Do you have a favorite mountain bike trail builder/designer?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Do you have a favorite mountain bike trail builder/designer?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  DanK_NoCo 2 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #212560

    So this is a topic I’ve been wanting to explore for a while.

    Have you found you enjoy certain trails because they were all built and/or designed by the same individual or crew? Each trail builder does seem to have their own style, and it’s not uncommon to hear something like, “That new trail is going to be awesome because Bob Smith and his crew are building it.”

    I feel like eventually certain trails will become iconic just because they were designed or constructed by a certain builder or designer, sorta like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Not sure if we’re there yet or if trail builders will ever get more than a regional reputation.

    I guess the closest thing we have right now is Gravity Logic. Other examples, national or regional? Who are your favorite builders?

  • #212626

    don’t know the name of the builder but whoever built the FATS trail system outside Augusta GA built a wonderful trail (rumored to also be building some trail around Charlotte, NC).

    • #212629

      That would be Bill Victor’s company, Long Cane Trails. They also built trails at Paynes Creek on Lake Hartwell and (I believe) the Bracken Preserve trails in Brevard, NC. Both are similar to FATS, though the topography at Bracken is clearly much different. Bill and his crew are actually some of the folks I think of when I think of a distinctive trail building style.

      There’s an “unofficial” trail builder who operates here in the Atlanta area who has a reputation for squeezing in miles and miles of trail in a small area. Whenever anyone “discovers” one of his trail systems, it’s pretty obvious who built it, even if no one has spoken to the guy about it directly. He is a true singletrack artist with a signature style!

  • #212655

    Honestly I think that most people will never have a clue who built the majority of the trails that they’ve ridden. Sure, in a local community you might figure out who built the trail and builds other trails in your little area, but that’s going to be some sort of location bias that probably has a fancy name, to do with you riding what’s around you and riding trails built by the the builders that build near you. So I can say that maybe Tony Boone is one of my favorite builders, but that’s because he lives in Salida, and I know what trails he’s built because I know him and am plugged into the local community.

    But even in your local community, the older the trail gets, the less likely you are to know who built it (unless you were around when it was brand-new). It’s not like the builder puts a sign up at the beginning of the trail with their name on it and a phone number if you want to order up a new trail for yourself. Maybe they should?

    Edit to add: another thing to consider is that the trail designer and builder are oftentimes not even the same person. There are several steps, including:

    • Identifying and flagging the corridor
    • Designing the trail within that corridor
    • Building the trail

    Sometimes the same person does all three of those steps, but not always. Oftentimes, the corridor has been created and flagged, and then the builder is hired to do the rest within that corridor. But now, the builder is limited based on the corridor agreed upon with the land manager, and thus the quality (or lack thereof) of the trail might not even be a direct indication of the builder’s skill and competence in trail design.

    It all gets pretty murky…

  • #212751

    Hey Jeff, relatively new to Atlanta. Without blowing any secret spots up, would this “artist’s” work be the Ira B Melton and Waterworks/Mason Mill, or are there other ones out there? I still need to get over there to check them out. The Morningside Nature Preserve scratches the weekday itch for a ride, but I’d love a bit more of a challenge on the weekdays when getting up to Woodstock isn’t feasible.

    • #212759

      @walkerharris11, that’s a different artist at work in Ira B / Waterworks. 🙂 Both have similar styles… I would probably have a hard time distinguishing if I didn’t know better.

      The stuff at Waterworks is pretty blown up right now due to the PATH going in, but it will be back up and running once construction is complete.

  • #212792

    Landowski Trailworx has been building some trails around Madison, WI and are currently working on a new flowtrail at Blackhawk.  Seems they specialize in machine-built flow trails so one of our new trails is mostly machine built (Pleasant View and Blackhawk in Middleton, WI) with some volunteer cut singletrack as well. They’ve also built some stuff in the UP of Michigan that looks cool.   It’s nice that we have some hand built systems and some machine built systems within 15 minutes of each other so we get some variety.  Pretty impressed with what they’ve done on some steep hillsides and mostly impressed that the climbs they have made are actually fun (as fun as climbing can be…)  Landowski Trailworx

  • #212801

    Thanks Jeff! Any recommendations on how to find some of these other masterpieces? I rode in Morningside last night, but there are a ton of big trees down over the trail.

  • #212804

    @walkerharris11, there are a lot of other places to ride in town, though it’s only worthwhile if you piece together multiple spots. We do a group ride every Tuesday night–meet us at 8:30p in front of the Flying Biscuit in Candler Park!

  • #213043

    I must be honest and say that I do not like “flow trails”. I am talking about purposely built (mostly with dingos) trails. Local Georgia examples being The Mill at at Rope Mill, the new Hawkeye reroute at Big Creek and the jump line that is Quell Holler. This has nothing to do with my ability to ride them (as I have many times) and furthermore I understand their appeal. They provide a mellow(er)  entrance into the world of mountain biking than traditional trails do. These all emerged from the same builder whose efforts are impressive. However, I simply find them boring and actually ugly in comparison to natural (mostly) hand cut trails. I hate to sound like an old fart, but flow trails do not represent mountain biking to me. Even when I was a skateboarding punk cretin in my wasted youth, I never cared for “sessioning”. I preferred going on all day rips through cities (DC, Baltimore, VB) to hit many different spots never staying too long at any of them. No, I don’t have ADD either.

    On the contrary, I am not some kind of XC masochist kook that wants to spend 3 hrs climbing un-improved singletrack in back country for a 10 minute descent either. I just prefer natural trails filled with gnar that you can ride or not both up and (more) down. These are more and more tougher to come by as the peanut gallery seems to prefer the former. Flow trails are easier and faster to build. Little to concern need be paid to the the natural landscape, not unlike most modern housing developments. Plow and build planned obsolescence that I am nearly positive the modern flow trails are destined for.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of modern examples of hand cut natural trail building. These trails have “flow” but aren’t “Flow trails”. Great examples that come to mind are those of my former haunts in Virginia like the JRPS in Richmond and Freedom Park in Williamsburg. Locally, the Troll reroute from last year at Big Creek is a hoot. These are mostly built by unsung locals using Macleods, fire rakes and shovels with minimal Dingo involvement. They are harder to builder and take longer to complete. In our disposable world this style is less and less appreciated. Now you kids get off my lawn!

    • #213045

      Wow, I could have written that exact same post myself (with different examples, though). You perfectly expressed my thoughts about what kinds of trails I like best.

      I really like trail designers who do a good job of incorporating natural features into the trail.  Fortunately, our local trail organization in Colorado Springs, Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, does a stellar job with this. Every time I go out with a Mcleod to help build something they’ve already flagged, I’m thrilled with the lines they’ve chosen.

      Conversely, I dislike the opposite: trail designers who follow a formula and fail to make the trail part of the terrain… essentially laying the trail over the land rather than as an integral part of it.  There are certain precepts which should be followed for sustainability purposes, but merely maintaining a certain grade, with a slight grade reversal every so often, without taking into account the uniqueness of the local contours, makes for a repetitive, and ultimately less interesting ride.

      The best trail designers manage to build something which is both unique and sustainable.

    • #213165

      I actually like various kinds of trails.  I try to find something different on each ride.  I change up my rides each time I ride at the same locations .

      Easy trails, hard trails, technical or perfectly smooth, hills or relatively flat trails, jump lines.  I enjoy riding it all!

      Flow trails?   I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means?  The closest thing to a flow trail has to be a pump track or BMX track.  A flow trail to most is what I call a terrain trail (trail that follows the terrain of the surrounding landscape.

      Trails that get more people interested in riding are important to me as well.  Someone who gets the snot rocked out of them on a root filled technical trail on their first time mountain biking may decide this isn’t for them.  Make it fun for everyone and have multiple types of well marked trails so that everyone can get out there and have fun and get some exercise.

  • #213051

    The unofficial trail builder that I am assuming you speak of is who I first thought of when reading the thread topic. That person has been honing the craft for about 20 years now and really takes pride in the work they do, for free. No machines, just hard work with hand tools. Quality singletrack like it is supposed to be, not the doubletrack (at best) that you get with most Atlanta area trails. Someone needs to pay that person to build trails all over the area

  • #213066

    SVBC.  Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition build and maintain amazing trails all around the Harrisonburg, VA area and surrounding mountains.  Every trail I’ve ridden has been a prime example of sustainable well built trails with well built rock work and flow sections mixed in.  I was recently at the  Massanutten  Western slope and it was a work of art up on the 2000 hours trail, very impressive.

  • #213562

    Unfortunately, I’d like to know who totally screwed up a couple of my local trails.

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