Trail Updates

It turns out, building trail can keep you very busy. But it’s a rewarding kind of busy. Lets see if I can give you an idea of what’s going down.

Machine built trail starts out looking a lot like hand built trail, except for the machine in the middle of the whole works.

Machine built trail starts out looking a lot like hand built trail, except for the machine in the middle of the whole works.

The local municipal parks and rec department has graciously made land and a machine available for the building of trails. Our local IMBA group worked on the design, and layout started up as soon as everyone was on the same page.

Fresh machine built trail is always a bit messy.

Fresh machine built trail is always a bit messy.

Just because there’s a machine, it’s not all easy work. After cutting the main bench, all the clean up, back blending, and such is hand work. Turning this into what the every day rider recognizes and single track is easier than hand benching, but only by about half.

This is a worst case scenario for cleaning up behind a machine.

This is a worst case scenario for cleaning up behind a machine.

This short drop down into a gully is all the machine can manage. The majority of the digging work is done though, the grade is ridable, and it’s short enough to be sustainable in spite of a higher than normal grade. Unfortunately, finishing this still involves moving a lot of dirt, and cutting all those roots out.

Hard work pays off. This is the finished crossing.

Hard work pays off. This is the finished crossing.

This is the same grade entrance to the gully as pictured above.  Here you can see the trail cut down both banks of the gully for the crossing. Both cuts are protected by structure in the bank (rocks, trees, stumps) against the worst of the current when the water gets up. The bottom of the crossing has since been armored with a rock/clay/sand mixture that shouldn’t wash for a long, long time.

This is the first switchback, built as an in-sloped turn.

This is the first switchback, built as an in-sloped turn.

 

This turn took about an hour for two people to put together after the excavator went through. The trick to getting dirt to sculpt right is the right amount of water. When you have to rely on rain for that water, it can be interesting to get your timing right.

Not all of the trail is being machine built.

Not all of the trail is being machine built.

 

The hand built section above shows two routes, one more XC, one more AM. The problem with the AM side, is that the radius of the dip is very close to the radius of some wheels. Tricky.

Sometimes you just have to pile up a bunch of dirt.

Sometimes you just have to pile up a bunch of dirt.

The trail above seems to be heading straight for a large pile of dirt. In a sense, it is. In what may be the best example of combining machine built and hand built trail, the above pile of dirt was shaped into a nice berm, to get you turned around and going the other direction, shooting you around the …sideways…growing maple tree.

The berm.

The berm.

 

There’s much more to come, and I’ll be quite busy for a while yet. The reward for all this work will be a 5 mile loop through the woods. A loop that should be challenging, fun, rewarding, and hopefully an asset to the community where it’s being built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In which you get an update, but no pictures. Yet.

There’s a big reason I’ve been busy and not posting a lot lately. It’s not a good reason…or it is a good reason, but it’s no excuse. Something like that. I mentioned when I owed you an update that I got a new job. I also mentioned that I’d finalized a few things on that new mountain bike trail. That’s really dodging the issue a bit. The truth is, I got a job with the city parks and recreation department that new trail is in. My job is…building trails. So, I have paid time to spend building trails with an mini excavator owned by the city, that I don’t have to pay for, or buy fuel for. Really, all I have to do is show up and build trail. And train volunteers who want to help. So most Saturdays, we have volunteer crews out there. This is in addition to the work days we still run on our existing local trails on the first and third Sundays. That’s sort of a wreck too.

Recently, an property owner adjoining the park where our existing trails are had their property logged. We discovered that some of the trail originally built in the park….isn’t. So the section of trail that the loggers did their thing over top of is destroyed, and we’re building a re-routed section that stays inside the park. If I’m honest, the most impressive thing so far about this situation has been the lack of finger pointing by the groups in the park about who was at fault for the trail being on private property. So far, everyone is just sucking it up and helping build the re-route. Which is nice.

And don’t think that my being too busy to post has in any way hampered my riding. It hasn’t. I’ve had some great rides lately, both because they really were great rides, or because they maybe were marred by some mechanical difficulties, but the company and just the fact that we were out riding made them great. And really, isn’t that the important thing? On one ride a couple of weeks ago, my Single Speed started making an alarming creaking sound rather suddenly. It was so bad I was afraid I’d broken the frame. I got home, put the bike in the stand, and took the bottom bracket appart, cleaned everything up, threads, bearings, frame, all of it. I check the frame very closely for cracks, but didn’t find any. I put the bottom bracket back in, and torqued everything down right, and gave it a try. Behold, it worked beautifully, and was silent. While I would like to upgrade the Single Speed to a nice Ti frame (Lynskey?) I must say I was relieved to not HAVE to do so.

The last two times I’ve ridden the Anthem, I’ve been plagued by pinch flats. This is more confounding than normal because I checked the tire pressures, I’m running exactly what I’ve always run, I weigh the same, and yet two rides in a row, I’ve found snake bite holes in my tube after a rather jarring impact on the back wheel. Which either means I’m riding worse than I was, or I’m going faster than I was and it’s thrown my timing off, or just causing me to hit harder and pinching. Either way, it’s frustrating. As such, I’ve decided to consider this new fangled tubeless technology. Although, you could argue, I’ve gone about it backwards.

I converted the rear wheel of the Single Speed to tubeless. Yes, just the rear wheel of the Single Speed. Here’s why, lest you think my crazy(er). The tires on the SS (WTB Exiwolf front and Nano rear) have both been victims of sharp rocks – cut right through. But running with tubes, that’s not a huge problem, because the cuts are in the tread. It also happens, that the Pacenti rims on the SS are designed to be tubeless compatible. I have a set of Racing Ralphs that I took off my Anthem – I can’t say I was horrible impressed with them, especially on the front. I was going to grab one of those and throw it on the back of the SS, since I decided I would “use both of them up” on the back of the SS since I don’t think they’ll cause me traction issues there. The surprise came when I let the air out of the Nano and went to break the bead to remove the tire. It was HARD to get it to release. So, just for giggles, I took the tube out, put the tubeless valve stem (the only one my LBS had…another reason I only did the rear) in the rim, and put the tire back on. A quick shot with the air compressor and the beads seated just like they should, and it blew a bunch of air out of the hole in the tread, like I knew it would. But it looked good around the bead. So I took the tire off, put a good old fashion patch on the inside of the hole in the tread, put the tire back on, seated the bead (cheating alert) then let the air out, took the valve core out, and dumped in my Stans juice. Put all that back together and inflated it, and sealed everything up and….presto. Tubeless. Like it had a brain. So how is it?

It’s great. I dropped the pressure from 32 psi to 30 psi. I took it for it’s single track shake down this morning. The grip was outrageous. 2 psi made a lot of difference. The feel was also much better, the ride as a whole was less harsh. I rode the bike pretty hard, hit some off camber roots, jumped it, carved some hard turns, and basically tried to make it burp, but it held like a champ. So now I need to do the front. And I need to figure out how to deal with the S-XC2 rims on my Anthem – a full Stans rim strip kit, or just some stans tape? Ah well, I’ll figure it out.

I’ll hit y’all again soon with pictures. I’ve got trail pictures, flower pictures, pictures I probably don’t remember taking, and probably pictures of me playing with fire.

I owe you a real update.

I promise, I’ll get you a real update soon. You hear a lot of “I’ve been busier than a one _______ _________ in a ___________.” (everyone can use their own favorite variation) running around, but in my case, I’ve actually been quite busy. I had family come to town, we finalized some stuff on that mountain bike trail, and I got a new job. I have managed to ride a few times as well. But all I really want to say in this post is, I owe you an update, and you’ll get it. Soon. Promise.

I’m not dead. Yet.

I know it’s been a while since I posted. Sorry. I’ve been a busy man. I’ve spent three days out of the last two…or has it been three?..weeks in meetings with a local city government about a new trail system at a park. I dedicated bike trail system. I’ve also been on the property a couple of times, and made some very interesting discoveries. Including that I’m going to be building a LOT of elevated trail over a creek on the property. Each crossing – and I’m aiming for two – will need 40 to 60 yards of deck elevated to an unknown height as of yet, but I’m guessing at least 2 feet. I’ll know for sure when the water goes back down. I’m very excited about this project though, because I really do feel like mountain bikers finally are getting cut loose in this area to build a real playground.

Speaking of playing, I have gotten some playing in. Our Saturday Social last week was fun, we had a good turnout and picked up a few new folks. One of the new folks we picked up was a seasoned rider who had never been in the park before. Four of us ended up doing over 7 miles giving him the guided tour. Here’s the group about halfway through the first loop. Y’all will get used to seeing this barn. It’s a real landmark on our trails.

April 6th Social ride. There are three participants not including myself who are not in frame.

April 6th Social ride. There are three participants not including myself who are not in frame.

Late in the ride I had a bit of a spill. Honestly, after a couple of days, it didn’t feel that bad. The only real problem with it, is that I still can’t explain how it happened. You know those old cartoons, where someone pulls the rug out from under someone, and they go completely horizontal, and come crashing to the ground? Well, that’s what happened. I was riding into a switchback, and *boom*, I was laying on the ground. No idea. But that brings me to a tip. You’re thinking, hey, weren’t you carrying  a camera? Yep, I sure was.

The camera I carry on my rides isn’t something I’d get all broken up about if it got destroyed in a fall. Still, who wants to break a camera? I carry my old Canon Digital Rebel XT. I have a gizmo called a Capture Clip (Peak Designs) on the strap of my Camel Back. I can get all crazy and bunny hop stuff and jump things with the camera on this thing and it doesn’t smack me in the face or anything else. It’s pretty sweet. Even sweeter is the fact that in this crash, it not only held the camera, but again, the camera didn’t hit me in the face or anything, and when I stood back up, the camera worked. In fact, I carried with me the next day at Rotary. When we, you guessed it, did trail work.

We’ve had a trouble spot for some time where the trail is on flat ground because it has to be. It’s the lowest spot on this bit of flat ground right before you get to the creek. So when it rains, a bunch of run off from where a pump station was put in flows off the hill and onto the trail, and sits there. That’s a problem. Here’s a picture I took (with my camera that survived my strange spill) of the solution, and the four guys that worked with me to help finish out this somewhat drawn out project.

These guys worked super hard with me April 7th to get this turnpike finished. We did in one day what would have taken two days on either of my other work days out here. Bravo chaps. Bravo.

These guys worked super hard with me April 7th to get this turnpike finished. We did in one day what would have taken two days on either of my other work days out here. Bravo chaps. Bravo.

You can see an old section of turnpike disappearing out of the frame at the back, and the new section extends to where I’m standing to take the picture. It’s a lot of work, but it should allow water to pass through in a few places, and run further down to a low spot with a lot of drainage into the creek, keeping the trail from being wet and muddy after rains. We’ll find out today I guess.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been up to, in short. I’ve got a full day ahead, that includes another Saturday social. But first, I have to go haul a couple of tons of gravel for a friend….

Commentary, opinions, and musings brought about by a PinkBike article on “Trail Ownership”

Let me start by saying you don’t HAVE to read this pinkbike article to get something out of this post. But I do think it will help. So, here’s a link to the post so you can do some background before you read what I’ve got to say about the situation.

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Who-owns-a-trail-2013.html

Now that you’ve read that, I’m going to cheat a little bit. I initially replied to this article in a conversation about it on http://forums.mtbr.com/ in the trail building and advocacy section. I’m going to past that here so that you can get a grasp on what my real knee jerk reaction to this was.

It’s an interesting article, no doubt about it. I think if common sense reigned supreme, there wouldn’t be any need for “rules” even if there was a trail boss for calling the shots on building a trail. Unfortunately, common sense is….uncommon at best. Which means there need to be rules of some sort. Unfortunately, you then get into the question of who gets to make those rules. Public land, where a club or organization is authorized to build and maintain trails? The trail boss gets to lay down the law, it may have to be approved by a parks director or someone like that, but the signs go up, and that’s it.

It gets more complicated if multiple groups are authorized to build and maintain trail on public land. If the organizations are butting heads, it’s going to be a mess. But multiple groups authorized on public land is my reality, every day. A mountain bike club (me), a hiking group, boy scouts – and the parks department doesn’t really care. They want the trails there because they understand that if they’re well designed, the people using the trails are “good” for the park and the community. But they don’t have the manpower or funds to maintain the trails. So it’s all “You want trails you deal with them. If we have to step in, they go away.” sort of thing. Fortunately, we (all three groups) interact well, and have excellent relationships established. As a result, conflicting trail ideas are usually handled easily by compromise, multiple routes through a section, or simple admission that “That section of trail was not originally authorized, but it was built by mountain bikers, it’s not suitable or desirable for hiking, so do as you please with it, we’re just glad someone is actually going to fix it.” – this sort of thing makes my day. We’ve had hikers take up mountain biking, mountain bikers take up hiking, and lots of crossover between groups on trail work days. Who owns the trail? It doesn’t matter, because we have a good understanding between groups, and all of us will speak up and tell someone when they’re doing something wrong (riding wet trails, for instance).

Since most of the article focuses on …trails built under the table…. I’ll talk about that for a second too. If I built the trail (I probably didn’t, but for the sake of argument) I don’t expect to find someone fundamentally altering the trail. That’d be grounds to end up as a new rolling contour feature on my trail. If someone else built the trail, I’m not going to fundamentally alter the trail in any way. In fact, I likely won’t do anything but ride it, unless I run into the person who built it, and they ask if I can lend a hand. On the other hand, trails like this, you frequently have no actual rights regarding the trail, other than simple protocol as stated above. When you build the trail, you have to accept that you live in a world full of idiots that you can’t control, and that eventually, one or more of them will show up, and do what idiots do. Eventually, that’s going to cause problems, but if you’re dealing with “under the table” trail, then you just have to expect this, and when the situation is exposed, you can either take up negotiations to make it above board, abandon it, go cry in your beer, or whatever. But you have to accept that you have limited (or zero) actual control over the situation. If you can’t accept that fundamental truth, move on.

So, if you’ve made it through that, you probably are either (A) bored out of your mind (B) ready to kill me because you disagree (C) nodding your head because you agree with me, (D) somewhere in between B and C or (E) you’re B because of A. If any of that makes you want to say something, I encourage you to use the comments section to have your say. Just be polite about it. I’ve got a bit more to say about it myself.

See, I thought about this for a while after I wrote it. I should clear a few things up. For those who don’t know, I AM the trails administrator, or trail boss, or whatever you want to call it (we call it administrator, because boss is a four letter word) for my local MTB club. Trail building, maintenance and safety falls into my lap. I work with land managers from two counties, two cities, and the TWRA. All of my trails are not only legal, they’re planned and approved, sometimes to a degree that annoys the land managers. I had one ask my why I couldn’t just build the trail instead of asking about conservation concerns. I told him it was because I didn’t want to put months of work into a trail to be told I couldn’t ride it because it interfered with something someone didn’t want a trail interfering with. That was when he started to understand, it got easier to get answers to questions, and he started to appreciate what I was doing. It was an interesting and eye opening experience for him, he had never worked with a trail builder before. Lets be clear. I haven’t, and won’t build trails on public land without approval or private land without permission. Years and years ago, we used to ride some trails on private land, but they were existing trails, and everyone in the neighborhood rode bikes on them. That all came to a halt when a housing development was put in the middle of the woods where “our” trails were.

I understand there are parts of the world, even parts of the US where trails can’t be legally built. There are well documented success stories of illegal trail builders and land managers finally sitting down after years of below board fighting and establishing relationships that resulted in great riding areas. Unfortunately, it will always be difficult for mountain bikers to establish and maintain a responsible image if things like illegal trail building are taking place. Right now, I have a piece of public land that I could build trail on, and I don’t think anyone would notice. I’ve written a proposal for that land, and had it turned down. Not because anyone is doing anything with the land, mind you, but because the managing body “has concerns” about putting trails out there. That’s an ongoing conversation. I reserve the right to pester said body about trails out there until they relent and allow it. But I’d rather be viewed as annoying and above board than sneaky and dishonest.

Ok, if you’ve built illegal trails I’m not calling you a shady lying character. I get it. I actually understand you, but look at where most land managers/owners are going to be coming from – you’ll find my description probably matches what they’ll say. They have a point, and so do you. So let’s get to the rat killing here.

Why is it so hard in some places to get authorization to build these trails on the up and up? Liability, sort of. Liability can be addressed in a number of very effective ways though. So that’s not really a valid reason. Concern for the environment? Don’t mountain bikers cause massive damage to areas where their trails are? No, not if the trails are designed and built correctly, and trail users respect things like trail conditions. But don’t mountain bikers pose a danger to other trail users? Don’t they run over hikers and stuff? Um, no. At least not riders who have been properly mentored and taught trail etiquette. See. the biggest problem with being able to build trails and ride legally on public land is misinformation and image.

Every time you’re on the trail with a bike, you represent everyone who wants to ride on a trail, or does ride on a trail. One slip up around the wrong person can damage the reputation of an entire group of trail users. It’s important to keep that in mind, and practice proper trail etiquette at all times. Because the reality of trail ownership, regardless of who is actually responsible for the trails, is that the community or land owner owns the trail. In every case, they will respond to feedback from users. Most land managers are smart enough to know the difference between something that’s a real problem, and someone who just likes to complain about other trail users, but why give anyone the excuse? People who complain for the sake of complaining will be ignored in the vast majority of cases, but other’s will be heard and questions will be asked, and future projects possibly jeopardized. Unless you want that on your hands, it doesn’t matter if you’re the trail boss, a guy who has never touched a shovel, someone who does their fair share of the work, you must yield ownership of the trail to EVERYONE who uses it.

The week in review.

Normally, I would try to do more of a post per ride or issue, or whatever. But the way things have been going I’m fortunate to be able to have time for this update. Ok, that may be a bit of a dramatization, but seriously. Here we go.

It rained early in the week, and then it got nice. It stayed warm and sunny with a light breeze until late Thursday evening. When it rained again. Fortunately, it didn’t rain much. The trails would have been ok on Friday, but I avoided them just to be safe, and went to the rail trail. Friday was a special occasion for a ride. My son just got a new bike, his first 26″ MTB. It isn’t a huge step up from the 24″ youth bike he was riding, but then again, it is. It’s a bit lighter, it’s made with slightly more durable components, and it has disc brakes. The bike he got is a Giant Revel 1. It’s a great ride, and the guys at the LBS did a great job setting it up for him. I should post a picture of the floor tag that was on the bike just to prove how great the guys at the LBS are, but maybe I’ll do that later.

Anyhow, my son and I did 8 miles on the paved section of the trail. It’s a pretty trail, it runs along the flood plain of the Cumberland River, through a little community called Chapmansboro. It crosses a creek, where there’s a good sized old railroad bridge. It’s a flat trail, with pretty views, and an easy ride for anyone to get acquainted with a new bike. It would be enough to say that both of my children have learned to ride bikes on this trail because my yard is too steep for small children.

Saturday morning, I started out my day with a treat. The first Formula 1 qualifying session of the new season. That was cut short, and I won’t go on about why. It didn’t matter, I had work to do anyway. I set off for Bells Bend Park to meet up with the guys from SORBA MidTN. There’s some new single track going in out there. It’s a gateway trail, something designed for beginners to cut their teeth on. It will only amount to 4 or 5 miles when it’s all done, but it’s slow going because the first section of trail is going into re-growth woods. By nature, it’s very thick, and while that makes the trail building slow work, it makes the trail special. It’s like a tunnel through an impenetrable wilderness. When this trail is done, it may be designed for beginners, but it will be an enchanting, relaxing ride for anyone when pushing the limits isn’t in the cards. I stayed there til mid day, then bolted north for some trail time, on a bike.

The our group met up for the Saturday Social, and unsurprisingly, most of the crowd was different than last week, but they were mostly still regulars. I pulled one of my standard charge-ahead-and-take-pictures maneuvers at one point and caught some of the folks riding over an up-and-over that can be rolled, jumped like a table top, or pretty much anything in between. So without further delay….

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn't really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He's converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He's got nothing but good to say about it. He's also a good hand to have around when you're building trail. He helped build that structure he's riding on......

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn’t really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He’s converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He’s got nothing but good to say about it. He’s also a good hand to have around when you’re building trail. He helped build that structure he’s riding on….

I have to confess, this is the first time I'm aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

I have to confess, this is the first time I’m aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

You might recognize Richard from last week's pictures. He's back again. For what it's worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he's the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke's wheels.

You might recognize Richard from last week’s pictures. He’s back again. For what it’s worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he’s the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke’s wheels.

Here's another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Here’s another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Finally, I’ve got a rare treat. I’m usually behind the camera, not in front of it, but I did let Richard play with the camera for a minute, so there’s a picture of me, featuring my trusty single speed.

IMG_3860-SS-crop

We did a little over 6 miles, with around 870 feet of climbing. It’s a little more than we do on some of our socials, but it’s not that long a ride in the grand scheme of things. I will say that for this time of the year, coming out of all the rain we’ve had recently that’s prevented a lot of riding, it felt really good. I’m looking forward to the groups picking up as the weather evens out and people get back into the swing of these Saturday afternoon rides.

Single-Track Minded

After so much wet weather, and not being able to get a whole lot done an any front, yesterday was a welcome change to that pattern. In spite of a little rain Thursday night, we were able to get in the woods yesterday, and accomplish something. Yesterday morning I left the house early, in the dark and drove into Nashville. There, I help the guys and gals of IMBA/Sorba MidTN (http://sorbamidtn.org/) do some work on phase two of the trails going in at Cane Ridge Park.

Cane Ridge Park Trail Map

It’s nice to see some trails going in over there that are beginner friendly. Many of the trails in this area are not beginner friendly just because of the terrain here, but things there are much more mild than where a lot of our trails are. We made a lot of progress, but that was due in no small part to the turnout. There were twenty people there helping out. It’s staggering how much progress that many people can make.

Because of the warmer temperatures, and the wind blowing, and the sun coming out yesterday, things dried out pretty well, and in the afternoon, I met up with a friend and we hit the trails at Rotary Park in Clarksville. There’s only about 7 miles of trail there, but there’s very little flat ground, so most of the time you’re either climbing or descending. It’s a pretty fun ride, and it’s been getting better, because that’s where I’ve had my crews focusing their work days, is improving trail there. We got in a good 2 hour ride before we wrapped things up. Along the way we both learned that winter is killing us, and we need to get back into shape. Hopefully the weather will co-operate further, and permit more progress on that front in the near future than it has in the recent past.