How To Maintain And Build Mountain Bike Trails

How To Maintain And Build Mountain Bike Trails


We all need somewhere to ride our bikes,
right? There are more and more places to ride nowadays from private bike parks to
public forests, but what most have in common is they’re built by human hands.
People are often really keen to build new trails and explore new areas, but first
it’s worth asking yourself is it worth repairing and revamping the
trails that you already have? It should go without saying, but you
may need permission to dig on the trails. Don’t just start digging in places where
you’re not sure who owns the land, because that could land you in some legal
hot-water, but also leads to land access issues with mountain bikers. I ride
here, which is Eastridge in Shropshire, and there’s a volunteer organization
called the Eastridge Trail Partnership, so that we’re actually working on the
trails and not just digging all over the place so ask around. Ask local
riders. Ask the local bike shop, and see if you can get involved so that we’re
working together to build new trails. Be careful not to start showing up and
working on trails that you’re not really supposed to be working on. It can be a
big nuisance to experienced riders when someone shows up and starts tweaking
a trail when they don’t really know what they’re doing. A good example of that
is this really hard section. It’s kind of rooty, rocky, off-camera section.
There’s a challenge to ride fast, and someone showed up and built
a berm on the outside to make it much easier. In an ideal world, we
would have trials to suit all types of ability, so don’t presume that
everyone likes the same thing. So, the tools you’ll need to build
or maintain trails is a shovel, great for building jumps and moving
a lot of soil around. A mattock, really handy for digging big obstacles
out of the way. Quite a wide one is good for just grabbing stuff, so
very useful tool. And then some shears or maybe a saw, something
like that to clear the bushes and clear the branches out of the
way. Sometimes a really easy way of just revamping the trail is
to go back to the line it originally was. It’s a bit of a modern
occurrence, this, but trails seem to be straightening out. I guess some of
that is down to Strava, where people are trying to chase the fastest times,
but who wants to ride a trail with no turns? So in this case here, you can
see this is where everyone rides now, but up here is the original turn, really
nice turn, so that’s encouraged people to ride the old trail. You might find you
might need to dig a bit of a berm or something just to make it flow a
bit better. We’ll just try and block this line off. Okay, you don’t want
to be laying big trees across the tracks. That’s going to catch people
out, but just try and encourage people to use the proper
trail if you can. So, I’m just going to clear some of the loose
brush so that people can turn up easier into the old line, so get rid
of that. And also, I’m just going to chop these bushes down a little
bit so that people can see it a bit easier, clear that out of the way.
I’m also going to lay a branch down just across the straight part of the
trail so people are going to see that and be encouraged to ride cool
way. You see where this part of the trail has been benched out
a little bit. By that I mean sort of cut into the camber so you can keep
some grip and keep your speed across here. The problem with that is when
it rains, the water can sit in the bottom, and that’s going to leave you a
puddle and obviously it’s going to be muddy, and that’s going to dig out further
and further. So a good little bit of maintenance for these is, as you
can see, someone’s done already. They’ve dug a little drainage ditch, and
actually, it’s got full of bits of cones and sticks and mud, so that’s not going to
drain very well, so I’ll just clear that out. If that wasn’t there, just dig
yourself a small drainage channel so the water rolls out of there, obviously not
too big so you’ve still got that almost part of a berm to ride across, but so the
water can drain out of there and keep this part of the trail working really nicely.
Something that’s common on fast, hard packed downhill sections are
braking bumps. This is where somebody brakes hard and digs a little bit of a
hole, and they just get worse and worse when more riders go over them. Personally,
I don’t mind riding braking bumps. Like this one’s okay. You just smash
through it, but if you get lots and lots of them, you might want to think about
smoothing the trail out a little bit. Chip away at the top of this braking
bump so it’s not quite so severe. It’s really hard-packed. It’s just been
smashed into by so many wheels. So, I’m not going to try to fill in the
bottom of these dips, because I think that stuff is just going to pull back
out when people ride it. So I’m just going to chip away at the top of that
braking bump and then push the soft stuff off to the side of the trail,
and that should do the trick. If you’re building a new trail, the place
to start is by looking for the flow of a trail. I look for gradient and obstacles
and try and make the trail flow as best as possible. Even on the climbs, you
don’t really want to stop, start a climb. If possible, make the corners really work
together and start clearing the trail. Here in the woods, so, actually, I try
and plan my corner from tree to tree, and then clear the space so it’s rideable.
A mattock is a really great tool for chopping at stuff, for also just
pulling this top layer of soft, mossy stuff off the top. Sometimes all you
can do is literally just clear the trail using your shears and saw, and then
your mattock to pull the top off and then ride it in. It’s a really good
way of checking how that trail’s going to flow, and if it’s a group of you, just
riding it repeatedly will make that trail work, hopefully, and pack it in. So,
once you’ve cleared the trail, just keep packing it in, either by riding it or
by foot, but remember to keep an eye on where you want to go down a trail. And
maybe use the trees as a pin-point, so you can look, “Okay I want to be above that
tree,” or, “I want to be going around that tree,” whatever. Just try and use the
terrain as best as possible. Maybe you haven’t got a lot of dissent, and you’re
trying to widen the trail up and down, or maybe you just want to bomb straight
down. Up to you guys. That’s the fun part. When building jumps, plan the run-in
and the run-out so that it works, and it’s nice and safe, and try and use hard-packed
material. Either wet dirt or just hard-packed clay is going to work really
well. If you use logs and then throw dirt on those, they’re probably going to sink
a little bit, and they can take a couple days to settle down properly,
unless you’re using really hard dirt, and then pack it down by foot, and then
that jump should be ridable straight away. So, I found a nice little patch of
soft dirt, and I’m just going to revamp this jump that’s already here by
chucking a bit more dirt on top, shaping it, and packing it down. With
a little bit of experience of building jumps, you’ll be able to try and judge
properly the angle of the take-off you need to clear that distance
with the speed that you’ve got. If you build the jumps too steep, they
can be really kicky and give you that feel of being bucked front wheel down.
Also if the jump is soft when you hit it, it can also do that, so try and get that
angle nice and mellow to start with and pack down the base of that
jump as hard as you can. So, there you go. There’s a few tips
on maintaining and building trails. It definitely works really well
for us here in my local woods. We’ve got a Facebook group. Once a month,
we go out and we just revamp existing trails, so there’s not always a need to
build new trails. So, now you’ve got your new trails and some jumps. Click up here
for how to jump so you can learn how to do it properly. And you can click down
here for my video on how to bunny hop. Everybody should be able to bunny
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