What makes a trail a trail? Part II.

Question: When is a dirt road a mountain bike trail?
Answer: Sometimes.

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Is this a mountain bike trail?

Okay, so when someone says “mountain bike trail” you probably don’t imagine a wide dusty dirt road or a paved greenway path through the city. But if you think about it, these “trails” might just deserve a mention on mountain bike websites like singletracks.

For starters, greenways and fire roads are often good starting places for beginning mountain bikers who either aren’t ready for dirt or don’t have the balance to negotiate narrow singletrack. I’ve recommended “trails” like these to many friends – including rides like the Duke Forest or the American Tobacco trail. Sure, you can ride a road bike on the Tobacco trail but you can’t drive a car (or any other motorized vehicle for that matter) and in my mind that kinda makes it a bike trail.

Similarly, if you can’t ride a road bike on a path because it’s unpaved then it’s pretty safe to call it a mountain bike path. Gold Camp Road (the unpaved part) fits this requirement, plus it’s closed to cars (though motorized dirt bikes do use this area).

If you’ve ever flipped through a FalconGuide to mountain biking (like the Colorado Springs edition) you’ll notice they list plenty of rides that are 100% gravel road rides. The Mountain Biking Colorado Springs book even includes a ride called “Skyline Drive” near Canyon City that is on completely paved and ungated roads (including a nice stretch of US 50). Not that a mention in a book makes it a “real” mountain bike ride, just shows you how liberal you can be with the designation.

So where do you draw the line? Singletrack only? Some doubletrack okay? How about fire roads? In the end it doesn’t really matter – it turns out that a mountain bike trail is anywhere you ride your mountain bike that you think is worth sharing with other riders. It’s also what singletracks is all about.

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