ride or walk through to remove small blowdowns or debris, unblock drains full of leaves to get the water flowing. The smallest bit of help is appreciated by all, and you'll find more rides and make new friends along the way!

  21. #21
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    Trail work...

    Not to sound antagonistic, but if you are asking if it's "OK" to ride on wet trails it likely means you are not putting in enough trail work. Those putting in the work either know it's too wet to ride, or ride anyway but will repair what they have broken.

    Every year I put in dozens (and some years well over a hundred, or even hundreds) of hours into trail work. Right or wrong, I feel somewhat entitled to ride on wet trails as I will more than repair what I've damaged. That said, I spend the late winter and early spring working on the trails, clearing out winter's damage, which leaves me little spare time to ride anyway.

    PA is nice as it is rocky and has great natural drainage (at least in the Appalachians).

  22. #22
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    This time of the year in the Pittsburgh area, Bavington is the place to go.
    Oh noes. I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J
    Not to sound antagonistic, but if you are asking if it's "OK" to ride on wet trails it likely means you are not putting in enough trail work. Those putting in the work either know it's too wet to ride, or ride anyway but will repair what they have broken.

    Every year I put in dozens (and some years well over a hundred, or even hundreds) of hours into trail work. Right or wrong, I feel somewhat entitled to ride on wet trails as I will more than repair what I've damaged. That said, I spend the late winter and early spring working on the trails, clearing out winter's damage, which leaves me little spare time to ride anyway.

    PA is nice as it is rocky and has great natural drainage (at least in the Appalachians).
    Yes, I have done trail work as often as the opportunity presents itself. I even did some yesterday. I'm just trying to get an idea of what really is considered acceptable by most. My background allows me to understand what is really ok. But its interesting that we have to be so mindful of trail damage when its common to see horses stomping through the deep mud.

    Actually I was impressed how well one of the local trails drained. It was completely rideable yesterday. I walked it, cleared all the fallen logs/trees and went for a ride. Very nice!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    Actually I was impressed how well one of the local trails drained. It was completely rideable yesterday. I walked it, cleared all the fallen logs/trees and went for a ride. Very nice!
    Curious as to where you were riding. Trying to locate all the well-drained spots to ride while everywhere else dries out
    Oh noes. I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.

  25. #25
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    Plenty of stuff to build over the swampy areas here in Pittsburgh (good amount of rock plenty if downed trees) but it would just get ripped out by the "official" trail crews


    Quote Originally Posted by themanmonkey

    Heck around here there are so many flat rocks it's easy to just stop and build a stone crossing. There are also tons of dead falls around that can be used to create an an up-and-over or skinny. It's just general improvisational trail maintenance.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcaino
    Curious as to where you were riding. Trying to locate all the well-drained spots to ride while everywhere else dries out
    Its a very small park in Johnstown Pa called Highland Park. I see you are from pittsburgh and honestly its not worth the 2 hour drive. I live about 2 miles from it and ride there at least 3 times a week in the summer so I was able to pick a route by combining loops that I suspected (and was correct) would be dry. There were a few mud holes that I'l have to fill in with rocks this week. But thats the only issue I encountered. Well that, and a huge great dane that was running around unleashed!

    I remember last year some of the trails at laurel mountain were "sanitized" and covered with a layer of gravel. That should drain well and may be rideable but I haven't checked so its just speculation.

  27. #27
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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    Yes, I have done trail work as often as the opportunity presents itself. I even did some yesterday. I'm just trying to get an idea of what really is considered acceptable by most. My background allows me to understand what is really ok. But its interesting that we have to be so mindful of trail damage when its common to see horses stomping through the deep mud.

    Actually I was impressed how well one of the local trails drained. It was completely rideable yesterday. I walked it, cleared all the fallen logs/trees and went for a ride. Very nice!

  28. #28
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    Ride on....

    Quote Originally Posted by dascro
    Yes, I have done trail work as often as the opportunity presents itself. I even did some yesterday. I'm just trying to get an idea of what really is considered acceptable by most. My background allows me to understand what is really ok. But its interesting that we have to be so mindful of trail damage when its common to see horses stomping through the deep mud.

    Actually I was impressed how well one of the local trails drained. It was completely rideable yesterday. I walked it, cleared all the fallen logs/trees and went for a ride. Very nice!

    Hey, IMO if you are going to repair the damage you do, ride on!

    Horses!!!! Arrgggh!!!!

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