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How to Build a Mountain Bike Trail

Learn the basics of trailbuilding

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Do you enjoy riding your local mountain bike trails? Are you ready to take the next step? Many mountain bikers find themselves itching to build their very own trail, or contribute their services to existing singletrack that needs some work.

Move beyond simply riding your local mountain bike trails—learn to build them with these basic steps:

Ask for Permission

First off, find out who owns the land you want to build on if you are considering property other than your own. Seek permission from the land owner and check with local authorities to ensure you are allowed to build there. Illegally-built trails damage the reputation of mountain bikers, and will likely be destroyed.

Location, Location, Location!

Once you get permission to build, scout out an appropriate location. Take into consideration natural features, such as rocks, streams and the grade of the land. Will these features add a bit of challenge to your ride, or hinder your efforts to build there? 

Build Sustainable

As you start to build your trail, you’ll want to avoid fall lines (the shortest route down a hill) and flat areas. Fall-line trails cause erosion while flat terrain will lead to poor drainage. To keep your trail interesting and challenging, consider building in grade reversals, grade breaks, constant up and downs, and gravity drops. Test your trail’s rhythm and flow by running the flagged route in both directions.  Adjust accordingly.

Avoid Common Mistakes

Don’t line your trail with logs. It’s hard for water to escape and can escalate trail erosion. According to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), a trail that is constructed properly shouldn't need logs. Avoid IMBA's top ten most common trailbuilding mistakes.   

Maintain Your Trail

After you’ve built your trail, don’t ignore it. Maintenance is key to keeping your trail in tip-top shape. Remove debris with common trail building tools to reduce rider injuries. Check on a regular basis for unsafe conditions that may have been caused by inclement weather or trail use.

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