Bench it all? Or just knock down the high spots?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Bench it all? Or just knock down the high spots?

    Two approaches:

    1) Start from beginning and benchcut linearly until done, or

    2) Benchcut the bad spots first so that we can ride sooner in the season.

    Any wisdom in making the right choice here?

  2. #2
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    This trail already exists, or is it new construction?

    If new.... definitely do it right, completely benched, from the start. Easy for me to say, sitting on the internet, telling you to put in dozens of hours of manual labor.

    But a half-assed trail build rides... half-assed-ed-ly.

  3. #3
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    @deezlery, it is all new except for a few dozen feet at the very beginning where we reused some old tread.

    We've raked a mile or two of trail. You can ride it now if you're stubborn. But there are humps, and there are segments where the current slope is awfully steep to ride -- because you are riding across an over 45-degree slope. So the temptation is to knock down the humps and bench the steeply-sloped segments first.

  4. #4
    JDM
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    It really depends on the soils, terrain and amount of traffic. We've put in new trails where we've done tons of digging in the beginning, then just roughly raked in the rest to mark out where the trail is supposed to go. In a matter of weeks it was ridden in so nicely that you couldn't tell the difference. This is in an area with VERY well drained soil. In fact, we are finding that it is best to leave some some loam on the tread in this area because it gets very loose and sandy if you dig very far. Because it is so well drained, the loam never gets slick. Actually the place rides best just after a rain storm.

    We have built other trails that we just roughed in that are as unrideable as the day we put them in. On one of those trails, I've stashed a set of tools wrapped in a brown tarp so I can work on it a bit each time I'm out there.

    It also depends on how well established the area is. If you already have 10+ miles then don't bother building crap just to have more. On the other hand, If you're trying to get something going from scratch then it might be worth punching through a rough section to complete a loop.

    If you are going to bench a section then do it with a proper full-bench. Certainly don't create a false sense of security with a half-bench made of duff and loam.

    You've gotta experiment with your terrain.

  5. #5
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    JDM, thanks. That's helpful. Your first paragraph seems to describe our local conditions well.

    Maybe I'll just let the bike be my guide. Ride a segment. See how it feels. Decide from there.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    JDM, thanks. That's helpful. Your first paragraph seems to describe our local conditions well.

    Maybe I'll just let the bike be my guide. Ride a segment. See how it feels. Decide from there.
    Wheel benching is sometimes a workable option. I bench everything with a side-slope > about 15%. If you're less than that, rake all the organic matter uphill and ride.
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  7. #7
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    I'd say bench the whole thing. I know it's alot of labor, lord know I've done my share of benchcutting. We added one trail over the winter and becnchcut the whole section that needed it. I'm glad we took t eh couple extra days to do it proper. It looks cleaner and ride fast
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  8. #8
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    I just bought an inclinometer from the hardware store. Five degrees is a larger drop over two feet than I had realized. My first eight feet of bench might not be up to snuff. I'll know soon. Am headed up later to measure, and to plan out what to attack on our next work bee, which is Thursday evening.

  9. #9
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    Boy, reading the book is one thing but I'm beginning to see that the real learning comes when one goes out to apply the book the ground.

    Went out and looked things over. Rode back and forth. Had a good think. Decided to begin at the beginning and bench everything that deserves to be benched. That doesn't mean I'll bench every inch, but I don't want to skip any segments that really need it. If I test-ride frequently, I believe we'll have a more rideable trail this way.

  10. #10
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    Benching takes patience and alot of hard work. Here's 2 shots of a section we benched
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Bench it all? Or just knock down the high spots?-1st-bench.jpg  

    Bench it all? Or just knock down the high spots?-bench-cut.jpg  

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  11. #11
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    ^ that looks like fun.

    That's the thing about hills. You want to ride 'em and use the vertical, but if you have to avoid fall-line construction.... you're gonna do a lot of bench cutting.

  12. #12
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    Design it sustainably, 1/2 rule, 10% rule ect. After the design, you can play around with it. If you have enough trees, rocks saplings to dictate where you want the tires (so that you aren't impacting an enlarged area), go ahead and try riding it in. If you don't like the result, you can always bench it later.

    I did a tighter, narrower, more advanced trail like this, only benched about 10% of the length, just the steeper sideslopes. It rode in very nicely with about a technical 1-1.5 foot wide tread. If you're building an intermediate 2-3 foot wide trail in a public park, this ride in process won't work.
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  13. #13
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    Benching sections, as you proposed, is a pretty dodgy idea, as it creates a sort of finite system of connect-the-dots. You might find that getting from benched part A to benched part B ends up being impossible due to grade problems. These are things you can correct as you build linearly and with properly laid out trail. Even so, sometimes you lay it out, start building, and have to correct on the fly.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by robbiexor View Post
    Benching sections, as you proposed, is a pretty dodgy idea, as it creates a sort of finite system of connect-the-dots. You might find that getting from benched part A to benched part B ends up being impossible due to grade problems. These are things you can correct as you build linearly and with properly laid out trail. Even so, sometimes you lay it out, start building, and have to correct on the fly.
    I'm not advocating moving away from a fully benched trail in most cases. Riding in a trail is not an option for intermediate trail in a highly traveled public park. I believe the OP's corridor is already brushed, raked, saplings grubbed from the tread, going by photos here http://forums.mtbr.com/trail-buildin...ch-787933.html maybe even on private land.

    He's already started building as you'd say, so fixing on the fly is already fixed. I assume here again based on the pics that the trail is in the woods and the corridor is adequately "choked" to define the specific tread.

    The easiest way through the woods is his corridor. Grade problems are cured through design (I'm assuming here this is done correctly), so I assume you're talking about side slope. Benching the steepest sideslope areas and riding in the rest for 6 months or a year won't hurt anything. Certainly 45 degree (100%) side slopes need a bench cut, but if you have 30% or 40% areas of slope and are shooting for 1 to 1.5 foot wide technical tread, give the ride-in a try. OP might have percent and degrees mixed up, I don't see 100% slopes in the pics.

    Like I said, DESIGN it sustainably. If he doesn't like the result, bench it and it's like the rake and ride was never there, but you can't really undo a bench cut
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly View Post
    I'm not advocating moving away from a fully benched trail in most cases. Riding in a trail is not an option for intermediate trail in a highly traveled public park. I believe the OP's corridor is already brushed, raked, saplings grubbed from the tread, going by photos here http://forums.mtbr.com/trail-buildin...ch-787933.html maybe even on private land.
    City land, but we have permission to build. There's a different guy who is laying out and flagging the trail, and much of the work so far has been to brush and rake the path he's marked out. He's read the IMBA book and has put a good deal of effort into staying within the 10% rule and so forth.

    I hear robbiexor's concern about connecting the dots.

    I'm sure we can make some adjustments to the routing as needed, but in the main I do not want to second-guess the designer's work. I want to get behind him and be steady about getting the work done.

    There is plenty of steep side slope that I have not yet reached, that you have not seen in photos. It will be awhile before I reach the steeper stuff. I am not wanting to skip segments. I may not bench everything, but I *am* going to work linearly and test-ride often and make sure I'm happy with a segment before moving to the next.
    Last edited by JonathanGennick; 05-16-2012 at 10:07 AM.

  16. #16
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    Good points, from the start, it sounded like we were dealing with an existing trail, not one that was built with any kind of design in mind. Glad you got my point though

    I still prefer a bench to remove the soft organic layer of material and get down to good hard mineral soil, but perhaps your area has different soil structure than what I deal with.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by robbiexor View Post
    Good points, from the start, it sounded like we were dealing with an existing trail, not one that was built with any kind of design in mind. Glad you got my point though
    It's all new trail -- except for about 100 feet near the very beginning. The guy who has laid it out and flagged it I think has done a good job.

    He pin-flagged a couple or three miles worth.

    We brushed and leaf-raked, and chopped out a lot of saplings by their roots on our first two work days. (We also created many pungi sticks. Live and learn on that one).

    He and one group continue the raking and brushing. I and another group will begin benching tomorrow.

    I still prefer a bench to remove the soft organic layer of material and get down to good hard mineral soil, but perhaps your area has different soil structure than what I deal with.
    There are some brushed and leaf-raked segments where the ground does not slope enough to allow for benching as described and illustrated in the IMBA book. Some stretches ride pretty darn good as they are. Other stretches are soft, due the organic matter. I'll actually be looking for advice on those areas when I get closer to reaching them.

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