View Poll Results: Should leaves be blown off the local trails?

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  • Yes, I like a clean trail

    9 20.93%
  • No, I think the leaves protect the trail during freeze/thaw

    26 60.47%
  • I don't care either way

    8 18.60%
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Thread: Should leaves be cleaned off the trail??

  1. #1
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    Should leaves be cleaned off the trail??

    Can someone please explain to me the benefit of blowing leaves off the trail?
    It seems to me that the trails around here hold up to moisture much better when the leaves are left alone.
    I appreciate all the hard work that goes into removing leaves from the trail. However, it just seems to me like a tragic waist of time.
    Chris

    "Mountain biking is about adventure and the rediscovery of your childhood freedom. It removes you from the daily grind and puts you in an environment with endless possibilities - wildlife, epic views, a personal epiphany about what really matters, and tasting your endorphins after a long, hard climb. The reward is looking back at obstacles, that are now behind you, and feeling like anything's possible." - Gary Klein

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    It would be nice for rocky spots to be clean, BUT there's no way to keep mother nature from moving them around on her own. (30 mile gusts tomorrow).

    Proper trail design should mitigate the effect of leafs on/off trail.

    and HEY, nobody is raking them off the surface of the river when I'm fly fishing in October neither not nohow.

    wp
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    It has been my experience that removing leaves from trail disrupts the natural narrowing of a trail over time as a "line" is established.

    When one rakes or uses leaf blower to clear a trial they remove all the vegetable matter from the line that riders have ridden-in and also the vegetable matter one both sides of that line for a decent distance. This means that there is nothing to get chewed up during trail use and replace the loam, at the edge of the line, that was removed during trail construction and the trail remains wide(r).

    Prefect examples are:

    Blankets Creek (Woodstock, GA): The people who maintain this trail use leaf blowers to blow away all the leaves believing it helps the trails dry out. All the trails are about as wide as when they were first constructed and opened to use.

    Raccoon Mountain (Chattanooga, TN): This trail receives about the same amount of traffic as BC, maybe a little less, but no leaves are removed. We constructed the trail using similar trail building techniques including machines with a 48" blade. However, the Raccoon Mountain trials are much narrower, despite being newer and having less time to naturally narrow.

    Given the fact that all other trail maintenance techniques, and other factors, are about the same I would suggest that removing leaves from the trail prevent, or at least slow, the natural narrowing process of a trail from its initial machine cut.

    I am also not convinced that removing the leaves allows a trail to dry faster, and even if it does, all that effort could be used to rehab the trail in the spring instead of clearing the leaves from the trail. Given the benefit of narrower singletrack, I would leave the leaves on the trail.
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  6. #4
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    I've seen it help and hurt. Some trails virtually disappear with oak leaves (white trails at MB). But, it does seem to help buffer the weather in the long run and keeps the single track tight. Lightly traveled trails need it or they can disappear.

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  7. #5
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    I marked leave em there, but I have blown leaves from trails before - so I think it depends.. my example would be Dear Run - after no trail work for two years the trails where pretty much covered, so we blew them off to re-establish where they where then did the trail work to bring them back to where they needed to be.

    Typically I think leaving the leaves on a frequent use trail helps that trail heal, and acts as an insulator in the winter..

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    Leaf's

    After spending many years trying to establish the trailbed at MBSP I can say with confidence that when it is initally being burned in it's a good thing to keep it cleared. In MB's case, because it is churt, it worked very well in establishing the trailbed and making sure folks could actually see the line which would be obliterated by the massive hardwood leaf cover in the fall which sometimes could reach 6 to 8 inch depths! Doesn't make for an attractive ride for first timer's! After the trail was well established and getting regular traffic it becomes less of an issue because it is constantly being packed and cleaned and the trailbed is hardpacked instead of soft and fudgey. It also helps the soft spots from getting mushy in the freeze/thaw times as most who ride out there already know. I like riding in leaves because when you fall off it doesn't hurt as bad!LOL!

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  10. #7
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    I voted to def take leaves off. my example would be Mt. Gretna in PA. I just went and rode yesterday and I slipped all over the wet leaves. it was a miserable ride. I don't like riding on leaves at all. I guess if it's completely dry, and has been, then it's ok to ride over a light layer, but the same thing in Memphis, it just slowed you down so much on the trail.
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  12. #8
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    Sounds like it depends on the trail as to whether you should blow the leaves off. I've often wondered about blowing the leaves off BESIDE the trail and leaving the leaves ON the trail bed. I've wondered if that would allow the water to run off the trail, onto the soil just off the trail bed.

    Personally, I've been for NOT blowing the leaves off the trail. If you are specifically referring to Hamilton Creek, Scott Smith thinks it helps the trail dry faster. Though I didn't agree, I helped him blow some leaves off this past fall. Parts of HC get pretty thick with leaves and some would need to be removed just for ride-ability. Any disagreements with Scott's leaf blowing policy, feel free to discuss it with him while enjoying one of his home brews.

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    when leaves break down, they become soil. with the little amount we have, I think leaving them would be the best plan. plus it's fun to slide around the corners.
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    REALLY depends on not only which trail but which stretch of trail and would more soil make sense. we lost a lot of soil at Long Hunter and could use a few thousands cubic yards at hammy. these days we have blown out new corridor and get it of some slick rocks. Good Thread!

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  17. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by -dan View Post
    when leaves break down, they become soil.
    I made that comment here once before and I got shot down with a lesson in geology I will never forget!
    I wish I could find the post.
    Standby for Caveman to chime in...

    ***EDIT***I found it!! It was on the old board. 5 and 6 posts down:
    http://z10.invisionfree.com/NMB/inde...showtopic=3140
    Chris

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    I bow before the Caveman!

    Yeah, If you spend alot of time diggin' around in the dirt like some of us you will see that the leaf matter only creates a sod layer or organic mat that can be easily seen as you dig down the first few inches. Different types of leaves, pine needles, or other falling debris will determine just how thick this layer is but is only ever going to be a "blanket" on top of the soil type. Yes it does add some filler back into the exisiting trailbed for a short while but not for long as the hundreds of treads that will break it all down in the end. This is why some of old farts used to get so up in arms back in the early days when folks rode out at HC when it was wet because we knew once that thin layer of soil went away it was over and the same thing happened at Cedars of Lebanon SP when the motocrossers ravaged all the surface soils. Doesn't take a geology degree to figure that one out but it sure sounds more convincing coming from the mouth of scholar of the dirt!

  19. #13
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    Leaves

    Just did some online searches on leaf litter, soil erosion, a couple of studies suggest that not only does leaf decomposition rehab the soil, but also protects the soil from excessive penetration from rain, which was said to break soil down faster

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  21. #14
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    At Monty Bell, the leaves seem to be the savior. Trails that have been heavily traveled, causing the leaves to become worn / scarce, are the areas that become mushy and muddy during the freeze thaw phases. Trails that still have substantial coverage seem to be fine, and completely rideable in almost all conditions (freeze thaw especially). I haven't been to any other trails this freeze thaw season, to compare, but for MB, I feel the leaves provide a great layer of protection for the trail.
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    AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just wanted to mention that!


  24. #16
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    When working on the Ugazi run, (my personal trail built by myself and others and is enjoyed by throngs of my neighbors) I noticed something interesting - when I was making a new trail out there 2 years ago and I was raking leaves off the path, it was DRY underneath. Point is, the leaves were keeping the soil dry. A guy that would ridie out there from time to time cried that the leaves made it hard to discern the trail, which was true, so I agreed to let him blow the leaves off the trail. I regretted it! He quit riding when it got cold and I was left with 2 miles of exposed MUD with nothing to blanket it from the winter rains. This year I left the leaves on the trail and it only gets muddy in a few spots. Leave the leaves!

  25. #17
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    I actually e-mailed several SORBA and IMBA reps about this, and they all basically said yes and no. My experience has been that in our region, trails without leaves get muddy and wider during the winter. I've heard people make the argument that leaves are slippy or hard to ride on, but I'd much rather ride on wet leaves than sloppy mud. Besides, the leaves add a whole new element to the trails each year; I've noticed my riding style changes since I can't see every rock and root, it's a nice change of pace!
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  27. #18
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    What about Ride Them Off as an option? I think getting ten or twelve individuals to rip around a leafy trail does several things:
    Breaks down leaves into soil, improving the feel of the trail
    Scatters the dry loose top layer of leaves (especially if you're really moving)
    Improves flow by erasing the visual line, forcing you to look ahead and not make any sudden moves (lest you wash out your front wheel on slippery leaves)
    It's much more fun than running a **** leaf blower

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  29. #19
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    As Darryl said, I think it really comes down to the individual trail, trail section, and leaf/rider load.

    If you have enough traffic to ride 'em down. Tha's the ticket.

    If 6-8 inches of leaves hide the trail completely, traffic may go down because some folks like to have some idea where the rocks and roots are.

    How 'bout we get three or four snow bikes with 3" tires and run them round and round the leafed over areas? Who knows-it might snow sometime.

    Or strap on some snow shoes and stomp the fallen foliage into proper litter?



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  31. #20
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    I like your idea Wade... but what about spiked tires... you can aerate the soil & mulch the leaves as you ride.

    And no washing out the front wheel.
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  32. #21
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    Another plus to leaves:

    Insulates the ground. This prevents the ground from thawing on a day where the temp reaches say, high 30's. On those same days, the bare places are thawed, and mushy. The leafy sections are still frozen or nearly frozen.

    If you have enough traffic, the tires mash the leaves down into any soft soil and wick the moisture out of the mud, causing it to dry faster, I believe.

    We kept piling leaves on soft places at MB and except for one day when it got too soft, the trail out there did great this winter. The very next day the trails were significantly dryer, and not suffering any damage. The only soft places that showed up were where the leaves were blown off (by nature).

    I agree with Jeffrey too about the narrowing aspect. Even the hand built trail at MB has narrowed up to just a single track. It only takes about 3-4 weekends for the track to re-appear after the major leaf fall each year, of course, depending upon traffic.
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  33. #22
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    Really, what is this poll all about? Do leaves do some good in freeze/thaw times? These are at most a few days a year; and common sense and dirty bikes should prevail; do not ride any trail in these conditions. Leave out the freeze/thaw and there are some good thoughts. I favor a complete cleaning of the trail base, leaves, limbs, rocks, etc., once a year. Preferably November after the first major leaf fall. After that leave the leaves; as has been pointed out a number of times, a lot of riders do a lot of mulching. For those who want the tougher conditions, ride a few feet off the clean trail. But I really do like a clean trail; and you can have a cover of leaves and still have a clean trail. And I do not like hike-a- bikes. That is not a clean trail. That is Freak territory. AEDC is clean today; Tim's should be after tomorrow; may be now but I haven't been out ther after the wind.

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    Thumbs up

    In regards to Hamilton Creek, this older and heavily trafficked trail has a lot of "cupping" (i.e. bowling alley gutters). We all know what happens to your gutters when they get clogged with leaves. I was just talking about this with Sofa King today. And him and Gumby (Scott Smith) just blew the leaves off HC a few days ago. Underneath the "dry leaves" was a mucky mess of slop in most spots. Now those spots get sun and air and, in our experience, with this particular trail, it gets the trail dry faster. We have put in "knicks" and some "rolling grade dips" to fix some of this "cupping" to allow water to drain off the side of the trail instead of down it. Leaves clog these drains (or the downspouts of these gutters).

    I (and the rest of the Fellowship of the Creek) support leave blowing on Hamilton Creek.

    The trail should be good to go tomorrow or Saturday 2/14. If you ride, please help us police the trail of debris such as sticks and branches that were knocked down by the wind storm. We will survey tree falls tomorrow and report.
    Last edited by ShinerBike; 02-12-2009 at 05:29 PM.
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  36. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud View Post
    For those who want the tougher conditions, ride a few feet off the clean trail. But I really do like a clean trail; and you can have a cover of leaves and still have a clean trail. And I do not like hike-a- bikes. That is not a clean trail. That is Freak territory.
    Perhaps I should have said "cleared of leaves" instead of "clean."
    This was not meant to be a debate on technical vs easy trails.

    Quote Originally Posted by bud View Post
    Do leaves do some good in freeze/thaw times? These are at most a few days a year; and common sense and dirty bikes should prevail; do not ride any trail in these conditions.
    I was out of town 311 days last year and no, bringing my bike along was not an option. My slow season for work (when I am home the most) is during freeze/thaw, so the best solution for making the trails as rideable as possible during F/T is very important to me.
    Simply saying "forget about riding" during these months doesn't work for me.
    Chris

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    But count freeze/thaw days during the year. We have had two this year; perhaps none last year; you absolutely have to ride these days?; if I was away that much I could find an option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bud View Post
    But count freeze/thaw days during the year. We have had two this year; perhaps none last year; you absolutely have to ride these days?;
    O.K. Freeze/thaw, at least pertaining to this thread, refers to the period of time in the winter when the trails are constantly freezing at night and thawing during the day and are holding moisture more than they would in the warmer months when evaporation happens 24hrs a day. If this only happened 2 days in the last 366 (leap year) then I absolutely would not need to find a way to ride during these times.
    Quote Originally Posted by bud View Post
    if I was away that much I could find an option.
    Your a better man that I! I've been trying to find a way to ride more for 13 years.
    Chris

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    It is my opinion that if the leaves had been off at MB..

    this year, then the trail would have been closed for at least one month. Freeze-thaw involved us here for about 3-4 weeks this winter. Also, who wants to walk 24 miles of trail and blow them off anyway. They will be ridden off in one more month anyway.

    I for one sure did appreciate that MB could stay open this year.
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  42. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by kindacreeky View Post
    t, who wants to walk 24 miles of trail and blow them off anyway.
    Who needs to walk Bob? Have you seen Scott Smith's "B.O.B. Trailer" with his leaf blower attached to it? He just pulls this behind his bike and it blows the leaves off the trail! I keep meaning to take a photo and send it in to MBAction or IMBA or something.

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  43. #29
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    I'm glad we are down south and do not have those harsh winter conditions. We have not had a closed day here; some days I choose not to ride but others do. So be it. Us ORG.org guys have a choice that the rest do not. Come ride our trails this weekend in Franklin County. AEDC is excellent this afternoon per Scottc, Denny and the Woody crew rode and cleaned FMSF today, Denny rode Perimeter Monday and said it was great, prewind disclaimer here, and I will ride Tim's tomorrow and tell you the truth about it then.

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    We rode the perimeter trail twice in the last month, mainly because of conditions around Nashville. It's a great trail and we had a good time. That being said, the main complaint shared by everyone, was the leaves. When you don't know the trail, and you're flying down hill in a bed of leaves 6" thick, it's a little scary.
    It wasn't a big deal and wouldn't stop me from going back, but it was talked about.
    It would have been more fun if you could see where you were going. But I'm not going to volunteer to take a blower out there either.
    What a long strange trip it's been

  45. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtbrill632 View Post
    We rode the perimeter trail twice in the last month, mainly because of conditions around Nashville. It's a great trail and we had a good time. That being said, the main complaint shared by everyone, was the leaves. When you don't know the trail, and you're flying down hill in a bed of leaves 6" thick, it's a little scary.
    It wasn't a big deal and wouldn't stop me from going back, but it was talked about.
    It would have been more fun if you could see where you were going. But I'm not going to volunteer to take a blower out there either.
    When I was younger thats what I really liked about riding up there because it softened the ride and filled up alot of the holes and rocks. Bot now that I'm older it's a bit sketchy flying down through those ravines but still a rush. We rode with Speed Branco a few months back and it really helped having him out front since he rides those trails constantly and I could watch his line. Too bad I only got in a few miles before my ride went lowrider on me! It's also nice having those leaves on the trail when you're walking for miles in bike shoes to get back to the car!LOL!

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    I think we should ride on what nature gives us. Next thing we'll be sweeping the sand off rocks


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    Seems like the individuals maintaining these trails know best what to do on their trails. It's clear that Monty Bell like leaves, I think it only closed once or twice this winter (and the last time it shouldn't have been) but the guys over at HC spend a lot of time out there and they seem to know best.

    I'm definitely not for "cleaning" off trails. That's just lame. There's a lot better things to do with your maintenance energy (like build new trails?) than cleaning small twigs off the trail. It's a trail, in the woods, people. If you want it cleaner, ride it more. Drag off the big stuff and ride off the rest. I like a fast smooth trail as much as anyone (especially since I can't downshift) but if you find yourself running a gas leaf blower in the woods, blowing 1 in. twigs off the trail, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities.

    We need more trails, not cleaner trails. Big thanks to everyone who's out there working to bring us more places to ride.

  49. #34
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    Booksy

    Blowers serve a very valuble purpose when keeping a trail clear of excess leaves or cleaning it of thorns and debris after trimmings and such. I wouldn't diss folks who use them since they are the very ones who help keep you from flatting as much but yes each sitch is different and it's already been covered in the previous posts.

  50. #35
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    Uzzi is offline You have ticks on you because you didn't weed eat the trail
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    Booksy -

    Since I have done some leaf blowing out at HC I will say this - There are parts of the trail that left to nature would result in 2 feet thick density of leaf fall and the trail would not be discernible. As a rule though, I do not like to blow leaves off the trail. HC is slightly different due to the small amount of soil and large amount of rock. The idea is that if the leaves are off, the sun can get to the trail bed and dry it quicker. Unfortunately, those that are new to MTBing or are simply impatient tend to ride it when it's muddy (age old song) causing more puddling. I personally have the opposite view, that the leaves protect the trail bed, but realize at HC some leaf blowing does need to occur.

    Tim

  51. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNcaveman View Post
    I've seen it help and hurt. Some trails virtually disappear with oak leaves (white trails at MB). But, it does seem to help buffer the weather in the long run and keeps the single track tight. Lightly traveled trails need it or they can disappear.

    Steve


    I agree. Lightly traveled trails do need it. I like the white trail @ MB, but it's sometimes hard to follow around that time.

    I guess it doesn't really matter to me. If the leaves are crisp, I like the sound of whooshing through them. If they're wet and they're in rocky areas, it makes it a bit difficult to get by.

    Just my two lincolns.

    Later.
    >>>JOHN 14:6<<<
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    GO FORT CAMPBELL FALCONS!!
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  52. #37
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    Leaves deffinately have advantages and disadvantages

    Advantage: Super fun to get loose and they protect freeze/thaw a tad bit

    Disadvantage: Easy to wash out, hard to see trail
    I have no clue what my signature should be….

    http://www.pinkbike.com/u/treydownhill/

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