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How to Start Building Mountain Bike Trails

Oct 26, 2022 at 15:39
by Dillon O  

Many of us started building trails as scraggly teenagers simply because we didn't have any. We just grabbed shovels, wandered out into public land, and smashed in unsanctioned trails that were, frankly, both terrible and unsustainable. Nowadays, we recommend getting involved with your local trail advocacy groups, helping others, and learning on the job before thinking about taking the lead on a trail build. We'll save the "how to shape a sick slapper" content for another time. Instead, we asked Dillon Osleger to walk us through the basics of getting involved. Dillon is the Executive Director of Sage Trail Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to trail stewardship and environmental advocacy on California's Central Coast.

Trails often come across as simple, much the same as anything else would if observed while passing by at 15 miles per hour. Sinuous lines carved into earth, mounds of dirt compacted into basic geometric shapes, beginnings and ends tied to parking lots or vistas. Bikes on the other hand, can seem complex in their suspension leverage curves, materials, and expense. This triggers a need to validate a decision in buying one, leading to the time-honored approach of using the five Ws: who (you), what (gravel, xc, enduro, trail), why (fitness, friendship), where (a bike shop, a website), when (now or when the bank account can justify it). These five questions allow us to distill seemingly complicated problems into simple steps and solutions that justify our time and expense.

Trails pose a perfect intersection of apparent simplicity and underlying complexity. Their existence is appreciated and straightforward, and therefore do not result in questions, while those who do ponder are met with opaque answers. A search for said answers can be intimidating: “who” can be a nonprofit or a reclusive individual, “what” and “why” are governed by natural science and unspoken rules, “where” and “when” aren’t usually posted on flyers at the trailhead.

Photo Satchel Cronk
Photo Satchel Cronk

As the executive director of Sage Trail Alliance, one of the larger nonprofit trail stewardships in California, I sympathize with the predicament, and apologize for the larger trail stewardship community’s lack of communication. It should not be difficult to help support and grow a sport that so many of us enjoy. I, as well as many others, devote a fair portion of my time coming up with ways to streamline the process and welcome volunteers from all corners of mountain biking. To provide a short answer as to how one gets started with trail stewardship—you already are.

The cornerstone of our sport has been and always will be advocacy—the work to justify and further our wishes in society. Every time we clip on a helmet and ride our bike in the woods or on gravel roads, we are inherently swaying the opinions of other users through our behavior. An act as simple as a yield and a hello can lead to future trail expansion, pump tracks, and more people on bikes.

Photo Satchel Cronk

Beyond the constant work all of us have as advocates for the sport, volunteering is a great way to give back. I guarantee there is a trail stewardship group local to each pair of eyes on this article, whether or not it has ‘mountain bike’ as part of its name is irrelevant; we’re all in this together. Finding that stewardship group may be as easy as a Google search for “trail nonprofit *your town/region/mountains*”. [You can also search Trailforks' directory of trail associations HERE.] You should also head down to the local bike shop. If no one there knows the local trail stewards, it’s time for you to start patronizing a different shop.

Hopefully you’ve found your local stewardship group, but what’s next? Signing up for the email list is an easy way to be kept informed of volunteer trail workday opportunities. If you want to be proactive, email the contact form and let them know who you are. Nonprofits need logos designed, fundraising help, architectural planning, grant writing, data collection, and a multitude of other things done that they do not have an in-house staff for. A task that seems simple to you may save that organization thousands of dollars and result in new trails in your neighborhood.

Photo Satchel Cronk
Photo Satchel Cronk

If after all the steps above, the tools are still calling your name, RSVP for that volunteer trail day and heed the following:

No experience necessary. Come wearing pants, a helmet, and gloves. You shouldn’t even need your own tools, as stewardship organizations generally prefer to supply their own. They just don’t know the condition of volunteer tools and don’t want a non oiled handle cracking mid day. Any nonprofit hosting volunteer days on public land has insurance, so likely has a fair tool stash.

Expect to work, not chat. There will likely be beverages and social time after.

Come without a plan. Your day is determined by the lead builder, if they say you’re building drains and repairing erosion, don’t present a jump or berm at the end of the day.

Do not alter and amend trails you did not build. If the original trail did not have jumps, ride arounds, or features, don’t put them in yourself.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Sharp tools don’t need to be swung over your head, nor in close proximity to others.

Stay aware of your surroundings (again). See the forest for the trees. Observe and ask questions—why does the trail meander this way? What purpose does a drain serve here rather than elsewhere? How does the local environment dictate the trail itself?

Do what you can, according to your means. Your time volunteering is appreciated, and the more individuals who help, the easier the load. But like any nonprofit, it takes more than sweat to keep the lights on. Buy your builder a figurative beer by donating the same $5 you are spending on a pint post-ride to the local trail organization. Wear their logo proudly and instill in friends the value of supporting their local organizations. It all adds up—the larger our community, the greater our reach and impact, the more diverse we become, and the more connected we all are to nature.

Be patient. No trail was built in a day, and if it was, you probably wouldn’t want to ride it. Even a large crew may only be able to build or rehabilitate a few hundred feet of trail in a day, and there’s good reason. Taking the time now not only leads to a better experience on the bike, it ensures you won’t need to return in a month to do the job right.

Don’t strike out on your own. Once you have learned a thing or two about digging, it is easy to assume you can work in the time and place of your choosing, but it is important to remember that there are large-scale plans in place between land managers and stewardship organizations. Work done on your own without a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) and insurance leaves you liable to suits from injured users or damage to wildlife. If you are itching to repair or better a specific trail, let your local stewardship know so they can work with you to schedule a dig day sooner rather than later.

Photo Satchel Cronk

Santa Barbara mountain biking trails

Author Info:
cycling-trivialities avatar

Member since Jan 11, 2018
2 articles

  • 361 4
 I'd love an entire season of "Pinkbike trail-building academy". All the money you spent on sexy Cam McCall and renting out a house could be put toward some amazing trails. Twelve builders compete to earn the best trail builder title to earn a job at IMBA where their skills will be put to waste on building brown sidewalks on beautiful terrain. I'll donate the land that i don't own...
  • 54 0
 Now THIS is some reality programming worth watching.
  • 54 1
 Ideally somewhere NOT already blessed with world class single-track. Thinking more Saskatoon instead if Squamish. North Bay instead of North Shore.
  • 9 0
 @bishopsmike: Somewhere thats got f*ck all dirt
  • 29 0
 I've always thought it would be cool to have a trail building contest/reality TV show. Five riders, same mountain, one trail, but with different sections designated to a builder. Get a pro to come ride it, then get the locals to ride it and vote on their favorite section. Winner gets cash money, other builders get swag. Imagine this goes year after year and rotates through different towns that get to keep the trial after!
  • 3 1
 Would compete-lack the motor and fearlessness to be a pro elite rider, can build sick trails.
  • 3 0
 @lovetoridebikes: Better yet, same area, different trails. Then what’s left at the end are several full trails rather than just one hodgepodge.
  • 4 20
flag Compositepro (Nov 2, 2022 at 3:10) (Below Threshold)
 isnt it nature that builds these trails or are we refering to these manicured man made things? should these forced man made trails even exist?
  • 9 4
 I agreed until the gratuitous and shot at IMBA. Trail Solutions will build what you ask them to. We've had them build some excellent rocky, technical trails and they've done the same other places. No organization is perfect, but IMBA does a lot of amazing things. My general experience is that the need to constantly belittle green trails is born out of insecurity.
  • 3 0
 100% this. Trail building education would be brilliant content.
  • 2 0
 @inside-plus: East Coast Canada fits the bill. Find out pretty fast why Newfoundland is nicknamed "The Rock".
  • 3 1
 @lovetoridebikes: Redbull tried this and the result was a disaster of a trail that didn't flow and was inconsistent because the builders didn't work together.
  • 2 0
 @buildandride: Sounds like we have a model NOT to follow. Come on, someone DO this!
  • 1 0
 @bishopsmike: There is a reason Squamish has trails. The land is fun to build on. Building elsewhere, although I do it more than in Squamish, is mind numbingly boring in comparison.
  • 3 0
 @Jvisscher: oh absolutely, I agree. Just saying it would really show the skill of a trail builder to make something fun out of nothing, plus it would also have a greater benefit to that community than another great trail in the sea to sky.
  • 1 0
 @bishopsmike: true. I feel like a manufactured trail is not as rewarding to build as one that uses natural features but it can still be great to ride. Like all the machine flow trails. But it takes a lot of effort to differentiate them because berm/jump/berm enough and they all seem alike. And wood is expensive! We used $20,000 worth of it on my last build.
  • 137 4
 Less IMBA highways plz
  • 19 2
 Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve written further articles for beta mtb where I believe I described those highways as "McDonald’s cheeseburgers - things that no matter you buy them are exactly the same and slightly d’Issa pointing". But you can’t fault imba for being present - if you want the trail of your dreams, put in the advocacy and sweat work to make it reality.
  • 21 1
 @cycling-trivialities: it blows my mind when I go ride anywhere in Canada (2 hrs from my door) how sick and raw/natural almost every trail is, even in sanctioned areas, and they have no problem with the "sustainability" arguement. It's depressing frankly. Most of the advocacy groups have no shortage of people like me with ideas and energy for building raw black tech, but the only thing that they have the time for organizing dig days on is a backlog of green climbing trails and DH trails where the mini-ex is the main tool. Not sure how to move the needle.
  • 16 1
 @Nwilkes: New England is calling to you.
  • 2 0
 @somebody-else: wish I was a mountain biker when I lived in Central Mass and Upstate NY!
  • 8 0
 @somebody-else: this. We got plenty of rocks for you to move, guy!
  • 13 4
 So true! I guess the only reason IMBA still exists is because their masters at the Sierra Club must be funding them. Nobody in Canada has ever heard of them. Hope it stays that way.
  • 14 1
 @cycling-trivialities: Imho you guys in the US maybe should actually fault IMBA for being present. I can imagine a situation where @Nwilkes comes to a land manager proposing his sick black trail only for an IMBA crusty to come along and undermine him with tales of drainage, inclusivity and liability.
  • 7 3
 @Nwilkes: I'm always wary of people who want to take on substantial responsibility and projects, but only for what they want to ride. If you haven't already, show support and a willingness to work for the general good and overall mission to earn trust.

Also, most people have no idea of all the red tape, bureaucracy, etc. that's involved. Not as easy as just letting a volunteer (as opposed to a pro) go build a trail even if it's obvious it would turn out great and everyone would love it.

Sadly, the majority of advocacy is not swinging tools in the woods with your buddies and dog (but I wish it was, because that's definitely n the fun part).
  • 11 1
 It was said above but bears repeating: IMBA Trail Solutions builds what they're asked to build. If your local community is installing green flow trails, that's on them.

Does anyone remember what happened to the Black Mountain trails in Pisgah? They were heavily eroded hiking trails is what they were - a 3+ foot deep rut down the middle of the trail caused by an unsustainable (or simply unmaintained) original design. For some reason everyone thought that trail was great (gnarly bro!!!) but then it had to be completely rebuilt at great expense and effort by Pisgah area SORBA. If you build an unsustainable trail (fall lines are gnar!) then eventually erosion will become so bad that your trail has to be destroyed and rebuilt. You *have* to build sustainably if you want the trail to exist 10 or 15 years down the line.
  • 5 0
 @WaterBear: I couldn’t believe the erosion you guys deal with! Visited this summer and some of the trails in that area near Black were so bad. We don’t get that heavy sustained rainfall you guys get… makes a huge difference.
  • 1 5
flag Alexanz1 FL (Nov 2, 2022 at 6:22) (Below Threshold)
 @somebody-else: If by "bad" you actually mean "good", then yes, I agree.
  • 3 0
 @somebody-else: It's an issue all over the Southeast. We have excellent soil in many areas - my local trails have actual clay - but drainage is a huge issue, and flow trails need constant maintenance. I can go top-to-bottom and resurface our entire jump track then it will need it again in 6-12 months. It's a huge amount of work.

That's the thing people don't understand. You can build whatever illegal, fall line gnar you want but without a reasonably big community providing regular maintenance (and redesign of problem areas) your trails are going to literally fall apart. Plus we have learned a lot about proper grading / out-sloping of trails in the last several years. Reverse grade ain't all that anymore, as we have learned the hard way. Those drains fill up with sediment incredibly fast.
  • 1 0
 @Alexanz1: I’m not used to handlebar deep ruts… Sadly it rained every afternoon of my trip and my only guide was Trailforks so I’m sure I didn’t see the best stuff.
  • 10 5
 @WaterBear: Sorry but IMBA has never and will never come back from this:

  • 7 1

You’re making it sound like a rutted, janky trail is no fun. A lot of people look specifically for that. Sure, erosion can be bad, not always though. If it runs into spawning channels, drinking water sources, or actually leads to undermining structure. Here in Golden BC we have 30 year old fall line trails that are steep af. They don’t “need” anything. Just like your trail potentially didn’t “need” to be rebuilt, you just chose to rebuild them.

As you said, blue flow trails take the most maintenance no matter how they are built. When you try and make dirt a flat highway, forces of nature and tires will always win. Also worth noting that blue flow trails hurt the most people.

I get it. We are trying to look legit to governing bodies. So someone made trail building standards to make it look like we are professional. We tend to have to go along with it for liability or approval. But it doesn’t mean it’s right.
  • 2 0
 @BrianColes: Middle black was going to be shut down by the forest service, and it would have been hard to argue with them too much. Consider the potential that the soil and many other things are the same everywhere as they are where you live.
  • 1 2
 @dancingwithmyself: understand that sentiment. I've been helping the local group with some land conservation stuff in the backyard. Sure, I could show up for more green trail dig days. I've just seen what they've built when they had said they're putting a black in and it's pretty IMBA-esque. Hard to get motivated
  • 2 0
 @BrianColes: "I get it. We are trying to look legit to governing bodies." That's not it at all. My local organization doesn't report to any governing body that way. No one is angry about our designs - not our land manager, not our community, not our insurance. The point I was making is the one I said: When we have dealt with any fall-line trail, it eventually erodes into a deep channel that might be fun for a few years but eventually is unusable. (In fact, even non-fall-line trails can and do erode this way if they are graded poorly, and trail grade will decay over time as silt build up occurs). I guarantee that there are local organizations in your area that work incredibly hard to maintain the trails that you claim need nothing. I would bet that there is quite a lot of rock armoring, woodwork, and regrading / rerouting that goes on for the trails you ride. Also, for the record, I am not affiliated with Pisgah-area SORBA. I have tremendous respect for them but don't get it twisted. The jump trail I referenced is closer to dirt jumps than it is to a downhill track, and any DJer will tell you that DJs require huge amounts of maintenance.
  • 2 0
 @Nwilkes: @Nwilkes: exactly this .....it blows my mind when I go ride anywhere in Canada (2 hrs from my door) how sick and raw/natural almost every trail is, nature provides enough
  • 4 0
 @WaterBear: I sit on the board for the local cycling club. Our DH network went I maintained for years, a decade maybe. Of course there is some work that could be done, and we are putting that work in now, but that has more to do with berms and features. In no way we’re those trails in bad condition, disliked, or falling apart. As @dancingwithmyself said, not everywhere has the same soil. Obviously ours is good for steep trails compared to other places but it’s not like they aren’t seeing effects of nature. The point is, people don’t always want manicured trails. Some people here think those trails were unrideable and need to be rebuilt. I extensively surveyed our community and most people disagree. The point is, don’t make everything the same, trails getting rough isn’t always bad, and governing bodies like blanket policies and standards, not because it’s needed, but because it’s easy. I’m glad you don’t have to answer to anyone, we sure do. And we have to push back. But if a trail is threatened to be shut down, it can be a hard battle to win. I get it.

If we try and propose a trail with 50 feet of fall line or steep sections we get push back from the govt. Meanwhile, every resource road we use to access these trails has substantially worse erosion and lead to cut blocks with even more damage. My point is, bike trail erosion isn’t as bad as they say and standards are created because they are easy.
  • 2 0
 @BrianColes: if I come dig for you guys for a year can I get citizenship?
  • 1 0
 @BrianColes: Interesting on the government pushback on short fall-line sections. Amazed they are paying that much attention. I've always thought that's the way to do it, at least in the southeast, shortish fall-line sections (up to a hundred or even two hundred feet) that are really steep and get a fun amount of erosion, but always making sure the water gets off every so often so you don't have too much erosion and end up looking at a full reroute years down the road. If one of those shorter sections gets out of hand, it's fairly easy to deal with.
  • 98 6
 Without illegal trails, I highly doubt mountinbiking would be at the state it is. Unfortunately all the legal trails dont really push the ability of the bikes or riders to the levels that force progression of the sport.
How do we get gnarlier trails legally? How do we convince all the Karen's that mountainbiking is dangerous and we want more dangerous trails?
  • 35 4
 Take a peek at that Trailforks map at the bottom of the article and come visit Santa Barbara. I believe this last year we had 3 ews teams and several folks from the dh World Cup training here over winter. We have several 14+ minute descents that I’d challenge anyone to ride on less than a 140mm bike. You get gnarlier trails by showing up the same amount as folks who show up demanding blue flow trails or equestrian networks. I’ve built downhill flow trails in conservation land trusts, restored "gnarly" USFS trails post wildfire, and lean on a crew of builders and volunteers to keep the brush back and all trails down here open.
Step one? Support your local builders and expect to put in some time talking with opponents / peers before showing off how gnarly you can be.
  • 13 2
 100% in my area if it weren't for illegal trails we wouldn't have our awesome MTB community or industry.none of our trails would be approved by any sanctioning body as they're to gnarly,and that's how we like em!
  • 27 48
flag sxjimmy (Nov 1, 2022 at 13:28) (Below Threshold)
 @cycling-trivialities: no disrespect to your trails as they are good, BUUUT.... an average rider on The Shore could ride all Cali "gnar" on a hardtail with a rigid fork. :-)

#ItsJustDifferent #TheShore
  • 3 0
 My local riding area is a "wilderness park" in the middle of the city. I don't know exactly what the official stance is, but, there basically are no limits to the trail building and it is great. The map of the park and the description on the trail plan is "user developed trails". While certainly not the biggest and gnarliest place, it does have some impressive features and is really only limited by your imagination. I wish more areas were more hands off. Several people have become seriously injured (quadriplegic), even died, riding features, and no limits are in place. Though the death was rather tragic as it was a poorly placed feature and the rider didn't realize the feature had been changed.

I stopped and did some riding in Northern California (Redding) as I was passing through and was pleasantly surprised when I went down the jump line they had built (legally) and it had jumps as big as the local lift serve bike park (Snow Summit).
  • 12 1
 @sxjimmy: lol so come do it.
GoPro yourself coming down tunnel. Please, I would love to see it.
  • 11 0
 This is the age old conundrum we all face. Times have changed and continue to change. Here in Whistler, I'd say about 80% of our trails (not in the bike park) were non-sanctioned trails, built without an advocacy group at a time when the only way to get what you want was to build it. But, as ridership increased, some absolute sh!t rogue trails got built, and builders moved away leaving their trail without maintenance, eyes began opening up and prying and wondering where the fck did all these trails come from??? So local builders built advocacy groups to maintain and legitimize what they were doing and to keep trails open. There's so much legislation, so many prying eyes, and so much liability these days on our public lands, that we can't get away with just building rogue trails. We need associations to lobby for trails, to gain approvals, and to maintain for ever-growing user numbers. How do we get hard trails approved? Good question. With alot of discussion, conversation, and respect of all stakeholders AND.... by working to legitimize the gnarly rogue trails that already exist in the network that could face closure or have been abandoned/poorly maintained and become a liability to mountain bike advocacy.
  • 8 13
flag conoat (Nov 1, 2022 at 14:14) (Below Threshold)
 well, I agree with you. I will always have pirate trails in my heart, as it's the foundation of the sport.


there are places building ridiculously difficult, LEGAL trails. so dumb in fact that I even question their sustainabilty from a death/injury standpoint. lol


this trail is legit pro line, maybe double proline(is that a thing? LOL). And sanctioned. So it can be done, you just need people that know the process, a loud and dedicated community to DEMAND what you want from YOUR elected officials, and the desire to go build it.
  • 1 0
 @sxjimmy: not in Cali mate, NSW Australia
  • 2 6
flag moroj82 (Nov 1, 2022 at 15:33) (Below Threshold)
 @sxjimmy: facts
  • 21 5
 @conoat: sorry buddy. that’s a blue by PNW standards.
  • 10 0
 @conoat: I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not on the difficulty of that trail?!?
  • 1 6
flag conoat (Nov 1, 2022 at 16:13) (Below Threshold)
 @jessemeyers: LOL. you ridden it?
  • 3 0
 @conoat: I haven’t. Have you?
  • 17 1
 @conoat: that’s a legit BC black… nowhere near an actual pro line. It’s hard for the CO Front Range but doesn’t compare to what our northern neighbors have.
  • 9 0
 @conoat: that’s pretty much exactly the kind of steep tech that the people want. I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all
  • 1 4
 @jessemeyers: yep. 3 times. thanks for playing along.
  • 4 11
flag conoat (Nov 1, 2022 at 17:31) (Below Threshold)
 @stevemokan: I have ridden BC a lot. LIKE....AAAAA LOT.......there isn't that much north of the border that is that compact tech. have you ridden Powder Keg? it is tight, slow speed tech that takes accuracy and nerve. the part where missing your front tire 6" left means you go over a 60ft cliff? that's no f*cking joke dude!
  • 2 4
 @sxjimmy: you're wrong, but at least you are confidently so!
  • 4 0
 @conoat: playing along with what?
  • 1 0
 @cycling-trivialities: Is it really that good? I literally rode up Romero then down the track that follows the stream, back in 89 through 94 once a year when I’d go out there. Down the back of that ridge too, on hiking jank to the old mining ghost operations and the reservoir. Now I visit LA and ride Simi, Calabases, and all that stuff, but never thought to go back to SB.
  • 3 0
 @cycling-trivialities: ehh don’t get me wrong, I like the riding in SB, but as great as tunnerl, cold spring, jes, etc are, they aren’t purpose built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. Think how much could be done with the canvas that is SB with purpose built downhill mtb trails.
  • 4 0
 @stevemokan: I was living in Calgary, have ridden a few spots in BC, the North Shore for a couple of days, and inside and outside of Whistler Bike Park over the years. I've never had tons of skill (or fitness) so I usually bump up against my limit on exposure (risk) and features (injury). And climbing, but that's another story.

Anyway, this "Old Chute" looks plenty rideable I'd say, and agree it would be rated a black trail in general. There's no "features" to get airborne and crash on, there's a few bits of exposure and definitely some pitch but a lot of it looks bedded/slabbed. It slows you down so the skill is in the braking and line choice (like where buddy skidded off to the right in the video). Just another opinion you may or may not want.

Unrelated, if you just listened to the video, you could mistake the rider for playing Pitfall on Atari or similar. Some unexpected exclamations from him during the ride.
  • 3 0
 I don't think that's true. The most advanced trails I can think of are mostly bike parks and builds on private land. There is one illegally built trail in my area, and it is indeed quite gnarly, but guess what - it's mostly fall line trails and has become so eroded that the original builders will tell you it sucks now. And for the record, it is not remotely as gnarly as the bike park in my area. If you want to go big, just buy an uplift ticket. If gnarly means fall-line, then you're going to be in for recurring disappointment. Fall line trails cannot and never do last.
  • 1 0
 @conoat: the problem with powder keg is it's still low speed. Black, yes, even double black by pnw standards. Takes nerve to hit everything on it, which I've done, but I'm still not convinced it's actually fun. The only fast black trails on the front range that are quasi legal are at LHOHV, and those definitely aren't being built by trail orgs.
  • 2 1
 @cycling-trivialities: great trails, but "gnarly" as a result of user engagement? Seems a stretch to me...... The front country trails there are all the way they are because 1) they need to gain ~3000 feet in under 8 miles to get up to the camino cielo and 2) the soil has more sandstone boulders in its makeup, than actual dirt, so its just chunky by default. The consistent weather (its 70 F everyday and you can ride 355 days of the year) and physical nature of the riding, is the main reason teams would come visit.

Have you guys worked on tunnel at all recently? As someone who lived there for 8 years up until recently, it was super frustrating how little care that trail received. Frustrating to the point of buying an electric husqvarna and brushing the entire thing myself because we needed a good option after montecito burned and slid. Same thing with frontside ab...... always wondered what the sage organization thought when they found it rideable nearly top to bottom before they "reopened" it.

Ranting aside, I appreciate what seems to be a more rider focused direction for sbmtv. And please light a fire under someones ass to looking into trail options from the lizards mouth vicinity down to goleta. Some seriously missed opportunities in those hills up there.
  • 51 0
 "I'm tired of this grandpa"

  • 2 5
 To have someone assume I’m a grandpa from my writing is a great honor, thank you for making my day. Now get back to digging.
  • 7 0
 @cycling-trivialities: you're missing the hole point of his comment
  • 9 0
 “My fingers hurt.”

“Well, now your back’s gonna hurt ‘cause you just landed yourself trail building duty.”
  • 3 15
flag cycling-trivialities FL (Nov 1, 2022 at 13:28) (Below Threshold)
 @CheddarJack46: *whole.
Trail building is supposed to be fun, I’m never going to force someone to dig, nor do I expect everyone to dig. Our culture should be inclusive from talent level to diversity to whatever it means to be "core". I’m sometimes present at dig days in Bozeman, hope to see you out riding in Montana someday.
  • 6 0
 @nateb: how about a glass of SHUT THE HELL UP!
  • 17 0
 @tracer2: wow I googled that quote and giggled quite a bit watching that. Pop culture isn’t really my thing, so I’ll eat my crow in not getting that reference.
  • 35 1
 I don't know, sitting around and complaining about headset cable routing, overpriced stuff and trails I don't like sounds easier.
  • 6 1
 Don't forget the life-changing struggle with a video that starts to play when you don't want to.
  • 20 0
 I have done a lot of dig work with IMBA and various sanctioned trails and love the community... However, I have this over whelming feeling for the dark side. There is a 3 acre wooded corner lot owned by the public state right next to a noisy interstate highway and under some 500kV power lines. It's crap land that is useless for any foreseeable reason and within walking distance of my house. I REALLY WANT TO PUT A SMALL PUMP AND JUMP TRAIL IN. I bought a pick mattock, flat head shovel and I feel like a drug addict, do I need to see a Psychologist?
  • 34 1
 Better to ask forgiveness than ask permission?
  • 10 1
 Who’s to say those weren’t old deer trails you were following?
  • 5 0
 No psycoholigist needed. Some of the best illegal jump spots in my area are out of site right next to the state highways, and have been around for almost 2 decades. I say go for it. Bring a spade and wheel barrow, or five gallon buckets, and hopefully there's a water supply.
  • 19 0
 Keeping up on trail maintenance is the key to getting new trails. If your trail alliance is unable to just keep their existing network at a minimum level there is zero chance of getting any new miles added. Most trail alliances have plenty of funds but insufficient manpower. Get out and volunteer filling ruts in the spring, placing and locating drainage sections, packing in the stuff that’s washed away. Maintenance is the key to getting new trails built.
  • 8 0
 This so much. Everyone wants the excitement of building the new greatest thing - but actually what most trail networks need is just someone walking along them with a rake and snippers occasionally.
  • 3 0
 This person is speaking from knowledge! Proof of ability to maintain is KEY! If you keep track of your group's hours of volunteer time a lot of grants ask for "matching funds" and volunteer hours count towards that. 1 volunteer hour equates to $25 of matching funds from USFS. That's how the group in my town got approved to build over 30 new miles on national land.
  • 10 0
 I dont know how North américan riders mentaly works!
I Can Say for France that for 100 riders, only one Guy take a shovel ans create something....
I'm the Guy with the shovel....and on some trail i've created i sée tire spike in the dirt before i take the bike one it for thé first time
  • 11 3
 My doctor did this to me - I was in the middle of clearing a trail that I think took maybe 50-60 hours in total. I told him about the trail, and he showed up at my door grinning a day or two later to tell me how much he enjoyed my unfinished trail. He could not even understand why I was angry and upset... I nearly walked away from the trail because through the hard work moving tons of loose rock from the bottom all that kept me going was the dream of being the first one to ride it and he robbed me of that...
  • 4 0
 It's exactley the same in the uk buddy, been even worse since lockdown.Get people from all over the country drive to ride the trails me and my friends built, literally had 1 person put £10 into the trail fund this year(it's free to ride on Forestry land) and not one person thank me...
  • 3 0
 @mattwragg: We close for the winter due to the shitty clay soil and big jumps, every spring there always people turning up when you haven't even rode the trails yourself, worst thing is all the extra effort you have to do to block of the trails for these idiots so you doing have to rebuild all the lips again../
  • 1 0
 @holdandhope: Just taking a guess... Belmont? Mega place, only been there a couple times, let me know where I can find some dig days!
  • 1 0
 @mattwragg: is he a teeth doctor aka dentist?
  • 10 0
1. go and start whacking in the middle of nowhere, with just a rough idea of the start and finish points of your trail, and not a single clue about who is the owner of the land;
2. keep it narrow enough to be unrideable for 800mm handlebars;
3. leave all the stumps high enough to clip pedals;
4. pointy branches at eye height are mandatory;
5. weird jump lips and similar psychotic, unsignalled features are mandatory;
6. absolutely avoid any planning about water drainage;
7. wait until rain and dirt bikes totally wreck your trail;
8. bitch with your friends about how great that trail was, and start again from step 1, ten metres farther.
  • 3 0
 Keep the dirt bikes away from your trail by making it tight and twisty. Works on most trails.
  • 1 0
 @nozes: Tight and twisty is fun, to a certain extent. The problem here is that you can't build anything open and fast, without dirt bikers thrashing it to rootfest in no time.
  • 1 0
  • 8 1
 If I want to build a trail in a day, I'll do it and be happy with the result. Who are you to tell anyone a trail built in a day won't be any good? If I need to swing a tool above my head, I'll do that too.
  • 7 1
 Wow.....as a guy who spent a lot of time travelling and building this article makes me want to cry. This is what it has come to? come with your helmet....beers afterwards, old trails are terrible and unsustainable. Man, shut up get out there and dig your track, just like the old days, leave IMBA and the rest of the sheep in the sport to build fluff trails for the masses.

  • 9 0
 Are people really out there digging in a helmet?
  • 2 0
 many US land managers prefer volunteers wear hard hats during trail work, but will accept bike helmets if you don't have a hard hat.
  • 8 0
 Our local trail stewards are super by the book, weenie hut junior level goobers. It took them over a month with a full volunteer team to add one catch berm/turn on a local trail. I made a berm twice the size by myself on private property in one weekend. Also the real reason they wont build any features on the trails is bc none of them are good enough to hit em.
  • 1 0
 @yoimaninja: maybe you should get involved, offer to lead crews during dig days, and perhaps offer to start a trail school program that teaches trail building technique to new volunteers who are eager to contribute their time to trails.
  • 2 2
 @yoimaninja: You do need people in charge who can actually ride. Note though: Being a good rider does not mean someone can build. There are plenty of people who assume they can build but the stuff they make is mad jank.
  • 6 2
 Actually dont contact your local selfproclaimed trail authority first. Try to build something legal on your own. Smaller groups of builders are more motivated and produce trail variety. If you cant get anyone to let you build on their land then contact some kind of trail association.
  • 3 0
 I wish that were the case in North America. I completely agree, but it takes years to get trails approved and they often don’t when it’s a small group or individual, especially if they aren’t well known to land owners or the forest service.
The only option for most is to volunteer through trail associations and in my experience your voice rarely gets heard
  • 6 0
 12 fkn yrs from conception to government approval...

  • 1 0
 Approved without the descents from Donna Buang, unfortunately. Hope they solve that eventually
  • 1 0
 @riish: not likely unfortunately
  • 5 0
 "Sharp tools don’t need to be swung over your head"

Clearly you've never hacked a stump that you thought was more rotten than it was out of the middle of your planned trail route for 15 minutes straight
  • 7 0
 Step 1. Tell everybody you're a trail builder. Step 2. Repeat step 1.
  • 3 0
 I think the best ride areas have a mix of sanctioned and unsanctioned trails. Those areas have well designed (hopefully) excavated stuff for the beginners, cool jumps and singletracks for the intermediates, steeper gnarlier legal and illegal stuff and bigger jumps for the experts. And then some raw unsanctioned skidders that scratches that itch too.

Maintenance is key regardless. Flow trails will turn to shit if no one is maintaining them. Drains fill up, berms get bomb holed, jumps get beat up.. That's the responsibility of the trail org that built them. Similarly, if you build a renegade trail, you have to also take the responsibility to maintain it. If you want to build gnarly stuff or a fall line skidder, cool. But then you're responsible when it turns into a creekbed. You built it, you maintain it. Fix it or decommission it.

Everyone has to learn in their own way. Kids in the woods building shitty jumps or fall line skidders will (hopefully) grow up into builders who build more sustainable stuff. Some will even end up working with the trail orgs they shit on when they were younger. And then the next generation of young kids who love to ride will see that the people they look up to are not only riders, but builders too. They grab tools from their garage and go into the woods and build their own shitty jumps and fall line skidders. The cycle continues, and the trail network grows.
  • 5 0
 I thought this was going to be a list of expensive rapha trail building apparel to buy.
  • 2 0
 I’ve been working with the Dean Trail Volunteers in the FOD, for 3-4 years now, becoming a regular digger over the last two years or so. We’ve worked on maintaining/repairing existing trails, as well as building some new ones.
Have to say, it’s so satisfying to watch a trail evolve as you go through the process of scratching a line in, creating features, testing and tweaking it, before finally riding the finished trail.

Probably the same everywhere, but the biggest frustration is getting other riders involved on dig days, even if only for a few hours. The more hands you have on the tools, the quicker stuff gets built.
  • 3 1
 First rule about trail building. You don't talk about trail building! Where I live all the fun trails are low key and it's a small group of passionate builders that maintain it. Oh yeah. FUCK e-dirtbikes like SURRON
  • 4 0
 I thought this article would include building techniques. Not condescension.
  • 2 0
 @cycling-trivialities: Great article Dillon. Keep fighting the good fight. Guess it is time to get off my arse and help with some trails...
  • 6 3
 Step 1. Form Non-Profit ... Step 2. PROFIT !! ... Step 3. Never let anyone talk about Step 2.
  • 7 5
 Personally I dislike built trails. Fortunately for me, the vast majority of trails here are all natural.
  • 8 2
 Natural trail are a legend. Every single need some work. The Guys who speeks evrytime about ''natural trail'' have Never take a shovel.....
  • 1 1
 @Naturalbornshaper: Well you should sometimes visit Finland, Sweden or Norway were the law states that you can freely walk or ride a bike (also eBike) in any forest whether it's privately owned or public. :-)

That is why the forests in those countries a literally full of natural trails which are not built in anyway with any tools.

I live in a small city of roughly 15 000 people (Finland) and we have about 60km of single track trails here that you can ride or walk. (some of those are quite technical but rideable) Some of the bigger cities have several hundred kilometers of trails around them.
  • 1 0
 Usually they'll need drainage bits added.
  • 4 1
 To paraphrase in Australian,

"Tools, Esky, Tunes, No shitc*nts".
  • 2 0
 "Come wearing pants, a helmet, and gloves."

We'd rather you just wear more than your underwear...
  • 3 1
 Slippery slope here… All the grom builds here in Santa Cruz built during Covid are special ed.
  • 5 7
 Everyone of the dudes saying, I build illegal, build and ride the hardest rad trail are the wankers riding around the rock gardens and jumps. I know, I see the evidence ever time I ride, alt lines…. But, hey if I can’t lie to mommy, I can lie on pb.
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 How to dig an Mtb trail?

Pick up a shovel
  • 8 7
 Don't get a bounty on your head by illegal trail building though.
  • 4 3
 bounty? lol

just write me the ticket officer, so you can get back to your job of bothering other people.

  • 5 0
 @conoat: no seriously, there is a $500 bounty out for illegal trail builders in Colorado
  • 1 5
flag conoat (Nov 1, 2022 at 19:00) (Below Threshold)
 @olafthemoose: by bounty you mean reward for turning someone in? in the traditional sense, a bounty would only be paid if you brought that person in yourself.

there's a pretty easy rectification for that, actually.....
  • 2 0
 @conoat: whoosh
  • 2 1
 Karen's are always lurking.
  • 1 0
Ohhhh Florida Facepalm
  • 4 2
 Stake out on your own.
  • 2 1
 Grab a shovel and start digging.. simple as that
  • 5 8
 Am I the only one who doesn’t like the word “dig” to describe trail building?

I use a shovel to collect durt now and then. Main tools are the mattock and McLeod. I guess I dig with them here and there but mostly I’m hacking and raking.

For me, “dig” brings up mental images of doing the sorts of things that piss off other wilderness users and land managers and smacks of Red Bull.
  • 2 0
 That all depends on where your building. If youve got massive mountains then you'll have the space and natural features to barley dig, on the other hand if you have a tiny mellow hill with no features you'll have to "dig" a lot to build anything good. I know which i'd rather do but I don't live in the mountains...
  • 2 1
 Please make sure any new trails are ADA compliant.
*see ebike sales #s
  • 1 0
 Dont forget to pack the shit kit!
  • 1 1
 My De-estricted illegal 30mph beast agrees. Sone proper grumps on here lolz.
  • 2 2
 Step 1. Form Non-Profit .... Step 2. PROFIT !! ... Step 3.
  • 1 1
 Great article! Looking forward to more.
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