Anticipating and Building B Lines- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Anticipating and Building B Lines

    So, I am now on year five of my trail system build. It is now tremendously popular with locals and miraculously has still remained a relative unknown commodity outside of locals. As a result, I have tremendous luxury to develop the system with a thoughtful balance of trail difficulty.

    Most of the system "previously" existed via cow trails. Most of my work focused on connecting and resurfacing them. As a result, most of these trails are easy. To keep things interesting, I started adding side features and targeting new trail build on harder features (B line - hard).

    As I have moved to these builds of the harder lines, I find myself really considering and building alternative "easier" lines (B line - easy) to help intermediate riders skip features. While this is a lot of extra work, I see it as value added since allows them to ride the new trails and it also allows me to control the flow and hopefully avoid user created (applied without thought) options that create other issues. However, I am starting to wondering what others think about this.

    Does building B-lines (easy) on harder trails "diminish" the difficulty of the trail? Does anyone have experience with this that I can learn from before I get too far down this road? My current build segment is a portion of what is planned to be the premiere hard line in the entire system, so if I continue to do it in this section, it could create a weird scenario where some sections have purpose built opt outs and other sections do not.

    Thoughts?
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  2. #2
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    If you don't create a purpose-built "chicken line", then riders who come down the hill unprepared for what you have made will create it for you, possibly to the long-term detriment of the riding experience of the challenging features.

    It can help if you make the chicken lines available once the scary thing is in sight, otherwise people may ignore it and wind up trying to avoid the scary thing too late.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    If you don't create a purpose-built "chicken line", then riders who come down the hill unprepared for what you have made will create it for you, possibly to the long-term detriment of the riding experience of the challenging features.

    It can help if you make the chicken lines available once the scary thing is in sight, otherwise people may ignore it and wind up trying to avoid the scary thing too late.
    Agreed, but was second guessing myself.
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    Chicken lines are also nice for the first run on a new trail. Only an idiot will hit bigger features blind when you can't get an accurate gauge for distance and speed needed. Depending on the obstacle, if it's just a steep shoot or rock roll maybe an easy B-line won't be necessary. If it's a drop or jump b-lines are good.

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    The main thing is to stick with a strategy for a trail or type of trail. If it's an easier trail, the obvious line should be easier and the tougher line should be less distinct. If it's a hard trail, it should have hard features with chicken outs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aoliver View Post
    The main thing is to stick with a strategy for a trail or type of trail. If it's an easier trail, the obvious line should be easier and the tougher line should be less distinct. If it's a hard trail, it should have hard features with chicken outs.
    This is the strategy right there for both ends of the spectrum. I walked the new DH (Sail Hatan - hard black) then towed him in thinking he would hit the B-lines (easy). LOL, he just straight up fired off all the big features on his first go. It was a ****in' glorious day for a dad

    Anticipating and Building B Lines-sail-7.jpg
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  7. #7
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    Alt lines are a thing for a number of reasons. To me, if youíre riding a hard trail, it should be hard, but if itís hard as in there are features you want to look at before you ride them, then ride up to them, stop get yourself out of the trail and look at the feature. When we build a more advanced trail we try to stress the ďwalk, roll, rideĒ method of people seeing the trail for the first time - walk the feature, roll it to see what it feels like, then hit it full speed, for instance. Iím not a fan of chicken lines *at all* because having ADHD I find them distracting, even when I know they exist, they tend to momentarily take my full attention away from the line Iím trying to address.

    That said...
    I built a tough trail a couple years ago. It was super rocky, and I was supposed make easy, intermediate, and advanced loops. Some of the locals saw pictures I was posting and made comments like ďdonít bother doing all the work to make that trail technical, people will just ride around the featuresĒ and things like that. I advised them that the ďtechnicalĒ line I was building was just dumbing the natural terrain to the level that particular loop was supposed to ride at. I was told I was crazy and there would be ride arounds. Well, turns out the surrounding terrain was all hard enough that there are no ride arounds anywhere. I went back and rode the trail a couple weeks ago, and itís the cleanest single track Iíve seen in a long time. The only alt lines are places where we took an intermediate trail and ran it past something that was more ďadvancedĒ and said - thatís the alt line. Some people are hitting the harder lines, some arenít. But no one is riding anything we didnít intend. It was super refreshing.

  8. #8
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    A lot has to do with the terrain. It is much easier to build an expert trail without B Lines on steep side slopes. Conversely, it is nearly impossible to not end up with ride a rounds on flatter ground. The rest of the trail system is important too. If you have a big enough system and enough beginner and intermediate trails, then riders are less likely to ride trails above their ability level. Connectivity does play in. If an expert trail connects beginner and intermediate trails, then again, you will get beginner and intermediate riders on the trail.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by indytrekracer View Post
    A lot has to do with the terrain. It is much easier to build an expert trail without B Lines on steep side slopes. Conversely, it is nearly impossible to not end up with ride a rounds on flatter ground. The rest of the trail system is important too. If you have a big enough system and enough beginner and intermediate trails, then riders are less likely to ride trails above their ability level. Connectivity does play in. If an expert trail connects beginner and intermediate trails, then again, you will get beginner and intermediate riders on the trail.
    Yeah the rest of the system hard trails all have alt-easier-lines. This DH is steep and there is doll / beach ball loose rocks waiting to roll your wheel every 1.37 inches. I could build it without alt-lines and people would be forced to ride it unless they actually dug which I think is highly unlikely.

    I took the middle approach and officially called it done this morning. There is a 20' steep rock slab I made an alt easier line around:
    Anticipating and Building B Lines-sail-1a.jpg
    Steep dirt ramp on left is a little easier.

    ... and the final rock roll also made an easier line.
    Anticipating and Building B Lines-sail-4a.jpg
    You can see the chute to the right and the entrance to the berm.

    There are two steep drop/jumps that are mandatory so lets see how this plays out!
    Anticipating and Building B Lines-sailer.jpeg
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  10. #10
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    A lot of it depends on the terrain and trail network. If there are other trails nearby that are less technical and itís rocky and steep enough to keep people on a main line, I wonít add chicken lines. They can ride the other trails. In open terrain like you have, people will just ride around everything, so keep the main line fun and make them go out of their way to hit the easy outs. Theyíll do it anyway, might as well build them right.

    Depends on the land manager too ofc

  11. #11
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    This trail looks really cool and I want to ride it. Reminds me of the rocks at Exchequer north of Merced / west of Modesto.

    Anticipating and Building B Lines-what_are_these.jpg

    What are these that I've drawn a red blob around?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    This trail looks really cool and I want to ride it. Reminds me of the rocks at Exchequer north of Merced / west of Modesto.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    What are these that I've drawn a red blob around?
    That's the beginning of a slide. The hills here are steep. Those pics are stills from a gopro and the gopro effect is in full force as I run the video in superwide mode. Down and left of those slides is a ravine with a seasonal creek.

    That type of "feature" is pretty common on the hills and I have the trail crossing them in a few spots (unavoidable). I have to cut in the bank quite a bit to get the bench to stabilize. The trail right above the slide is a good example where I routed it "up and over" ruining some of the DH flow, but saving myself (for the short term future as eventually that slide will creep up the hill) some work.

    Look up and right on that same face and you will see two large divots. That's what those tiered slides eventually turn into.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harryman View Post
    A lot of it depends on the terrain and trail network. If there are other trails nearby that are less technical and itís rocky and steep enough to keep people on a main line, I wonít add chicken lines. They can ride the other trails. In open terrain like you have, people will just ride around everything, so keep the main line fun and make them go out of their way to hit the easy outs. Theyíll do it anyway, might as well build them right.

    Depends on the land manager too ofc
    Yeah, if your trail is more difficult than the surrounding terrain, a fair number of people will avoid the difficult part. If you don't build the b-line, then trail users will wear at least one in for you (oftentimes more than one).

    If the trail is easier than the surrounding terrain, then you have a pretty effective funnel to keep people on the trail. If it's all more or less the same, then how you route the trail will be key to keeping people on it. You need to identify where people will want to go and how they'll want to get there and route the trail appropriately. Visibility will be a major factor. If people can see a long way through open forest, or non-forest, then tight, twisty trail is going to have shortcuts on every corner. But if you have dense brush obscuring visibility off the trail, then you can pack trail in tighter with less risk of user-generated alt lines.

  14. #14
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    The next level is to build a feature that rides totally different at different speeds. Someone confidently charging the horizon line will find the desired challenge to match the run-in speed of an expert rider. Someone cautiously riding up to the same horizon line of a feature will also find their line to match their expectations. It is a real challenge and extra work but the aesthetic value of a technical and narrow trail, for me, is always worth the extra time.

    If Alternate routs are required, I like to reward the skilled riders taking the hard line by making this line more direct, and a little faster. I never like the idea of the easy line being the fastest line as well. If you can't pin it through, or over the gnarly bits....you get gapped. Sorry strava-geeks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveVt View Post
    If Alternate routs are required, I like to reward the skilled riders taking the hard line by making this line more direct, and a little faster. I never like the idea of the easy line being the fastest line as well. If you can't pin it through, or over the gnarly bits....you get gapped. Sorry strava-geeks.
    Depends on the location of the trail, really.

    I wouldn't necessarily do it this way on a trail built with lots of beginner level traffic. The obvious line should be the beginner line here, or you're going to wind up with injured beginners. Sure, it's possible in theory for the hard line to be more direct, faster, AND less obvious to funnel people who have no business on it onto the easier line, but achieving ALL of those things is going to take specific terrain to pull off.

    This philosophy also takes a pretty narrow view of riding (assuming that anyone actually cares about gapping other riders). For me, the terrain is going to dictate more of what a trail looks like than anything. It's going to dictate where hard lines are and where easy lines are (and the big picture of the entire system will determine whether alt lines even exist at all). I'm not going to force a hard line to be the fast line if that's not what the terrain is giving.

  16. #16
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    Tried to give you rep indy, but it says I have to spread it around. On well, kudos anyways, great response.

  17. #17
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    Building a good B-line is pretty challenging IMHO.
    -Bad B-lines are boring and faster.
    -Bad B-lines are boring and way longer.

    I think B-lines need to fun to ride and they should be slightly slower than the A-line.

    On of our trails the builder went built these awesome challenging A-lines on the climb and then he put in a bunch B-lines that short-cut all the A-line. Even myself, someone who really likes technical climbs and is good at them skips the A-line a lot of the time. His choices for the B-lines take away from the the awesome work he did on the rest of the trail.
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  18. #18
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    Lots of good advice above. Yeah, it depends on the particular trail. If a trail is consistently technical, adding easier lines around every tech feature can make the trail confusing for folks that want to ride it as it was meant to be ridden. If there is one feature that is way harder than everything else, then a B line is appropriate. Of course on easy trails the reverse is true. The more techy lines should be less obvious than the main easy line. The main thing is not making the trail confusing and keeping sustainable lines without a bunch of braids.

  19. #19
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    You can see the entire segment in this video. If you look carefully you will see the three alt lines, but as the alt lines are the "opt outs" they are definitely less obvious than the main line down the bigger features.



    On to building the DropZone!
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  20. #20
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    With the open grass, it's almost impossible to block off any lines people make. Best to give them what they want in a sustainable way, so they don't do it themselves. Nice job using the terrain there; I'm going to guess north Bay Area.
    Last edited by bpressnall; 06-25-2020 at 07:08 PM. Reason: typo

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bpressnall View Post
    With the open grass, it's almost impossible to block off any lines people make. Best to give them what they want in a sustainable way, so they don't do it themselves. Nice job using the terrain there; I'm going to guess north Bay Area.
    Thanks man. I did my first preliminary check of the trail after opening to the masses. Itís holding up awesome and it is seeing tons of traffic. So good I rode it twice this morning on my ride. Sail Hatan!
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