September 22, 2008

650b snapshot and musings on trail design

First off, just to grab everyone’s attention, here’s Martin’s 650b full-squish bike. 4″ travel front and rear (don’t tell Fox, but the tire *just barely* clears that crown!), super fun. He loves it, especially now that the tires are running tubeless.

Now, excuse the clumsy segue, please:

Millertime, Wu-J, and I rode a new trail out towards the Magnolia universe yesterday. The ride itself wasn’t bad – lots of shit-talking (er, I mean “comraderie”) directed at Wu by myself and Miller, lots of getting lost, some sweet singletrack, and finally a brand new trail that allows a HUGE descent to a destination we really wanted to arrive at.

I should note here that I’m being deliberately vague, as the trail is of course hugely illegal. And no, for the few folks who know what I’m talking about, I have no idea who built it.

So the trail is a typical illegal DH rider trail, basically – starts at the top of an easy spot to shuttle to, takes the fall line, has some super-ghetto homemade jumps and illogical lines allowing you to fall off 10 foot drops, etc. Sort of a fun trail, even on the rigid bikes. But there were a few problems – I’ll do my usual bullet-point whining:

1. No effort has been made to hide the trail. Without giving anything away, it would be VERY easy to find it by accident. Finding it with even the slightest bit of information as to its location is a breeze. Nice work, guys – I’m sure nobody will throw a fit about *that* anytime soon. Is it so hard to carry your bikes 50 feet?

2. The trail doesn’t have much in the way of turns. Turns are fun. Even for DH guys. Make ’em sweepers if you want to go fast, make ’em tighter if you want to wrestle the bike through some corners, but make the trail *turn*, damnit! Sliding straight downhill through loose dirt isn’t much fun for anyone. If you don’t know how to build a good trail, either learn how (go ride at Sol Vista and see what Wentz has done for starters) or DON’T BUILD IT.

3. The end of the trail is a half mile hike-a-bike (yes, even if you have a downhill bike) that ends in someone’s back yard. Literally. I’m assuming this was chosen as a route because it allows the easy crossing of a body of water, but it’s also a virtual guarantee that the trail will piss off the neighbors and get shut down. Wading won’t kill you, guys.

4. The first rainstorm will turn this into a giant rut. Some of you may remember another pirate trail named for a javascript:void(0)desert plant that took the fall line without much deviation. Seems pretty fun for a month or two, but once the rains come…

Bottom line, the folks that built this trail did a crap job. And it’s a bummer, because the topography and location are *perfect*. Maybe at some point some nice person will reroute some of it this fall, who knows.