The day after my solo stint at Spirit, I met up with IMBA Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson for a ride on the COGGS Piedmont trail over to the new Brewer Park trail under construction. On way, we encountered MNDOT’s reconstruction of Haines Road which was wiped out by last year’s flood. For some reason, MNDOT has take down a huge chunk of the hill/cliff overlooking a section of the road and with it, a large section of the Piedmont trail. If you look closely at the photo of Hansi on the right, you can see how he feels about this.
After making our way around the, um, destruction, we came upon a COGGS trail building crew working on the new Brewer Park trail, led by Adam Harju and Brad Miller, with assistance from Larry Sampson, Duluth Maintenance Supervisor for the Superior Hiking Trail Association. Here’s some background from a COGGS blog post:
Along with the work funded by the Legacy grant, COGGS also has it’s own mechanized trail building crew. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Specialized Bicycles, COGGS was able to purchase a Bobcat 418 mini-excavator and a CanyCom mechanized wheel barrow. To operate this equipment we hired Adam Harju, Brad Miller and Pete Leutgeb.
Their first project was building two reroutes of the existing singletrack on the east side of Amity Creek and have since turned their efforts towards building a portion of the Duluth Traverse Trail through Brewer Park. This section of land is immediately across Haines Rd west of Piedmont and has perfect terrain for mountain bike trails. This section of the DT will connect Piedmont to the State Trail and DWP, which are both off-road, multi-use trails that a rider can take all the way to Beck’s Rd in West Duluth.
Members of the College of Saint Scholastica track team were volunteering, hauling many wheelbarrow loads of dirt to the Brewer Park MTB trail construction site a couple blocks away. Jeesh.
“Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Specialized Bicycles, COGGS was able to purchase a Bobcat 418 mini-excavator and a CanyCom mechanized wheel barrow.”
So far, using white chalk to mark the rocks and flags to mark the entrance and exits has worked to set up the sections. It’s easy to move flags and the chalk marks can be removed by rubbing dirt on them.
I’ve not yet gotten much feedback yet to know if it’s working for riders. And it’s not rained, so I’ve not had to re-chalk.
The six videos all start with photos of the sections marked with red lines to make the alternative lines visible. Then there’s a clip of me riding the section. I recorded the videos using my smartphone mounted on a small tripod, usually placed on the ground. Most of the sections required me to capture video from two or three different vantage points. The upshot of that? You see me cleaning everything but you don’t see a non-stop video of me cleaning entire sections from start to finish. Have I cleaned every section from start to finish? Not yet. The videos also don’t include any of my many failed attempts and crashes.
All the videos are short, varying in length from 12-39 seconds. Attach a comment if you’ve got questions or feedback.
I have a scheme in mind: temporarily mark alternative lines through some selected rock gardens to provide fresh challenges to riders who are bored with riding through them the same way all the time. I’m calling them ‘sections’ since that’s the term most often used in mototrials events.
I’ve marked these photos with a red line to indicate an example of a short alternative line (viewed from the start and looking backwards from the finish) through a rock garden at Lebanon Hills.
I started thinking about this when I went rocking climbing a couple weeks ago at Vertical Endeavors with one of my sons. He told me that they change some of the color-coded climbs each month in order to keep things interesting for the advanced regulars.
How to mark the lines? Ideas thus far:
washable paint/spray chalk
My inclination is to experiment first using small colored flags to mark the start and finish of a section and railroad chalk to mark the approximate line through the rocks. I want to avoid doing anything that would bother land managers, make things more difficult for dirt bosses/trail workers, or make riding needlessly more dangerous (e.g. stakes or other markers that could impale a tire or body part).
The sections would be publicized with photos and/or video in the MORC forum as well as via Twitter and Facebook. Riders would be invited to discuss the sections, brag about their successes, whine about their failures, share photos and videos, etc. And then a month or two later, the sections would be changed to something else. Others could volunteer to set them up. If this works with rock gardens, then it might be worth trying with other technical obstacles.
To explain a section to riders who discover it while out riding the trail, we could print a photo or two showing the alternative line, laminate them and tack them up on a stake or nearby tree with a little sign that says “Try this!” We could also put up a QR code near the entrance of a section and link it to a web page with photos and videos. Riders with smartphones could then see what it’s all about.
I ran this idea past some of the Lebanon Hills Dirt Bosses last week and they seemed to like it. So I plan to start the experiment there.
What might the pros and cons of this idea be, especially the possible unintended consequences? Want to help? Attach a comment.
They did their one-day IMBA Trail Building School on Saturday for a couple dozen MORC members. The 3-hour classroom session in the morning focuses on:
Trail building theory
Essential elements of sustainable trails
Designing a trail
Constructing the trail
Rerouting and reclaiming trails
Advanced trail construction techniques
Since I started mountain biking in 2011, I’ve showed up to help a bit on a few local trail work sessions (2013 sessions here, here, here, and here) but I’ve been mainly a clueless laborer who retreated behind a camera whenever I got tired. I took this IMBA Trail Building School because I wanted to have at least a beginning understanding of the art and science involved. As a newbie, I came away very pleased with the experience. I thought their rapid-fire presentation in morning session was well done: lots of photos and videos, a few quizzes, hands-on with a clinometer, and thankfully, no Powerpoint slides of deadly text-only bullet points.
The afternoon field session was held at the Bertram Lakes Singletrack near Monticello. After a quick demo by Jesse, we divided up into 3 teams of 8, each led by a MORC dirt boss (my team was headed up by Jeff Leech). It was very helpful to have the hands-on experience and coaching. I don’t know how many feet of trail the crews created but I think we more than marginally adequate as we finished early.
On Sunday morning, a group of us did a group ride with Lori and Jesse at Elm Creek Singletrack led by local Dirt Boss C.J. Smith. ‘Twas a fast, flowy ride on a gorgeous autumn-like day and a fitting send-off.