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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our backyard is relatively small compared to the large patches of woods that many are working with here, but I'd like to see what I can do to make our small 1/10th mile loop easier for riding.

Does anyone know of alternative ground covers that could be seeded into a lawn that would be better for riding a bike across than grass?

The main things I'm looking for:
  • At least as hardy as grass (ie, riding laps at night won't kill it)
  • Doesn't grow as high as grass
  • Lower rolling resistance than grass
  • Can take over grass / spread if seeded in together
  • Does well in sun

What I'm looking for might not exist, but I figure it'd at least be worth asking.
 

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Some kind of turf grass for athletic fields. Have some of that stuff in my yard, really wide, tough, indestructible blades that bog down the lawnmower. It's a no-win on rolling resistance since a tougher grass is going to add resistance. But if you do enough laps... maybe consider planting some pavers, they are guaranteed not to grow taller than the surrounding grass, and never need water, sun, or fertilizer.
 

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Wood chips?

If you're wanting to be able to just ride all over the place, I don't think you're going to find anything. If you can make a path through the grass, you could do rocks, and/or wood chips. Either would have to be properly sized.

Maybe a picture of the lawn would help. It sounds like if what you are looking for existed, we'd be using it for our lawns instead of grass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some kind of turf grass for athletic fields. Have some of that stuff in my yard, really wide, tough, indestructible blades that bog down the lawnmower. It's a no-win on rolling resistance since a tougher grass is going to add resistance. But if you do enough laps... maybe consider planting some pavers, they are guaranteed not to grow taller than the surrounding grass, and never need water, sun, or fertilizer.
Athletic fields and never needing water got me started thinking: I wonder how well artificial turf (aka indoor outdoor carpet) would work...
 

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Creeping Fescue. Its a family of grasses that have great qualities (as far as non-native plants go). They require little watering (assuming you don't live in desert), little mowing if left long (usually twice a season) and self fill in. The "creeping" varieties are used in professional turf fields. The one thing though: if you keep it short, it needs lots of attention, which is why professional fields are mowed, fertilized and cared for ad nauseam; let it go long (12"+) it folds over into a beautiful lush green carpet that has as high rolling resistance as grass.

If I was you, I would just do a slight raised bed trail with high clay content soil. Yeah, it will look like a trail, but it will look nice. better if you want to put some hostas or something along the edge. Run the rototiller, get some Georgia red clay and make it as scenic as possible.
 

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Creeping Fescue. Its a family of grasses that have great qualities (as far as non-native plants go). They require little watering (assuming you don't live in desert), little mowing if left long (usually twice a season) and self fill in. The "creeping" varieties are used in professional turf fields. The one thing though: if you keep it short, it needs lots of attention, which is why professional fields are mowed, fertilized and cared for ad nauseam; let it go long (12"+) it folds over into a beautiful lush green carpet that has as high rolling resistance as grass.

If I was you, I would just do a slight raised bed trail with high clay content soil. Yeah, it will look like a trail, but it will look nice. better if you want to put some hostas or something along the edge. Run the rototiller, get some Georgia red clay and make it as scenic as possible.
You guys can get Georgia red clay? Maybe we can work out a trade. :)
 

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Athletic fields and never needing water got me started thinking: I wonder how well artificial turf (aka indoor outdoor carpet) would work...
Think it would just as cheap to go full park park and build a raised wooden track with bumps, jumps, a wall ride. Make it at least 8' high and you don't lose any existing lawn :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Think it would just as cheap to go full park park and build a raised wooden track with bumps, jumps, a wall ride. Make it at least 8' high and you don't lose any existing lawn :)
So.... I just happened to look at Craigslist this morning and a local tent rental / event company was getting rid of a bunch of rolls used for a single event:
Motor vehicle Automotive exterior Vehicle Land vehicle Car


For free, I figured it's worth a try.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I guess I should back up and give a little more context:

I started building wooden features in the backyard last summer to ride with my kids (4 & 2). The closest spots for riding are about 30 minutes away, which makes it hard to go riding with them after work and be back before it's time for it's time for them to start getting ready for bed.

Here's some shots of the yard:




The biggest issues we faced:
  • My 4 year old got frustrated pedaling around the grass on his single speed and decided he'd rather just ride around the flat driveway out front than ride on the grass (not my idea of exciting). In another year or so he'll likely be on a geared bike and have a bit more strength developed, so it'll be less of an issue for him.
  • Doing a pass around the "trail" with the lawn mower on its lowest height before each ride helped, but was pretty tedious.
  • Needing to do a pass around to clean up dog poop every night was another time sink that took away from riding.
  • If there's dirt, the kids want to dig in it -- the approach to the bridge section I built last summer is now referred to by the kids as "muddy center" and is indeed a large mud pit. Again, another thing that should get better over time.
  • We have some low areas at the back / side of the lot that turn into swamp when it rains -- until I solve that, it's mostly dry weather riding for us. Planning on getting a few truckloads of dirt to even that out.

Once things dry out a little, I'll probably start out putting the carpet underneath & in the approach to where I have the existing rollers & ramps. I'm hoping that will help with the mowing and make it easier for the kids to get up to speed enough that it'll be fun to session them.

The big tests will be:
  • How well does it hold up to riding on it and mowing near the edges?
  • How is the traction?
  • Do the kids leave it alone?
  • Does the dog poop on it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Some updates on the astroturf -- (still need to get some more photos):
  • Have to either be really careful mowing around the edges or come up with something to put down to cover them -- my wife got a little too close and tore up the end a little with the riding mower
  • Dog & kids seem to be leaving it alone
  • Rollover is better than the grass
  • Traction doesn't seem to be significantly different than the ramps (OK, but not great when wet)

Decided to start going down the bike park route for the muddier area on the other side of the yard, but wound up spending half the weekend trying to get my minivan unstuck (eventually a friend came by with his 4wd truck to tow me out):
Motor vehicle Vehicle Vehicle door Fender Alloy wheel

Land lot Soil Garden Groundcover Yard


I know treated landscape timbers may not have the longest life, but at $2.50 on sale at Menards + an 11% rebate, it's about 1/4 the cost of ground contact 4x4's.

Also think I figured out a solution for lighting at the back of the yard -- stopped by the city building department here and they wanted $170 just for permits to running a 15A line out to a few poles in the yard. When I started adding in the materials cost for wire, conduit, & tools for trenching, hard-wiring just make sense.

Started looking more seriously at options for solar lights and came across these:
Product Blue Electronic device Technology Light

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NQ4L1SB/

The big difference vs. other models that I could find was that they have an option to just turn on full brightness at dusk and stay on until the battery runs out. When I've looked outside around midnight, they were still going.

Haven't ridden at night with them yet, but based on a quick walk around the yard, I think one light mounted to a 8' 2x4 attached to every other fence post will be enough
 

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Grass (actual or plastic) and wood are poor substitutes for real dirt when it comes to fun and 'rideability' IMO/E. Even concrete and pavement are far better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Food lighting too? The neighbors are going to be happy lol
The lighting is pretty directional and all pointed so that it's contained within the yard -- the neighbor behind us actually has a large sodium halide light from the local electric company on a utility pole in their backyard to light up some tennis courts, which is a LOT more obnoxious. We actually had to put in light blocking curtains in our bedroom to sleep at night.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Grass (actual or plastic) and wood are poor substitutes for real dirt when it comes to fun and 'rideability' IMO/E. Even concrete and pavement are far better.
All else being equal, I'd always pick riding on some nice dirt trails or at the skatepark over riding in the backyard (regardless of surface).

Other than sidewalks and a 1/3 mile paved trail across the street, though, there's not much interesting around us where we can just get out and ride. By the time we can get kids & bikes loaded up & then unloaded, it's at least 30-40 minutes before we're riding (plus the time to pack back up and head home).

With a few features in the backyard, I can roll my bike out after work, goof off for 20 minutes with the kids on the ramps and then head back in for dinner.

On the building & maintenance side of things I enjoy working with wood more than I like working with dirt, so that's another aspect of fun to balance.
 
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