How To Maintain And Build Mountain Bike Trails

How To Maintain And Build Mountain Bike Trails


We all need somewhere to ride our bikes,
right? There are more and more places to ride nowadays from private bike parks to
public forests, but what most have in common is they’re built by human hands.
People are often really keen to build new trails and explore new areas, but first
it’s worth asking yourself is it worth repairing and revamping the
trails that you already have? It should go without saying, but you
may need permission to dig on the trails. Don’t just start digging in places where
you’re not sure who owns the land, because that could land you in some legal
hot-water, but also leads to land access issues with mountain bikers. I ride
here, which is Eastridge in Shropshire, and there’s a volunteer organization
called the Eastridge Trail Partnership, so that we’re actually working on the
trails and not just digging all over the place so ask around. Ask local
riders. Ask the local bike shop, and see if you can get involved so that we’re
working together to build new trails. Be careful not to start showing up and
working on trails that you’re not really supposed to be working on. It can be a
big nuisance to experienced riders when someone shows up and starts tweaking
a trail when they don’t really know what they’re doing. A good example of that
is this really hard section. It’s kind of rooty, rocky, off-camera section.
There’s a challenge to ride fast, and someone showed up and built
a berm on the outside to make it much easier. In an ideal world, we
would have trials to suit all types of ability, so don’t presume that
everyone likes the same thing. So, the tools you’ll need to build
or maintain trails is a shovel, great for building jumps and moving
a lot of soil around. A mattock, really handy for digging big obstacles
out of the way. Quite a wide one is good for just grabbing stuff, so
very useful tool. And then some shears or maybe a saw, something
like that to clear the bushes and clear the branches out of the
way. Sometimes a really easy way of just revamping the trail is
to go back to the line it originally was. It’s a bit of a modern
occurrence, this, but trails seem to be straightening out. I guess some of
that is down to Strava, where people are trying to chase the fastest times,
but who wants to ride a trail with no turns? So in this case here, you can
see this is where everyone rides now, but up here is the original turn, really
nice turn, so that’s encouraged people to ride the old trail. You might find you
might need to dig a bit of a berm or something just to make it flow a
bit better. We’ll just try and block this line off. Okay, you don’t want
to be laying big trees across the tracks. That’s going to catch people
out, but just try and encourage people to use the proper
trail if you can. So, I’m just going to clear some of the loose
brush so that people can turn up easier into the old line, so get rid
of that. And also, I’m just going to chop these bushes down a little
bit so that people can see it a bit easier, clear that out of the way.
I’m also going to lay a branch down just across the straight part of the
trail so people are going to see that and be encouraged to ride cool
way. You see where this part of the trail has been benched out
a little bit. By that I mean sort of cut into the camber so you can keep
some grip and keep your speed across here. The problem with that is when
it rains, the water can sit in the bottom, and that’s going to leave you a
puddle and obviously it’s going to be muddy, and that’s going to dig out further
and further. So a good little bit of maintenance for these is, as you
can see, someone’s done already. They’ve dug a little drainage ditch, and
actually, it’s got full of bits of cones and sticks and mud, so that’s not going to
drain very well, so I’ll just clear that out. If that wasn’t there, just dig
yourself a small drainage channel so the water rolls out of there, obviously not
too big so you’ve still got that almost part of a berm to ride across, but so the
water can drain out of there and keep this part of the trail working really nicely.
Something that’s common on fast, hard packed downhill sections are
braking bumps. This is where somebody brakes hard and digs a little bit of a
hole, and they just get worse and worse when more riders go over them. Personally,
I don’t mind riding braking bumps. Like this one’s okay. You just smash
through it, but if you get lots and lots of them, you might want to think about
smoothing the trail out a little bit. Chip away at the top of this braking
bump so it’s not quite so severe. It’s really hard-packed. It’s just been
smashed into by so many wheels. So, I’m not going to try to fill in the
bottom of these dips, because I think that stuff is just going to pull back
out when people ride it. So I’m just going to chip away at the top of that
braking bump and then push the soft stuff off to the side of the trail,
and that should do the trick. If you’re building a new trail, the place
to start is by looking for the flow of a trail. I look for gradient and obstacles
and try and make the trail flow as best as possible. Even on the climbs, you
don’t really want to stop, start a climb. If possible, make the corners really work
together and start clearing the trail. Here in the woods, so, actually, I try
and plan my corner from tree to tree, and then clear the space so it’s rideable.
A mattock is a really great tool for chopping at stuff, for also just
pulling this top layer of soft, mossy stuff off the top. Sometimes all you
can do is literally just clear the trail using your shears and saw, and then
your mattock to pull the top off and then ride it in. It’s a really good
way of checking how that trail’s going to flow, and if it’s a group of you, just
riding it repeatedly will make that trail work, hopefully, and pack it in. So,
once you’ve cleared the trail, just keep packing it in, either by riding it or
by foot, but remember to keep an eye on where you want to go down a trail. And
maybe use the trees as a pin-point, so you can look, “Okay I want to be above that
tree,” or, “I want to be going around that tree,” whatever. Just try and use the
terrain as best as possible. Maybe you haven’t got a lot of dissent, and you’re
trying to widen the trail up and down, or maybe you just want to bomb straight
down. Up to you guys. That’s the fun part. When building jumps, plan the run-in
and the run-out so that it works, and it’s nice and safe, and try and use hard-packed
material. Either wet dirt or just hard-packed clay is going to work really
well. If you use logs and then throw dirt on those, they’re probably going to sink
a little bit, and they can take a couple days to settle down properly,
unless you’re using really hard dirt, and then pack it down by foot, and then
that jump should be ridable straight away. So, I found a nice little patch of
soft dirt, and I’m just going to revamp this jump that’s already here by
chucking a bit more dirt on top, shaping it, and packing it down. With
a little bit of experience of building jumps, you’ll be able to try and judge
properly the angle of the take-off you need to clear that distance
with the speed that you’ve got. If you build the jumps too steep, they
can be really kicky and give you that feel of being bucked front wheel down.
Also if the jump is soft when you hit it, it can also do that, so try and get that
angle nice and mellow to start with and pack down the base of that
jump as hard as you can. So, there you go. There’s a few tips
on maintaining and building trails. It definitely works really well
for us here in my local woods. We’ve got a Facebook group. Once a month,
we go out and we just revamp existing trails, so there’s not always a need to
build new trails. So, now you’ve got your new trails and some jumps. Click up here
for how to jump so you can learn how to do it properly. And you can click down
here for my video on how to bunny hop. Everybody should be able to bunny
hop. It’s a key skill, or click on me to subscribe to the channel GMBN. It’s free.

100 comments

  1. Thanks Neil and crew. I had it all wrong. I was gearing up to go in with Roundup and a Bobcat. Thanks again for the great Youtube channel.

  2. Nice vid, would you do another video for how to make a 4x track?? I have a little space in the yard and thought a 4x track would fill it :B

  3. sick to see GMBN at my local woods! plsssss make more vids at eastridge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I live in banff canada if I build a trail I am in deep crap my friend was fined 8000$ and went to court we have trails up to black diamond but I have reached my peak of skill but I want to get better what do I do?

  5. hate strava people who just straight line through perfectly good trails I don't get the point in being top at something if you cheated

  6. I live right next to a national park and some sick lads built a trail like 10 meters from my house and then the council said they were going to destroy it and all the people who had rided on it just stood on the trail and the council didnt do hell all

    the trail is still there and i ride it all the time

  7. In the US your "mattock" is called a Pulaski, it was first invented for provide a digging and cutting tool for wild land firefighters

  8. there's a lot of old abandoned trails by me, they look like they were built In the nineties because you'd struggle to get wide handlebars through them, and because they're narrow they've just got unused. shame really, but can't make them wider without wrecking a load of trees

  9. Would a rake work?to clear the trail like the grass the metal spikey rakes not plastic but plastic will clear leaves. in Indiana there's lots of leaves.

  10. There's a fun black diamond run full of braking bumps on one of my local trails. We have dig days and it recently had one where berms and jump where added, but there's "no unauthorised trails works" should I just wait till a dig day? I think some people actually like the bumps, but most people on XC hard tails don't. Just wait until a dig day?

  11. I have 60 acres of woods im my backyard basically, its just hard to get out there and start building. The biggest problem is all the rocks it almost makes the trails unrideable.

  12. Here in Austria there are only a few trails wich are public, there are local bike clubs which own a trail so you can only ride there if u are a member of that club, because in Austria basicly every forest is owned by someone, and so it is illegal to build your trails..

  13. Try to take a shovel, a pick axe and a pair of cutters to any woodland in Liverpool and people think your going to dig up something illegal or bury something illegal, I need a good track to ride in Liverpool I've found a small amateur one down otterspool but that's the only one I know of

  14. I'm currently building a 2 to 3 mile trail on my parents' 30 acres of woodlands. The biggest problem I've run into so far is that in several places, the elevation dips into swampy areas where the terrain is bumpy. It's mainly due to tree roots being covered in soil while the spaces between trees has washed out from years of rainfall.

    How can I smooth this out?

    Also, the other problem I'm having is judging the distance of turns & straights. The thing is, a straight may seem long on foot, but will be super short on a bike. I try to take this into account when plotting my trail. So far, we've covered about 1500 feet or so.

    A few other tools I recommend:
    Chainsaw – If the area you're in is heavy with undergrowth, it's good idea to have a chainsaw; sometimes you'll have no choice but to cut down a tree that's maybe 3 inches or so in diameter to maintain flow.

    Garden rake – A garden rake (you know…the metal ones that cartoon characters always step on) works great for raking away the surface layer of leaves & straw.

    Axe – Where I live, the woodlands are rife with creepers and vines, some nearly 1/2 inch thick. An axe works great for clearing these out of the way, as well as removing unwanted roots that may cross the path.

  15. I'm leaving in a city close to see with no mountain or jungle. Only dirts and desert. Is there any video to guide us how to make a trail on dirts?

  16. #askgmbn
    I am planning to build m own pumptrack.
    Would like to know minimum space required to get started and other possible consecrations?

  17. what is the best shovel. You guys should also do a clip on how to make rock gardens and drop offs. You could also have a race to see who can make the best track and then race them.

  18. Hi I live in Shrewsbury and used to go to haughmond hill and love your guys vids but I can't because as I have a cheap bike my brakes don't work so it's too dangerous but I was wondering is eastridge is any good for beginners like me 🙂

  19. It's been quite a while on this one. Any chance we could get more videos on this subject. Making log obstacles, dirt jumps, etc… would be pretty interesting to me.

  20. you say you shpuldnt lay branches n stuff blocking ppl's way than 1 min later you lay a branch down n say this will make it flow this way haha just do what you began doing clearing it and making more noticeable dont block it…. both routes looked fun

  21. Using a mattock and shovel to build trails??? It is a lot faster (and easier) using a rouge hoe and/or a McLeod.

  22. For the trails I have built and never reading or watching anything b4 this moment, I pretty much did all that my self. With the exception of the jump, I have hit ramps but never trail jumps. I have a major project possibly coming, in the form of 86 acres, frankly a bit overwhelmed. Are there any other good sources for education on building trails?

  23. While I enjoy most GMBN videos, a proper IMBA training video, a good read of the IMBA trail building manual, or USFS trail building manuals is a lot better. Much of what is said here is clearly wrong. Especially going out and building new trail. Outside the third world, most trail building requires permits and land manager study and approval before ever picking up a tool. You may find yourself in a bit of trouble if you try it otherwise. "Just clear the path and ride it in" . No. That is not how a trail is built. The entire proposed course should flagged and approved ahead of time. Remove organic topsoil and litter. Outslope the bench. Use grade reversals. Turnpikes over wet areas. None of this is mentioned. This kind of advice is why many land managers dislike mountain bikers.

  24. I know he has good intentions, but you can tell he's more of a mountain biker than a trail builder. Guy needs to get a mcleod and focus talk on drainage first, as this vid could be a little misleading to his intended audience. There is a misconception among MTB'ers that if one is a good rider, they must know how to build trails too.

  25. In Indonesia, maybe using a cangkul and art is probably more apt. Cangkul is Like mattock and shovel in one tool

  26. Ur trails whats that dark and squishy thing … is that dirt well i gues here in portugal we have mainly sandy and rocky dirt and normaly the trail are the actual drainage of the place so u can guess how that goes

  27. HI BABY 🐾🐾🐾🦅🦑🌷🌼🌻🌺🥀🌷⚘🌱🌲🌳🌴🌵🌾🌿☘🍁🍂🍃🍇🍈🍉🍊🍋🍌🍍🍎🍏🍐🍑🍒🍓🍅🥝🥑🍆🥔🥕🌽🌶🥒🍄🥜🌰🍞🥐🥖🥞🧀🍖🍗🥓🍔🍟🍕🌭🌮🌯🥙

  28. I really wanted to build a trail in my city because there is not any, but I don't own land. wait a minute yes I do, I do own land but I don't know if its possible to build in.

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