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Ridenfool

How to Stop People Modifying Technical Trail Features

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Posted (edited)

A constant in threads about trail building and maintenance are the stories of favorite features being molested by newbs, slackers, and ner-do-wells who are clearly bent upon a mission to ruin the rides of a handful of hard-core local riders who only appreciate a trail that offers the most challenge they can find on every ride.

Something every trail builder should consider is how one of the most successful trail systems ever devised has B-lines for most of the technical features offered. These trails are found in Bentonville. All the best trails will have a flow line beside a challenge line to keep the seasoned rider entertained because choice is always better than no choice.

B-lines that are designed into the trail are the mark of a craftsman who understands how their creation will serve a wide variety of riders with as wide a variety of skills. B-lines will prevent people from taking apart TTFs (Technical Trail Features), because they already have an option that works for them. The B-line allows riders to build the stamina and experience to want to try the A-line some day, and allows them to learn and expand their skill set at their own pace.

If those riders don't have any other choice except constant frustration with features they aren't ready for they will modify the trail again and again. The frustrated trail builder will rebuild it again and again as well. It might not even be the same person or persons doing the unauthorized work each time. I've seen this happen to trails I've built and found it frustrating. It took some time (years) for me to finally get to the point that I realized I'm not the only one riding that trail. Trails will evolve of their own accord if they aren't built to accommodate the majority of users.

Having both lines doesn't make the A-line any easier, nor does it take away the option for any rider looking for it. Two lines lets you have your cake and eat it too. No constant battles putting things back together wasting time that could be put into more rewarding efforts.

This in no way condones folks messing up a trail or ruining a feature that is enjoyed. It is only a strategy that offers the opportunity to do something about it beforehand by nipping that urge in the bud.

As an Exercise, sit quietly in the woods for a few hours a day over several days while counting the riders at any given feature that is without an alternate line. Then, separate the riders as they are counted into:

a) those that clear the TTF;

b) those that try and fail; and

c) those that don't even try

This might build perspective about who the users are, and what their skill levels are.

From there, thoughts may migrate onto how building a trail in a way that encourages riders, by offering the choice of progressive lines to work toward as they improve their skills is a good thing, and it is the best way to preserve the features that offer challenges.

Cheap insurance is what I'd call this trail design strategy. Murphy's Law says that any B-line that can be made, will be made, so the bottom line is more about who gets to decide how the B-line is made.

Edited by Ridenfool
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Posted (edited)

I agree! Riding in Austin is technical and challenging which has been fun to push through but as a mediocre skilled rider it has been challenging to find trails with features that build skill rather than test it. I've been pushing myself to ride 1/4 notch lately and one by one I've been working on cleaning features but there are a few that I don't know how to work up to, they seem so far above my skill set. While I am not above walking a feature I appreciate the B-line strategy, especially if it was a B+ line to help build my skill. Sometimes I feel like I have two choices, Picnic or Basket Drops... I've actually really liked Peddlers, especially East (central now?) because it had some great introductory features and more are being added. 

 

The park I started riding at (Duthie Hill in Sammamish, WA) had a great system of Y's and well marked black diamond route with a challenging but a less than death defying route right next to it. One trail in particular "Ryan's Eternal Flow" was a great example. Sometimes even the B-line had a B-line. These weren't just easy go arounds, they were paths of staggered skill designed to build up on. The park also had a skills area with multiple height drops, jumps, skinnies of various widths, etc. All designed to build skill and prep you for the trails. It was relatively compact and extremely helpful. 

 

Here is a video of Ryan's. At 0:45 sec you see two paths, the 1st right goes directly to the trail 2 corners ahead via a double black step up. The 1st left has a drop or a ride by and goes to yet another split (0:49) to a single black step up. That left goes to yet another drop with a rollable side route. They all meet a the same corner at 1:01. In 15 seconds of riding you have 3 choices of varying skill level with 2 side options. 

It's hard to tell from GoPro but this trail is built down a gully, using both sides of the hill like a half pipe in the woods. 

 

Edited by RedRider3141
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I'd add that if B lines are created, they should take longer to ride than if the A line is cleaned (e.g. Rocky Hill's final couple of features that have a slower B line).

Riders are more likely to work on making the A line if it will save them time...  and if B lines = shortcuts, stravassholes will take them every time to make themselves look l33t.

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9 minutes ago, lachrimae said:

I'd add that if B lines are created, they should take longer to ride than if the A line is cleaned (e.g. Rocky Hill's final couple of features that have a slower B line).

Riders are more likely to work on making the A line if it will save them time...  and if B lines = shortcuts, stravassholes will take them every time to make themselves look l33t.

An excellent point!

Whenever it is possible, creative design of the B-line to offer a different type challenge (narrow, twisty, longer, etc.) can still make the "easy" way fun and motivate folks to aspire to ride the A-line.

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I just rode St. Ed's. Although I appreciate the hard work that went into all the drainage (it was sorely needed) I'm a bit sad about all the dirt ramps built up on even 3-4" steps, and the line at the big ledge that people started widening is now completely sanctioned-looking with branches trimmed and a rock outline which also ruins the line up the steps.  When did all this get done?  I never saw a work call and I live pretty much next door.

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I totally agree with Ridenfool. Also agree with the concept lachrimae spelled out. That one is not always so easy to accomplish though.

Whenever we have the B line discussion I always use golf courses as an example, Golf courses have multiple tees to accommodate multiple skill groups. The golf course designer never just builds the course to only pro level abilities and says to the other 90% of the golfers, "Screw you losers. Get better." And I think that the golf course analogy works even better when remembering that there is only so much land available for both golf courses and our mountain bike trails.

Sure you can say "get better so you can ride the TTF that's there," but impractical. How can somebody get good enough to clear a 3' ledge when there is no progressive learning opportunities? You know, like a 1' then a 2' ledge? 

It is a problem how often dumbing down happens though. I feel people are so strange that even if there is a B line right there they will end up "helping" by sanitizing the TTF.

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5 hours ago, RedRider3141 said:

 

The park I started riding at (Duthie Hill in Sammamish, WA)

 

In Washington? Wow. Looking at the flora I kept expecting a monkey to jump out. Or maybe even a velociraptor. Very cool. 

And yes, it just demonstrates how easy the dual line concept is to accomplish. 

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One thing to take into account is that the trails being referenced here were mostly designed and built by people who, at the time, probably did not know or understand what goes into building a technical trail, e.g. qualifiers/filters, B-lines, not building trail that can be seen and easily accessed from another trail or even from the same trail later on, as people will short cut.  Experience goes a long way in many things, trail building included. 

And I agree that alternate lines should be an option in many cases, be longer, and maybe even challenging.

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On 3/19/2019 at 1:50 PM, AntonioGG said:

I just rode St. Ed's. Although I appreciate the hard work that went into all the drainage (it was sorely needed) I'm a bit sad about all the dirt ramps built up on even 3-4" steps, and the line at the big ledge that people started widening is now completely sanctioned-looking with branches trimmed and a rock outline which also ruins the line up the steps.  When did all this get done?  I never saw a work call and I live pretty much next door.

I have no idea who did that or when.

We (ARR) has not been allowed to do trail work there for over 5 years. I am STILL trying to get the agreement signed.

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Posted (edited)

So when there are already and A-Line (skinny next to the tree), a B-Line (down and up to the left) and a C-Line (virtual sidewalk to the right of the tree), people still think they need to cut the roots of the tree.

I know - it needs a sign. Sure - people will pay attention to a sign. Yeah. Right.

I can't figure out how to correct the rotation of the picture. Up is to the right.

Tree Lines.jpg

Edited by cxagent

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17 minutes ago, cxagent said:

I have no idea who did that or when.

We (ARR) has not been allowed to do trail work there for over 5 years. I am STILL trying to get the agreement signed.

I'll take some pictures next time I ride there.

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I have no idea who did that or when.
We (ARR) has not been allowed to do trail work there for over 5 years. I am STILL trying to get the agreement signed.

I saw that for first time back in January. For some reason I thought it looked like a hiker group built it.

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On 3/19/2019 at 9:00 AM, RedRider3141 said:

I agree! Riding in Austin is technical and challenging which has been fun to push through but as a mediocre skilled rider it has been challenging to find trails with features that build skill rather than test it. I've been pushing myself to ride 1/4 notch lately and one by one I've been working on cleaning features but there are a few that I don't know how to work up to, they seem so far above my skill set. While I am not above walking a feature I appreciate the B-line strategy, especially if it was a B+ line to help build my skill. Sometimes I feel like I have two choices, Picnic or Basket Drops... I've actually really liked Peddlers, especially East (central now?) because it had some great introductory features and more are being added. 

 

The park I started riding at (Duthie Hill in Sammamish, WA) had a great system of Y's and well marked black diamond route with a challenging but a less than death defying route right next to it. One trail in particular "Ryan's Eternal Flow" was a great example. Sometimes even the B-line had a B-line. These weren't just easy go arounds, they were paths of staggered skill designed to build up on. The park also had a skills area with multiple height drops, jumps, skinnies of various widths, etc. All designed to build skill and prep you for the trails. It was relatively compact and extremely helpful. 

 

Here is a video of Ryan's. At 0:45 sec you see two paths, the 1st right goes directly to the trail 2 corners ahead via a double black step up. The 1st left has a drop or a ride by and goes to yet another split (0:49) to a single black step up. That left goes to yet another drop with a rollable side route. They all meet a the same corner at 1:01. In 15 seconds of riding you have 3 choices of varying skill level with 2 side options. 

It's hard to tell from GoPro but this trail is built down a gully, using both sides of the hill like a half pipe in the woods. 

 

There's not much I miss about the PNW, but I do miss some of the riding up there. Both Dirtbike and MTB. Never rode the area in this video. We mostly rode in the Mt. Rainier area both west and east side. This video reminded me of some of that.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/19/2019 at 1:50 PM, AntonioGG said:

I just rode St. Ed's. Although I appreciate the hard work that went into all the drainage (it was sorely needed) I'm a bit sad about all the dirt ramps built up on even 3-4" steps, and the line at the big ledge that people started widening is now completely sanctioned-looking with branches trimmed and a rock outline which also ruins the line up the steps.  When did all this get done?  I never saw a work call and I live pretty much next door.

We should hit it together one of these days.  Before Brushy, that was one of my fun rides to go from my house, right past your house on the trail in the woods, hit that l loop trail that pops you out at the intersection of Scotland Wells, cross over and do that out and back along the creekbed/drainage, go out spicewood springs and hit those trails along the road, climb the hill, bomb back down and then back to Scotland wells, loop trail, then back home.  That and sometimes do DK Ranch (RIP).

Ok, just checked and the loop trail is called "Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt trail" and the out/back is the "Spicewood Valley Trail/Upper Spicewood Valley trail".  Some really fun sections out there.  Especially the stairclimb up to the end at Topridge road.

Edited by Shinerider
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I've ridden those trails once (UBCGB and part of SVTUV).  They're a bit short but I've never tied them together with St. Ed's.  Mostly I run on them or used to take the dogs for a walk on them. I've never gone out to Topridge though, I go to the dam/spillway with the big rock blocks and turn back.  I've also never taken the exit at CVMS either, but I see on the map that it does. Have you ridden down or up to Talleyran Park?  I have never gotten the nerve to ride down those chainring-killer steps.  It's also frequently muddy.

Where was DK Ranch?  Was that at the Laurel Mountain ES bus circle?  I've heard about some trail in the past back there. 

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1 hour ago, Shinerider said:

We should hit it together one of these days.  Before Brushy, that was one of my fun rides to go from my house, right past your house on the trail in the woods, hit that l loop trail that pops you out at the intersection of Scotland Wells, cross over and do that out and back along the creekbed/drainage, go out spicewood springs and hit those trails along the road, climb the hill, bomb back down and then back to Scotland wells, loop trail, then back home.  That and sometimes do DK Ranch (RIP).

Ok, just checked and the loop trail is called "Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt trail" and the out/back is the "Spicewood Valley Trail/Upper Spicewood Valley trail".  Some really fun sections out there.  Especially the stairclimb up to the end at Topridge road.

Used to live out there and had some nice loops, would start out at the Balcones park and bomb down that trail and shoot over to Topridge trail and come down on Scotland Wells and hit the side trails of Spicewood Springs up to St. Eds, do that long climb and hit the opposite side drops that link back up to the main trail.  Super fun descents.  Haven't been out that way in a while, makes me sad to think someone has make the trails mellower.  Need to get back out there!

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58 minutes ago, AntonioGG said:

I've ridden those trails once (UBCGB and part of SVTUV).  They're a bit short but I've never tied them together with St. Ed's.  Mostly I run on them or used to take the dogs for a walk on them. I've never gone out to Topridge though, I go to the dam/spillway with the big rock blocks and turn back.  I've also never taken the exit at CVMS either, but I see on the map that it does. Have you ridden down or up to Talleyran Park?  I have never gotten the nerve to ride down those chainring-killer steps.  It's also frequently muddy. 

Where was DK Ranch?  Was that at the Laurel Mountain ES bus circle?  I've heard about some trail in the past back there.  

Ride down those ledges, but only made it up a couple of times (this was ~7 years ago).

Yes, that is where DK Ranch was.  Fenced off due to Golden Cheek Warbler.

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6 hours ago, Shinerider said:

Ride down those ledges, but only made it up a couple of times (this was ~7 years ago).

Yes, that is where DK Ranch was.  Fenced off due to Golden Cheek Warbler.

My kids were going down those trails when they were at LME.  They did a bunch of conservancy type stuff.  At least someone is using them.  BTW, one of their teachers had told them that he saw a cougar in one of the game cameras he setup, but when I asked him directly, he denied it.

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Posted (edited)

I'll just lay it out here that people who like to ride mellower stuff, like me these days, be the ones who lay out and design the B lines, instead of the people who have created a need for B lines in the first place.   B lines -- I'd prefer the term intermediate or mellow intermediate -- should be incredibly interesting and flowy with fun but doable challenges and obstacles at a lower amplitude than a black diamond trail.  If you'd like to ride an insanely well designed and super fun intermediate trail, head to Dead Horse Point State Park above Moab and ride the newer part of the Intrepid Trail system east of the park entrance road.  

Stop trying to determine for everyone that there can only be one path in mountain biking -- advancing to and mastering increasingly more difficult challenges.  Which is totally and completely legit for for some, maybe many, riders.  However, I've been on more than one monthly ARR ride where a large group of riders just wanted to enjoy a fun, mellow ride, on mellow trails, away from traffic.  They were super not interested in their ride resulting in a visit to the ER.  Fun but interesting trails are good. The reason Walnut is so insanely popular is its high ride-ability quotient. 

Also, something I've seen in play more than once -- throwing in something ridiculous that can be, let's face it, ridden only by a few super technically accomplished riders -- because the trail builders thought the trail was boring or too easy.  Alternate lines will arise on trails that are erratic in their technical demands.  If you're going to be building a black diamond trail full of technical challenge, fine.  If you're going to be building intermediate trails, then do that with consistency.  If you want to combine both, then have alternate  lines and be done with it, because, as we've all seen over and over, riders WILL vote with their tires, then everybody clutches their pearls and takes to their fainting couch over the sheer awfulness of it all. 

IMBA recommends stacked trails, with specifically black diamond trails further into the trail system, often as loops off a main route. 

 

 

 

Edited by June Bug
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I'm OK with alternate lines and purposefully designed mellow trails, but when people modify the trail in such a way that it alternates some of the challenges, I don't think that's right.  I don't claim to ride everything technical out there really, but I try some of them at least some of the time and when it's now gone, now I can't try it.  

I just get off my bike and practice my Cx dismounts and mounts if I don't feel like riding an obstacle.  This is Austin and I've been riding here since 1991.  I can't think of any trail (original in any case) that doesn't have a section that a beginner or mellow rider would not want to dismount the first few times.  What's the big deal with getting off your bike?

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True confession: There's a little up and down Shady Springs side loop at Walnut Creek. It starts flat, then drops down off a little ledge which leads right into a sharp downhill left turn.  *Riders* started going around on the right of a cedar tree to get a slightly wider angle to approach the turn and avoid the little ledge.  I blocked off that line multiple times; it got unblocked multiple times.  I think the cedar tree finally crossed the arborial rainbow bridge and now it's just a wide spot.  Time and use has made the actual turn easier; it's worn into a natural berm.  

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