Enjoy early riding, but avoid damaging trails
April 9, 2015
Lots of us are getting pretty eager to get out on the trails. The warm weather is melting the snow in the valley very quickly and a few of the trails are starting to come out of their winter hibernation.
We've pulled out the bike and found last year's mud clinging to all of those hard to clean spots. As you dig through the house looking for that favorite pair of shorts while wondering where your tights have gone, thoughts pop into your head of where to go on one of our warm spring days.
Early season trails are often the most tempting. Winter's long embrace leaves you wanting to be out on the ground more than ever. The downside is that it is possible to do the greatest amount of trail damage early in the year. Eagerness to ride or just get out on the trail can often overshadow our normal common sense on trail selection.
The soil can be saturated with water, which leaves it in one of its most vulnerable states. Runoff from snowmelt saturates the ground and is most likely to travel down the trail resulting in damage to the trail. Fallen trees will be found unless the local tree fairies have come and cut them out. I know of one local who has already cut out nearly 20 trees this spring.
“Early season trails are often the most tempting. Winter’s long embrace leaves you wanting to be out on the ground more than ever. The downside is that it is possible to do the greatest amount of trail damage early in the year.”
On that note, the U.S. Forest Service wants to know where the downed trees are located. They will have a crew on the ground in early- to mid-May to address trees that are on the trail. Please post to the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance Facebook page any areas you find that need tree removal. Include the trail name, location, number and size of trees and a picture if you can. This will help greatly in letting the crew prioritize its efforts.
There are a few thing that can you can do to minimize your impact on the trails:
• Avoid trails that are visibly muddy or wet. This includes non-maintained roads.
• Do a bit of networking to find out what is ready to ride.
• Don't venture off of the trail. As odd as this sounds, going around the wet or problem areas causes braiding of the trail, which will create an even larger negative impact.
• When in doubt, avoid the trail or area for a few days and come back after you give it time to dry.
• Sometimes trails start dry and then you find wet areas. It's OK to turn around and retrace your route back to the trailhead.
• If you find water running down the trail do something to give it an exit from the trail. Find a stick and dig in the ground to let the water escape on the downhill side. It's not a long term solution but it will help save the trail and possibly avoid a large scale project to fix the erosion damage later. Do this on roads too.
Another tip is to bring a towel with you in your vehicle if you drive to the trail. Most likely you will have mud on your back side and you can put the towel on your seats to keep them clean.
Your bike will get muddy even if you are very careful. It doesn't take a lot of mud to cover the bike. Sometimes the most mud comes from the maintained roadways. Here are a few things that you can do to help avoid damage to your bike:
• Wash your bike after each ride. You can use some common dish soap. I found that raiding the wife's brushes etc. from the kitchen does not go over too well so either use the old stuff from around the house or buy a few soft brushes just for this task. You will need a brush for the drivetrain and a different brush or sponges for the rest of the bike in order not to transfer oil etc. from the drivetrain to the rest of the bike.
• When washing the bike rinse it first to remove as much dirt as possible. Be careful when washing the fork as you can scratch the sanction tubes (part that goes into the lower fork) which can result in leaking seals and expensive problems.
• Rinse the bike and wipe it down after you wash it. I also spin the cranks backwards to remove water from the chain. Don't forget to lube the chain, derailleurs and pedals when you are done.
Enjoy the spring conditions. As you find trails that are in good shape to ride post them on the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance Facebook page. We'd love to know!
Looking for more information or want to get involved as a mountain biker? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!
Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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