This MTB Trail Builder Creates Jaw Dropping Wooden Features Using Natural Materials

Seth Gebel is a mountain biker and trail builder living in Missouri. His popular YouTube channel, Backyard Trail Builds, shows how he builds beautiful trail features like ramps, skinnies, and bridges using natural materials. 

In this episode we ask:

  • Tell us how you got into mountain biking, and trail building. 
  • You’ve been building at Howler Bike Park this year. What were you working on there? How much of your time do you spend building on your own land versus paid projects for others? 
  • Where did you learn your carpentry skills?
  • Is there a science to building features that are fun to ride, or is it guess-and-check?
  • Have you had to progress your bike skills to keep up with your builds?
  • You use a lot of natural wood as opposed to cut lumber, which seems to be pretty time consuming. Why make the effort? 
  • Is longevity a concern when building features out of wood? Are there things you can do to ensure features remain safe and durable for many seasons?
  • Do you enjoy riding skinnies? What makes a good mountain bike skinny?
  • Were you looking to start a YouTube channel initially?
  • Your most popular YT video (so far) is about building a set of indoor rollers out of logs. What was the reaction to that video? 
    • Are you still using the rollers? 
  • Which builds are you most proud of?
  • What’s next for your builds and your channel?

Check out the Backyard Trail Builds YouTube channel, and visit the Backyard Trail Builds website for more.

A full, automatically-generated transcript of this podcast conversation is available to Singletracks supporters.

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Transcript

Jeff 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Seth Gebel. Seth is a mountain biker and trail builder living in Missouri is popular YouTube channel, backyard trail builds shows how he builds beautiful trail features like ramps, skinnies and bridges, using a lot of natural materials. Thanks for joining us, Seth.

Seth 0:22
Thank you.

Jeff 0:24
Well tell us how you got into mountain biking and then how did you move into trail building?

Seth 0:30
So I got into mountain biking, luckily by a cousin who was very into it. I think I was like a sophomore in high school. And I had my little what was it a like a trek, Walmart mountain bike with, you know, it was a full suspension. But it was like the ones that like jiggle around and have a lot of parts that are like, kind of barely holding on. And he took me to the hardest trail in the area, what might be considered like a, you know, a double black kind of enduro downhill line. And it was the hardest, most fun thing that I’d ever done. Like he took me there. And it was like, what, like, what is this, I’m so tired. And it’s so hard. But then you get to do the downhill stuff. And it’s like, right, you’re just totally out of your element. It’s like a weird feeling. It was, I never experienced anything like that. Because I was, I was like a big Video Game Nerd. I didn’t do anything else. I don’t like conventional sports. So he took me out and did that. And it was like, Oh, my God, I want more of that for sure. Nice. But for the trail building aspect, all we have here is x z. So like that trail is the hardest trail in the area. That was it never got any harder than that, that he took me on. So everything was either a little more flowy, but it’s just cross country, it’s just long, it’s more miles than it is like intricate things to better your skills at. So after a trip to Colorado, and seeing what more there is out there to ride was like, I need more of that. Because when I come when I go visit places, I couldn’t ride anything, I’d just be stuck, you know, looking at it going like man, that’d be that’d be cool to ride a jump or to get you know, two inches of air, like I’d never experienced anything, there’s, there was like one drop in the area. And that’s all that you had. And even that was like too intimidating, because I’ve never done anything like it before. So right in my backyard, because you can’t just go build things out on public land. Well, you can but generally will get taken down and you’ll get yelled at or you’ll get sued or whatever. I just started building stuff I just obsessively started just building, you know, started with, like a four inch drop, which was essentially just a board stuck in the middle of a piece of dirt. Right, and then just kept working my way up. And, you know, at a certain point that led to like me getting on YouTube looking for, like, Okay, how do I build a jump? How do I do build the drum? And that’s when I took note of like, oh, there’s not videos for this, there’s there’s nothing online to to coach me along here. That led to me just documenting the process of, okay, I’ll just start putting these on here. And you know, they can learn from me learning, you know?

Jeff 3:27
Yeah, interesting. Well, I mean, how did you like you’re, you’re totally self taught like you had never built stuff before? Or were did you have some experience? I don’t know, like cutting wood and nailing stuff together.

Seth 3:42
Yeah. So my all my uncles are in the trade. So my dad’s in construction. My other uncle, I worked with him for several months. He’s a Mason, I’ve done a lot of and like this house that I’m in now, it was bare bones there was it was just like the studs on the walls. And we completely rebuilt this house that I’m in. So that was like four years of a young adult, rebuilding a house. So I’ve got all of his general knowledge of you know, how things need to be structured and held to, you know, hold up to not just falling over. And from there, I just took that to, you know, if I build these features, like you build a house, like surely, that’s gonna be good enough, which I think even though a lot of people weren’t even doing that, they just throw stuff out there and you know, let it collapse over a year. But yeah, yeah, it just comes from a background of kind of working with my dad or my uncles or stuff like that, you know?

Jeff 4:43
Yeah. Interesting. I’m really shocked that you before mountain biking, you’re like really into video games. So like watching your videos, it just seems like you’re always outside and you’re always like building and, like in a lot of ways too. It’s it’s almost like primitive Building like us a lot of natural materials and stuff, like, do you still play video games? Is that like still an interest for you?

Seth 5:08
I have it the interest is there, like, I want to play video games, but it’s such a, I get so down on myself. It’s like, it feels like the most, the largest waste of time you could do to yourself. Like I could be doing things for my youth. It’s just my whole life is centered around like, what could I do more to either make me better or make my channel better. And like being out in nature is one of those things that luckily, like at the same, this all kind of happened that sophomore year of high school, like I got very into nature, I watched Hunter know if you’ve ever seen the movie into the wild, Chris macarius. That, like, struck a chord for me and was like, Oh my gosh, I’m an idiot. You know, I need to just burn my social security card and run into the woods. I took it not I didn’t never took it that far. But it felt like that to me. So yeah, when I had that happen, and then got into mountain biking is like okay, mountain biking is gonna be that nature outlet for me.

Jeff 6:11
Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. And it really shows in the videos to like, your passion and everything. And yeah, I think that’s a big part of what people connect to. In those videos. So I’ve seen that you’re building or you were building at Howler bike park this year, where are you working on over there?

Seth 6:29
Oh, definitely the largest, most just some extremely huge features. They’re all wood all hand done mostly did a lot of the work myself. It was just this is like a double black. I guess you’d call it like a like a slopestyle line sort of it’s got like the features from you know, you think of maybe what’s what’s the big park up in like Michigan. It’s got like huge wooden drops and everything. Highland Island bikes, like that sort of stuff. But just massive, just stuff like I’d never done before, like four times the size. Some of it was, you know, over 20 feet tall. Wow, just this it was I was fortunate enough to be invited down there by a trail building company that I’d worked with before, at Ironton. Here in Missouri, we built like a big corkscrew, and that video did really well as as well. But he kind of invited me back. And then we just started kind of just doing whatever we wanted. It was essentially if you if you can dream it, then just do it. That was the kind of the circumstance that these people at holler allowed us to do is just this guy and son, starting a private bike park. And they were just like, super stoked, just wanting one of the best. Like, let’s, let’s just whatever you can think of just do it. If it’s bigger, do it bigger, like, so. Like, okay, we’re gonna I’m gonna take it and just run with it for now. But man, that stuff? It’s exhausting work. But, yeah.

Jeff 8:09
Wow. So like, they didn’t come to you and say we want this, like 20 foot feature. It was more. I mean, was this something that you had wanted to build? Or is this is that the type of stuff that you’d like to write?

Seth 8:22
Um, that stuff is definitely out, I still haven’t written it, honestly. And I wrote the first feature that I made, which was like, you know, 12, or 15 foot drop. And that was more out than it was down, which is the scary part for me is the down. But everything after that, like it started getting too big for me. So I guess technically, no, that’s not the stuff that I like, that’s the stuff that I would like to ride, most of the stuff on that trail was kind of just huge drops at a certain point. And that’s kind of a weakness of mine. Because if I’ve got a weakness, it’s my confidence and what I’m doing so it’s just, yeah, but it is, it’s extremely fun to build because, I mean, it’s like limitless, you can just do whatever you want. And then that’s as big as you want. But I will say, having that it’s scratched. Now in my head, it’s like, I want to I want to build more intricate things, but you know, half the size, the size takes a toll on my body. It’s a lot of big lifting logs, and yeah, it’s it’s rough work. But it’s also rewarding, you know,

Jeff 9:35
for sure. Yeah. I mean, it looks super cool. And it’s definitely one of those things that’s like, you know, well, one is going to get the bike park noticed, right? Like, people see that feature, and they’re like, oh, my gosh, I have to go there. Even though most of us will never write that. Right. We just like look at it and all like, wow, somebody wrote that like Yeah,

Seth 9:56
yeah. And that’s the that’s the cool part for me is that like people who don’t even There’s some people that just came to the park and they walk up there just to look at it, and they don’t even ride a bike. And it’s like, that’s the drawl that I want. I think that’s the coolest thing you can do is to attract non mountain bikers just to go I always like you put a lot of work into this thing. It’s like, that’s, that’s so cool to hear. It’s just people like, I can’t ride that, but it looks cool as shit.

Jeff 10:22
Right? Yeah, I never even thought about that. That like, there’s a thrill in like just seeing that stuff in person, like, you know, standing there and like, looking up and you’re like, oh, my gosh, I mean, I think of like, going to crank works, right? You see, like, the joy ride course. And yeah, I mean, it’s like, that’s half of the stuff you’re talking about with your buddies is like, oh, my gosh, did you see that thing? Like, yeah.

Seth 10:47
Right. And especially, you know, if you don’t even ride a mountain bike, you’re like, you ride that, like, what is that thing? I don’t even like, right made this huge shark fin. They’re like, what I don’t even understand. Even the people who could mountain bike when I was building it. They’re like, I’m not seeing this thing. Like, I don’t understand how what you’re building here. And they wrote a mountain bike. So it was, it’s just some it’s just like, it’s just weird looking.

Jeff 11:12
So in your videos, I notice, you know, some of them are from projects that you’re working on, like the one hour bike park, and then other ones are where you’re building. I mean, literally, I guess in your backyard. I mean, you’ve got a much bigger backyard than most of us could ever dream of. But how much of your time do you spent building on your own land versus doing these like paid projects for other folks?

Seth 11:37
Yeah, well, let me preface by saying so nobody gets jealous. It is not my backyard. And a lot of people don’t know that. But like this house that I’m in, I told you that I we me and my dad rebuilt it. Well, that’s because it’s his house, we rebuilt this house together with the intent in mind that I was gonna live here. And he actually lives like through the woods, all of that property you’re seeing that’s that’s his property. And it’s not mine. I’m not like some like, well off person that invented something and got a bunch of money when I was young. That my property, but what the heck was the question again?

Jeff 12:12
So how much of your time do you get to spend building on your own property? Not your property, right? And

Seth 12:20
projects. Okay, so that time used to be almost exclusively spent on my property. And I preferred it that way. I started getting, you know, as traction started to take off on the channel, I was getting more offers to come out and do things at other people’s property, or you know, not a lot of public build, but definitely a lot of people just reaching out like, Hey, will you come build in my backyard? But it’s like, I mean, it’s like when COVID hit people realize like, oh, it’s pretty nice to work from home. I think I’d rather do that. So yeah, like me getting these offers. It’s like, yeah, that’d be cool to come build for you. But I literally just walk outside and just start building right. Yeah, you got all your tools and like, yeah, exactly. And there’s a lot of tools involved with the build. So I preferred it that way. I would just do the backyard stuff. But as the channel grew, and as my skill grew with building and writing, I definitely started to get a want to do things more publicly. Like it felt like I was hoarding this thing that I was really enjoying, and only I was getting something out of it. And it was like, I need to start doing this somewhere else. Like I’m buying all this wood, putting so much time into this, like the stuff just gonna sit here like it’s I mean, I haven’t even gone out to my trail in probably a year that I made like the Yeah, it’s just it’s only for me. It’s not really enjoyable.

Jeff 13:48
Because you don’t you don’t let I mean for obvious reasons. I mean, obvious to me, like people can’t just like come over and ride your trails like there is private land. I’m sure you get people all the time, though, that are like Seth, Seth, can I come over? I want to ride that so bad.

Seth 14:03
Yeah, of course. And it’s like, I’d love you to ride it. But there’s so many horror stories on the Internet of, you know, my best friend sued me because he broke his ankle riding, you know, my dirt bike track in my backyard. It’s like, I even get near that I don’t want to ruin any friendships over that. And a lot of the times it’s not even like your, your best friend suing you. It’s your best friend went to the hospital and tried to get insurance money to pay for this and they’re looking for somebody to sue so they don’t have to pay it’s the insurance company that wants your money not not your best friend. So

Jeff 14:39
yeah, I just steer clear. Sorry.

Seth 14:41
Yeah, exactly. It’s like, oh, they’re just which you know, I don’t know. That’s, that’s, that’s muddy water that I don’t even want to get into at any point. So I pretty much you know, I’ve let probably maybe up to five people come out and ride the stuff but they’re like people that I just have I’ve known for a long time, and I know they’re capable writers, they’re not going to be like testing their skills out on what I’m writing. They’re just kind of coming out and writing it and just pretend like seeing what it is Do people

Jeff 15:12
ever tried to like sneak sneak in or like, figure out where you’re at or

Seth 15:16
now we’re so far out in the country that nobody even knows about it. And even if we’re so far out here, that it’s the same thing. We’re like, they’d see it, and they probably wouldn’t even know what the hell it is.

Jeff 15:29
Right? Yeah. So I’m curious, is there like a science to building trail features that are fun to ride or at this point for you is still sort of guessing check with

Seth 15:41
the wood? I would say that there definitely is some bit of science to it. Not math, there is math to it. And well, I guess, you know, physics and whatnot, is, you know, bordering on science and whatnot. But, uh, there is you have to be able to calculate some stuff, get like your general measurements of things. With wood, because, you know, once you build that there’s really not a lot of turning back.

Jeff 16:11
That’s yeah, it’s not like dirt where you can just kind of, like, reshape it. Yeah, easily. Yeah. And

Seth 16:15
that’s where I kind of can bear woodwork for trail building is more like baking. And then dirt work is like cooking. Like you can throw in spices and you can add things and we got it. It’s kind of more fluid and loose, and it’s a little more artsy and fun. But the woodworking, you kind of got to know all the right measurements, all the things, it’s a little more work oriented, but the end product is, you know, nice. And you can present it well.

Jeff 16:40
Yeah. Yeah, I remember I was watching one of your videos, I think it was you’re building like a WhaleTail feature. And you were talking about like the curvature of it. And like how it’s a ratio between like the peaks and the valleys? I think, right? Like, yeah, how did you figure that out? Like, like you said, there weren’t a lot of videos, or information about building stuff like that. So was that something you like, figured out through trial and error? Or did you find that from another source?

Seth 17:10
I wish I could tell you the guy’s name. But there’s a guy who wrote like this big pamphlet on how to build pump tracks. And he uses a lot of that talk in throughout this, like, you know, 50 pages of how to build pump tracks have like the ratio on things and how they should kind of align. But a lot of that’s taken from him. Like, there wasn’t a lot of videos when I started. But there’s there was enough articles that you can get a gist on things and how you should kind of approach them with like a with a good outline like that. And they’re still on there. And they’re still probably the best things that you can look at. Like, if I suggest reading through that kind of stuff that especially that man, I wish I could cite it for you. But like just knowing how to build a pump track helps in all lines of trail building for sure.

Jeff 18:00
Yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t hadn’t thought about that. But you’re right. Like, you know, I’ve been on some flow trails that, you know, I’m thinking, wow, this is like, this is like a pump track through the woods. And yeah, I mean, that really is kind of where it comes from, is that idea of flow, and like, you know, a pump track, you have to design it so that you don’t necessarily have to even pedal like you can just kind of use your body to get through it. And I think, yeah, I never thought about how that translates into actual trail building.

Seth 18:30
Right. And I think that’s like the best trail if you can have all these features and things intertwined throughout this long flowy thing, and not have to pedal once, like a little bit of breakings okay, but you do the same thing in a pumptrack. Like, it’s more about, like, how fast can I go? How fast can I it’s not like you worrying about getting up speed. I think that’s the coolest if you can just do a big long trail and just not have to worry about pedaling at all.

Jeff 18:57
Yeah, yeah. And with like, you know, traditionally, mountain bikers would we could get that with downhill, right? Like, and that’s kind of cheating. That’s gravity’s doing that work. So yeah, it’s impressive when a trail builder can can kind of make that happen, you know, with very minimal elevation.

Seth 19:16
Well, yeah, exactly. And that’s, that’s the point. I was literally just thinking is I’m, I’m in Missouri, we don’t have a lot of there’s not downhill here. There. There is to some extent, but it is, it’s gradual slope, probably anybody else coming in, in writing, it’s not a lot. So you got to make use of that. And, you know, you see that in Bentonville, too, like those guys are trying to fit in as much as they can into this like slightly degreed slope. So if you can get that to where there’s still tons of features, and you still don’t have to pedal like it’s, it’s rough work, it’s hard. You have to modify a lot and like, test each section constantly to make sure it’s rolling, right and then even then I Like things get faster and slower over time from, you know, erosion and just things hardening and it’s tough. But if you can nail it, it’s it’s the best. It’s the absolute best.

Jeff 20:12
For sure. Well, so we kind of touched on this earlier, but I’m curious to know like, have you had to progress your bike skills to keep up with your builds? Like what? Which comes first? Do you do your skills first and then kind of build to what you can ride? Or do you? Do you sort of try to build things that are going to help you progress your skills.

Seth 20:34
That was the original intent was I build it to progress my skills, and that was most of the like backyard stuff, like all that was? You know, that was for me, that wasn’t for people to see, that was I needed it. But now it’s like the building has jumped up so much in the level that it’s, I’m having to, you know, spend a couple of weeks writing and progressing my own skill separately, other than just like jumping on the feature and going for it. Now, like, like I said, I still haven’t written the stuff that I’ve built it holler. Like, it’s intimidating. To me. It’s, it’s nothing even skill related there, though. Like, it’s just huge drops. It’s just like, getting this get, you know, there’s something to like, just getting your flow back, or you’re just that cadence of riding. Like, sometimes if you don’t ride for a month, you get very stiff. Yes. So I’m trying, I’m in the moment right now, where I’m trying to ride every day and just get back like feeling good. Because I think a lot of mountain biking, I don’t will say it’s like 75% of mountain biking is your mental state. Like a lot of it, like you can get your skill. But like, if you’re not confident that they and if you think that you can’t ride something, you probably won’t. Right? Like, you just gotta be like, Alright, I’m doing it. It’s fine. I’m good. Like, and then you do it. You’re like, oh, yeah, that was absolutely nothing at all. Yeah, but yeah, it’s just a lot of hard stuff now. So mostly, it’s just know, I can’t write it, but I’ll build it. But I’m trying to dial that back. And hopefully here soon. Coming up, I’m going to start getting more into like, gradual builds that are slightly above my skill level that I can actually ride and progress with.

Jeff 22:22
Yeah, I mean, one of the things that’s interesting about biking, a lot of times, you know, you’ll be riding, you’ll see a feature and you’ll say, oh, man, I don’t, I can’t ride that or I don’t want to ride that or, or whatever. But then you see somebody else do it, you know? And then you’re like, okay, like, I could do that now. So do you have somebody who is like that for you? Like who works with you? Or like comes along and like I don’t want to say test rides some of this stuff for you to be like, okay, yeah, that like that. That works. And I could do it now, too.

Seth 22:56
Absolutely. That luckily, that came from like this. Dave Coolio is his name. He was the best person to find. He’s just this old. He’s not old. military guy, like super straightforward. Very, very into the mountain biking community helps us do anything. He doesn’t care. He’s kind of he’s not like a super stylee rider. But he’s, you know, he’ll just go do something doesn’t matter to him. And he’s, he’s not like a super fit guy. He’s not super stylish. So it’s like, okay, he’s still on it like I can. I just need to just do it. Like, it just kind of has that about him where he makes things look easy. Without making them look hard. You know, if that makes any sense. So yeah, he’s he’s my, my go to guy for testing things ahead of time. But he always gives me shit if I don’t do it first. So sometimes I’ll bring him over, and then I end up doing it first. Anyway.

Jeff 23:56
So one of the things I really love about your builds and your YouTube channel is that you use a lot of natural wood, as opposed to cut lumber. And it seems like I mean, it’s pretty obvious that that’s time consuming. So why do you make the effort? What made you want to build with natural materials as much as you do? Yeah.

Seth 24:14
Okay, so I don’t know this, I don’t know, where any of the information that I get is from I can’t ever cite it. And I apologize to anybody. And future dilemmas like that. But there was this really cool quote about how art is really like, when you look at something that’s art, the only amount of creativity that went into that thing was, you know, 1% and the other 99% is just work. So when I use that, like front of primitive style building, it’s, you know, haffley just because I know the more work I put into this thing that I’m making, in the more artsy it might look or the more unique it’s going to be because there’s not a lot of people Want to put in that amount of time into a bike feature? Like, a lot most people build with the intent like this is going to be ridden by bikes, and they’re going to ride off it within one second, like, they’re not going to look at this thing. They’re not going to care. But that’s kind of where my style comes in is like, that’s all I care about as the future like, I really don’t. It’s, I make sure that it rides well. Like, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more concerned about like, I want this thing to look cool to me. I want the wood joinery to impress me, I want to test my limits on how I’m building things. I just think it’s, it’s worthwhile to, like, Don’t avoid the hard work, I guess is what I would say. I think it really, it shows people see it. And I’ve had many people come out and they’re like, holy, like, this was a lot of work like holy shit like this is. And that’s, that’s my favorite compliment as like people seeing how much work goes into it. And you can tell.

Jeff 25:56
Definitely was was that initially, was that ever about like cost savings? Because yeah, I mean, when you’re starting out, you’re building these features for yourself, and you’re having to buy lumber, I guess. And so yeah, I mean, is that is that a cost savings as well for you?

Seth 26:13
Yes, it did start that way. And like I was I there was this local sawmill that had what they called cut offs for like deck boards. And they’re like these real thin, like, they had a lot of like, the soft wood on the outside. So they weren’t like very structurally sound, I would say. But they would sell it buy the bundle for like 150 bucks. So I would just go buy these huge bundles of deck boards. And, you know, I knew that it wasn’t going to last long. And let me just say, I didn’t use any of that wood on public builds. That’s, that’s, that’s all backyard stuff. But yeah, it was a cost thing like I can. It’s a lot of wood that goes into them. And I, you know, at the time, I was luckily I had a job, but almost all my money was going into these builds, like I was obsessed with it. But and then that, you know, you start it like that, like as a cost kind of thing. And then it kind of transferred into like, wow, like, this one’s really pretty, like, and then all of a sudden, like, Oh, let me go cut a couple of these down and like, do them fresh and see what they look like. And it’s like, oh, that was actually a fun process. It was kind of meditative. It was felt good. It’s It’s like a It’s almost like an exercise to so you’re getting you’re getting a lot of benefits out of it. And just looks good people like it. So it’s Yeah, morphed over time.

Jeff 27:34
Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, to for people who haven’t seen your videos yet. Like, you know, I’m, I’m just thinking of the ones where you’re like stripping the bark off of a log, like, you know, hand stripping it. I mean, that must that must just take forever, but But you enjoy that, like, is that kind of like a meditative thing for you almost.

Seth 27:55
Yeah, I mean, honestly, well, holler and holler Bikepark get started to get a little irritating. But that was like I probably spent alone, like a full month plus on just stripping, oh my gosh, cedar logs. So it did get a little tedious toward the end. But normally, I do love it. It’s like you get a little bit of a lat workout, you get some time either to sit there and just kind of think through your thoughts. So it’s a little bit meditative. Or, you know, I’ll turn on a podcast like this or something or, or, you know, Joe Rogan, which they’re like three hours long. So you can just sit there and go through a million logs, and it’s not even anything like it’s just fun. And then if you want to take off your headphones, like it’s a pleasant sound hearing like logs get, and it’s just, it’s like watching those frickin ASMR videos where you just watching strips come off, and it’s it’s just, it’s enjoyable. It’s very enjoyable.

Jeff 28:52
That’s true. Yeah, even to watch it like, yeah, I don’t have to get the workout. I can just want you to do it. And it’s super calming,

Seth 28:59
but it’s not. It’s not for everybody because and I thought it was I thought like, Oh, if anybody got the chance to do this, they would love it just like I do. But and holler, like several people came out to help me. And they’d be like, a half a log and then be like, oh, boy, like, can I be done now? Like, oh, I’m just a weirdo. Okay, I get it.

Jeff 29:18
Yeah. is are there any like, is this environmentally? Like, is this a good thing to do? Like, I imagine you’re cutting down some live trees, you’re harvesting trees. And then compared to like lumber, though? I mean, that is wood that’s been harvested. Is that like something you think about at all? Or that do people ask you about that? Like, like, where did you get these trees? Why you cut down trees?

Seth 29:42
Yeah, so I do think about it often. And it’s rough because you know, like, like, you buy lumber and that’s all from like this, you know, I’m assuming it comes from like a plantation where they replant trees and it’s all you can tell like, like lumber now is just really soft and it’s like law. It’s green, like all the trees are made, like fast growing stuff. Yeah, exactly. So it is a bit of a kind of a, that doesn’t feel great cutting down like this tree that’s probably older than I am, as opposed to just going and buying lumber. But that lumber, like you got to buy pressure treated wood. So that’s full of chemicals that make it last forever. And the whole idea in my head is like, man, it’d be cool if these features could just eventually rot over time and just drop into the ground and nobody would even know it was there like that was, that’s my goal of all goals is if I can build things that there’s no trace left after they fall down. And that’s what I started doing a primal trail specifically where it was like, I didn’t even use screws or nails to build the things I was just like, I use dowel rods, and I’d like shove them through the deck boards and I made it all through wood joinery. So it’s environmental stuff is heavy on my mind, for sure. But also, that same guy, Dave, who comes in test rides, all my stuff. He is huge in the trail building community, he’s kind of like the, what’s the word liaison, like the person who kind of gets things started like in commute, he’ll go to all these City Council’s and, like, get them on board with building a mountain bike park or something. And then he’ll collect the data from it. And he got this really cool figure that it’s only I think it’s like one to 2% of the, say you got 200 acres, let’s say you got 100 acres to build a bike park, you only use in total about one acre of that 100 acres to build the trail on. So if you are cutting down all these trees, you just created, you turned 100 acre bike park, you know, are just this land that kind of had no value, like nobody really saw anything of it, you could log it, you could chop it all down and put a subdivision there, but we turned it into something that’s not only, you know, it’s profitable, it’s good for the community, but you only use 1% of the frickin trees there like that, Oh, those are trees, they get to stay and there’s incentive like to not cut them down, leave them there keep the canopy, like there’s, you know, you take this small amount, it’s like the classic, you know, the AI conundrum of like, do you tell the car, the self driving car, you know, do you kill the one person and save 20? Or do you just plow them all down? Because you know, the one person which is maybe not the best? metaphor, but yeah,

Jeff 32:34
no, yeah, I get what you’re saying. Right? That’s interesting. And I mean, I think about too, like, I mean, you’re you’re harvesting a tree from the very land where you’re building a lot of trees yet are being cut down anyway to build a trail to build the corridor. And then yeah, just think about like lumber. A, you have to harvest this tree, put it on a truck, drive it to a sawmill, and then take it from the sawmill to the Home Depot or wherever it is. I mean, there’s a stop to for doing the pressure treating like there’s a lot of environmental costs to that for sure. And yeah, it just seems like you’re cutting out a lot of middlemen by just working with natural wood.

Seth 33:14
Oh, yeah. And the amount like, that’s a great point of like, the amount of work that it takes me to do this, you know, if you factor in all of the energy necessary and the amount of people it takes to get that one tree harvested driven, you know, pressure treated stuck on the the in the aisle at Lowe’s, and then you got to come pick it up in your car, and then unload like, it’s my, the amount of work I do is nothing in comparison to that.

Jeff 33:44
Yeah, for sure. Well, so you mentioned like working with wood, and you have built some features out of cut lumber. Are there things that you can do to ensure that like wooden features remain safe and durable for many seasons? I feel like Yeah, years ago, like Amba. And some of these, these trail building, sort of experts were they’re kind of down on wood there, you know, because wood requires maintenance and you know, you got to you got to inspect it, you gotta make sure that it’s standing up to the elements like, is that a concern? And can you do anything to kind of mitigate that? Yes,

Seth 34:21
I would say that you can. And then but also, just to address like, are we also saying that dirt doesn’t require maintenance and constant looking after requires a whole lot more maintenance than wood does. Like you gotta every year you got to, you know, if you want your park to remain in good standing, you have to constantly go out and resurface and touch up trails constantly like the wood you go out, look at it, make sure it’s all good. You’re good to go. Like it’s not a lot of time spent inspecting them, but I will say yeah, they do. It’s wood. It’s gonna rot. It’s gonna fall over eventually. And, you know, that is the downside of working with natural wood is that it’s probably doesn’t last as long as pressure treated, that’s just the way that it is. Chemicals work better, like you can, you know, it’s just it sucks. But that’s that’s true. Just like crops like you can spray pesticides on them, you’re probably going to get a better crop out come than just leaving them go. But if you want to be an ethical human being

Jeff 35:31
nice, which we all do, hopefully, yes, hopefully.

Seth 35:33
So you just use the word there. But what you can do to make sure that they don’t just fall over within a year is select the right species of wood, or tree, which clearly I almost exclusively use cedar just. And that’s that’s because it’s beautiful, it’s lightweight, it is rot resistant of around 15 to 20 years, that’s like it’s kind of lifespan. And but there’s loads of trees that are like that, like white oak is the same way. But it’s extremely heavy, and it’s hard to work with. But if you just go with like, look, there’s tons of things online that you can look up to tell you what species of trees you have in your area, and which ones are more rot resistant or more prone to, you know, fall over in a year. Like if you get, you can take red oak, and that won’t last you but a year, like maybe even less, and then you get white oak, and that lasts for 20 years. So it’s you can really change it, you know, yeah, it’s huge. And then of course, like you do that. And then if you want to you do you kind of build your features in a way that watersheds off of them and doesn’t get held in areas that helps as well like, especially in those crucial spots where you know, that are really holding your structure together, make sure that dirt and things like that aren’t going to get caught up in there and just sit there and soak over time, like that will definitely Rochor rust and rot your screws or whatnot. But that’s a it’s mostly just that what choice it’s either, you know, hurt the earth and get your pressure treated junk, or, you know, spend a little time figure out what would work best and get that from your area because, like, I can get cedar pretty cheap here because it’s a local wood. But if I wanted, you know, let’s just say teak wood or some Ebony’s strain of wood, like it’s gonna cost me so much more because it’s from Africa or whatever, like, get a local wood for do a little research for 10 minutes.

Jeff 37:36
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, most people that are building features, you know, in their backyard or professionally building like a trail project, you know, most of them are not going to cut down trees and kind of do what you do. And so yeah, I mean, you go to the store, and everything is going to be pine, right? It’s gonna be pressure treated pine. You can buy cedar, wood, and lumber, but it’s like, what two to four times as expensive? Oh, god,

Seth 38:04
yeah. And then it’s thinner as well. Like you buy a two by four and it’s an inch and a half and then the cedar woods, like, you know, a half an inch. That’s more fun look of it. And it’s not really for the structure of it. Yeah, it’s a bummer. And I am so fortunate to have just droves of cedar in my local area. Like it’s never been an issue for me to find more cedar.

Jeff 38:30
Yeah, that’s awesome. And it smells good too. So my cat mix is

Seth 38:33
so good. It’s so good.

Jeff 38:37
So a lot of mountain bikers I feel like the skinny the wooden skinny is not like the big thing anymore. Like it used to be you know, you would see these videos of people riding like the North Shore and stuff riding skinnies Do you enjoy riding skinnies? Is that Is that something that you’re into?

Seth 38:57
Oh, yeah, big time. I may well, not as much anymore. But that was honestly my kind of my the thing that got me into trail building a little bit was watching. I don’t know if you know, digger, the Northshore guy. He’s like the original one of the original dudes who was building all that gnarly stuff in the North Shore. And like that stuff was so cool to me. Like just these weird wiggly winding things that go through the woods that like you could barely keep your tires on. Just looks cool. It’s weird. That’s, that’s, you know, back onto that thing of like, people go and look at the thing and they’re like, What the hell is this? Like, what are you right here you put you put a bike on this like I don’t even understand what you’re doing. So that that’s the aspect of skinnies that I like is like the weirdness of it and the kind of like a kind of like a playground or something. It’s like yeah, this like a boot camp sort of feature. Like but yeah, that was

Jeff 39:54
their very utilitarian right. I mean, like the people that that built them in the North Shore. They continue to build them, you know, they’re the terrain there. There’s like logs and rocks and all kinds of things that make it really tough to just like cut a trail through. And so I imagine they were trying to figure out a way to get up and over some pretty like gnarly terrain, and building like a proper bridge, you know, like a three foot or four foot bridge, like, just takes a lot more work and materials and everything. So is that I mean, I don’t know, do you know where skinnies even came from? Is that kind of the idea?

Seth 40:32
I imagine you’re spot on, it probably started that way. And then some weirdo was like, Oh, I kind of like how skinny this is like, there’s a little bit of danger that just got added to this trail that I didn’t even intend to put in. And then it probably Yeah, I imagine you’re directly on with that. Does that that’s the same thing. Yeah, kind of happened like that for me a little bit too. But it’s just fun. And you can, the cool thing about those is like you can make them really intricate and hard, and almost have zero possibility of you actually getting hurt, I can keep them six inches off the ground, where you’re not actually going to get hurt. But you can you know, like one of the things I did was, I put a teeter totter in the middle of like a skinny that was already probably four inches wide. So you’re going down this long, weird, winding skinny, and then there’s a teeter totter in the middle of it, that’s just as skinny. It’s just a two by four, that you got to get up and over. And then you’re still back on this, like you can do really intricate, weird things like that with them and not have to worry about you know, breaking your face.

Jeff 41:32
Right, right. Yeah, I you know, as I’m getting older, I’m taking feel like I’m taking less risk on the trail and stuff, but I still want to do things like skinnies, that, you know, they require a lot of skill and concentration. But at the same time, it’s not like high speed, right. So even if you are like a few feet off the ground, and you fall that’s not nearly as bad as like, you know, blasting down a mountain and like crashing into a rock. Yeah,

Seth 42:00
yeah, you can take them actually, it’s, you know, you’re gonna be preferred to go slower on the skinny just to like, get through it. Yeah, I don’t know why they’ve kind of lost steam. I don’t know why nobody really likes doing them anyway, and maybe they’ll come back. But like, that’s my plan, like here. And I think there’s some of these parks. I’m trying to convince them like, Hey, can I just go and start building a bunch of weird skinnies through your woods? I think people would love to start just it’s just a fun to play around on.

Jeff 42:24
For sure. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, you’re seeing more of those bikes, skills parks, too. I mean, it’s like everybody is building a skills Park lately and kids love just sessioning that type of stuff. And yeah, so maybe maybe there’ll be like a new generation of mountain bikers who love riding skinnies and they want more elaborate and challenging ones to go with their their new skills.

Seth 42:48
Right. Yeah, I mean, it’s just like I was saying like, it’s, it’s a playground, it’s literally a playground for adults and children, you know, but you can go out there with your buddy and watch him flop over a million times trying to get across his stupid little skinny. That seems like nothing. But and then. Yeah, there’s just so many varieties of skinnies, like the ones where they, you know, your back wheel rides on something and your front wheel rides on something else, or like, tricky. Those are so tricky. But also they’re, they’re so satisfying to if you can, like flowy, like, slowly go through them and like wine. And then I just started making this one type. Well, I didn’t just start I made one of them. And I want to make more of them. But I made it to where, you know, you’re going down to skinny and then it just ends and there’s a skinny kind of parallel next to it. You gotta go, you gotta hop over to like something that’s like, you can just keep adding these weird little skills into them and just making more and more fun.

Jeff 43:44
Oh, man, that’s like the Danny MacAskill video, right? Like the ones. I mean, he’s done in a few videos where he’s like on a railroad track. And yeah, yeah. over to the other one. Oh, my gosh, do you think anybody else other than Danny can do that? Have you? Have you been able to do that?

Seth 43:57
Oh, yeah. Because you just widen them out a little bit. You make them less, you know, railroad? Yep. Well, that’s what I did. I made you know, it was probably six inches wide on the one side and then I barely put it across is the first one that I made. So it’s probably four inches over to the parallel tracks. So you could probably almost like ride it if you wanted to just kind of hop through. But if you’re cool, like me, I tried to like endo into it. So I’d go back tire first and then I plopped the front tire on to the other track and then you kind of continue on. But yeah, you could just like just like drops like in a skills Park. You start with smaller drops and like slowly work it up. Like you can have the railroad skinning where you jump from one to the other, but you can also have the ones that are right next to each other.

Jeff 44:45
Yeah. Oh, man. I want to try that now.

Seth 44:48
Yep. Get it? Let’s let’s make it let’s make it a thing again, because I’m gonna

Jeff 44:53
do Yeah, cool. So you I mean, you touched on this. You started out, too. You build this YouTube channel, right? Like you’re someone who is on YouTube and you were looking for a certain type of content and didn’t find it. And so you said, Hey, I’m going to, I’m going to launch a YouTube channel. Is that Is that still the focus? I mean, it sounds like your YouTube channel has actually like, gotten you noticed to where you can like build a trail building business out of this, if you want to, you could, I don’t know, build furniture out of logs or something like you’ve got, you’ve got all this exposure now is YouTube is that still, like the goal is that the primary thing that you want to do,

Seth 45:35
and that is something I asked myself, every day, I have constant conundrums in my head where I’m like, I’ll do that I’ll go, you know, I’m gonna go make a bunch of weird furniture things, and maybe I could just advertise it on my channel, and just sell those, like, I have a feeling over time, that’s probably what it’s going to transfer into is me just kind of making stuff and selling it or whatever, opening a stupid Etsy shop or whatever the hell it is. But yeah, for now, I think I’m gonna keep with the YouTube, you know, keep trying to, I still think there’s not a lot of information on how to build things, like there’s not that kind of step by step tutorial. So eventually, I want to get into that, like, really get into how to build stuff, how to kind of go through the thought process on it, but I still, I still feel inadequate to make those videos. So I want to keep gathering knowledge, I still don’t have a lot of knowledge on, like how to build or layout full trails, I’m always doing these kind of step by step intricate, you know, I do this features very intricately, or whatever. But you know, the ins and outs of the feature. Sometimes like on these public builds, it’s somebody else building that like something the the thing that leads you into it, and then the landing. So I need more knowledge on that. I want to keep building that and eventually put out something that kind of can walk people through it, who have no understanding of it. But yeah, I think it’ll just kind of keep weaving in and out whatever whatever happens happens, you know, I’m not going to try to put like a put me in a box that prevents me from doing something that I want to do that that’s that’s when you start to get burnt out. And it’s not fun, like,

Jeff 47:16
yeah, yeah, that’s awesome, though, it seems like there are so many possibilities. And it’s great that you can kind of pick and choose like, what is it that you’re passionate about? So I was surprised to see that your most popular YouTube videos so far is about building a set of indoor rollers out of logs. What was the reaction to that video? And why do you think like so many people were interested in it?

Seth 47:41
Well, yeah, and that’s just like, you were just saying, like, I can kind of long as it pertains to biking, I can kind of build whatever I want. And that I can tell you exactly why that one took off and why that’s my best video. Well, that was because it was posted, right? Whenever we got stuck inside from Cova. Yeah,

Jeff 48:00
but where people like, oh, I have some logs. I’m gonna build one. Just so of course

Seth 48:05
not. It’s like, it’s like whenever you go watch, like the aborigine looking guys that are like building a pool in the sand or whatever it

Jeff 48:16
is, are so weird, but like, yeah, stop watching them. They’re weird. And

Seth 48:19
it’s like, you’re never gonna build that thing. Like, I don’t even have one pool or Yeah. And they’re always like, so vibrantly colored, and they overdo it, and honestly, I think I think there’s probably machines involved in building a lot of that stuff, but we’ll get into that straight. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Nobody cares about that conspiracy theory. Yeah, that one. Got really good feedback. It was fun to make that was probably it took me like a day or two to make that stupid thing. And like, oh, yeah, it was nothing. That’s what even Yeah, I’m still kind of baffled by like, why did that one that one really took off? And yeah,

Jeff 49:00
I didn’t even make one of those every day and you’ll be a rich man.

Seth 49:03
Right? Man. I yeah, I don’t want to those kind of boring to make that’s the thing. It’s like

Jeff 49:10
you’re inside on like a lot of your other ones. Yeah, your shop.

Seth 49:14
Yeah, I went and cut down a tree and the rest of it was in my barn. Like, I don’t want to do that. But I appreciate everybody who watched it and liked it.

Jeff 49:23
Yeah. So are you still using the rollers or is that set out in on the woodpile.

Seth 49:29
So in in that video, I kind of there was a moment where I went to make like the kind of rope thing that was keeping the rollers rotating at the same time. There was a moment where I kind of, like use it like a lathe, which is I put my my girlfriend at the time, spun the rollers and I kind of just put a chisel up to it and it made this little concave section in the wood. And for me that was like, Oh, I can make Make a bike powered lathe, just like so that’s what I did. I took those rollers and turned them into a bike powered lathe that I never used after I made it. I use it for a second. And yeah, needless to say, the rollers are no longer in operation and neither is delayed. But you know, it was fun to make.

Jeff 50:20
Yeah, for sure. So which which builds are you most proud of that you’ve done so far?

Seth 50:30
Man, it’s hard not to be proud of the the ones that holler even though they they kind of man in my memory there just a big blur. It was just I mean, I, I moved to a place that’s like three hours away, got a camper and just lived out of my camper with my dog for I’m think it was like eight to nine months I was there. Yeah, it was a long time. It was like a big undertaking. But those things are just so big and intricate. And I got to experiment with so many different sorts of wood joinery. And just the fact that I know they’re out there getting written every weekend, and I get tagged in Instagram videos of people writing them, and then saying how much like, that’s so satisfying to get tagged in that stuff, and just see that people like it. And I’ve really never had anything like that. That was like a trail that kind of consists of a lot of my own things that people can kind of they put me, I’m in their mind wherever they go to ride that trail, if they know who I am. Yeah, like this is Oh, this is his stuff. It’s not just my stuff. There’s reserve concepts did almost all the work on that trail. But I didn’t wouldn’t features and it’s, they’re just big. They’re massive. They’re They’re fun to ride it. Look, it looks like yeah, those are definitely my favorite.

Jeff 51:51
Yeah. And who would have thought to I mean, especially if you’re outside the world of mountain biking, there could be, you know, I mean, essentially, you’re a celebrity trail builder, right? I mean, like, you have a style and, and a lot of people like it, and they can look at something like that and be like, Oh, Seth built that like, and they can go somewhere else and be like, Oh, this looks like a set like this. That’s surprising to you like,

Seth 52:14
No, I mean, that’s not it is not surprising to me, because I already have that in my own head. Whenever I was like researching trail building. Before I’d really gotten into it, I kind of was obsessing over these certain, like I said, digger the guy from the North Shore. Like he was like an idol to me. So I already had these kind of celebrities in my head for trail building that I really liked and like progressive, who did a lot of Bentonville stuff. Like those guys, like when I went in to Bentonville was like, Oh my God, these guys are amazing. Like, it was like, but I just I put an entertaining element to it, which I guess kind of more gave me the celebrity of trail building. But those dudes are still the guys. They’re the they’re the ultimate ones. So it wasn’t super surprising to me when it kind of took off like that. And it’s like, I if I’m experiencing it, somebody else is going to also kind of feel like I do. I’m not like some unique person that just happens to be in the trail building. Like it’s, it’s a satisfying thing. It looks cool. People appreciate the work whenever they go to write it.

Jeff 53:12
Yeah, that’s good perspective. So what’s next for your bills in your channel? Do you have any big projects coming up that you’re working on?

Seth 53:20
Currently, I am working on my ability to ride so I don’t run into the conundrum of building something that I can’t ride. So I’m going to have a couple kind of skills videos coming out here soon. Because I got like a my buddy from roots. MTB, Jay, he’s been kind of coaching me on cornering and doing drops and things like that. But next, I am going to steal Ville, which is like an hour away from me to do kind of another hauler type thing. But not it’s more intricate, less huge, is what I would describe what I’m going to be building there. So I’m pretty excited about that. So I’m not going to be you know, 20 feet up in the air building these things, but it’ll be cool looking, I’m gonna I’ve been kind of experimenting with steam bending wood, which is. So it’s a strange process. It’s a lot of trial and error. So hopefully, I’m going to incorporate that there if that works out. But yeah, I’m excited about just kind of just continuing the learning process, you know?

Jeff 54:22
Yeah. Is that that feature that you’re planning or working on? Is that something that you’ve kind of conceived from the beginning, like the design and everything? Or is this something that they approached you and said, We want a thing that looks like this? And can you figure out how to make it?

Seth 54:39
A little bit of both. I knew that I wanted to do some steam bending. And I’m working again, in conjunction with the trail building company, my buddy Zach, and he was kind of like, well, here’s, here’s the things that I’m kind of envisioning on the trail and we kind of just brainstorm it out together, and then I’ll take that idea. And I run it through SketchUp which is like a kind of CAD program, and kind of design it out. So it’s a lot of me kind of putting it together. But you know, they generally it does come to me, the public builds are like that, where it’s like, here’s kind of what we want. But you know, you build whatever. However, like, it’s essentially somebody saying, I want a wooden berm here. And then you can make whatever or I want to jump. And it’s like, okay, I’ll make a 20 foot tabletop, like, you can just do whatever you want. Sorta.

Jeff 55:30
Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s a great position to be in. For sure it is. Well, Seth, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. We love watching your videos. And yeah, we’re stoked to see what you do next.

Seth 55:43
Yeah, thank you. And let me let me also add your website. Single tracks was like the first thing that I ever got on I was, I think I made a profile and I was like, really into getting into like you had Don’t you guys have like a forum? Yeah, on there. Yeah, I was. When I first started mountain biking. Me and my cousin were super into it. I don’t know why. But that was like, that was our that was our place to go. Like we loved making our profile, but in our picture up. It’s kind of like the first like social media for mountain biking is what it felt like,

Jeff 56:16
right? Yeah, right on. That’s awesome. Yeah. But anyway, yeah. Full Circle.

Seth 56:20
Yep. Thanks for having me on there. And yeah, cool talking to you.

Jeff 56:23
Yeah, awesome. Well, you can definitely check out Seth’s YouTube channel, backyard trail builds, we’ll have a link to that in the description. And seriously, if you haven’t seen the videos yet, block out a few hours because you’re gonna watch all of them like you can’t just watch one of them. Check those out. And he’s also got a website back yard trail builds.com. So we’ve got this week, next week.

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