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  1. #1
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    Dealing with Braids and Corner Cutting

    Hey Everyone,

    How do you deal with trail widening? I do sanctioned volunteer work for a park that has recently opened up a variety of trails that were originally unofficial trails. The trail in question is mostly a flowy, well-designed trail, but there are bends in a number of places where people are cutting the corner and straightening the line. Every time I fill the shortcut in with rocks and logs, it gets opened up again within a day or two. Most people seem to be staying on the correct line, but there seems to be a small yet determined subset of the riding population that insists on widening and opening the trail up. Mostly the types that are training for racing I think - anything within the tape is fair game etc.

    Obviously this is undesirable for lots of reasons. The shorter lines means water is more likely to flow in that direction (path of least resistance), but mainly the trail is far more enjoyably with the flowy lines.

    The land manager is supportive of efforts to mitigate this. Any thoughts on how to close the braids permanently and limit shortcuts?

  2. #2
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    sign postage if you can, both at the trail head and the areas that get hit the hardest. If you can move big enough obstacles that they cant move them and/or completely undesirable to go "through" so much the better.

  3. #3
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    when your efforts get undone a nice sign is the next step

    Please do not modify the trail to meet your skills, modify your skills to meet the trail,
    or some such verbiage
    "Put your seatbelt back on or get out and sit in the middle of that circle of death." - Johnny Scoot

  4. #4
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    If you are going to block off the shortcut, it has to be very thorough so that most people don't even know what used to be there. If there is even a hint that a line existed, it will get reopened. Overdoing the closure also calls attention to your work which can lead to people undoing it as well.

    I churn up the compacted tread with a rogue hoe or mattock, move in a few of the largest logs / rocks you can, then cover with leaves and small debris as needed to blend it into the forest.

    Here are two braids I closed recently.
    Dealing with Braids and Corner Cutting-59295997_2092076727759889_9166837154704261120_o.jpg

    This one was the result of people avoiding the mud puddle, so I fixed that at the same time to address the problem.
    Dealing with Braids and Corner Cutting-60296916_2096094347358127_7956619420569174016_o.jpg

  5. #5
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    Yeah. Make your repairs or blocks of the ride around subtle and/or effective enough that the riders naturally head on the main line and no longer see the braid. And if you have to, bury a big rock deep, like an iceberg, so that it's too difficult for riders to remove.

    If you still have people who are working out there with tools and equipment to undo your work, then you and/or the land manager and/or law enforcement need to start a conversation with them.

  6. #6
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    Sometimes you have to anchor your stuff into place and hide the anchors. Deadman anchors, heavy wire or cable (hidden) to anchor logs, plus thorny brush or other undesirables (nettles, poison ivy/oak, hawthorn, honey locust, etc) to deter tampering.

    This should be in addition to official-looking signs that possibly include notices about how tampering is considered vandalism, etc. Some of it you'll never be able to stop, though.

    IME, a lot of these lines show up because pedestrians make the first move and riders follow them. Eventually you get to a point where the "official" route becomes indistinguishable from the braid by anyone except people who pay the most attention and know the trail intimately. Seems to me that a lot of them start because of exposed roots at the bases of trees, mud pits, and areas with excessive erosion gully formation. Shortcutting of corners seems to happen when the radius of a corner isn't right for the terrain. Either it's not the same radius, or the corner is too sudden and sharp after a fast section, or similar. Most of these are general routing issues that can be resolved to prevent the braiding to begin with. Give trees more space. Avoid low spots and address problems as soon as you can. Use good routing and armoring to avoid erosion problems. Pay special attention to corner design so riders can avoid abrupt changes in speed to negotiate the corners.

  7. #7
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    Thoughts on where to get signage or how it should be worded?
    Thanks!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 127.0.0.1 View Post

    Please do not modify the trail to meet your skills, modify your skills to meet the trail,
    or some such verbiage
    Quote Originally Posted by Apache1 View Post
    Thoughts on where to get signage or how it should be worded?
    Thanks!
    I ride in the same general geography as 127.0.0.1 and have seen that exact verbiage show up on more than one braid. Usually with more exclamation marks, printed on paper and slipped inside a plastic binder sleeve or lamination on a tree. Most of these people I assume make changes because they assume it's unable to be ridden and needs to be changed. Hit them in the ego and make the realize the root issue is their lack of skills and it's usually effective.

  9. #9
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    Signs? Cables? Wire? Disagree. Ultimately, you have to let go of control and let the lines evolve. Line choices make trail. Unless you want to bang your head against the proverbial wall that is the entitlement and ignorance of many trail users, go with the flow. Block off the line that people are not using, and transform the line they are choosing into something that is more interesting for everyone to ride. There is never enough labor to worry about such issues. The reality of today is at popular riding spots you can't have narrow and technical trails without established "B" routes. More signs at the trail head are the last thing I ever want to see personally.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveVt View Post
    Signs? Cables? Wire? Disagree. Ultimately, you have to let go of control and let the lines evolve. Line choices make trail. Unless you want to bang your head against the proverbial wall that is the entitlement and ignorance of many trail users, go with the flow. Block off the line that people are not using, and transform the line they are choosing into something that is more interesting for everyone to ride. There is never enough labor to worry about such issues. The reality of today is at popular riding spots you can't have narrow and technical trails without established "B" routes. More signs at the trail head are the last thing I ever want to see personally.
    I disagree. The new lines I see are pretty much always shortcuts or avoiding difficult spots or even just rough spots. I don't want the trails shortened or made easier. I run Strava but I'm not trying to get better times by making faster lines. I purposely ride the original trail and avoid the braids. I know the trail builders have put a lot of effort into building the trail and I respect their decisions and what they have built for us. Just because some people make braids does not mean that the majority of people want the trail made easier.
    This post is a natural product. Variances in spelling & grammar should be appreciated as part of its character & beauty.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    I disagree. The new lines I see are pretty much always shortcuts or avoiding difficult spots or even just rough spots. I don't want the trails shortened or made easier. I run Strava but I'm not trying to get better times by making faster lines. I purposely ride the original trail and avoid the braids. I know the trail builders have put a lot of effort into building the trail and I respect their decisions and what they have built for us. Just because some people make braids does not mean that the majority of people want the trail made easier.
    The other option is to block the go-around and make the original line appear less difficult so people won't be intimidated. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you do, if 20 percent of the riders want to go that way, they will. You will spend your time fixing the same things over and over and over and over. Lame? Sure. Reality, you betcha. If people choose to ride off trail to avoid a root, you really think a sign at the trail head is gonna change that? GL. 20 years down the road maybe you'll think differently.

  12. #12
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    I think most of the ones I see around me are just for maintaining speed or avoiding rocky spots, not really intimidating hard-to-ride spots, just riders wanting to maintain their "flow" so they make a straighter line or one that can be bombed/climbed easier.

    Thinking about one trail system around me, there are a variety of trails, some natural and some flowy and everything from beginner to advanced and expert. The guys who just want flow can avoid the natural trail and just ride the flow. These trails seem to get less braiding than the trail closest to me that is just one set of more natural stacked loops. These trails get a lot of hikers so they are probably a big part of the problem as well, maybe even more so. Obviously offering a variety of trails requires the space and trail building efforts.
    This post is a natural product. Variances in spelling & grammar should be appreciated as part of its character & beauty.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveVt View Post
    Signs? Cables? Wire? Disagree. Ultimately, you have to let go of control and let the lines evolve. Line choices make trail. Unless you want to bang your head against the proverbial wall that is the entitlement and ignorance of many trail users, go with the flow. Block off the line that people are not using, and transform the line they are choosing into something that is more interesting for everyone to ride. There is never enough labor to worry about such issues. The reality of today is at popular riding spots you can't have narrow and technical trails without established "B" routes. More signs at the trail head are the last thing I ever want to see personally.
    Done right, you'll never see any cables or wire. That'll all be hidden.

    There's so much variability and gray area that you can't just let people do whatever the f*ck they want everywhere, either. You have to find some level of balance between offering alt lines, letting the trail evolve a little, and constraining it and closing off stuff. I've been around long enough, I've seen it all. If you've reached the point where you're drawing a line in the sand and have decided to close something off, you absolutely cannot half-ass it. You've gotta be serious and authoritative and you have to operate under the authority of the land manager.

    In the examples posted above, the tree in the first example is going to die. The single exposed root is going to continue taking damage (more and more every year as it grows larger) and will die eventually. It's a major anchor for that tree, so at some point after it dies, the tree is going to topple. Some rocks could help protect the root and might help keep users on the trail, but giving the tree a bit more space is probably a good idea because the tree is going to get larger and will push riders farther away from it.

    In the second example, I'm not sure that enough has been done to prevent the mud puddle from returning. The trail is flat and at best, the mud puddle will just show up again on one side of the slightly raised portion or the other. And might just wind up in the same spot again, even. Maybe people will stop using the braid around the tree, but maybe not. The woods are so open that nothing is stopping them from doing whatever so you can't do much of anything except keep the trail as the best line but given the terrain, I have a feeling that'll be a struggle. Even still, the best recipe will be to keep up on maintenance so stuff like this remains "little jobs" rather than becoming a big mess, and letting people continue to braid the trail without doing anything at all will just allow the little muddy spot to get bigger and bigger as the braids get wider and wider as users continue to avoid the mud.

    Where I live, a LOT of trails are on old logging roads. The corridors are very wide and are slowly narrowing as the forest reclaims them. There's a whole lot more "wiggle room" on lines and braids and at lines and whatnot in these spots than there is on singletrack that was built as singletrack. Some of the singletrack is very old, and crews do go out and close braids sometimes. Much of that work is directed by the land managers. And sometimes, if an old logging road is looking pretty rough, crews will go out and carve specific lines into it.

  14. #14
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    I think it's better to use a carrot than a stick. Make the desired line more desirable than the ride around. Look at the turn before, and build a berm pointed at the "correct" line or something like that.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveVt View Post
    Signs? Cables? Wire? Disagree. Ultimately, you have to let go of control and let the lines evolve. Line choices make trail. Unless you want to bang your head against the proverbial wall that is the entitlement and ignorance of many trail users, go with the flow. Block off the line that people are not using, and transform the line they are choosing into something that is more interesting for everyone to ride. There is never enough labor to worry about such issues. The reality of today is at popular riding spots you can't have narrow and technical trails without established "B" routes. More signs at the trail head are the last thing I ever want to see personally.
    It's rampant down here in MA. A perfectly flat corner with zero tech get cut to go behind a tree to save 5 ' by going strait. A single track that gets widened to 6-8' and so on. Narrow and technical trails? Thats mostly what we have here in many of the greater Boston area trail systems. Dumbed down, strait non tech trails? Ugh, go ride the bike path. Thats not to say when doing a trail with bigger tech feature we won't do a ride a round, most of the time we do. Think some education is in order. Do people ski a black diamond trail and knock down the moguls? Or ski a trail suited to their skill level?

  16. #16
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    I have found that any work to block a trail that is done without tools, can easily be undone without tools. Ex. If you spend 10 minutes dragging branches to cover a trail. It will only take someone 10 minutes to uncover it.

    To be effective. you need to do work that can't be undone by hand.

    I suggest digging a hold first and then placing the larges rock or stump you can move with tools into the hole. If someone pry's out the rock or log then there is still a large hole for them to deal with.

    I find most people aren't willing to take tools out to reopen closed lines. If someone does, its much easier to spot someone carrying tools out onto the trail.

    One other thing you can do, is to use the dirt you dig out to build up a berm to help steer riders towards the correct line.

  17. #17
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    Dealing with Braids and Corner Cutting

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post

    In the examples posted above, the tree in the first example is going to die. The single exposed root is going to continue taking damage (more and more every year as it grows larger) and will die eventually. It's a major anchor for that tree, so at some point after it dies, the tree is going to topple. Some rocks could help protect the root and might help keep users on the trail, but giving the tree a bit more space is probably a good idea because the tree is going to get larger and will push riders farther away from it.
    That must be a species-dependent thing, because there are a ton of this very same situations (trail running just uphill of a tree and exposing a root) on the trail system I started out riding over 20 years ago, and the roots and trees seem to hold up fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    In the second example, Im not sure that enough has been done to prevent the mud puddle from returning. The trail is flat and at best, the mud puddle will just show up again on one side of the slightly raised portion or the other. And might just wind up in the same spot again, even. Maybe people will stop using the braid around the tree, but maybe not. The woods are so open that nothing is stopping them from doing whatever so you can't do much of anything except keep the trail as the best line but given the terrain, I have a feeling that'll be a struggle. Even still, the best recipe will be to keep up on maintenance so stuff like this remains "little jobs" rather than becoming a big mess, and letting people continue to braid the trail without doing anything at all will just allow the little muddy spot to get bigger and bigger as the braids get wider and wider as users continue to avoid the mud.
    Yeah, without remedying the mud situation (or staying on top of it) fighting braids is probably a losing battle. Though it is hard to tell from pics how hard or easy a permanent fix is.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    There's so much variability and gray area that you can't just let people do whatever the f*ck they want everywhere, either. You have to find some level of balance between offering alt lines, letting the trail evolve a little, and constraining it and closing off stuff. I've been around long enough, I've seen it all. If you've reached the point where you're drawing a line in the sand and have decided to close something off, you absolutely cannot half-ass it. You've gotta be serious and authoritative and you have to operate under the authority of the land manager.
    I definitely agree with all of this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    In the examples posted above, the tree in the first example is going to die. The single exposed root is going to continue taking damage (more and more every year as it grows larger) and will die eventually. It's a major anchor for that tree, so at some point after it dies, the tree is going to topple. Some rocks could help protect the root and might help keep users on the trail, but giving the tree a bit more space is probably a good idea because the tree is going to get larger and will push riders farther away from it.
    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta View Post
    That must be a species-dependent thing, because there are a ton of this very same situations (trail running just uphill of a tree and exposing a root) on the trail system I started out riding over 20 years ago, and the roots and trees seem to hold up fine.
    This trail is a legacy user created trail that wasn't built to modern standards, however in the 10 years I've been riding it the tree roots have always been there and the tree is still alive. That said I do want to bench cut uphill just a bit to get people further away from the tree, and use the dirt to cover some of the roots.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    In the second example, I'm not sure that enough has been done to prevent the mud puddle from returning. The trail is flat and at best, the mud puddle will just show up again on one side of the slightly raised portion or the other. And might just wind up in the same spot again, even. Maybe people will stop using the braid around the tree, but maybe not. The woods are so open that nothing is stopping them from doing whatever so you can't do much of anything except keep the trail as the best line but given the terrain, I have a feeling that'll be a struggle. Even still, the best recipe will be to keep up on maintenance so stuff like this remains "little jobs" rather than becoming a big mess, and letting people continue to braid the trail without doing anything at all will just allow the little muddy spot to get bigger and bigger as the braids get wider and wider as users continue to avoid the mud.
    This trail is also a legacy user created trail that wasn't built to modern standards. It's not completely flat but doesn't have 5% slope either, however it is near the edge of a hill. The best I can do with it at this time is fill in the low spots which at least keeps the center of the tread dry. I may have to add more dirt to this particular place, as we haven't had a ton of rain since I fixed it to see how it holds up.

    Quote Originally Posted by indytrekracer View Post
    I have found that any work to block a trail that is done without tools, can easily be undone without tools. Ex. If you spend 10 minutes dragging branches to cover a trail. It will only take someone 10 minutes to uncover it.

    To be effective. you need to do work that can't be undone by hand.
    Generally agreed, depends on who created the alternate line. Sometimes just blocking the sight line and erasing the shortcut is enough; people won't even notice it while riding and won't reopen it. Trail users on foot are much more likely to undo these kinds of closures, if they have a reason to.

    There is a short trail section we closed last year due to a large fallen tree, and the fact that the section wasn't really necessary. We employed all of the usual closure techniques and even put up signs. While mountain bikers no longer use this section, people on foot continue to do so. I even dropped another good size dead tree into the trail to further block it, but no matter what we do people walk around or over stuff. No amount of signs, logs, rocks, or debris can keep stubborn foot traffic out of an area unfortunately.

  19. #19
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    One thing we've had success with is transplanting larger bushes and high volume plants at the ends of the braid as well as adding leaf litter, sticks, ect. along the length to naturalize it. If users don't see it, they generally won't use it.

  20. #20
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    The worse is when the Original line that rode better gets blocked off or made less fun and maybe harder to ride by trying to keep people to a new line that has formed.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by indytrekracer View Post
    One other thing you can do, is to use the dirt you dig out to build up a berm to help steer riders towards the correct line.
    I did that on a line twice and both time the strava bros removed all the rocks and dirt to get the direct line down the mountain. The issue is everyone thinks they own the trail and feel they can change the original design and intent of what was originally cut.
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  22. #22
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    Run a line of T-posts down the direct line.

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  23. #23
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    I had a long running 'battle' with one particular turn on a trail near me that I have done a great deal of work on over the years. There was a kink around a saguaro that was tricky, and that some users decided was robbing them of the faster line thru the section. Problem was, the faster line did not exist and had to be carved out of the desert, with an ocotillo and a bunch of other stuff ripped up.
    I closed the line off repeatedly using rocks and brush, but they kept opening it back up. Eventually, after a great deal of back and forth on our local MTB site, the town came up and closed it off and planted some shrubs and plants to deter more changes. The fact is this trail is used by a lot of older hikers too, and then many bikers had been turning it gradually into a DH course that threatened to get us all booted off because the speed merchants were scaring the more elderly hikers.
    In the end, the town trail crew were higher up the slope putting in water protection, and a biker found all the replanting work. They watched aghast as this guy started raging and tearing up all the stuff they had planted, tossing it all into a pile and opening it all back up. They were on foot and couldn't get to him fast enough, so he got away with it. I went back there later and built a berm on the turn, but used rocks that took me all my strength and a 5' pry bar to move into place.
    That was 3 years ago and so far the berm has survived.
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