Seeking your input into the best soil/mix for trail surface-
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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2006

    Seeking your input into the best soil/mix for trail surface

    Hi all,

    Down here in Canberra ACT one of our prime trail areas is built on a fire ravaged ex-pine plantation. What damage the 50years of pine tree farming didn't do to the soil the 1500 degree heat from the 2003 Canberra bushfires finished off. Because of this the soils has very little self-binding properties - if the trails experience any lines for water to run down because of tires the next big rain storm has the potential to cause some damage. On the DH track the lack of soil cohesion means more ongoing maintennace than our other ride areas where the soil is more stable.

    We have a working bee planned for next weekend and am looking at bring in another type of soild to lay down in key skid and heavy wear and tear areas. Many ideas have popped into my head based on discussions with other trail folk and experience helping out at working bees in other areas - crushed sandstone used at trails 300km looks very good, but not available here and too hard to courier down. We are looking at yellow decomposed granite with a high clay content (what the landscape supply guys call "dirty" stock - buit good for holding it together). I have also got advice that a ration of 1:10 cement to granite mix will also create more strength.

    So, the question is, what is your experience with the best material/material mix for solid trail treads? Note we will have manual compactors there and some water.

    Feedback and thoughts appreciated.


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: JamR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Importing soil can be a tough call on a couple of levels.

    Bringing in enough soil to make a difference on even a short trail segment can take quite a bit of material to be laid down in a substantial enough layer to make a trail-bed that won't just wash away in a heavy storm.

    You need to have the confidence that the material your're bring in is suitable for a trail surface.

    And if it's a ecologically sensitive area there may be restrictions on importing due to invasive plants that may be imported.

    The area I work in does not allow for import of any soils from outside sources.

    I don't know the slope percentages you are working with, but you might want to check into a couple of the soil stabilizers currently on the market. There are a couple of resin copolymer products (eco-friendly) that are used on service roads and trails that have shown good success; but I personally have not seen them on any steep applications.

    The main draw-back might be that they make the soil less permeable and therefore would change the way the water acts on the trail. But it sounds like your area may be fairly degraded already so it might be worth talking to some of the rep's and finding out if it would work for your applications.

    I've used them on flat trails and it's a very simple process of mixing the polymer with the existing soil, adding moisture and compacting it.

    Two products I've seen or used in the past are Gorilla-Snot and DuraRoad.

    See if you can find a local rep to look at your needs.


  3. #3
    We want... a shrubbery!
    Reputation: ickyickyptngzutboing's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    From my experience in my classes (I'm finishing up a Geosciences B.S. right now) and work (for a site work company) your options are limited. I doubt you'll be able to pull in enough material to make a difference, and then you'd still be dealing with the far-from-prime soils that are there. Look into the soil stabilizers like JamR said, but more important than the tread surface I think would be to make sure the trail is built correctly--make sure all water is being drained away and the water can't use the tread as a conduit, because I don't think that there's much you can do with the tread surface (even if treated) if you have too much water running over it.

    Calvin : Ahhh, another bowl of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs! The second bowl is always the best! The pleasure of my first bowl is diminished by the anticipation of future bowls and by the end of my third bowl, I usually feel sick.
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  4. #4
    Ride Responsibly
    Reputation: LWright's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    bricks, or rocks nearby.
    dig down past any loose soil to reach rock or a more solid soil at least.
    alwaays end with a outslope enough for water to run off the trail.

  5. #5
    Trail Care Coordinator
    Reputation: Oppy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    I am trialing some warajay sealer in a walking track application in Brisbane at the moment. Some of my co-workers have had good experiences with the product in previous track work. Can be difficult to apply as per instructions without mechanical assitance.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Thanks all who have replied thus far. JamR - tried to track down some Gorilla Snot distributors in Oz but no luck, so will be hoping to hear more from Oppy on the outcomes of his trial of the locally sourced Warajay sealer.

    For the first working bee we held two weeks ago we ended up going with a creme decomposed granite, which the DH trail crew mixed with a small amount of cement to trial it on the skid-prone areas. This was the first time I had used the creme version of the granite, having previously used scalps (fine roadbase) or the red decomposed granite variety. I can honestly say the creme is ALOT better for the MTB trails than the red variety. The creme version came a bit damp, and even squeezing it in the hand had it binding well to itself. By the look of it this variety has more clay in it than the red stuff.

    Oppy - please keep me posted on the results of the trial you are doing. Also, how does this stuff need to be applied? [you noted it was a challenge] Can it be mixed into the soil in a wheelbarrow prior to laying it down, or is it sprayed/spread over the top of the finished track/trail?

    Regarding the trail design itself there is certainly some drainage that can be applied to address the water shedding problem, but the skidding is still the issue.

    I'll keep you posted on how the creme granite/cement mix goes.



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