How rough is too rough from a tread perspective before you call a trail done?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How rough is too rough from a tread perspective before you call a trail done?

    So, I am getting close. The entire trail is mapped and "put in". I rode it this morning and was ecstatic at the results and the progress. What I am wrestling with now is rough trail tread. I still have two sections that are so rough as to not really be rideable in a continuous push sense. These are obviously my top priority and will be cleaned up over the next 2 weeks. If you are wondering why the tread is this way, it is due to using existing cow "trails" and game trails.

    Once I finish them, my question will be, "How rough is too rough from a tread perspective?"

    I am not talking about rocks or roots, I am talking about nasty chunky dirt that takes random power spikes and primo line choice to get through. In other words, by rough, I mean, uneven, sometimes steep, off camber, knobs of rock hard dirt sticking up randomly en masse, deep cow postholes big enough to completely halt your momentum if tackled head on, and many large (like 2-3" wide and deep) ground upheaval cracks that is in one stretch for about .2 miles. Its rideable, but I would not hesitate to say that not many will find it fun other than the very masochistic or technically minded. On a segment I currently call "Chunky DH", I actually completely popped my rear QR out of the bottom bracket when I made a poor line choice.

    While this does not make up the majority of the trail at this point, I would say a good 1/3 of the roughly 8 miles of trail is as I think of it in my mind "rough and rustic" (which will probably be the trail name). I have semi-perfected my "leveling technique", but it takes time and sweat equity. Riding the trail helps, however, riding it by itself will not erase many of these difficult sections. Yeah, they are mega-F&^%d up, lol

    This question really boils down to, when do you call your trail "done" and fit for consumption by others? Once its rideable knowing you will continue to tweak it over time, or is done when it has reached the vision you have in your mind as an end state given reasonable compromises?

  2. #2
    Dirt Monkey
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    What is the intended skill level of the trail? Photos?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by aero901 View Post
    What is the intended skill level of the trail? Photos?
    That's a good question. The trail will be one of three (2 existing trail systems) trails probably within a ~30 mile radius, so it will be see use by riders of all abilities most likely. I am not looking to sanitize it all as I see appeal in leaving some of the sections tough and technical and have already left a few sections like this that I don't plan on fixing.

    As for pictures, I'll hike the trail later today after it cools down and get some pictures of what I am talking about.

    So to actually answer your question: Solid Blue / Borderline Black is my "goal".

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    Its rideable, but I would not hesitate to say that not many will find it fun other than the very masochistic or technically minded.
    You kinda answered your own question. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that they enjoy riding post-holed cow pasture. If you think it sucks, and you think most other people who ride will think it sucks, then it's probably worth the effort to address the worst of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    This question really boils down to, when do you call your trail "done" and fit for consumption by others? Once its rideable knowing you will continue to tweak it over time, or is done when it has reached the vision you have in your mind as an end state given reasonable compromises?
    As a builder, first and foremost I want to build trails that I enjoy riding. A secondary motivation is to see other people stoked riding something I helped build. I don't like half-assing things, so for me, spending all that effort to build a trail and leave a portion of it that doesn't ride well seems like a waste.

    To a discerning trail builder, and a lot of us are perfectionists, no trail is ever "done." But I have noticed that a lot of trail builders obsess over some stuff that 99% of the general riding public would never notice. Done enough to open to the public, is one thing, but being happy with it myself is usually a higher bar.

    So, I would fix the stuff that everyone else will notice before call it done or open, then over time I would work on the stuff that bothered me in manageable chunks.

    In your case, you also need to think about the end state. What are the chances that you put a ton of effort into smoothing that tread, only to have it post-holed by cows again the next time it gets wet?
    No dig no whine

  5. #5
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    I don’t mind the expected “retread” requirements over time. I have already done this for a few years in the previously established sections. Every year that part gets easier.

    I am more in line with your statement about “fun” being the standard. I just wanted to make sure that I was not holding on to the trail longer than needed. This community could use another option and I want to make sure I am mindful of that and timing.

  6. #6
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    Trails that are rough because they are rocky or rooty are rad.

    Trails that are rough because otherwise smooth dirt is full of divots suck. I've ridden trails like that before. Usually just once.

  7. #7
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    When building hand built volunteer trails, we typically allow volunteers and local riders ride new sections before making them known to the general public. This allows us to get some tires on the tread, as well as to identify sections that need more work. This gives us time to dial in anything that's not ready for the general public.

    We are wrapping up a 5 mile hand built trail that was built over the course of 3 years. volunteers ranged from experienced trail builders to some volunteer groups with no prior trail building experience. When working with in experienced trail builders, I focus on keeping them on the flag line and try get the trail 70 to 80% finished. Luckily I have some very experienced volunteers at our core work sessions and will often have some of them work on dialing in previous roughed in trail and fixing issues identified from test riding the trail.

    How dialed in the trail needs to be before opening, depends on the trail characteristics, rating, and the tolerance of the local riding community to ride trails in.

    Fortunately, the trail we just wrapped up is an expert level back country trail and the local riding community is on board with getting to ride trails that are works in progress. In some sections where the side slope was shallow, we just cleared the organic material and let the riders burn in the tread.

    Note that hand built trails can take a couple years to fully compact and ride in.

    But I have also dealt with trails in urban areas, were a trail that wasn't perfectly smooth from day one resulted in complaints from riders.

    The correct answer is somewhere in the middle. No one should expect a hand built trail to be perfect from day 1. But hand built trails shouldn't suck on day 1.

    Of course those who complain about a new trail being too bumpy typically aren't the ones out there building it. I am a big fan of soft openings. Open the trail to the general public with out a ton of fan fare. Let riders have at it. Then schedule a grand opening when it is burnt in. Those wanting a trail closer to perfect can wait till the grand opening.

  8. #8
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    Good perspectives thank you. I thought a lot about this subject/comments this weekend and it has helped me make a solid priorities list and make a list of sections where I made mental peace to leave them as is. It definitely shifted more sections to the "fix" side of the list, but that's okay, I enjoy working on the trail

  9. #9
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    Did you compact the tread? You can do it manually or ride a dirtbike over it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schulze View Post
    Did you compact the tread? You can do it manually or ride a dirtbike over it.
    Yeah, the stretches I have resurfaced or dug are the best by far. It’s the natural trails that are nasty. Want to see what I am talking about?

    How rough is too rough from a tread perspective before you call a trail done?-d3703a6a-2002-4c8a-8257-f9df8227433d.jpg

    Those things are big enough to swallow 4” fatties.

  11. #11
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    That looks like what we do to decommission a trail.

  12. #12
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    I would be very concern that once the tread compacts that it would be the low spot and hold water. Not sure how much rain you get or what the soil is like, but in the Midwest a trail section like this would become a trough that would hold water.

    If you have access and the ability, I would consider gravel armoring from the start.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    That looks like what we do to decommission a trail.
    Hah, I believe it! As for creating a trough, this spot of the trail is super weird. I have watched it over the last few years and this will be the final section I tackle. This is in California, so we don't get a lot of rain and go through extended drought periods. This results in significant cracking and upheaval. This stretch is at the bottom of a natural basin, so it does get water. Not really standing as there is a steep hillside just below that drains the area. Once the water comes back, the ground actually swells and those cracks almost disappear. When that occurs, this section of the trail is actually very nice. It just seasonally turns into this mess during mid/late summer and persists that way until the first couple of big rains.


    I was thinking about rerouting the trail to a slightly less "cracked up" area further up the hill. I walked the stretch last night and did identify a different option that is definitely not as damaged and will most likely involve a lot less upkeep. This is the most probable action. Up till now, I kept the section because it is a natural trail and required "no new digging", but I think now after seeing it for a few years, rerouting is the best bet.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbmaddux View Post
    That looks like what we do to decommission a trail.
    Exactly.

    Our trails are called done when they are safe to ride and whoever owns the land signs off on it. To get to that point, they are smooth where it's called for, and rough where it makes sense and was planned to be. Rocks are our friend. By then, they are also fun to ride, since that's the end goal.

    That trail is neither fun to ride, or sustainable IMO, and as such I wouldn't call it finished.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    Yeah, the stretches I have resurfaced or dug are the best by far. It’s the natural trails that are nasty. Want to see what I am talking about?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Those things are big enough to swallow 4” fatties.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    Hah, I believe it! As for creating a trough, this spot of the trail is super weird. I have watched it over the last few years and this will be the final section I tackle. This is in California, so we don't get a lot of rain and go through extended drought periods. This results in significant cracking and upheaval. This stretch is at the bottom of a natural basin, so it does get water. Not really standing as there is a steep hillside just below that drains the area. Once the water comes back, the ground actually swells and those cracks almost disappear. When that occurs, this section of the trail is actually very nice. It just seasonally turns into this mess during mid/late summer and persists that way until the first couple of big rains.


    I was thinking about rerouting the trail to a slightly less "cracked up" area further up the hill. I walked the stretch last night and did identify a different option that is definitely not as damaged and will most likely involve a lot less upkeep. This is the most probable action. Up till now, I kept the section because it is a natural trail and required "no new digging", but I think now after seeing it for a few years, rerouting is the best bet.
    Yes, rerouting should always be an option with problem sections, as it can save a lot of labor over time. Nothing wrong with keeping it as a seasonal/opportunistic alternative route either.
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