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I remember the first IMBA trail crew visit. Scott and Aryn (sp) taught a group of rogue dirtbag trail builders and riders about bench-cut trail. This was the only way to build sustainable MTB trail. The way we had been doing it was never going to work long term. We needed to buy these McClouds, start routing everything side-hill enough to create a full bench around 30 inches wide for "Real MTB Trails."

All the expert stuff got closed down. Taken down. Local trail folks were discouraged, displaced. People started bench cutting all new trail.

KT started benching. Trapps jumped in and Pipeline was built. Folks in NE were kind of giddy with the concept of riding narrow ribbons of mostly dirt. Squirrel Land (now part of Bears I think) went in, then bears. All by hand. I watched, I rode. I still kept the old school **** open with some others.
"The 500"...out behind the Bakery...now Cady Hill was being monetized.
I worked for STW, we built Kimmers. Lessons were learned about the cost of hand benching single track in New England. 3 mile wheel barrow laps to put gravel all the way down the MTB trail. It took so much longer than anticipated, we half-assed the upper half, under-building the crazy number of switch-backs. Planting foot shattering stones along the edge of the trail every 50 feet. The number of hours Dwight and I were paid to walk around looking for rocks is hilarious. It was frustrating.

The financial realities of this type of trail construction, imported from out west where it is often the only option to develop trail, were plain to see. Without a very healthy dose of good volunteer work, there was no money to be made. Bring in the clowns...I mean excavators.

Mechanization was the only way it was going to work if people were going to make money. A crew would trundle though the forest like some Dr Seuss thing-a-ma-jigger and poop out "Finished trail" Sustainable, professional, financially viable. Success.

We know the rest. Here's the myth...

Kids and beginners do NOT need green circle, brown sidewalk to learn or enjoy trail riding. They need flat trails. It's not about making a trial a featureless smoothed, compacted, predictable ......you know....dumbed-down versions of trail. It's about the fact that kids weigh 50 pounds and a great kids bike weighs 22. Beginners and casual riders do not have the fitness to climb even mild grades. Flat, meandering,narrow, featured primitive trail is totally ride-able for kids, and families. These trails stay engaging even as skill level and fitness grow. A good example is the old stuff along the Gauge in Carrabassette. My son rode that stuff when he was 6, on a tank with coaster brakes...and loved it.

Folks have bought into the myths of green circle, brown sidewalk completely. It's the only way now to make family friendly trail. Every club and town thinks this is the way to provide riding that is accessible to all skill and fitness levels....but it's not unless it have very low gradient. Blueberry's limiting factor for kids is gradient. NU Shaw center limiting factor...gradient. When I would haul my kid up to the top of these networks at 6,7,8 years old, he would have no problem riding everything. He's even bored with a lot of it now, if we ride blueberry he rides over every guide stone he can, but the climbing makes it not worth it. I got him to the top of pony express the other day and he rode every feature (easy lines) no stopping. If a Pony Express type trail were located through flat terrain, 7,8 year olds would ride it all day long.

The truth is primitive trail that is flat is also very family friendly...and if it's done well, even noobs will appreciate the connected vibe that riding something less than an excavator road through an environment provides. These trails will still be fun as their skill and fitness grow.


It's a bummer to see pictures, or visit places where the terrain would fully support primitive trails. Trail builders now walk around trying to find the right side-hill to bench effectively on, when they could just pick up a couple rakes and go to work.

Some lessons are being learned about the sustainability myth as well. Tons of dirt move when it rains. The quantity of dirt moving, just at the shaw center, is shocking, and our soil types are pretty ideal. Benched trails, even the best ones, are rain gutters. They get soft, they stay soft, they frost jack and get all weird, oh, and they cost 50 thousands dollars and UP...Per Mile. I have calculated 1-2 dollars a foot would provide a fair wage for creation of trails done in good terrain, and a mile a week is pretty viable.

Mechanization happened in the NE so trail builders could have a viable business. That's it. Everything else is just marketing. I know because I was having the conversations, on the crews, doing the work...and riding the trails. Just want to be clear on the history of why and when this shift went down. I feel like we are at a point where folks can reflect on the last 10 years with data.

Some terrain will always need benching. If there are not enough community members involved in the effort to do it by hand, then I would suggest the community doesn't really need that trail. It's a real lost opportunity to develop with machines, terrain that would make wonderful and sustainable primitive trails. It takes an eye, and experience to see what the raked line will become as the tires create the trail, and that's why communities need to rely on their most experienced members, and most skilled riders to make most of these decisions. As much as mechanization was about monetizing trail development for like 3 dudes, it was also about exclusion of the existing community and loss of local control.

Green Circle, Brown Ribbon should be the goal in all terrain that would support that development if we are to stay true to the aesthetics of real NE single track. Only where available land are too steep should be start benching. It's a last resort technique, but that's just like, my opinion man.
 

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Interesting take and I think the flow of events is probably more accurate than not.

15 years ago, the few oasis spots of smooth, fast and flowy were a welcome change and added variety to the relatively bountiful New England rocks and roots we were all riding for the past ....well forever. Feels like once people saw the draw "smooth fast and flowy" could be in the Northeast, many trail systems went in that direction in the name of sustainability.

That subtle shift, or not so subtle depending on where and when seemed to also be coupled with the explosion of MTB in general. When I started riding MTB again back in the mid 90s it was a rarity to find another rider out and if you did it was like finding a long lost brother. Back then NEMBA was a small fledgling group where we would dig as much as ride. Volunteer trail days were the norm and that was how new shared trail was built with landowner permission etc. Today, volunteering to work on some of these trail systems is actually hard. "Well we have a paid trail crew, so just buy your pass/"donation" and we'll handle the trail work" or "Are you part of the XYZ Club/Association? If not, you should pay to join and then you can work on their trail days as they have an exclusive agreement with the land manager"....

My wife and I enjoyed the variety and the fact we could do old school rocks and roots OR smooth fast and flowy depending on what we wanted to ride. At some point, maybe 6-10 years ago we noticed every season and even within the seasons the sections of rocks and roots were getting what we would now call "sanitized" and the trails while still fun, lacked that edge of challenge and natural progression in skills. Fast forward a few more years and it became very obvious many new trails and trail systems were being built specifically and almost entirely with fast smooth flowy......and the only progression was the steepness and size of features.....

That shift or change was concurrent to an equal explosion in the frequency and prevalence of MTB specific marketing and "clubs"/groups and associations to join, pay into, support, receive discounts on their related similar partners etc. What was once a hobby where we would ride on shared access trail systems that were primitive and challenging and the only "fees" associated with doing so was some personal gear some blood sweat and tears.

As I mentioned in previous posts on similar topics.....once you have ridden a few hundred miles of IMBA spec trails, you realize it is the same trail just in different locations. It is mind numbing and I felt my tech skills getting worse as their was no need for them on that stuff. People flock to places like Pisgah, Davis, etc. to get what they think is "gnar" and really technical trails. Been to both, like both places, and they do have plenty of that good Tech but that used to just be the norm in New England......wet rocks and roots, off camber slidy stuff.....

I get the traffic increase and deterioration of some places has lead to the justification for dirt sidewalks but, does it ALL have to be that way?
 

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It’s not just biking, the shift towards sanitized trail also happened in hiking. I hiked Hunger from Middlesex Last week, they added steel stairs to the unique section that required a tug on a rope, all the wooden stairs now have railings. Hiked Spruce yesterday and someone built steps with a railing over a four foot slab that only required two knee to waist steps. Back in the day the LT went over the entire ridge of Mansfield and then down into the notch skirting North above the cliffs, but someone deemed it too dangerous with heavy backpacks.

The main issue I see is that as populations, mobility, and litigation have increased people that are not fit or have the agility required but want to experience are dumbing down everything. The other thing that has changed signs, “feature ahead,” “steep trail,” I don’t need a sign, bike, ski, hike in control. The way forward is to include a bit of everything, if you sidewalk or dumb down a trail, build another that is more technical. if you feel the need to put up a sign you’re not catering to people that are active enthusiasts and know their abilities, you are catering to dabblers that haven’t learned how to turn around and go another way. .
 

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Rode old school roots and rocks at Millstone this AM. Wow. I forget how hard that is.

I always thought that rope at Hunger was too sketchy. Always kinda wondered why someone didn't hammer in some steps. Did they do anything like that at White Rock?

I think I know where you mean on Spruce, again sort of sketchy for the newb.

Both hikes are seeing so much more traffic now. So much so we don't even go any more. But traffic will lead to the sanitizing.

Though I gotta say, hand rails seems a bit much.
 

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Rode old school roots and rocks at Millstone this AM. Wow. I forget how hard that is.

I always thought that rope at Hunger was too sketchy. Always kinda wondered why someone didn't hammer in some steps. Did they do anything like that at White Rock?

I think I know where you mean on Spruce, again sort of sketchy for the newb.

Both hikes are seeing so much more traffic now. So much so we don't even go any more. But traffic will lead to the sanitizing.

Though I gotta say, hand rails seems a bit much.

They built more wooden stairs on white rock. The stair on Spruce is the first bump of bedrock 2/3rds of the way up.
 

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Can you provide some examples of hand-built trails suitable for children and beginners that aren't just river paths and super short infield loops? I'm having a hard time thinking of something as fun and welcoming for beginners as Blueberry Lake that's hand-built.
 

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Can you provide some examples of hand-built trails suitable for children and beginners that aren't just river paths and super short infield loops? I'm having a hard time thinking of something as fun and welcoming for beginners as Blueberry Lake that's hand-built.
Rasta’s Ellis lot in Randolph also the stuff in Hyde park above and behind the school.
 

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Thanks. I haven't been to either but I can't imagine them being as popular as Blueberry was last weekend. People seem to love it there. I even recall you saying you took your son there quite a few times, but it sounds like he's over it now.
 

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Thanks. I haven't been to either but I can't imagine them being as popular as Blueberry was last weekend. People seem to love it there. I even recall you saying you took your son there quite a few times, but it sounds like he's over it now.
My kid still enjoys it, after all it’s biking and biking is fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Can you provide some examples of hand-built trails suitable for children and beginners that aren't just river paths and super short infield loops? I'm having a hard time thinking of something as fun and welcoming for beginners as Blueberry Lake that's hand-built.
There are few examples in Vt. The trails in CV, Me. are really the best example. There's a bunch of surfaced beginner stuff around the bike shop that is OK....but the old stuff along the Gauge is the best example I can give.

Talking about this on my ride yesterday with a Dad friend who gets around a lot with his girls. He says Craftsbury. My solution is to do some Shuttle-assist/Towee-assist riding. Get up high and traverse. It helps for my kid. He's capable of riding a lot of what's in town here once the initial climb is out of the way. Orange, Slate, Pony Express. It's not the tech., it's the up that kills kids and beginners.
 

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Can you provide some examples of hand-built trails suitable for children and beginners that aren't just river paths and super short infield loops? I'm having a hard time thinking of something as fun and welcoming for beginners as Blueberry Lake that's hand-built.
Aqueduct Trails in Woodstock, Vt. has beginner-friendly trails and a pump track.
Swoops and Loops trail at Mt. Ascutney State Park is a great beginner trail as well; it's got a little bit of everything.

Whether or not techy trails are suitable or discouraging for beginners is a matter of steepness, degree, and preference. Blueberry is an awesome place to learn and lots of fun for beginners; I don't understand the moral opposition to flowy trails. If they aren't your thing, don't ride 'em.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Aqueduct Trails in Woodstock, Vt. has beginner-friendly trails and a pump track.
Swoops and Loops trail at Mt. Ascutney State Park is a great beginner trail as well; it's got a little bit of everything.

Whether or not techy trails are suitable or discouraging for beginners is a matter of steepness, degree, and preference. Blueberry is an awesome place to learn and lots of fun for beginners; I don't understand the moral opposition to flowy trails. If they aren't your thing, don't ride 'em.
Flowy trails are great. Excavated, featureless brown sidewalk through mellow terrain, often subsidized with tax dollars is a scam. My point is tons of resources are directed towards this type of development, when in some cases it not needed. What is needed is trail with less gradient, because that is the limiting factor, not technical tread features.

Clubs, in the right terrain, could develop miles and miles of more sustainable, more interesting trail that is just as flowy as Green Circle, Brown Sidewalk, and where that terrain exists, we are missing huge opportunities to be way less invasive as a user group...and we're making trail that way too hard, for how boring it is to ride, even for young children, when we could be making trail that's easy and interesting for everyone, even young children.
 

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Flowy trails are great. Excavated, featureless brown sidewalk through mellow terrain, often subsidized with tax dollars is a scam. My point is tons of resources are directed towards this type of development, when in some cases it not needed. What is needed is trail with less gradient, because that is the limiting factor, not technical tread features.

Clubs, in the right terrain, could develop miles and miles of more sustainable, more interesting trail that is just as flowy as Green Circle, Brown Sidewalk, and where that terrain exists, we are missing huge opportunities to be way less invasive as a user group...and we're making trail that way too hard, for how boring it is to ride, even for young children, when we could be making trail that's easy and interesting for everyone, even young children.

I'm all for more varied and welcoming beginner terrain, for sure. No argument there.

I like Blueberry Lake, too, though. When I was learning, it was a great place to get a good workout without having to constantly lose momentum, fall, or have to walk around tricky features. And it let me practice cornering on fun and predictable berms.

I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the progression to more challenging tech or stuck with mtb as much without some smooth, flowy options on moderate terrain starting out. And some hella good riders enjoy jump trails and fast, smooth lines.

My point is, KT, Green Woodlands, and Blueberry are popular for a reason. I've never been a fan of bashing a particular kind of riding just because it's not my thing. I don't love featureless groomed ski trails, either, but I wouldn't be able to do the backcountry skiing I enjoy now if I hadn't started on the rope tow. Sustainability may dictate that it's a good idea to not machine-build too much of that sort of trail, and that's fine. But it's a slightly different issue from the question of "what beginners need."
 

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There are few examples in Vt. The trails in CV, Me. are really the best example. There's a bunch of surfaced beginner stuff around the bike shop that is OK....but the old stuff along the Gauge is the best example I can give.

Talking about this on my ride yesterday with a Dad friend who gets around a lot with his girls. He says Craftsbury. My solution is to do some Shuttle-assist/Towee-assist riding. Get up high and traverse. It helps for my kid. He's capable of riding a lot of what's in town here once the initial climb is out of the way. Orange, Slate, Pony Express. It's not the tech., it's the up that kills kids and beginners.
You’re a trail builder so build a trail. You hate brown sidewalks so build by example. I hear over and over from you that these trails suck, yet you yourself don’t build a network to your standards for new riders. You can’t list one trail in VT that meets your standard of beginner enjoyable tech, so to me your rants are just lip service. If you can’t build what you think is needed then you are a trolling wannabe hack builder, or you don’t have the skill to build a sustainable beginner trail. What is it Dave hack or troll?
 

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Clubs, in the right terrain, could develop miles and miles of more sustainable....
Your definition of sustainability relies on low use. You are very clearly against more people riding bikes in the woods. Much of what you rally against, are people building trails that are way more sustainable for the numbers they see. Your method to sustainability is simply being a grumpy old man who doesn't want people to use his trails.

You're totally skipping texture. I hear the same story over and over, its a flat trail, its easy. Its got hemlock roots forever, no new rider will enjoy that chatter and the texture makes the trail feel like 20%, its hard to push through. Your argument is they don't deserve to be mountain biking if they can't handle the chatter, fine, great argument, but clearly no one in power or with money is listening.

If you're argument was even close to right, if building trails for beginners was that easy and if an entire industry had it wrong, then why are people with money and land managers across the country investing in these types of trails? Is it a secret conspiracy to piss you and "real mountain bikers" off?
 

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I took my kids to Catamount a few times when they were younger and starting out, back in the 20-inch wheel years. They seemed to like that.
 

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Your definition of sustainability relies on low use. You are very clearly against more people riding bikes in the woods. Much of what you rally against, are people building trails that are way more sustainable for the numbers they see. Your method to sustainability is simply being a grumpy old man who doesn't want people to use his trails.

You're totally skipping texture. I hear the same story over and over, its a flat trail, its easy. Its got hemlock roots forever, no new rider will enjoy that chatter and the texture makes the trail feel like 20%, its hard to push through. Your argument is they don't deserve to be mountain biking if they can't handle the chatter, fine, great argument, but clearly no one in power or with money is listening.

If you're argument was even close to right, if building trails for beginners was that easy and if an entire industry had it wrong, then why are people with money and land managers across the country investing in these types of trails? Is it a secret conspiracy to piss you and "real mountain bikers" off?
They are trying to make money making trail, for one. Also, this is very specific to our area. Yes, limits on use. Nothing short of pavement or bed rock hold up to 100,000 MTBs annually.
 

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They are trying to make money making trail, for one. Also, this is very specific to our area. Yes, limits on use. Nothing short of pavement or bed rock hold up to 100,000 MTBs annually.

When you talk about "making money" from trails, you need to distinguish between funding trail building/maintenance and making a profit from trail-building. The latter applies to lift-served resorts building DH trails. Most everyone else is just trying to provide trails that people will enjoy riding.

Good trails attract riders who contribute to the tourist economy you so loathe. But quality opportunities for outdoor rec also attract people who eventually come to stay, who buy homes, pay taxes, put their kids in local schools and make Vermont better.

Going all Ron Swanson and bitching about how everyone is too soft nowadays isn't helping anything. Covid is causing a surge in remote work, and some of that work will probably stay remote when it's all over. That frees people up to live where they want, and it's good for everyone if Vermont is a state that more people want to live in.
 

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They are trying to make money making trail, for one. Also, this is very specific to our area. Yes, limits on use. Nothing short of pavement or bed rock hold up to 100,000 MTBs annually.
Who is trying to make money? If you mean some folks had the bright idea to start companies and get paid to build trails, well sorry to have to be the one to explain it to you but people try to make money doing everything. Sorry you have a moral objection to it.

Whats specific to VT?

You're correct! But well built trail with good maintenance will stand up to it. Primitive rake and ride, even with maintenance, probably won't.

Good trails attract riders who contribute to the tourist economy you so loathe. But quality opportunities for outdoor rec also attract people who eventually come to stay, who buy homes, pay taxes, put their kids in local schools and make Vermont better.
100%, this is a big message being push now. In fact many places are asking to be a destination, but consultants are cautioning how hard that can be and what it really means. Instead pushing communities to develop good trails that meet their needs, which may be a bigger economic boost when someone moves their family there and pays taxes and has a job and interacts with the local economy.
 

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Who is trying to make money? If you mean some folks had the bright idea to start companies and get paid to build trails, well sorry to have to be the one to explain it to you but people try to make money doing everything. Sorry you have a moral objection to it.

Whats specific to VT?

You're correct! But well built trail with good maintenance will stand up to it. Primitive rake and ride, even with maintenance, probably won't.



100%, this is a big message being push now. In fact many places are asking to be a destination, but consultants are cautioning how hard that can be and what it really means. Instead pushing communities to develop good trails that meet their needs, which may be a bigger economic boost when someone moves their family there and pays taxes and has a job and interacts with the local economy.
You have you trail experience, I have mine. It is just my opinion.

I hear all the talk about how great tourism is. Vt has been at it a long time. If it was going to work to create a viable economy, the State would not be in the desperate situation it found it's self BEFORE the pandemic.

Everyone on here knows places with primitive trail that have been ridden for decades that are in *magical* condition. Everyone on here knows expensive GC/BS that has been rebuilt more than once in just the last 10 years.

You story about people moving here I think may have been more true at the beginning of phase 1 of VT tourism. The Ski industry. When I look back at that development, the places that really went for it. Stowe. Warren/Waitsfield. I don't see the thriving story of success for most people. I see lords and servants. Now people visit Vermont, think it's cool and look into moving here...then look at taxes, jobs, schools....and move to NH. We don't need MTB to be the summer version. Let's not dynamite the proverbial Nosedive...again... if you catch my drift.

Look at Killington. People want bike park, they should go to the resort. If there really is such a need for expensive green circle/brown sidewalk, let private money fund it. If 9 out of 10 visitors of these areas are from out of state, then it makes sense on yet another level to focus tourist in these places. It really is a product for tourism, more than local users. It's a terrible idea to turn every local trail network and piece of state land into a bike park. Just my opinion.
 
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