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J.A. Bachermann

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A Thought on Keeping Wet Winter Trails Open, More Often
« on: January 07, 2019, 09:49:33 PM »
We all know that riding wet trails erodes them past the point where volunteer efforts can keep up.  That is why, today, they are simply closed when they become too soft as is often the case during the winter months.  With no heat and little sun to dry the trails, the weather leaves us all without a place to ride for several months out of the year.
But what if there was a way to get around the limitations of a volunteer-maintained trail and ride more in sloppy conditions?  What if there was a way to fund more professional maintenance to offset the higher wear during soft conditions?
I envision this: riders who wanted to ride during the sloppy winter months could purchase a, “Winter,” bike permit.  This would be priced so that the additional funds could help pay for increased trail work required from riding in wet conditions.  Riders who want to ride more can and the trails get more funding for professional maintenance work. 
I realize this is a fairly simple idea but my goal is to start a legitimate conversation about the pros and cons of such a system and what hurdles would have to be overcome to implement it.
Please note: This is in no way a knock on our stellar volunteer base. I simply recognize that volunteers have lives outside the trails and only have so much to give.


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Re: A Thought on Keeping Wet Winter Trails Open, More Often
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2019, 08:33:44 AM »
It's an idea, but my thoughts are that people that ride trails when they are soft/too wet/muddy are the same people that won't buy the pass, aren't members of any mtb'ing association, do no trail work, and generally don't care about the damage they are causing.
People that MIGHT consider buying such a pass are already buying state park passes, off-road MTB passes, and maybe even HNF passes, in addition to MTB association dues...so I doubt they'd be willing to fork over whatever such a pass might be sold for.
Maybe more could just watch the weather a little more closely, get up earlier to ride while the trails are frozen/before they thaw, and bail if conditions warrant.  Again, I like the "out of the box" thinking but in my opinion I don't think it would work for the reasons stated.  We'll see what others say/think though!
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Re: A Thought on Keeping Wet Winter Trails Open, More Often
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2019, 12:18:42 PM »
A couple things to consider.
1)  As much as riders talk a tough game of riding through mud, the reality is that most riders do everything possible to ride around mud.  This leads to at best widening of the trail and at worst a braided next work of ride arounds.  Its not just the cost to repair the damage, but also the environmental impact of wider/braided trails and the extensive work each year to repair. 

2) Its not as simple as just fixing area that have been ridden heavily when muddy.  Some the dirt that was park of the trails was removed (the dirt you wash off your bike was once part of the trial), and the dirt left is push to the edges of the trail, creating a deep trough.  Restoring the trail to its original state is often not possible.  The fixes involved moving a lot of dirt (harvesting dirt to rebuild the tread) or armoring (rocks or gravel).  In most cases the trail will ride differently after the repairs.  So the work to fix is very difficult and many riders would not like the changes to the trails character.

3) trails can be constructed to be ridden rain or shine.  It requires armoring the tread (gravel or rock).  This is expensive and results in a different trail that we typically have in Indiana.  For starters the tread needs to be wide enough to haul gravel on, so we are talking about a wider trail that is gravel hardened.  The end result would not be that much different than the miles of gravel roads and double tracks that already exist.  I think there is a place for some fully armored trails, but the challenges is that we can build 3 to 5 miles of non armored trail for the cost of 1 mile of fully armored trail. 

HMBA is not the only trail organization in the Midwest.  Many other groups have tackled this issue and some from different angles.  I am aware of several who tried the approach of riding in all conditions and then repairing.  They now open and close trails just like HMBA. 

I personally do not think it is viable on public land to ride muddy trails and then just fix them each year.  It may be possible to build fully armored trails, but that would take a lot of fund raising to accomplish and have something that resembles a true mountain bike trail. 

HMBA: Director of Trail Development / Secretary


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