Long Arc'ing Traverses Versus Short Steep Climbing/Descending- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Long Arc'ing Traverses Versus Short Steep Climbing/Descending

    OK gurus, have a question / scenario for you to help me with though I am confident I know the answer, just want to ask.

    I am working on a trail that I am getting close to locking down "routewise" as the first iteration. This is the "primary" line, so it is not a DH or tech section, in essence a large perimeter loop that can be ridden both ways and gets you to the top of the highest rise but can be completed as a loop by itself (~6 miles) or used to get to some of the more vertical / drop featured "other" sections which are more directionally ridden "down".

    As I was walking a few sections, I noticed something that concerned me. I am creating long arc'ing traverses mostly along contour lines to avoid short super steep sections (fall lines) on the main loop. In essence you can be standing at a climbing turn edge, look straight ahead (instead of with the turn) and see where the next traverse comes in about 40 yards in front of you but up a steep incline/decline of at least >30% and would be fall line for sure.

    The reason I started wondering if this is a design "flaw" is this trail will be rode both directions. On the "counterclockwise loop portion" this will be a sustained decline section. You can see it in the picture below. I can totally see a "cut" getting rode to keep the down hill more in a straight line, though it will eliminate a cool part of the trail and some of the "distance". This area has limited riding so trying to make the "most" of it while keeping it rideable in both directions. This area also has little vegetation / terrain features and myriads of cow trails which makes pretty much any section, particularly downhill sections, rideable.

    So my question is, what do you think given the picture below paying attention to the contour lines? Should I just scrap the small arc'ing loops? There is the one highlighted in green text, but also another similar "spot" at the apex of that portion that looks like a little handle. Should I keep them and know there is a high probability peeps will create the DH cut and that just is what it is? Should I anticipate the cut and build the trail more in line with a direct route but use tight corners and/or switchbacks to make it climbable?

    Long Arc'ing Traverses Versus Short Steep Climbing/Descending-elevation.jpg

    The good news is I haven't benched the arc'ing lines so if it's not too late. Help me out guys!

  2. #2
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    Sounds dangerous to be bombing off the ledge knowing someone could be biking up the other blind side of the hill

    Got a picture? My vote would probably be keep the way you have and try to make a visual block like a log or rock or something

  3. #3
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    So just to confirm I understand the problem: you are concerned that riders going downhill from left to right in your diagram, when they reach the first green bar, they will see the trail below at the second green bar, and they will shortcut it (either by going off trail and wearing a path over time, or by making unsanctioned changes to the trail), and that shortcut will exceed the 20% maximum grade guideline and won't be sustainable in the long run and/or will pose a danger to riders going the opposite direction?

    If I got it right, then let me first commend you for anticipating bad trail user behaviour and attempting to find a solution to it before you build.

    I agree. If they see it, and if the terrain permits it, they will shortcut it. Especially hikers, and especially if they are using the trail primarily to access a viewpoint or point of interest, rather than for exercise.

    You indicated that the terrain has little vegetation. So if you are not able to block the line visually as phalkon suggested, my next suggestion would be to change the alignment of the trail slightly, if possible, so either the visual line goes away or existing physical object(s) (i.e. large cactus/tree/rock/cliff) are now brought into play to block the most direct route.

    If that's not possible, then moving in large rocks and/or deadfall to block the route physically. Or a "STAY ON THE TRAIL" sign, installed right at the point where users would be tempted to shortcut the route.

    Using a more direct route with more tight corners/switchbacks will solve your problem, but will introduce other problems. It will require more work to build, and users may find the tight corners/switchbacks annoying and shortcut those unless you also block them visually/physically.

    So I'm curious... what is the solution you had in mind?
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by phalkon30 View Post
    Sounds dangerous to be bombing off the ledge knowing someone could be biking up the other blind side of the hill

    Got a picture? My vote would probably be keep the way you have and try to make a visual block like a log or rock or something
    Yeah. I think around here they often bury some tombstone rocks along the trail edge to guide people. Sometimes it's a parallel log or both. You can discourage, but try not to sweat too much about being the police.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  5. #5
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    If you have the budget & means and this is a multi-user trail, then installing stairs at that narrow point may also work. Or bridging the re-entrant and re-grading to make the shortcut a lesser, sustainable grade.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  6. #6
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    All good thoughts, thank you guys. I will try to hit the trail over the next few days and get a picture. With the current local weather (it is pouring right now), that might be a few days!

    ray.vermette: You have it correct in your post above. "Seeing" the lower trail, as the current designs points them directly at it in an area of clear visual line, is going to create a strong temptation to just bomb the steep hillside. This will definitely erode over time as this is a really steep portion of the hill. I also then see the "cut" being an attractive nuisance for uphill directional foot travel either through confusion of which way to go and/or a worn in "shortcut". It will be way too steep to ride "up". A trail in the nearest area for riding has this exact scenario played out in reality on similarly configured terrain, DH shortcuts from switchback corner to switchback corner.

    My thought prior to posting this was to lay the trail down with sustainable grades and let the chips fall where they may aka if people cut it, then it is what it is. Obviously I don't want to be resigned to "bad behaviour", but is it an inevitable consequence of building trails on steep hills without a ton of real-estate?

    I do like the idea of blocking it visually. I am starting to think I might be able to do a grade reversal then drop the rider into a banked / bermed turn a little shallower / sooner than the apex of the hill which should prevent them from seeing the trail below as they will already be looking/facing "left". This should work for the portion in green, but the smaller section of concern, "the handle", I may need to rethink.

    I personally like the idea of maximizing trail length given limited riding opportunities locally, but that does "artificially" create these types of scenarios. I will rewalk it later and think about the options. I prefer to try and resolve the issue through trail design if at all possible as opposed to features or signage that must be maintained over time.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    I prefer to try and resolve the issue through trail design if at all possible as opposed to features or signage that must be maintained over time.
    Same here. I'd rather solve a problem through trail design than signage.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  8. #8
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    I recently built a trail with a long traverse over 50' of elevation that bypassed a popular user established trail that was unsustainable, featuring steeper grades and a couple of tight switchbacks (as opposed to climbing turns) that made it unsuitable as a multi user trail. We had some valid concern that the builders of the unsustainable trail would come back and re-establish it, they had vowed to do as much. To stem that, we made the terrain as unsuitable as possible to discourage them and planted a number of large stones, logs and brush in the old trail tread. We also knew that wouldn't be enough to dissuade them, as they'd come back at least 3 times to reestablish their trail after we'd demoed the benches they'd cut. Our solution was simply to build a better, more interesting trail: we put in a number of grade reversals that made it a fun, pumpable trail for bikes, both climbing and descending, added some a lines for more experienced riders and pitched several sections around a hip contour of one of the hills, creating a scenic vista and a technical section, while maintaining good sight lines for other trail users, including hikers and equestrians. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from nearly all trail users. the erstwhile trail builders have made a number of complaints about rake and ride trails being superior to machine built trails that have filtered down to their followers, but they've otherwise not attempted to establish their trails in that section of the park and have started building elsewhere. so, long story short: do what you can to build a better trail than the shortcut and you may be able to prevent it from happening.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gigantic View Post
    so, long story short: do what you can to build a better trail than the shortcut and you may be able to prevent it from happening.
    Spot on! You literally described the section that the "cut" would bypass. Super scenic with a cool creek crossing and a "slalomy" section around some boulders. I will definitely give this section high priority / polish! Thanks for the response!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gigantic View Post
    so, long story short: do what you can to build a better trail than the shortcut and you may be able to prevent it from happening.
    I like that better than my suggestions. Make the longer path more fun to ride and people won't want to skip it.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  11. #11
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    Gigantic is spot on. Lots of pumpy grade reversals and boulder slaloms make even retrogrouches smile.

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    Except for me😁😂

  13. #13
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    Trails in flatter open terrain need more separation than those in dense brush and steep terrain. Can you spread the trails out more while maintaining a similar routing (like below)?

    Long Arc'ing Traverses Versus Short Steep Climbing/Descending-trail-route-1.png

    Biggest problem will probably be hikers shortcutting closely spaced sections. Especially if it cuts significant walking distance. With 70 ft of elevation difference in the area of concern, your original routing will probably work fine. I'd be more worried about the "handle" section you mentioned. Photos (aerials even) would be helpful to gauge how much stuff is blocking sight lines to other sections of the trail.

    Ditto to building a more engaging trail people will want to use.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by aero901 View Post
    Biggest problem will probably be hikers shortcutting closely spaced sections. Especially if it cuts significant walking distance.
    Also sound advice. Principle of path of least resistance: hikers will stay on the trail if they deem it's more efficient than shortcutting the trail.

    Ditto to building a more engaging trail people will want to use.
    Trail features that engage mountain bikers probably won't interest hikers as much, but hikers will stay on the trail if it brings them to a positive control point (i.e. a point of interest). The cool creek crossing may be that for the hikers.
    Last edited by ray.vermette; 01-09-2018 at 07:02 AM.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  15. #15
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    I started warming up to the idea of modifying the trail. So I used Google Earth to propose a path that would eliminate the handle (see below). A couple of things came from this. Weaving around some boulders can keep the grade ~20% which is doable for climbing a short section, but probably not ideal since you are already on a fairly sustained climbing portion. Also, the new option kills some of the sight lines and creates a pinch point coming into the turns. I might be worried about hikers and bikers intersecting there. Regardless, I could always reroute the turn away from the boulders to keep sight lines clean.

    One thing the previous pictures doesn't seem to accurately convey is the steepness of the hill. The contours are in meter increments, so each line is 30'. I rotated the angle of the satellite view below to give a better perspective of the reality of the hill. For scale those trees are mature oaks ranging from probably 20' to 30' high with huge canopies. The boulders in that picture are large as well.

    I measured the below new "option" (in red), and it checks in at 94' long. This better highlights the steepness of the hill and also demonstrated to me what losing the handle costs trailwise when it comes to distance.

    Long Arc'ing Traverses Versus Short Steep Climbing/Descending-reroute.jpg

    I plan on walking the trail again later tonight and will stand right at the apex of that boulder section and put a flag on the re-entrant section of the line above to see how it looks. My suspicion is the mapping software makes these two sections look like an issue, but when standing on the ground in reality, there is probably greater distances and due to the steepness, less concern than I has originally thought. I should've paid better attention when I was out walking it the first time! It seemed fine when I was out there.

    As for the proposed reroute from aero901, you can see in the satellite picture the wash I am angling above. That bright green area turns into a mud pit that gets absolutely destroyed by cows annually. That is why I curve up from that tree and stay a bit higher on the ridge than is proposed so I can cross that wash at it's head which doesn't get as wet and already has existing "cow contour" lines that have been there for many years. While these will get annual damage, due to the years of compaction, they will take very little maintenance while down below I shutter at even thinking about trying to keep that section in shape.

    I really like the proposed smoothness of the top portion of aero's suggestion. The only bummer there is that would be another section of pretty steep climbing, and you would actually come across a ridge and eliminate the creek crossing. Not necessarily a show stopper, but I was looking forward to the technical building challenge of the creek crossing and it could definitely be a positive point of interest for all trail users.

    I might as well address the tire tracks, as I know someone will ask! This area is seasonally leased for grazing, and the rancher kind of does what he wants with his quads. If you stand at the base of where those tracks intersect at the bottom and look up, it is straight up a nasty steep incline (100' rise /244' run = 41%). I don't plan on blocking any of his lanes as this would most likely cause conflict. In some cases I use his lanes, so it's a yin and yang kind of thing!

    That's one of the ironies of this trail. It actually isn't a new trail at all. It is mostly choosing existing cow trails, which are all over the hill and can be seen in the aerial shot above, and connecting them with turns, eliminating fall lines, and benching them to a standard.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ray.vermette View Post
    I like that better than my suggestions. Make the longer path more fun to ride and people won't want to skip it.
    Good suggestion. Also, do you have the option of moving the lower turn somewhat so that itís not oriented along the fall line with the upper turn? Maybe raising it slightly? If bombing down the fall line leaves you with a hike-a-bike back up the other side of the gulch, you wonít have to worry about bikers cutting the trail.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by roughster View Post
    I started warming up to the idea of modifying the trail. So I used Google Earth...
    If you weren't already aware, there's a setting in Google Earth to exaggerate the vertical by a factor.

    IIRC, I usually set it to 1.5 or 2 to exaggerate the hills and make the terrain look the way I perceive it when I'm there in person.
    Mountain bikers are generally a rational bunch...until someone moves a rock on our favorite trail and we lose our minds - LMN

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ray.vermette View Post
    If you weren't already aware, there's a setting in Google Earth to exaggerate the vertical by a factor.

    IIRC, I usually set it to 1.5 or 2 to exaggerate the hills and make the terrain look the way I perceive it when I'm there in person.
    Didn't know that! Thanks for the tip, I will check it out!

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