Trail Maintenance – Should we all do our part?

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  • Trail Maintenance – Should we all do our part?
  • ahwiles
    Member

    yes, and no.

    yes: cutting back a few of the more agressive brambles

    no: digging berms into every corner.

    yes: placing a few small sticks to guide people AROUND the corner

    no: chopping trees down to ‘improve the flow’

    yes: scuffing out a drainage channel to empty a puddle.

    no: building doubles

    elliott-20
    Member

    yes: cutting back a few of the more agressive brambles / scuffing out a drainage channel to empty a puddle.

    ^ Absolutely this

    What prompted me lately was the fact I nearly skewered myself through the chest on a snapped branch.

    😳

    Nope, wrong time of year. Clay will be rock hard and sand will be just sand. Save the digging for winter.

    Clearning brambles and marking out corners a good thign though.

    soobalias
    Member

    most often ride natural trails,

    they just need riding

    elliott-20
    Member

    Save the digging for winter.

    I think that’s the issue with the thought of most riders – believing when the digging starts in the autumn that’s when the trail will be repaired.

    The evolution of a trail over a year is the beauty of it all but this spring and summer has taken quite a toll on increasingly busy ride spots. Cutting back foliage and trail ‘sweeping’ has become a regular thing on our rides. Or am I the only idiot doing it? 🙂

    mindmap3
    Member

    I try too.

    Went to the local woods for the first time in a few weeks and couldn’t believe how over grown it all was. Reckon I’ll go for a walk this week or next with some tools and cut some of he brambles and ferns back. It’s gone wild!

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Subscriber

    Yes to blocking off shortcuts – they always straight line the most interesting bends, then get ridden in really quickly and the original line fades pretty quick. Always disappointing to come back a few days later and find that any attempt at blocking has been smashed out of the way, or that the new boring line has been built ‘officially’ as part of trail maintenance (looking at you, Swinley!)

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    If it’s a “Venue” then it needs organisation. Leaders who can do the right thing and supervise those who are doing the digging.

    Close trails before they get knackered and fix them. It will take a lot of work but if people are interested then it can work. Riding trails till they are trashed is poor form from the riders and whoever manages the land.

    Premier Icon notmyrealname
    Subscriber

    or that the new boring line has been built ‘officially’ as part of trail maintenance (looking at you, Swinley!)

    That was something that really surprised me last night at Swinley, the ‘shortcuts’ that people have been riding are now the proper trail. What’s all that about?

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I do it, but then I like it. This time of year’s almost all pruning/clearing though rather than building/repairing- can’t really build with dust and it’s harder to target drains etc. More and more time wasted on blocking off cheat lines 🙁

    I don’t expect anyone else to do the same, mind, but at the same time it does annoy me a bit when people complain but never do.

    elliott-20
    Member

    With the current state of the local trails getting worse, (Woburn is a proper mess in places), I seem to be spending more time, mid ride, clearing and patching trails this past few weeks than actually riding them.

    At the moment it seems very few people are maintaining trails and many, many more are riding them without giving much care and thought for trail maintenance.

    Anyone noticing the same or blissfully unaware of the problem? Or do you not give a flying monkey?

    Just thought I’d put it out there – should we all try and help?

    *Discuss*

    Premier Icon mtbfix
    Subscriber

    Elliott-20, you inspired me today. Cleared a couple of tangles of overgrowth and cut back a tree that had fallen over the trail. In spite of the saw living in my pack, I had become lazy.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    notmyrealname – Member

    That was something that really surprised me last night at Swinley, the ‘shortcuts’ that people have been riding are now the proper trail. What’s all that about?

    Lines of desire… We fight against it as much as we can but if enough people are riding the shortcut, sometimes you just have to give in to that and formalise the line.

    The whole volunteer crew spent a day on falla brae at glentress earlier this year, doing nothing but fixing drains and blocking shortcuts. Just a couple of months later and any that weren’t immovably blocked are back, and there’s new ones everywhere else. it’s like fighting the tide tbh but the alternative seems to be to build completely straight featureless trails.

    mattsccm
    Member

    Depends.
    Something like FC trails maybe yes if they don’t. Stuff that’s evolved, no. Its the evolution and change that’s fun. Mud is natural and to be embraced. Narrow is natural and a change from the winter.
    Remove deliberately placed obstacles maybe.
    Stick for corners are horrid and not needed. Ride your line not a motorway.
    If it needs tool don’t go there.

    Premier Icon jairaj
    Subscriber

    Yeah I have done a bit of trail maintenance from time to time. I kinda like it. Its a different way to get to know the trail.

    Haven’t been to Woburn for a while now. It was riding OK before the heatwave. Which bits are not looking good? Jump area or the XC routes?

    elliott-20
    Member

    Haven’t been to Woburn for a while now. It was riding OK before the heatwave. Which bits are not looking good? Jump area or the XC routes?

    Mostly the XC trails. The jump boys are pretty good at keeping the popular parts running.

    A little annoying as in this weather the singletrack is FAST 🙂

    plyphon
    Member

    Unfortunately someone has taken to snapping a tree branch that was at a diagonal on a trail after a quite tight corner.

    It’s a shame for two reasons:

    1: It was quite fun, kept you on your toes and wasn’t really a danger, just a trail obstacle. Can’t all ride sterile trails now.

    2: The trail isn’t on private land and MTBer’s have a bad enough rep for ruining the wildlife as it is.

    In short, only those who know what they’re doing should touch the trails for anything more involved that moving of sticks.

    Junkyard
    Member

    I ride natural stuff but if i rode man made i would put in some effort to make the trails

    matther01
    Member

    So who do we blame for the short-cutting…strava obsessives or lazy inexperienced riders?

    Im all for providing labour…but sensible enough to know i need direction.

    B.A.Nana
    Member

    The same numptys who cause braking bumps I’d think, they’ll either be slamming the brakes on or cutting the corner, which ever is possible or preferable.

    bent udder
    Member

    Braking bumps are caused by plenty of things, not just numpties. Natural trails are rarely natural – they are usually maintained by the sort of Trail Pixie activity we are talking about here.

    Cutting corners is a sign of poor bike handling skills,Strava desperation or, very occasionally, a need to change the route a little.

    A few things can help. Deberming is really helpful, and you can do it with the edge of your shoe if the stuff building up on the off slope is fresh enough. Clearing sight lines can help, too – just be stealthy. Cutting narrow drainage channels off a trail can do a lot of damage – wide shallow channels are good, so think about moving earth across, not cutting in or down.

    Building berms, jumps and the like can be problematic for the landowner, and the easiest, safest thing for them to do from their perspective is to remove potential hazards.
    If there is a volunteer group in your area, make contact and volunteer.

    Hope all this helps. If you get the chance to talk to a professional trail builder, ask them how it is done. They may be involved in building trail centres, but they will be a mine of experience when it comes to maintaining ‘natural’ trails.

    crikey
    Member

    Um, not to be controversial, but all this ‘trail maintenance’ on ‘natural trails’ would seem to be akin to trail centerising the stuff you ride on.

    My question is therefore, where does this leave the macho ‘natural stuff only’ warriors?

    theocb
    Member

    I have no idea what defines a ‘natural trail’. Anybody care to elaborate?

    matther01
    Member

    I generally think of natural trails as things starting of by deer and the like that turn into cheeky bits of trail unsullied by adding bottom and top layers of rock,gravel, sand etc…but thats just me…otherwise theyre all man made…no?

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    “Natural” just seems to be a catchall for “not purpose built for biking”- hardly ever means genuinely natural, even if it’s a sheep trail it’s caused by farmed sheep not wild sheep 😉

    “Natural” trails can benefit a lot- since they’re often not constructed at all or much, they can suffer from unnecessary wet patches etc. Now you might say “Mud is part of mountain biking”, sure that’s true but a wet trail tends to get wider as people try and ride round it, and your singletrack becomes a motorway. And besides, there’s mud and then there’s mud.

    Reminds me- earlier this year I went up to a local singletrack descent where undergrowth had totally encroached on the trail- predictably it had banded, so many folks walked around the undergrowth that the durable old trail was lost and a new, crappy trail had formed. So I went up and hacked it back til the old trail was ridable again and turfed in the new one. WHile I was in the middle of it, some bellend started having a go at me- “If you can’t ride it, don’t change it” “Leave nature be”- it’s a manmade trail in a manmade woodland being damaged by people not walking/riding on the path. But to him it was “natural”

    bent udder
    Member

    What Northwind says. Stuff that’s ‘natural’ can take a certain amount of abuse and volume of traffic, but, certainly here in the Surrey Hills and over in Wales, two places where I’ve maintained and built trails, a little bit of maintenance prevents a load of damage.

    A trail centre trail is purpose built, usually with material shipped onto the site to harden it to hundreds of riders a week. What people call a ‘natural’ trail is, I suppose, not this – but it’s far from natural. Most of the landscape of the UK is not natural. For example, Leith, Pitch and Holmbury hills, the ones nearest where I live, were all grassland before the second world war, with no woodland on them at all. At some point they were natural woodland, but got deforested so people could graze domesticated animals on them. Parklife (also known as yoghurt pots) on Holmbury Hill in Surrey relied on an iron age hill fort for its first roll-ins for a good 15 years, before English Heritage / Natural England stepped in and asked the landowner to move the trail. The new, uh, ‘manufactured’ entrance cuts through a disused quarry working from the 19th century instead.

    Plenty of trail pixies hear people say ‘it’s a natural trail – it doesn’t / shouldn’t be maintained’ and roll their eyes. Usually, what someone rides once or twice a week and thinks of as ‘natural’ has been carefully maintained by a few dedicated pixies over a period of time.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Similiarly, I’ve heard people talk about Drumlanrig, Comrie Croft, Broon Troot at Glentress, and the enduro trails at innerleithen as “natural”. All man made, vast amounts of work in them, but done so that it doesn’t feel like 360 + type 2 + wacker plate.

    Premier Icon Del
    Subscriber

    most often ride natural trails,

    they just need riding

    ‘natural trails’ No Such Thing.

    Plenty of trail pixies hear people say ‘it’s a natural trail – it doesn’t / shouldn’t be maintained’ and roll their eyes. Usually, what someone rides once or twice a week and thinks of as ‘natural’ has been carefully maintained by a few dedicated pixies over a period of time.

    that.

    Premier Icon deadkenny
    Subscriber

    The last thing we want is everyone thinking they are trail pixies and making their “improvements”. Majority (and I include myself in this) wouldn’t have a clue how to maintain a trail properly. They could make it worse. The worst is the ones who think they can build a “wicked cool” jump or gap and make a hash of it wrecking the trail or even place it on a heavily used trail in a dangerous position for others not up to it (not to mention making the jump/gap badly, forgetting about drainage even if they just build up a berm or similar). Okay these aren’t just the tidy up maintenance tasks but encouraging one leads to the rest.

    Leave it to the real pixies.

    That said, overgrowth if you can have a go at it, go ahead. Don’t piss off the local ranger by pulling down some protected plant/tree/whatever though 😉

    And “natural” trails, some are just animal tracks that have been worn away. Usually messy. I’ve ridden some excellent ones that feel very natural but have indeed been well maintained, even including building up berms that just don’t seem to be man made but they are. Incredible work that is in keeping with the natural landscape. And then there are man made abominations – aforementioned Parklife / Yog Pots 😉

    Premier Icon somafunk
    Subscriber

    I “maintain” all my local trails but as i stay in secluded Galloway i imagine my trails are quite different from the vast majority of everyone else on here as i’m the only person to use them, recently spent £100+ on some new trail tools to help the cause (pics below) and as i’m the only person to ride the trails if i don’t clear the paths then they’ll soon be unridable due to fallen trees, plant growth etc. I’ve spent the past 3 wednesdays (my only day off) from 9am in the morning till after 8pm at night working on two of my trails and clearing dozens of fallen trees (Silky Zubat as below) and suchlike along with cutting all overhanging branches and trimming back the undergrowth with my Stihl bushknife (below) and weed scythe (not pictured) – I’ve got one trail all cleared so that’s a decent couple of miles of sweet coastal singletrack and i’ve got 70% of another trail cleared but there’s a couple of very large fallen trees supporting each other so i’ll prob have to lug my chainsaw in and some wedges along with my felling axe/maul to get them to fall safely so i can remove them.

    Took less than an hr to saw through both limbs, chainsaw would’ve done it in seconds but the landowner is a bit of an arse so this trail is cleared by manual labour alone.

    My stihl bushknife which is bloody handy for lopping of branches and chopping ferns/undergrowth etc.

    Also got a mattock for excavating work, and a Mcleod along wi home made rake that can take a bit of abuse.

    None of the trails are man made as such but just natural old singletrack paths that have fallen into disuse due to years of neglect and fallen trees etc, i try and keep them clear and all it takes is a few rides every so often along with a few walkers who know about them to pass along to keep the undergrowth from taking over, this morning i cleared 100ft of 6ft high nettles from one exit section of trail so that leaves me with 2miles of windfall and briars/overhanging branches and ferns left to sort out. My most important tool is my miniature crux gas stove and MSR Titan Ti mug for a black tea brew and a chance to sit and admire my work 😀

    grahamt1980
    Member

    If a trail needs some if the undergrowth curing back then yes all the time. Have made a few new trails around and about but it’s too dry at the moment.
    Which trails are trashed at Woburn. Most seem fine but for a few corners washed out, it’s just slippery over there being this dry.

    Mrs Toast
    Member

    I remember the Cannock Chase trail pixies having to have words with some guys who were taking a shovel to one of the Monkey descents (can’t remember if it was Upper or Lower Cliff). They were trying to dig in a shortcut to go straight down, so they didn’t have to do the switchbacks. Although I guess that’s more vandalism than maintenance. 😛

    Premier Icon unklehomered
    Subscriber

    yes, and no.

    yes: cutting back a few of the more agressive brambles

    no: digging berms into every corner.

    yes: placing a few small sticks to guide people AROUND the corner

    no: chopping trees down to ‘improve the flow’

    yes: scuffing out a drainage channel to empty a puddle.

    no: building doubles

    this is good. I’d add

    Yes: rolling any loose rocks / felled branches / hazards off the trail

    NO: Pulling things which you can’t ride/slow you down out of the trail just because you don’t like them*

    But as said above, wherever there are formal, permitted man made trails, there are a group of pixies who maintain and improve them. Every extra pair of hands that shows up to help means the maintenance can be done quicker and more time for improvement/adding stuff. If you want to change stuff, show up too. There’s no hard fast rules, I’m sure all groups have a to do list anyone can add stuff to and then your idea will be done properly and kept. Its also a lot of fun, and you will still spend a lot of time talking about and riding bikes. 😀

    *I just needed to vent that, it might not be strava but it is the “fast is the only goal” mentality. 👿 👿 👿

    Euro
    Member

    I do a bit of general maintenance/clearing on the local natural stuff and would generally stop and try to repair ‘bad’ bits of trail (much to the annoyance of my riding buddies 😀 ). I also like making new trails, be it wandering xc trails or jumpy dh style stuff and everything in between. Some take more time and preparation that others. I could clear a short xc loop in a day but my latest trail involved many hours of planning and even more digging (and it’s only half way done). Once i’ve finished it, i suppose i’ll be maintaining it too 😀

    [video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goa8UoWrgus&feature=c4-overview&list=UUPvti4d0R4E6J7p8wPSPmaQ[/video]

    scottfitz
    Member

    I remember the Cannock Chase trail pixies having to have words with some guys who were taking a shovel to one of the Monkey descents (can’t remember if it was Upper or Lower Cliff). They were trying to dig in a shortcut to go straight down, so they didn’t have to do the switchbacks. Although I guess that’s more vandalism than maintenance.

    If you have time to vandalize trail because you don’t like them you that time to volunteer and help build them. Then you can give your input and save every one time and money.

    theocb
    Member

    The ‘I ride natural trails’ excuse comes up all the time, surely a so called natural trail requires as much if not more maintenance to stop it from becoming trashed or ending up as a stone topped trail centre style hardpack in years to come.

    Every rider understands that they need to put a little effort into maintaining the trails they ride whatever ‘style’ they call them. Different maintenance is needed for different styles but never no maintenance.

    If you ride, you slash,prune,repair,rake,dig,build and maintain.
    These are the rules!

    Premier Icon unklehomered
    Subscriber

    Its easy for the straightline down the hill types to spoil natural trails*, a trail near me, quite cheeky, has been alter recently so that the old line is almost lost, the new line is incredibly tech, I like it, but a few years ago it would have been too much for me. However the trail ‘building’, clearing really, has been done very sypathetically. With little actual digging work.

    I’ve done some work in some old leadmines near me, where water found an easier route and eroded a huge trench last summer, my aim with redirecting the water, filling in the trench and reinforcing it, and other bits i’ve done about the site is that if you didn’t go there every week, you’d never know anyone had done anything.

    *from my point of view.

    Premier Icon cakefacesmallblock
    Subscriber

    Our local trails have many stream crossings. During wet periods, logs or stones in the bottom of these get clogged and they act more like a dam. This results in a widening of the crossing point with stream banks looking more like D-day landing zones with wheel swallowing holes on the far side. So, we often clear them and place new stones / small logs to allow better drainage and keep the trail narrow. We’ll clear fallen trees and deliberately placed “stickman” type objects too.

    Premier Icon unklehomered
    Subscriber

    I rode a trail in Harrogate that usually had loads of sticks, but they were all gone this time. It was really boring. Nothing to practice hop/weighting etc skills on, just flat trail through the woods. Stick men are your friends, they worry you might be neglecting the basics! 😉

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