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Well, the three last days of my vacation I did some trailbuilding.
Uploaded the trail to Trailforks, and a couple of weeks ago someone rode it. The review was.. well honest. It was some where along the lines of "Worst trail on trailforks".

I knew some parts of it was boring and have thought of rerouting it before the review.
But before that I'd like some inspiration.

How do you guys create flow?
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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I don't want to get all zen on you, but it takes time and practice. I can give you a bunch of pointers and you can still go out and screw it up 50 times before you get it right. If you're new to building trail, the best advice I can give you is make sure you actually have permission to build trail where you're building it. Then, make everything bigger than you think it needs to be. That includes turns. Most first timers build turns too tight, drains too small, etc. Remember, flow is movement. Movement means the rider should never be static on the bike (don't build straight lines).
 

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Pics would be helpful. I would point you 2 books by IMBA on building trails. Sustainable builds, grade, slope, terrain and soil conditions all come into play. What are some key features of you favorite trails? MA rider and trail builder here. For us, most of the time we try to work with what we have, and just improve on it. Look at basics, start ,finish, where is the trail going? Lost of rocks here, instead of digging them all up, use them for berms, rollovers and such. As said, you need permission. Work with some experienced trail builder to start. Enjoy.
 

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A straight trail has ZERO flow. It's all about the curves, the berms, the ups and downs of a trail. It's about ""weaving" and incorporating natural features in a way that will stick with the rider. It is also about transitioning of speed and avoiding having to make the rider brake means big berms and logical trail routing to burn speed prior to hard technical features is also all about "flow". Its about big landing spots that help the rider flow through the jumps / air.

TIP #1: Invest in the right tools. You will need to spend money to make actual "real" trails. At minimum you will need:

- Pick Axes: Ideally multiple trail digging tool including up to Rogue Hoes, etc.
- Shovels: Square, point, round are the three I use most frequently
- Tamper: I go biggest heaviest I can find. Harder but less overall times you need to power the sucker.
- Saws: I have both silky and electric. At a minimum get a large folding saw.
- Rakes: At least a leaf rake and a bow rake.
- Gloves: Save your hands! See pic below.

TIP #2: Get a stake. Tie a section of 15' rope. twine, cordelette to it. This becomes your "guide" to corners. Any time you want to map out a corner. Drive the stake to the center of the turn and then use the end of the rope to guide what a 15' turning radius would look like. 10' minimum turning radius for any downhill. 15' feet is best.

TIP #3: EVERYONE likes small safe "air". Look for easy drops, small jumps, optional side trail features. I think its the fact that everyone feels like a bad ass when they can hit a small jump / feature and live. I always try to incorporate opportunities for people to get flowy air on the trail. Start with low consequence and optional.

I find "flow" as a concept is very analogous between Trail Running and MTB riding. Also, totally agree with Cotharyus, make everything "bigger" than you think is necessary. My general quick strategy is:

Trail run it but visual riding it. It actually helps to hold your arms out in front of you like you are holding onto handlebars. In fact, if you have an old set of handlebars, slaps some grips on them and run with it. Yes, I know this sounds dumb, but it works, trust me. As you run, think about things like, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." This will often lead to aha moments about incorporating natural features. If there is a rock nearby, I'll head right towards it. See that little rock lip / roll, yes find a way to route your trail to it.

Trailbuilding to me is a six part process.

#1: Visualize / flag it. This is where the trail running part starts. As above, look for rocks, downed logs, natural banks / berms. Route your trail to maximize the cool natural features. Use the turning radius guide above in tip #2 to understand just how "big" a 15' turn is. Understand slope / grade reversals. There is lots of info about "slope" and "grade reversals" and how to manage them on the internet. Read up about it. Regardless, depending on what you are going for in your trail, I try to keep is 10 degrees or less, for ups and downs. Any climb steeper than 10% for anything less than a two pedal "obstacle" will be considered not fun by nearly everyone.

#2: Scratch it. Use a light rake. You're not trying to build the trail yet, but rather make a small visual indication of where the trail *may* be. Re-trail run it at least 2x. I will also ride it as much as is possible and walk the bike where it is not naturally rideable. This will really help you understand where the trail gets steep and where you will need to use the "build it bigger than you think" element.

#3: Get Others Involved: Until you really have a feel for it. Get other people to hike, run, bike it with you. Ask their perspective. Listen to what they are saying even if you don't like what they are saying. Take their riding style into the feedback and contrast that against the intent of the trail. You don't have to take / incorporate all feedback, but every viewpoint is valid and will help you understand what others will think.

#4: Bench it. Time to really start putting in the sweat equity. I try to bench at least 24" wide and flat. This is usually not "wide enough" especially anywhere there is a slight turn or grade reversal, but the bench will help give you a rideable surface. Avoid using the "loose dirt" on your bench as it will erode away over time, even with severe packing. Think about "cutting the bench" but don't toss / shovel away the dirt far from the trail initially as this will become important for building features later. Just know you will need to keep "making it wider" by digging the inside / up hill side of the bank a lot more than you think you will. Keep doing it till a rider has a little bit of flexibility in the line on the trail without going over the DH edge.

#5: Ride it / Run it. Do this over and over and over with others if possible. Every time you ride/run it, you will learn something new about your trail. I also try to identify "awkward" spots. The more experience I gain in trail building, the more I understand "awkward" is almost ALWAYS bad especially in the context of flow. Don't confuse awkward with hard. Hard is good, but awkward nearly universally leaves riders with negative emotions about the trail. Think about these sections. How can I reroute it to make it fun? How can I eliminate the awkwardness? If you ever get the "yeah but its going to be a lot of work", maybe trail building is not for you.

#6: Keep Building. You have to have the commitment to make it right, to maximize flow, to rework sections you thought were "done". Think about the long game. Is this a trail you want to ride, lose interest in, then move on? Or do you want this to be consider a local resource that will see traffic day in and day out?

#7: Repeat. Repeat steps 1-6 literally 20+ before you let the general riding community know it exists. Sit back and listen to the praise, but also listen / watch Strava / local community FB groups, MTBR, etc for improvement opportunities. When you get the feedback. Repeat steps 5-6 until you get it right.

I am still building on the same 12 mile system 3 years later. I have reworked most sections of the loop multiple times and still have many sections on the list for tweaks, adding features, trying to address awkwardness, etc.
 

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Keep on Rockin...
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Your first trails you build will likely not be so great.

Don't think when you finish a trail that it is done. Trails should evolve IMO.

Walk the land many times before before building. Find the interesting features/terrain and link them together.

Use vertical wisely. If you've got minimal vert try not to burn it up too quickly. Trails can still be fast and challenging without being steep.

Flow does not mean smooth, fast, and easy. It means if a section of trail is techy, it is techy long enough in a way that lets your body and mind settle into that type of ridding and rhythm. If it is fast, it is fast long enough to settle in to a rhythm.



And for goodness sakes... Bikes are more capable than ever. Unless you plan on riding your trails with a cross bike, keep them as natural, unbuffed, and rugged as possible.

Nothing is more boring than a trail that can be cleaned the first time through. Build a challenging trail that keeps you coming back for more. Like a strong opponent.
 

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Combat Wombat
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Are there any organizations in your local area that build and maintain trails that you enjoy riding? I would highly recommend getting involved and working with some experienced trail builders if possible. The very first trail work I was involved in, was rough cutting and grubbing a new piece at a local mtb park. I never realized how much work goes into building a "good" trail. It was a culmination of months of planning and several members of the local club. On my first day out, I worked along side one of the guys that had been a part of this process. He loved to talk and discussed the hows, whys, initial differences on ideas between the guys and what they agreed on. Most things that I would have never considered and thought of. The kind of stuff Miker J is talking about and this comes with experience. Twenty years later and every time I ride that part of the trail, I always think about that time.
 

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How do you know the reviewer wasn't a typical internet troll that only posts bad stuff, regardless?

The hard part about 'putting yourself out there' is reading negative reviews.

Hope you can move past it and keep doing what you're doing.
 

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Combat Wombat
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How do you know the reviewer wasn't a typical internet troll that only posts bad stuff, regardless?

The hard part about 'putting yourself out there' is reading negative reviews.

Hope you can move past it and keep doing what you're doing.
If there was ever a sure "you can't please all the people all the time", trail building it is. You need thick skin brother. Change a boring, straight twenty foot eroded section that everyone has been riding around the outside edge of for the last 2 years, and the armchair trail experts will come out of the wood work on the social media.
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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TIP #2: Get a stake. Tie a section of 15' rope. twine, cordelette to it. This becomes your "guide" to corners. Any time you want to map out a corner. Drive the stake to the center of the turn and then use the end of the rope to guide what a 15' turning radius would look like. 10' minimum turning radius for any downhill. 15' feet is best.
This is a great tip, if you can build somewhere that you have enough space to use this. Lots of times I find myself flagging corridor in underbrush so thick you can barely walk through it, never mind swing a 15 foot string on a stake around. It's a good technique, but my reality stresses the truth of repetitions - the more you do it, the better you'll get.
 

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I'll reiterate what everyone else has said. It takes lots of practice. LOTS.

In many cases, you get what the terrain gives you. Be that topography, soil type, amounts of moisture, amount of rock, and so on. I've built in situations where a technical trail simply wasn't possible without importing tons (quite literally) of material. There's nothing wrong with a ribbon of dirt through the woods, if that's what you're given.

The most time consuming part of the process happens before you ever break the dirt. You need a practiced "eye" to see the trail when you're scouting and when you're flagging. And you need to frequently revisit the concept "how will this trail ride" throughout the build so you can make small adjustments before your builders spend weeks hacking a bench cut into solid rock with picks, for example.

The first mile of trail that I built myself almost 20yrs ago is almost unrecognizable today. I'd say that the only things that haven't changed are the start and end points.
 

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The Flow state is achieved by an over stimulation of the brain's ability to make decisions. The more featured and technical a trail is, the less speed is needed to achieve the flow state. True flow can only be achieved by individuals who have become high level at whatever pursuit the are engaged.

Flow trails have been an attempt to give that mental state-of-being to less-than-expert riders. It's a farce. What is created by engineering a trail that allows everyone to ride at the speeds they see experts, corner at the speeds experts corner at, and easily jump and pump features ect. is a trail that makes it virtually impossible for anyone to achieve true flow state.

How do you create flow? Leave a trail very natural, and very technical. Build it to be much more straight that you think you should, as the big mistake beginner trail builders make is to make things over tight.

Making a flow trail with linked berms of the same radius, straight airs, wide open sight lines and featureless, brown, sidewalk-like tread makes it virtually impossible for anyone to achieve the flow state. Flow trails create the illusion of flow by packaging MTBing so people who have not put in their 10,000 hours can ride fast through the woods like highly skilled riders do on technical trails. Instead, we go fast, and jump....but are bored out of our minds.
Farce.

Here's is the man who coined the phrase "Flow State". He explains the requirements to achieve flow state. It's the opposite of what the MTB industry, and the trail building industry have come to sell us...to grow the sport, not to provide quality experiences or develop the skills required to enter the magical world of the Flow Channel.
https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow
 

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Assuming the reviewer panned the trail because it 'had no flow', the first thing you have to do is try to get an understanding of the reviewers abilities, experience and tastes.

Along the lines of what Dave said, depending on who it's coming from, 'it has no flow' could very well be considered a compliment, meaning you didn't build a boring, simple, generic trail, or one that strictly conforms to the narrow confines of what many people limit their ideas of 'flow' to these days.

Or it's entirely possible that the trail sucks. ;)
 
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DaveVt pretty much explains it. The only question is for whom you are creating the flow. Expert riders are gonna die of boredom, on the same trail where novice riders are scared to death, while only intermediate could have flow.


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The Flow state is achieved by an over stimulation of the brain's ability to make decisions. The more featured and technical a trail is, the less speed is needed to achieve the flow state. True flow can only be achieved by individuals who have become high level at whatever pursuit the are engaged.

Flow trails have been an attempt to give that mental state-of-being to less-than-expert riders. It's a farce. What is created by engineering a trail that allows everyone to ride at the speeds they see experts, corner at the speeds experts corner at, and easily jump and pump features ect. is a trail that makes it virtually impossible for anyone to achieve true flow state.

How do you create flow? Leave a trail very natural, and very technical. Build it to be much more straight that you think you should, as the big mistake beginner trail builders make is to make things over tight.

Making a flow trail with linked berms of the same radius, straight airs, wide open sight lines and featureless, brown, sidewalk-like tread makes it virtually impossible for anyone to achieve the flow state. Flow trails create the illusion of flow by packaging MTBing so people who have not put in their 10,000 hours can ride fast through the woods like highly skilled riders do on technical trails. Instead, we go fast, and jump....but are bored out of our minds.
Farce.

Here's is the man who coined the phrase "Flow State". He explains the requirements to achieve flow state. It's the opposite of what the MTB industry, and the trail building industry have come to sell us...to grow the sport, not to provide quality experiences or develop the skills required to enter the magical world of the Flow Channel.
https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow
He didn't coin the term 'flow' he coined the term 'flow state.' I'd argue that 'flow' in regards to mountain biking comes from the flow of water, not from 'flow state.'

So did OP ask how to build a trail with flow or did he ask how to build a trail that induces flow state? You yourself admit in your last paragraph that the advice you are giving is the opposite of the industry and as such almost certainly the opposite of what OP was asking.
 

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So did OP ask how to build a trail with flow or did he ask how to build a trail that induces flow state?
I might be wrong, but how is it possible that trail does not induce „flow state“ and still be trail with „flow“?!

I mean, there is nothing „flowy“ in the laws of physics, in the engineering of bikes, or geometry of jumps and turns. The very term „flow“ is highly subjective, therefore if something has „flow“, it is something that induces „flow state“ (or at least trying to induce it).

Finally, isn‘t achieving of „flow state“ the main reason why we are all into MTB in the first place?



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I might be wrong, but how is it possible that trail does not induce „flow state“ and still be trail with „flow“?!

I mean, there is nothing „flowy“ in the laws of physics, in the engineering of bikes, or geometry of jumps and turns. The very term „flow“ is highly subjective, therefore if something has „flow“, it is something that induces „flow state“ (or at least trying to induce it).

Finally, isn‘t achieving of „flow state“ the main reason why we are all into MTB in the first place?



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Dave explained that quite well. 'Flow state' requires a fair amount of challenge and skill to meet it. Flow trails are not based around that concept, but rather following the natural 'flow' to make it intuitive for all levels of riders.

I would argue that flow is not subjective in mountain biking. At least not when talking to actual trail builders. If I have to pedal a bunch, brake a bunch or corner hard it is not a flow trail. Flow trails are intuitive, flow trails allow for a lot of momentum to be carried throughout. Again that is not what Dave is describing.

I definitely agree with you that flow state is the reason we all bike. My favorite feeling in the world is riding a very technical trail with little flow and yet being able to achieve flow state. That still has nothing to do with how the trail is built.
 

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I feel I've ridden enough variety to know that people confuse "flow" and "easy"**. There are really hard trails that have great flow, but only if you're a good enough rider to carry the speed/momentum to make use of it.

So many people like the Allegrippis system, but the flow borders on monotonous. I have deja vu every 5 minutes there. Once/yr. is plenty for me.

Moraine SP has some car-sized rocks to ride over, but you can feel the flow if you can make those transitions. It is a crap shoot for me. If I'm "ON", I'm having a great ride. If I'm "OFF", I'm like "Who turned off the flow?!"

So I would take any "honest" reviews with a lot of salt.

I could not care less about flow trails, but some of the best swooping trails go along hillsides where you store and release gravity, without losing a ton of elevation. A lot of those short, hillside uphills have almost a pump track like feel where you can gain elevation by pumping, but again, if you're too slow, you pedal a lot more. Waa waa! :cryin: right?

-F

** they think "easy=flow" AND "flow=easy" and "difficult=no flow" etc., without regard for other riders' abilities. Descriptions around "flow", "technical", "difficult" can be exclusive or related, occurring separately or simultaneously.
 

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I would argue that flow is not subjective in mountain biking. At least not when talking to actual trail builders.
I see your point, but that is not a valid argument. Every painter would agree which colors you need to mix to get a certain shade of red. That does not mean that there is something red in the chemical compound of those colors, or frequency of light that color reflects. Redness is exclusively in our minds (if one is not color blind, which further points to the subjectivity of color, or flow).



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