Muddy conditions on the forest roads outside Helen, GA this winter.

Spring can be a frustrating time of year for mountain bikers. The weather is finally warming up, the flowers are blooming, and the leaves are starting to come out on the trees but in many places the trails are still wet. Its true that April showers bring May flowers but its also true that wet riding in the spring can run trails for the entire summer. In Boise, for example, trail managers have decided to institute seasonal closures because of the actions of a few careless riders.

What to do? First, consider the weather when you make your weekend riding plans. In my area there isnt any snow melt but in the spring a Wednesday rain shower can mean sloppy trails through Saturday and Sunday. Just because sunny skies are forecast on the day you plan to ride doesnt mean the trails will be in good condition.

Even if you find your favorite trails are too wet to ride, that doesnt mean you cant get in the saddle. Consider alternate riding locations with better drainage or head onto forest roads or even paved routes. Training rides on the road will help you kick ass on the trail this summer plus its a great excuse to get out and enjoy the weather on your bike. This past weekend the trails near me were full of puddles so I rode 30 miles on forest roads instead and had a good time.

trail-statusWet trails are all the more tempting to ride when youve already invested time and energy getting to the trailhead. To avoid the temptation, try calling ahead to your local park management office or check singletracks to see if anyone has updated the trail status. This past Friday I was planning to ride and I loaded my bike and all my stuff into the car, ate a quick breakfast, and was almost out the door when I heard the forecast: severe thunderstorms. I opted to hang back but it was tough because I really wanted to ride that day. Wet trail riding is bad for your gear, bad for the trails, and riding in the rain is pretty miserable.

If your local trails are wet this time of year hold off on that trail ride and put in some training miles instead. Your body, your bike, and your trails will thank you this summer.

# Comments

  • TangoTeamLeader

    “To avoid the temptation, try calling ahead to your local park management office or check singletracks to see if anyone has updated the trail status.”

    I really like the “Trail Status” idea, however, is there a way to put the year (not just date and month) and/or reset the Trail status at some point in time (eg, December 31st)? I often find many trails that say they are open, that were updated, but I don’t know if it was this year, last year, or 2007, or 2006…

  • trek7k

    It is done. When we added this feature a couple years ago we hoped the year wouldn’t be necessary as the updates would be frequent. Clearly that hasn’t been the case thus far…

  • element22

    Up here In Canada due to cooler weather and lots of rain during spring season the trails are very wet.. Usually most riders up here are aware of trail errosion however some don’t give a crap even when you explain to them the effects of their actions…Funny thing though it is those fellas who never help out fixing the trails. These are also the same people who i catch leaving behind wrappers and used tubes. I usually pick up their garbage and catch up to them and kindly remind them of their items they accidentally dropped.

    But what really kills me is when i hear people complain about how bad the trails are getting when i have caught them in groups going for a mud run.

  • Asfyxiate

    I hear you guys on this one. In fact, last week I went hiking towards one of my favorite trails, only to find that people have been riding on it when it was muddy, but now it has dried out from the sun. However the major thing here is there is no way you could ride it, you can’t even hike it smoothly (not that that’s the point of hiking) and it really irks me that some of us will have to spend extra time fixing up patches of the trail instead of extending or adding to other trails!

  • EZ-E

    The respect for trails truly is a grassroots effort of the biking community. In our community, the local mountain bike club(s) have done a superior job of trail advocacy not only in gaining support of city/local/state authorities – but also by creating a ‘village’ atmosphere of self-policing.

    Not being a snob, just an example…being caught on wet trails would be about as worse as showing up to ride decked out with reflectors, kick stand, and rubber bands wrapped around your right pantleg…you won’t get a beatdown, but they will look at the ground and shake their head any time you pass again! That can be quite a deterrent. Shoot…I’ve felt guilty just hiking/scouting some local trails after a rain when the surface was ‘mashing’ under my feet…I exited as quickly as I could.

    As mentioned above, where there is an environment of good participation on trailwork in the area, I think that helps people to understand that great trails to ride aren’t always a freak act of nature.

  • EZ-E

    By the way…just to add to the statement in the article about getting out on asphalt – another excellent opportunity for riding right after a rain is to hit a local greenway. Normally, it will keep you out of car traffic – most are in the woods – and many have some great scenery, greenways usually occupy watershed areas that can’t be developed so you may have a nice creek or river nearby to add to the experience.

    If you have young kids in your family, the greenway ride also gives you an opportunity to introduce biking and nature to younger riders without dropping them right on the singletrack that might be too much for them.

    This is also an opportunity for all of us, the users of SINGLETRACKS.COM to get some greenways added as back-ups in the profiles of trails. Since the website offers the designation of “GREENWAY” as a ‘Trail Type’ when adding a new trail. I’m not suggesting that we go nuts here, but I will be adding a couple of the major greenways in my area to expand fellow riders some alternatives. That way…when we do have some wet or unfavorable conditions for trails – others can just do a search on the “GREENWAY” criteria if they are desparate to get out and ride.


  • Martino0626

    Definitely agree with Ez on this one, the GreenWay in my area is still “in development” but I am unaware of where the trailhead will be and would love for it and others to be added for situations like wet weather or introducing a young child to mountain biking. Anyways, It always seems to rain after I add a new part to my bike or get it back from the shop so its very hard sometimes to stay off the trail but when I just have to get out there I ride the paved trails on my old tires around the local parks, I doubt the joggers like it but it spares the already depleting singletracks in my area

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