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Should trails be leaf blown?

  • Blow those leaves off

    Votes: 8 14.8%
  • let them lay

    Votes: 32 59.3%
  • depending on trail(explain in comments)

    Votes: 14 25.9%
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No known cure
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My friend and I rake lower sections of a local trail. After the first big Santa Ana event, the oak leaves are six inches deep. Luckily most of the trail is sugar pines with some ponderosas. A blower would attract the attention of Forestry and we barley got away with a talking to for being caught in there with shovels and mcleods.
 

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Between leaf blowing and not leaf blowing, I have seen very few trails that truly benefit from leaf blowing.
I have never seen a trail ruined by leaves.
The perception is that someone is taking care of the trail, but in the long run they are blowing away dirt and the materials that eventually become more dirt.
Leaves act as a buffer to the freeze-thaw cycle - I have observed this first hand on many occasions.

Leaves can block drains and should be removed from drains.

Sometimes leaf cover hampers navigation. This is about the only other scenario where some leaf removal is beneficial - although I think it is a fun, seasonal thing to have to find one's way without actually seeing the trail. Yes, even through rock gardens.

-F
 

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It's also beneficial in the spring for those of us in the snow belt. When the snow melts and we have spring rains, the leaves trap all the moisture underneath. If removed they allow the sun and wind to dry the trail in the early spring months. Leaving them there delays opening the trail and when the trail does open anywhere that there are leaves left = muddy spots.
 

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A bunch of people here are lucky enough to have trails made out of dirt and rocks. Unfortunately many of us are stuck in the land of clay, which is great until continuous moisture sets in. Then it becomes a curse.

The trails would never be ridable outside of a dry summer or frozen winter if left to make new dirt though decomposition. The organic material is already gone from the tread and the drying time would be far too long as they clay layer is on the surface. Where I am at is very busy and most people don't give a damn about trail maintenance so they will ride it wet, leave ruts and make holes which then serve to make the issues worse as they collect and hold water. Then people ride around the mud holes, widen the trail, braid it out, etc. Anything that can be done to hasten drying is helpful to the system at large.

The blessing of heavy use is that the leaves get crushed and moved aside when they dry out by the traffic, so blowing is not really needed. It is a far different experience where I am at than places I ride in rockier areas like East Tennessee where the leaves help to fill in places that are losing soil and the trail composition is such that the moisture and organic matter are very beneficial overall.

All that said, the idea of blowing leaves off a mountain bike trail will never sound normal to me. It may be big-picture helpful in some places, but just seems weird when considering why most of us ride in the first place.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Between leaf blowing and not leaf blowing, I have seen very few trails that truly benefit from leaf blowing.
I have never seen a trail ruined by leaves.
The perception is that someone is taking care of the trail, but in the long run they are blowing away dirt and the materials that eventually become more dirt.
Leaves act as a buffer to the freeze-thaw cycle - I have observed this first hand on many occasions.

Leaves can block drains and should be removed from drains.

Sometimes leaf cover hampers navigation. This is about the only other scenario where some leaf removal is beneficial - although I think it is a fun, seasonal thing to have to find one's way without actually seeing the trail. Yes, even through rock gardens.

-F
Maybe it's where you live?

Here, decomposition is so aggressive that it starts turning into slime muck almost instantly, then it's mud, then it starts damming the drains and then the puddles form, they get larger and larger, etc...
 

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Generally, I have come to the opinion that letting them lay is best.

Especially if the trails see a lot of use. They get compacted and ridden in during the time the leaves are falling and don't pile up too deep. If they are too deep at the end of the leaf drop season, maybe lightly remove some of them.

For trails that get little use, I find that there are areas on the trail where the wind accumulates them most (turns, low spots, etc.) and I will rake some of them out of those spots, especially if there are hidden roots or rocks to get up and over.

Some argue that the trails dry out faster without the leaves. I think this depends upon the amount of rain and how often the rain falls. In my experience, an average rainfall wets the leaves much more than the ground and tend to dry out nearly as quickly as the ground does.

I've also noticed that on the trails that are not raked or blown, there is less erosion and therefore, less trail maintenance required.
 

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I did a complete 180 on this issue after I saw what years of blowing did to one of our local trail systems. Before I go any further, let me say that there probably isn't a blanket answer to this question. It depends on the type of trail and the soil. The trail I'm referring to is an old-school rake-and-ride trail in an old-growth hardwood forest. After 10 years of blowing the trails multiple times a year, the mineral layer was blow away leaving thousands of roots sitting above the soil. The trail became almost unbearable, even on a 130 travel 29er. I joined the volunteer group that is trying to salvage the trails and we instituted a strict no-blow policy. It's only been a year, but you can already tell a difference. I love the trails after all of the leaves have fallen and there's this line of pulverized leaves from the traffic.

Now, if the trails are machine-cut, built on IMBA standards, sure, I don't see the harm in it unless it's (again) done habitually.
Yep. Feel the same way. If your singletrack is real singletrack, not a road for an F-250, then just keep riding it as the leaves come down. You know where the rocks are.
 

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I have rode Raystown(I am from pittsburgh), and honestly that is one place where I wish they would leave the leaves, and its get so dusty and blown out.
Yeah, I try to get to Raystown about 3-4 times a year, and it could benefit from some leaf decay. It does get dry and dusty, and more and more roots are showing up.
 

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Maybe it's where you live?

Here, decomposition is so aggressive that it starts turning into slime muck almost instantly, then it's mud, then it starts damming the drains and then the puddles form, they get larger and larger, etc...
Where is "here"?

I'm in NE Ohio. Any trail that drains properly seems to do OK with whatever leaf cover it gets. The parts that hold water anyway are bad even without the leaves - and those often accumulate a depth of acorns, which can be pretty crazy if they're hiding under a pile of leaves. :LOL:

-F
 

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I agree for the most part and it's fine to have leaf cover. But the lower section, Sidewinder, heading down to hydro, is where leaf cover can be a little sketchy. Same for up near the camp sites when doing the far western stand along loop (I forget what it's called).

To be honest, I'd like to get back out there again and go ride all day.
They used to blow them all the trails on the Ray's Revenge Side, but not the dirt surfer side. Not sure if they still do or not. That being said, over the years the soils out there have really become blown out. Beat down to rocks and roots from smooth, buff flow trails. I don't disagree with some of those trails being challenging when they are leave covered, but it just means more people need to get out and ride them.
 

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There's a local trail where they blow off a good portion in the fall for a trail running event. It's very obvious what sections get the leaves removed and which doesn't. The part that gets blown is really rough with exposed roots (basically endless roots) the other parts are pretty loamy. It's kinda wild how stark the difference is. We also don't have to deal with much snow too though.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Where is "here"?

I'm in NE Ohio. Any trail that drains properly seems to do OK with whatever leaf cover it gets. The parts that hold water anyway are bad even without the leaves - and those often accumulate a depth of acorns, which can be pretty crazy if they're hiding under a pile of leaves. :LOL:

-F
I took a picture last night because I found a great typical example. Everything here in AK grows and decays at vastly accelerated rates. Here, leaves and organics have decayed into muck, not moving it off earlier and continued riding has created a dam where the water can no longer reach the drain. There is a pit behind the dam, where the trail slopes towards, so the water will run off. It will no longer function and the spot will become a big mud pit. Continued riding will make the muddy portion lower than the drain/slope to the pit. Yes, I know some people will say "but if the trail was designed and built perfectly", but I can tell you from a design and work-crew-leading background, it's not possible to design and build every trail perfectly. It just doesn't happen in reality. So we try to fix the areas we can fix, dig pits, trenches, drains, slopes, etc. Even when the trail is built well, this stuff turns to muck and blocks off the drains on the trail, creating the mud pits.
Plant Road surface Bedrock Asphalt Grass
 
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I took a picture last night because I found a great typical example. Everything here in AK grows and decays at vastly accelerated rates. Here, leaves and organics have decayed into muck, not moving it off earlier and continued riding has created a dam where the water can no longer reach the drain. There is a pit behind the dam, where the trail slopes towards, so the water will run off. It will no longer function and the spot will become a big mud pit. Continued riding will make the muddy portion lower than the drain/slope to the pit. Yes, I know some people will say "but if the trail was designed and built perfectly", but I can tell you from a design and work-crew-leading background, it's not possible to design and build every trail perfectly. It just doesn't happen in reality. So we try to fix the areas we can fix, dig pits, trenches, drains, slopes, etc. Even when the trail is built well, this stuff turns to muck and blocks off the drains on the trail, creating the mud pits.
View attachment 1952457
Good example.
Yes, we get that too - even on well-built sections. I try to just kick the drains open - sometimes just as I'm riding by. Sometimes it takes a bit more than a kick to manage the area, but I still prefer to concentrate on just the drains while leaving the leaves everywhere else. Sometimes it's all about timing and getting them cleared after enough have accumulated, but before the trail goes to mush - then you only have to do it once/season.

-F
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Good example.
Yes, we get that too - even on well-built sections. I try to just kick the drains open - sometimes just as I'm riding by. Sometimes it takes a bit more than a kick to manage the area, but I still prefer to concentrate on just the drains while leaving the leaves everywhere else. Sometimes it's all about timing and getting them cleared after enough have accumulated, but before the trail goes to mush - then you only have to do it once/season.

-F
Yeah, it's not to be anal and try to get all the leaves off the trail or anything like that, just where they've accumulated and are turning into muck or blocking drains. Both tend to create muck-holes, but definitely not trying to sanitize the trail of leaves either.
 

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I don’t really think about the issue from a rider experience perspective. I think about it from a trail sustainabilty perspective.

From a rider experience perspective, it is pretty straight forward: I prefer the trail blown off.

But from the more important sustainability perspective,,,, it depends on the trail section… and there is still a bit that is not known or agreed upon.
 

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A group of us did a 13 mile ride on our local system yesterday. Leaves are so bad that you can't see the trail in places and many of us went off the trail.

The trail is now going to get blown off this week.
 

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A group of us did a 13 mile ride on our local system yesterday. Leaves are so bad that you can't see the trail in places and many of us went off the trail.

The trail is now going to get blown off this week.
I went out with a friend of mine on Friday afternoon and it was the same thing, trail just disappeared in places under the leaves.
 

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Leave the leaves.
Cannot believe this thread,how the 🍂🍁are the enemy SMH.
Leave the damn leaves alone for the most part unless some deep sections or on off camber slopes where when wet can send you sliding down hill or drop, better yet learn to adjust your riding to conditions and adjust accordingly.
After freezing rain do you expect your car to go around corner at same speed when it's dry 😂?
If so you are a lost cause.

End Rant.
 

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We don't like the trail disappearing. So we are a lost cause and we are going to blow the leaves away this week.
 

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Leave the leaves.
Cannot believe this thread,how the 🍂🍁are the enemy SMH.
Leave the damn leaves alone for the most part unless some deep sections or on off camber slopes where when wet can send you sliding down hill or drop, better yet learn to adjust your riding to conditions and adjust accordingly.
After freezing rain do you expect your car to go around corner at same speed when it's dry 😂?
If so you are a lost cause.

End Rant.
As a trail builder and maintainer, except for a few rare exceptions, you want compacted dirt as the top layer of a trail, to prevent ingress of plants, to prevent erosion, to prevent all sorts of bad conditions. This is literally the opposite of having leaves on the trail. The reason the part of the woods without a trail is like that is due to the fact that you let the leaves and everything just fall in place. Again, I'm not advocating for blowing out leaves with a leave-blower, but you are trying to remove plat matter decay and organics from the trail surface as a trail builder. Letting that stuff pile up the opposite of what you want. Not to make the trail easier or harder, but to keep the surface in a compacted dirt condition that sheds water. This is very dependent on location, some locations drop leaves all year and it's not really a thing to have them in mass. Some places drop enough so you are deep in it. That stuff starts decaying almost immediately.
 
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