Three Cheers for Damp, Dark, and Deep

Aug 2, 2017
by Brice Shirbach  
Views: 5,433    Faves: 8    Comments: 3

Trailforks Trail of the Month Gene s Trail with the Flow Killa option.
Rocks, roots, and moss. Oh my.

I love riding bikes in..."variable"...conditions. I especially love the sensory overload that comes with it. I love how simultaneously clean and dirty everything smells during a rain shower. I love the sound of the soil, the rocks, and the trees quenching their thirsts as newborn streams trickle over and around them. I love the visual saturation the comes with inclement weather in the woods. It's a natural phenomena that's particularly lovely to experience while on a bicycle. Splashing through shallow puddles, trying to see how far you're willing to push the edge of traction, testing the grip of rock features, and seeing just how much trust you have in how to theoretically handle those greasy root gardens. They're not easy conditions for the general public, or camera gear, or cycling gear for that matter. Admittedly, I get a bit tired of people banging the "stay off of the trails when they're wet!" drum, but certainly some trails simply don't handle water as well as others, which can be the case even within a given trail network. However, when you do find yourself on a trail that does handle wet weather well, and you're the only one on it; well that's just a little piece of heaven on Earth.

Enter Gene's Trail in Big Bear Lake Camplands, West Virginia. Loam is a term that is often used and abused throughout our parlance as mountain bikers, but I cannot overstate how lovely it is when you find yourself in its presence. The soil composition on Gene's Trail, and the Flow Killa option about 2/3 of the way down it, is a big reason why it works so well even when it's pouring. Additionally, the heavy dose of roots and rocks helps with water absorption, and quite frankly doesn't leave a whole lot of room for clay to set up shop as a trail surface.

This trail is nature's playground at its finest. There are slow and funky rock drops that make you work hard to keep your momentum, and are often begging to be sessioned. You'll occasionally get sendy off of a massive huck-to-flat, or huck-to-off-camber grease trap. There's not a lot of support in the turns, so be ready to put that foot out, or just use this trail to get better at flat corners. Speedy sections come and go throughout the ride, but the smile will likely never fade. These woods are lovely, dark, and deep; and at the end of the day, riding trails like this, whether dry or drenched, is just good, clean fun.

Trailforks Trail of the Month Gene s Trail with the Flow Killa option.
Trailforks Trail of the Month Gene s Trail with the Flow Killa option.
There's not a whole lot of purpose built anything in these here parts, and that's a big part of its allure.

Trailforks Trail of the Month Gene s Trail with the Flow Killa option.
Next time it rains, go find yourself a trail to play on. You're a damn mountain biker, leave the whining for the roadies.

Big Bear Lake Trail Center

MENTIONS: @briceshirbach / @trailforks

Posted In:


  • 34 2
 In SoCal, if you ride on a wet trail your tire tracks will dry and bake in the sun, and they'll be there for the next 6 months. And that's barely an exaggeration. So the etiquette to is to stay home if it's raining and let the trails dry for a day or two before heading out. I've spent the last year in DC, though, and here if you don't ride in the rain you're not gonna get much riding in. Some trails are fun in the rain, others kinda suck. Depends.
  • 6 0
 We have the same problem here in Alberta on a lot of trails. The worst is the ruts that form in the corner at the bottom of a steep shoot. The shadows hide them and i've seen a few guys cross rut and clip the trees or go full yard sale. If you have trails that dont rut up in the rain, you are fortunate.
  • 13 1
 For crying out loud I wish people realized this! We can ride probably 325 days of the year and folks still can't wait just an extra day or two after it rains to ride. Instead they have to jank up the trails for everyone else until basically the next rain season.
  • 4 1
 I get that some people dont have a lot of free time to get out and ride. I also get that it sucks when you make a plan to go ride and mother nature trashes your plans. It just sucks that they wouldnt be so selfish and take the hit to the ride time for the sake of the trails and all the people that enjoy them.
  • 18 1
 Absolutely! This is a celebration of trails that handle the wet well, not an open invitation to go and trash every trail out there after a storm. I suppose SoCal riding is mostly dry, so I can't imagine it's that hard to wait for a couple of days after a storm. The east coast is loaded with trails that manage water well, some naturally, and some due to the diligence of your local trail builder. I think that TrailForks has helped our ability to recognize which is which, and allows riders to communicate any issues or concerns as well. By the way, this trail is maybe 2 hours from DC...just saying...
  • 2 0
 @sevensharpnine: That doesn't happen in this location.
  • 5 0
 @briceshirbach: Well said. When travelling and unsure if a trail is wet weather friendly, it's best to do as the Roman's (or in this case the locals). Plus, Trailforks has a filter for that!
  • 2 0
 Happens in many places, especially dry places with sedimentary soil and very little plant cover (Fruita, Moab, Hurricane, etc).
  • 19 0
 No one would ever ride PNW trails if you had to wait for them to dry.
  • 3 0
 @Thustlewhumber: Exactly, it's not that much different here in the north east, we get daily thunderstorms and the trails heal themselves. I've ridden a bunch in the PNW and that stuff does the same...Isn't harmful. Go to Moab, dif story 10 year ruts.
  • 9 1
 i always chuckle at this not riding in the wet thing. Its the middle of summer, its rained nearly every day for the last two weeks and today was gales.
  • 37 5
 @sevensharpnine: People have the right to ride open trails 24 /7 365. Whether weather is fine or otherwise. Chill. Think yourself lucky you have the dry weather that often :-) Our summer has been nothing but rain in the uk - guess that might cause a little jealousy on my behalf :-)

Looking at this vid the dude is following the general sheep track anyway so wouldnt cause any issues. Ride whatever the weather, whether the weather is fine or otherwise. You read this?

*Taken from Dirt Digglers MTB group*
Out riding early on Sunday – it is pissing rain. I’ve just got a load more tattoo work done so off riding somewhere a bit safe so I won’t stack it. With the rain it was all a bit shit. But I could hear laughing up in the woods, it wasn’t long past 8am!! So further up, there is a couple, looked young thirties, both on Bright Voodoo’s – Muddy Fox and Halfords beginner clothes and you can guess my thoughts.
Her bike was upside down, the chain had fallen between the chainstay and the cassette, they were soaked, mud on them from where they had been down and still laughing.
I helped and fixed their bike and said this place is ok, in bad weather it is a nightmare because the chalk makes it slippy, you should come back and you’ll have more fun.
“I probably won’t have time, this is my last year.” She said.
Last year – you emigrating or something?
“No, I have bone cancer. This is my last year and I don’t know how much of it I will be able to do stuff like this.” They smiled at each other and then she said, “Do you have kids?”
Yeah. I said.
“Then you need to tell them there is no such thing as BAD weather, just weather.”
This has had me bent out of shape all weekend. I was kinda in bits on the ride back.
I know this is heavy and I apologise for that, but you have to remember that for every breath you take someone is taking their last.
Shit bike, old bike, wheel size, north, south, brand, none of it matters. Just ride and be happy.
-Jonny Gibbings"

Think that should go for most things in life. Be happy - ride / dont ride. Just let others be happy too :-)
  • 2 0
 Watch this, suck it up princess:
  • 5 0
 @MrBaker2u: Thanks for sharing that story, pretty awesome
  • 3 0
 @pinhead907 to be fair, there is a disclaimer in the last two lines of the first paragraph..."when you find a trail that handles wet weather well" etc...

I can think of a handful of trails in central cali that can handle wet riding, mostly sandy well draining stuff and some steeps but 99% just get wrecked (or become no-fun rivers) in the rain
  • 4 0
 I don't really ride in the sunshine, I hate warm weather to be honest. Nothing fun about being a sweaty horrible mess. I prefer to ride on the wet days where it sits around 10 degrees. Pure bliss.
  • 4 0
 @MrBaker2u: I think sevensharpnine was responding to my post in regards to southern California. It really can leave ruts for literally months if someone rides in the rain - so it is generally advised to stay off the trails when raining. Plus, flash floods are a thing. So if someone has cancer I'm not going to fault them for leaving a rut, but if they're just a selfish jackhole then stay home and let the trail dry out before leaving ruts that the rest of us will be riding around for the next year.

But here in DC, it doesn't matter. It rains 3 times a week and the trails are almost never fully dry anyhow. And, I have to side with Brice - it can be pretty fun to ride in the rain.
  • 1 0
 @MrBaker2u: For what it's worth... Many of the county and state parks close the trails when it rains and then dries to a suitable level. The damage it causes literally is that bad and it's not just mountain bikers, horses and hikers do just as much damage. Unfortunately, idiots tend to ignore the closures and ride anyway. The national parks and county forests and parks do generally stay open. The trails in those area's do tend to shed water suitably as it's high desert granite.

I digress... There are trails in socal that do well in the wet. Unfortunately people can be idiots or some might be just from out of town and don't know. It's always tough when it's not your local to know what the deal is. Trailforks should add a ride able in wet conditions checkbox.
  • 4 7
 @MrBaker2u: WTF dude?!?!? I bust my ass for months working on a trail / jump line to make it fun and sustainable and some smuck comes by and trashes it and says "I can ride whenever I want!" screw you dude! I'd like to see you put in the hours people like me do making shit ridable for everyone else that never lets a shovel or pick touch their hands! Maybe you've never been to SoCal but if you have, and you still have that attitutde, your head is up your arse! For all those diggers and builders out there, as always... I salute you and applaud your efforts, everyone else, get off your asses and give back to the trails you ride!
  • 1 0
 @joedaho: this always inspires me to get out - mate I ride all year round so no conversion needed here lol :-) Love that film!
  • 5 1
 @Bobafett164: nope - never been to Socal and would love to have the opportunity. I do help build, I also donate to trail building and support all the local races etc to help fund more trails. I was not aware that places close trails due to wet weather over there. Interesting! Not sure what the screw you and other shitty comments are for but you are clearly devoted so I applaud you.
  • 2 0
 @MrBaker2u: Sorry about the aggressive comment, this topic hits a hot button with me and you obviously seem to be one of the good guys that didn't deserve a lashing. So again... my apologies and thank you for the response (and compliment). I just get infuriated to no end about the general lack of respect I see out here for the work that builders put in on trails that are obviously delicate (we don't really have dirt out here, only sand and decomposed granite). I do love it when I see people enjoying something I built, it's just so painful when you see so many people being so selfish. keep fighting the good fight and hopefully if you ever visit southern Ca, we'll actually have a lot more fun legal riding areas than exist right now.
  • 1 0
 @Bobafett164: no worries :-) I donate to the Sierra Buttes (am convinced by the Ibis draw each year ;-)) if that helps nearer you. We have closures here at the mo due to forestry work but are hoping that this means we can extend the existing trails. We have an awesome group of people that build in our local forest and are very lucky! All the best
  • 2 0
 @briceshirbach: more like 4. but so worth it
  • 1 0
 @MrBaker2u: Best post.
  • 2 0
 I ride in the wet, dry, medium, rare, well done, whatever.

Then I dig... in the wet, dry, medium, rare, well done, whatever.

Digging is so much fun and adds a whole new spectrum to mountain biking. If you don't do it, I can see why people might get annoyed at you, so go out and try it! You'll help sustain/create local trails and have fun in the process Smile
  • 1 0
 Go ride hummingbird or los robles or any of the other trails that dont have a bunch of clay in them, there are trails that we can ride in the wet you just have to know which ones will get fucked up when you do and which ones dont. Some of the most fun riding in so cal has been during some pretty heavy rains.
  • 23 2
 "You're a damn mountain biker, leave the whining for the roadies."
Best comment I've read in a long time
  • 17 0
 Typical comment regarding UK riders, wet trails and WC riders.
  • 11 0
 "However, when you do find yourself on a trail that does handle wet weather well, and you're the only one on it; well that's just a little piece of heaven on Earth"

Agreed, some of my finest moments on earth. @burnskiez
  • 13 4
 What I love is the Bike Industry and land managers generally. Don't ride wet trails you naughty naughty children..........unless there is an event organised. Then, rather than postpone or delay or defer, hell yeah put 1500 riders over the same wet sloppy trail and drop gel wrappers and lids and energy drinks and trample the bush and make every water puddle 10 feet wide. Not a word Bros. Cos that would be too hard and we would loose money and its too hard to reschedule and riders have travelled too far to ride this event and they are not available next week or month.

But tomorrow, don't ride wet trails you naughty naughty children.

Is it the weather that is destroying the trails, or the industrialisation of the sport, the race for numbers and competition against other sporting options and market share and sales volume?

Is there a threshold of the sport for it to be considered sustainable, has it been exceeded?
  • 2 0
 Good point and questions. Nothing trashes the ground like loads of people. The follow up question, though, is this: Do the event organizers go back and repair the trails after they get trashed? That would be a good PB story...
  • 1 0
 @Poulsbojohnny: that would be a very good article PB, but one they may not run as in conflict with the mass of advertising dollars. Another would be "When surfing realised that substandard conditions were destroying the event appeal, they introduced a lay day process to ensure premium and consistent content and engagement. Why not MTBing is it starts raining and biases racers, that could be very material for the event or the season overall......"
  • 5 0
 Riding in the wet is a very regional decision...I live a couple hours from big bear and on these rocky shady Appalachian trails it's much different than the sun baked southwest. We can do it and you would almost never notice after a week or so... I love riding in the wet at the proper time and place...not everyone can do it without consequence in their area though.
  • 4 0
 Every day is a good day on a bike! the beautiful landscape you get to interact with, the great people you get to meet and the frustrations of the day that melt away with every pedal stroke. There is nothing that comes close to the freedom and fun a bike can give you. I cherish every moment I get on my bikes and try my best to not take it for granted.
  • 7 0
 Lmao wut about moist trails tho...?

Yes, I'm single.
  • 4 1
 So, most mountain bikers, for whatever reason, when they say "loam" they're referring to decomposing organic material, i.e. they should really be saying "duff" and/or "litter", or simply "organics". Loam is actually the center of the soil triangle, equal parts silt, sand, and clay. Drains well, compacts well, rides well.

I'm not surprised the trail in the video holds up well when wet, it looks like it's mostly rock underneath the surface layer of organics. Gloppy organics aren't my favorite thing to get sprayed by, for sure. But as long as the trail surface itself isn't getting damaged, go for it.
  • 3 0
 I've ridden these trails and by god, the grip is unreal. It is this fibrous, dark stuff that just grabs your tires. They do enduro and xc races here each year that are a blast, worth a trip, especially because of how great the organizers/hosts are.
  • 3 0
 To ride in the rain or not really depends on where you are. Had a nice mountain rain storm yesterday afternoon here in North Lake Tahoe. I got my dogs, bike and gear ready to go as fast as possible so I could get out on the trails and enjoy the rain. Fantastic ride.
  • 3 0
 I went to Snowshoe a couple of years ago and it poured overnight and showers doing the day. For one I couldn't believe it was open and two, how much traction there was doing the down hill. It was so awesome!!!. Unlike here in Ontario, because of the clay at blue mountain it closes when it rains.
  • 3 0
 As someone who rides and races on these trails and is friends with the builders, I definitely appreciate the exposure to what WV has to offer!! It rains in WV. A lot. But most of the trails can handle the traffic in the rain without much difficulty. The GoPro doesn't do the trail justice, that left line Brice took at the triple drop is sketchy as sh*@t, especially in the wet. The two drops before that are nothing to sneeze at either.
  • 2 0
 I live in a temperate rainforest, work full time, and raise a rad 8 year old. When I can carve out a ride, I make it happen rain or shine (of course I pick well draining tough trails) love these photos, looks like a stunning trail network!
  • 2 0
 As usual, the Go-Pro doesn't do it justice. This trail has some rock gardens and sections that make most people do a double take. Slow the hell down man, you are riding this so fast and clean that you make it look easy! Great write up! Hope you enjoyed Dirtfest! @briceshirbach
  • 2 0
 Next time it rains, go find yourself a trail to play on. You're a damn mountain biker, leave the whining for the roadies.

So love this.^ I have a road bike. Did STP one year even. But it is boring as f*ck. Ride on roads, with cars, the same places you drive your car to. Meh. My road bike is in the basement with a thick layer of dust on it. And I like it that way.

Our local trail system is a mixed bag of rideable and not rideable wet trails. Some of them turn into absolute mud pits in the Fall/Spring (for whatever reason we get less rain in the Winter). Others are just wet versions of their Summer selves.So we avoid the slop and ride the damp. And yes, the traction is incredible. It has been really dry here the last two Summers and portions of the trail have turned to slippy loose sand. Not something I'm used to!
  • 1 0
 I've lived places where riding wet trails is really hard on the trails (mostly trails with lots of clay). Just leaves huge ruts that dry like giant deep ruts made in concrete.

But I've also lived places where the trails are even better when really wet and rainy. It just depends on where you live IMO. Judge based on your geography.
  • 2 0
 Good stuff. Reminds me of home. Doubt most people realize how hard it is to ride that chunky, pedally stuff, with the quick techy ups and downs. Especially when wet. We ride wet but have minimal traffic out here.
  • 3 0
 Meanwhile here, it rains a couple mm and we need to stay off for 2 days minimum thanks to our black clay dirt trail system.
  • 3 1
 Here's a blog post by @mtbtrailsco about trails on the Shore that can handle wet weather traffic.
  • 4 1
 Riding in the slick muddy conditions is the tits
  • 4 0
 bring on the rain
  • 2 1
 Dry trails with a lot of traffic get way more destroyed than muddy trails. Once that top layer is broken through, its all dust and disaster.
  • 1 0
 Just watched the video. The trail is so.....flat! Big Grin
Looks wicked. And damned good job getting through that rock garden on the flat. That isn't easy!
  • 1 0
 its hit or miss. its still hella fun to ride but racing it is another story. its pretty easy to just cruise between the fun stuff.
  • 2 0
 Despite the wet brakes, that bike is sooooo silent
  • 2 0
 That's what happens when the ground is moist enough for tires to grip, and not rip!
  • 1 0
 Cracks me up. For years, your bike was cheap if you didn't have a White Bros or other Mardi Gras noise maker for a rear hub. Now its all about being one with the forest.
  • 4 2
 Put down the bike for a day or two and pick up a shovel.
  • 1 0
 i have a sure way to tell if any trail is too wet to ride. if your wheels wont turn anymore, you cant ride.
  • 1 0
 Am I the only one who was thinking this title was a dirty joke ?
  • 1 0
 Those look like fun trails. Nice riding and thanks for sharing.

Copyright © 2000 - 2023. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.054397
Mobile Version of Website