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Thread: Leaves on Trails

  1. #1
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    Leaves on Trails

    Time for a leaf discussion. I have seen were cleared trails have major problems with freeze/thaw and leaf covered trails are better w/ the freeze thaw conditions.

    According to recent posts, Defeated and Shutes have both been cleared of leaves in places. This is great for now, plus it removes small sticks and other debris. We had an awesome ride at Shutes the other day, partially due to the clear trail on the Hillside.

    This is a great time to see if it really does impact riding conditions - especially when we get cold nights and warm days. This weekend will be the first when we hit 25 degrees and 45 to 55 for highs. We only got about 0.05 to 0.10 in of rain last night.

    Because it's early in the season, it might not freeze on the surface, but if it does, the clay will be super slick. It probably only takes about 1 mm freeze depth to slicken the surface. I have ridden at both trails when the surface thawed, and it is a mess. But this will likely be later in the season.
    ,
    One other point about trails that are blown off in the winter is that rain does not have leaves to slow the drops, both in the trees and on the ground. Because there is a stronger impact, the erosion on bare dirt trails is a little higher.

    But, I must also add that it is great that some one actually took the time to work on the trails. I wish that all trails would get blown off in the spring.

    Well, off to slumber land, let's dream of awesome rides, and free bikes for everyone. :-)

    Steve
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    Just for discussion's sake... Relative to Lock 4 only... Experiential observation...
    Poor-conditions (narcissistic) riders are going to ride, whether the trail is shut down, ribboned off, gated, etc. (I'm OK with that, if one will repair the mess one makes. 99+% will not.) Very frustrating, particularly for the time it took for the trail to dry, due to ruts formed and the holding of water. Last winter I got tired of being pissed (pardoned my french) and decided to do something about it, namely, draining the numerous low, flat corners. I found that these corners had a thick accumulation of organic debris packed into them that continued to hold water in spite of the drain cuts. So, I removed the debris. I found that in a lot of cases the areas dried rather quickly. I felt I was on to something. A handful of buddies and I somewhat systematically started removing debris and draining the most troublesome areas. Some areas were impossible to drain. The Bikers Choice team bridged the worst of them. Friends and I, bridged others, bringing us into this summer. In the mean time, I/we de-debrised many other mucky areas. The result has been, following precipitation, the trail-bed has been hard and drying, or dry, in short order, minimizing trenching. In the past year, Lock 4 has been "good to ride" like none other in the six years that I have been riding. As to freeze/thaw, I can understand the insulative value of leaf-cover. Inevitably, in sustained sub-freezing temps, the soil will heave under the cover, thaw, have the cover mashed into the wet soil, and start the holding cycle again. My observation has been that the recovery time and long-term damage has been minimized by the removal of organics in and draining of the low/water-holding areas.

    Gary

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    Good points Gary. With good conditions, bare soil is better. It definitely rides better without leaves.

    Steve
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    …but on Voyage 34, he finally met himself coming down an up-staircase, and the encounter was crushing (Porcupine Tree).

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    yes, good observations and work for sure. be sure and notch out a de-burming section by more than 24" so it does not come back in the very next rain. organic debris should still offer water to run under/over as long as there are a few degrees of sloped tread. I vote for leaf removal after watching the practice and results for trails throughout the region if major soil degredation is not an issue like at Long Hunter or Hamilton Creek.

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    Leaves on Trails

    I can tell you from years of experience that leaf removal is a short term solution and that will ruin a trail in the long term. You need to just let them fall ride them in and let them be it has happened this way for years and is best for the trail overall. They removed the leaves at LBL a few years ago and them freeze/thaw hit and the trail turned to mush and it was unrideable until mid spring. Same for Mont. Bell some removed the leaves one winter and freeze/thaw hit and it became mush and people kept riding and dug bad ruts and trail erosion was at a maximum and the trail was closed for more than a month. It may be annoying for a couple of weeks until they get ridden in but get over it and learn how to slow down a bit this time of year and work on handling your bike. I don't care what trail it is around here it will be bad for said trail in the long term and I can't think of a worse trail to do it to than Hamilton creek but I rarely ride there so you can screw it up if you want. If someone were to do this at Mont. Bell I would take the time to push them all back where they go. This isn't just an opinion it comes with more than 15 years experience and seeing the effects first hand. I took a group of 15 guys out to Mont. Bell yesterday and we rode every trail out there crunching leaves. This month is the worse and the last two weeks especially when they are all failing but most are off the trees at this point and in a couple of weeks of good riding will be completely smashed and giving good grip again. Just get off this I got to have it now culture we are in right now and think about what you are doing might have consequences in the future.

    Ok I'm off my soap box I just couldn't stand where this thread was going.
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    Leaves on Trails

    I'm also not saying Gary is wrong in removing small low areas for drains and such and even removing some in corners that may be bad. I'm talking full scale full trail removal that is just irresponsible. If you take a look at the Mont. Bell race loop right now it is perfection. The same leaves have been falling on it as the other parts of the trail that have deep leaf cover difference is a ton of people have been riding it and crushing them all down. I'm also not saying we need 4-6" of leaves or anything protecting the trail and a small removal say early in November then letting a thinner layer fall afterwards would be ok. However right now if you take it down to dirt after most have fallen you will have a trail of mush in a few weeks that will last till March/April. I would also say you should ask a trail owner/builder/maintainer before doing this leaf removal that you think will be good for the trail. I know some might not care but some will I know the rangers at both LBL and Mont. Bell never want to see what happened to those trails happen to them again.
    Michael

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  11. #7
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    Regarding Hammy, during freeze/thaw the leaves seam to form a protective barrier IMHO. I've been on rides there during freeze/thaw and the sections with leaves packed on the trail were completely ridable. Then I would hit a section that had been blown off and I had to bail on the ride because of the thin layer of tacky mud.
    Chris

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    Isn't the whole point of MTN biking to deal with what the trail gives you and above all else protect the trail for future use. If we didn't enjoy the ever changing conditions we would all be road cyclist.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Username View Post
    Isn't the whole point of MTN biking to deal with what the trail gives you and above all else protect the trail for future use. If we didn't enjoy the ever changing conditions we would all be road cyclist.
    +1
    I am Facebook challenged.

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    The main purpose for leaving the leaves on the trails in the fall/winter is so that they wick up water and keep it on the surface but this only works to a point (i.e. leaves are soaked). The idea is to try to keep the top layer of the trail as dry as possible so when the freeze does come it does not cause the soil to heave due to the expansion of the water. Same effect as a wall being pushed over if there is not proper drainage behind it, only with the trails it is upward. Allowing the leaves to soak up the water keeps the water on the very top of the soil allowing it to dry quicker which is most important during freeze/thaw cycles when there is little sun and even less heat. Some damage is expected from freezing in the winter especially if it rains/snows, then melts, then quickly freezes again but there is not much that can be done in this case. As a general rule it is better to keep the leaves on the trail as much as possible during the fall/winter.

    All that being said there are cases for corners, low spots were water accumulates, top layers of soil with organics (black soil), etc... but on the whole I would not remove any more leaf cover than necessary to help with the long-term health of the trail tread. Yes you can't go as fast as in the spring/summer when the trails are all exposed and sweet but at least the trails are ridable sooner in the spring and will last longer. I do buff corners and some sections of yellow/green for the races out at MB but I do so with the knowledge that all my work will be covered over in about 2 weeks or sooner just from all the mature trees. But that is specific to MB and the forest's age.

    On a side note Gary and others have done a sweet job of keeping lock 4 ridable more often after a rain than in years past. In the past you would have to wait a week in some cases for the trails to dry out after a good rain. Kudos to them up there.
    Last edited by AustinB; 11-27-2012 at 01:20 AM.
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    We can all wear leaf wick socks.

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    To leave or not to leave, that is the question.
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  22. #14
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    Leave the leaves! Especially at Hammy. It does protect the trail in the winter.

    Some other thoughts - we all know people will ride the trail when it's wet. All the more reason to deal with the reality and build/fortify problem areas. Since I've been apart of the MTB community here for about 10 years, the same discussions - leaves the leaves? - why are their so many mud riders? - why doesn't Robert use Facebook - what do Dr. Toy's posts REALLY mean?..does Darryl ever really ride his bike?

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    I'm ready to leave.After so long here it seems it's time to let it go.

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    Split consensus?

    Gary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uzzi View Post
    Since I've been apart of the MTB community here for about 10 years, the same discussions - leaves the leaves? - why are their so many mud riders? - why doesn't Robert use Facebook - what do Dr. Toy's posts REALLY mean?..does Darryl ever really ride his bike?
    The perplexing question I think we have all been pondering: When will Uzzi finally see the light and get a 29er?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taco-Tim View Post
    The perplexing question I think we have all been pondering: When will Uzzi finally see the light and get a 29er?
    +1
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    I'm all for making a huge pile of leaves after the photo-op drop at hammy to make the crashes hurt less. 8)
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    I can say from having a little experience with Hammy that removing the leaves is the way to go. She just doesn't drain well and leaving the leaves keeps the tread moist which allows tire impressions that aren't noticed when riding over the leaves. They also plug up any runoff spots and help hold water in those areas. Not to mention wet leaves on an unexposed rock is not a good thing and there are a few of those out there. She dries out so much faster when exposed to sun and wind. As far as freeze/thaw I can see the possibility of an insulating benefit, but without seeing under the leaves you never really know. We do know it doesn't completely eliminate it. With the leaves gone its much easier to see the trail condition rather than just using your best guess. Unfortunately I've been too busy this fall or the leaves would already be gone.

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  31. #21
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    As for perplexing questions - 29rs are for people with no bike handling skills and single speeds are for people with no sense of humor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uzzi View Post
    As for perplexing questions - 29rs are for people with no bike handling skills and single speeds are for people with no sense of humor.
    That must be why, most all the pros, are riding 29ers.
    I am Facebook challenged.

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    Just kidding guys. I'm planning on turning my 5 inch "Race Bike" into a hard tail 29r next year. I do love stirring the crap once in a while and making fun of 29rs and single speeds is just too easy!

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    Experiment results after two years are in. I Left the leaves at my place this year and I am impressed how well the trail held up and how much immune it was to rain and freeze/thaw conditions. The tread remained good throughout the entire winter and the trail was rideable almost all the time even after a day of good rain. Comparing that to last year's even milder winter when I blew the leaves off, I can say that leaves must stay going forward, at least at my place. The only downside to the leaves staying is the time they take to be crushed and regaining familiarity with the trail line but I can absolutely live with that if I can ride more year round. I am not going to get into the soil type science since I know nothing about it. I know I might have stated the obvious so I will stop here and get back to enjoying the raging mud debate which by the way is not accomplishing anything on this forum and interface since the audience for it is not present here. I think most of us here know when and when not to ride but I might be wrong.
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    I have been a supporter of leaves staying on established trails that have the lines all packed in and well defined. Leaving them on new trails pose problems with people cutting off corners or riding off of the trail tread because the trails are too wide when they are new. Several places like that at Cane Ridge when it was being built. Same thing happened out at PW this past fall before it was cleared. This upcoming fall we will let the leaves remain though at very busy trails they dont remain long due to usage.

    Thanks for your information gszman.
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  38. #26
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    Yes!
    I think I'll get tee shirts made up with"SAVE THE LEAVES"

    And when are we going to get 36" wheels.
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    I agree that keeping leaves seems to help the trails dry faster. But I do respect Austin's input about CR and PW. I can't wait until those trails are burned in more. Riding pw this spring/summer is going to rock! I'll do my part to pack it in.
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