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TRTP Trail Conditions

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The HMCSI (Hoosier Mountainbike Crime Scene Investigations) labs have been busy analysing the tire tracks left in clearly muddy trails and 97.43% of these tracks are left by department store bikes.  Clearly this is a plot by the large box stores to ruin our trails. :o

Ok, we don't have a CSI lab and department stores aren't out to trash our trails, but I have spent a lot of time at Town Run when the trails  are or were recently muddy.  The most of the tracks I see appear to be very entry level bikes.  This trend is backed up by other trail workers from around the state, and matches the type of bike I typicall see on muddy trails.

While there are signs posted not to ride on muddy trails and it is hard emotionally to see some one riding on a very muddy trails, I have found that the best approach is to remain calm and use the opportunity to educate the rider.  So when I am on the trail and a mud covered rider approaches, I take a moment to look at them and there bike.  Typically, under the mud, I see a rider who has not turned a lot of off road laps.  I have seen everything from the Carmel couple in very nice clothes and on new hybrids, to the helmet less rider in a tee shirt who is riding a $99 walmart bike. 

I try to start the conversation with a friendly greeting, and then ask them if they ride at Town Run very often.  Usually they will tell you how they are riding for the first time or just started riding here recently. 

From there, you can have a positive but firm conversation with them.  I try to cover the following points

* I am a volunteer with HMBA
* Its HMBA that maintains the trails
* There are signs at the trail head clearly stating not to ride on muddy trails
* riding on muddy trails creates alot of work for the volunteers
* point them to the HMBA forums
* invite them to join HMBA and or come out for a trail work session
I really prefer the times when the trail is clearly too muddy.  The harder times are when it is marginal.  Trails don't instantly go from bad to good and on days like Saturday, when its really humid and overcast, the marginal conditions can last all day.  Many times I have looked at the trail and decided not to ride myself, but didn't say anything to those who were about to ride.  These times are worse when there are mud holes. 95% may be in great shape, but the other 5% is going to take a beating.  I guess I try to pick my battles.

The mud holes make it worse, because they slow the drying process.  While it mostly first timers out hours after a thunderstorm.  After a full dry day, more experience riders will start showing up.  They ride enough to know to wait for the trails to dry, but haven't done enough trail work to understand that trails that have taken a beating from heavy use may start to take longer to dry. 

Any way, I guess the point is to be careful not to unload too harshly on those out in the mud.  Most really have seen to many mountain dew commercials and think riding in the mud is part of being a mountain biker, or they don't realize that mountain biking is more than a crushed gravel path.  So try to be understanding and yet use the opportunity to help educate them. 


Dave Tozer:
I concur with everything Paul said. As a matter of fact I set my mind to accomplish 2 goals during time at the trail yesterday. 

  (1) Fix the mud-hole

  (2) Educate those riding who didn't know any better and do it in a very friendly way - seeing myself as an ambassador for HMBA and Town Run.  I started every conversation with a very friendly, "Hi, how you doin?"  For quite a while while I was working on the mud-hole there was still standing water and I asked folks to ride right through it so the trail didn't get wider. I briefly explained that their intentions were good for wanting to ride around the water/mud-hole but the best thing for the trail was to go right through it.  They were ALL receptive to it when approached in a friendly way.  Many stayed for several minutes to talk about trail maintenance, giving me an opportunity to tell them about this site, the opportunities for them to volunteer with trail maintenance, etc.

Out of the 25 people I saw riding, there was only one that really troubled me.  A HMBA "regular", who clearly had to know better, was out there.  I will NOT mention the person's name - ever, to anyone. I have no desire to publicly call that person out - that is not my point.  I was disappointed but kept my comments professional and focused on education - even with that person. That person said that Paul Arlinghouse said on the web site that it was OK to come out after noon. I reminded that person that on the same thread he also said that just because the gate is open, doesn't mean the trail is OK to ride.

So, 96% of the people I saw on the trail Saturday were JUST as Paul Arlinghouse says - folks that really haven't done much riding and honestly didn't know better. I enjoyed my chats with those folks and I bet we see new volunteers as a result.  I am taking the mind set that doing trail work requires my being friendly and instructive, regardless of some underlying feelings I might have.  Also, and VERY importantly, there was a time I didn't know better!  Sure, it's been many years, but the fact still remains that a lot of people figure its mountain biking, why would you have to worry about what kind of condition the trail is in? Why wouldn't you ride around a mud hole? Stuff like that.

Those of you who have shown me how to do trail work have been a good example for me. Thanks.



--- Quote ---When it settles down- could someone help those of us who are on the newer side of the MB thrill-ride better understand how to determine when TR is closed.

--- End quote ---

Park Closed vs Trail Closed:  The park only officially closes in extreme situations (Floods, Freeze Thaw, Dangerous situation like trail erroding into the river, or excessive trail damage).  The Park is officially closed by Indy Parks when the gate is closed.  Opening and closing the gates is a big logistical pain in the butt, and we can not close the gate every time it rains and reopen it when the trails dry.  So we have posted signs saying the "trail is closed when muddy".  This is some what subjective, as what I deem to be too muddy may be different from someone else's opinion.  and I will talk more about that later.  So it is up to each rider to be proactive in making sure the trail is very likely to be dry enough to ride.  I look at the both the weather forcast and the past 24 hour rain totals before driving any where to ride off road.  

Trail updates:  When I am away from the trail, the only advantage I have for predicting trail conditions is experience.  Everyone has the same access to the current and past weather information.  Often times I log on to the site a lunch and see posts asking if the trails will be rideable tonight.  With out actually being at the trail, I have to add on some extra time to avoid the risk of sending a bunch of riders to a trail that isn't ready yet.  I really can't post any thing definative until I see the trail.  Until someone donates enough money to hire full time staff at each trail, the trail updates on the forum are going to be delayed.  No one has time to post on the site every time it rains, that the trails are muddy and then post exactly the moment they are ready to go.  So, while the site will help and we will post info as quick as possible, but lack of posts on trail conditions after rain, typically mean that no one has confirmed the trail is ready to go, and not that it isn't closed.

What is too muddy is a tough one.  One problem is that between too muddy and prenty dry is a grey area.  There are many times I look at the trail and it isn't dry enough that I would ride or post on the site the trail is dry but its not quite bad enough shoe away people trying to ride.

The two best ways to tell if the trail is too wet are

* Are you leaving tire tracks.  leaving tracks in a few isolated mud holes is ok but leaving long stretches of tracks on the trail is a sign the trails are too wet.
* Are you able to stay on the trail.  There is a lot of damage done by riders sliding off the trail when the trail is firm but slippery.  If you can't stay on the trail, then it is too wet
The best thing IndyKJH, is that you are concerned and trying to protect the trail.  Even I sometimes make the mistake of thinking the trail will be dry and getting into a lap when its wetter than it should be ridden.  When this happens, just use it as motivation to come out and help out with the trail some time.

I will try to follow up on some guidelines for predicting trail conditions.

so here's the deal. 

Only Indy Parks has the authority to open or close the park (open or close the main gate).  We can't just open or close it when it rains.  There are conditions that allow us to close the gate and then notify them, but only in special conditions, like flooding.

Once the Park is closed it can not reopen until it has been fulling inspected and repaired.  This means several days dry enough to get in and inspect the trail and fix any issues.  So once the gate is close, there will be time the trail is dry enough to ride but not open. 

I am doubtful that having a gate at the trail entrance will be of help.  We are volunteers who can not run out the instant it starts raining.  If it starts raining and no one can get to the gate to open or close it, then riders will come off the trail covered in mud and say "but the gate was open".  Like wise if volunteers don't get out to reopen the trail at the exact time it drys out, riders will get upset and ride around the gate.  then we will need to build a fence next to the gate to keep people from riding around it.

The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of the riders to avoid the trail when it is muddy.  HMBA tries to help by providing info on the forum, but in the end it is up to riders to be responsible.  There are many new riders who do not take the time to read the many signs or forum posts to understand this responsibility, so we all need to help new riders learn to respect the trail.  Use positive peer pressure to get the message across.

The bottom line is that those who build and maintain the trails are currently just as in need of a ride as those who don't.  And adding several day of trail work to our work load by riding on muddy trails is going to make them happy.  So don't blame HMBA if you get caught messing up the trails by some unhappy trail builders.

All that said, the Town Run will likely close tonight due to potential flooding.


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