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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 04-13-17, 07:17 AM   #1
athrowawaynic
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Access roads

So I don't know if this is going to be a hush-hush topic, but I'm curious about where you all ride? As in, when out exploring and scouting out roads to ride (particularly unpaved), what roads/paths do you consider fair game and what roads/paths do you consider verboten?

There aren't too many unpaved public roads near me, but public roads are obviously ok. Well-worn trails in state parks, etc. are obviously ok (paying attention to certain trails that are off-limits except to hikers--I'm all for conservation and not damaging those trails). And MUPs, of course. And I know there are some public access easements across private property, but those tend to be a bit harder to find--and usually aren't well-kept.

What about those access roads that run along power line towers? (Do you avoid? Because private property or because, ahem, potentially dangerous or because just not scenic or some combination?)

Abandoned rail lines? Access road that run near active rails (I feel like there are usually no trespassing signs there, but haven't really bothered to look)?
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Old 04-13-17, 08:05 AM   #2
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Unpaved county roads
National forest roads
Oli/gas roads on the BLM land
Tons of all that out here.

I avoid private property except for trail rights of way that happen to cross it, which applies to various mtb rides near town.
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Old 04-13-17, 08:18 AM   #3
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Here in the South the decision where to ride typically involves avoiding people with weapons.

I avoid private property obviously.

Wildlife management areas are great places to ride. There are many jeep trails branching off from the gravel roads in the WMA and these are likely to have a hunter somewhere along them and with no desire to surprise them I stick only to the maintained, typically gravel roads as per the posted rules. A Dept Natural Resources permit is required to be on WMA lands.

Train engineers will call the authorities if they see people along the railroad. It seems that shooing automobiles carried on the trains is a popular passtime out in the hills and hollers.

Power lines here are too gnarly and have fences, steam crossings, etc.

Most everything else is fair game.


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Old 04-13-17, 10:05 AM   #4
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I've found a lot of places to ride around power and gas lines browsing areas with Google maps. Even if a lot of the overall ride is road or official path, taking a detour through a power line trail along the way is a nice break. We have a lot of clay here and those trails stand out in the satellite view. Your decision on if a gravel bike is the best choice for some of what you may find... In my area, exploring new on a gravel bike is not ideal but an MTB is great for recon

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Old 04-13-17, 01:04 PM   #5
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Yeah, I cant say I have ever ridden on private property...at least not knowingly. Its private- it isnt for my use. Pretty easy distinction there.
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Old 04-13-17, 01:08 PM   #6
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Yeah, I cant say I have ever ridden on private property...at least not knowingly. Its private- it isnt for my use. Pretty easy distinction there.
Not so simple.
Private property may have public use easements, or even historical rights of way like they do all over Britain. I wish we had more of that in the USA.
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Old 04-13-17, 01:21 PM   #7
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Not so simple.
Private property may have public use easements, or even historical rights of way like they do all over Britain. I wish we had more of that in the USA.
I mean its easy here. You have roads and they have street signs. If you are on one, you are good.
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Old 04-14-17, 12:25 AM   #8
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Much of the designated Trinity Trails network in the Fort Worth area is just repurposed existing easements, mostly gravel roads, used for years by the river authority for flood control and maintenance.

One thing I've done occasionally, without giving too much thought to consequences, is riding up and down the grassy levees. It's just a good climbing challenge and a place for a soft landing if I misjudge a downhill run. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed a sign reminding users *not* to ride, walk, jog, etc., on the grassy slopes because this can lead to erosion that jeopardizes the flood control network. Rather than a sign that just said "NO-NO, BAD CYCLIST!", the sign explained the erosion hazard. Good enough to persuade me.

Yeah, my bike and a few others alone riding on random grassy slopes occasionally won't do much harm. But if enough people did so -- or if only a few people repeatedly used a new path, as animals tend to do in meadows and open fields -- it could lead to erosion.

So, properly reminded, I'll stick to the existing paths to and from the levee tops. The river authority hasn't banned public access to the levee tops, just the slopes. I don't want to be the guy who ruins it for everyone else.
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Old 04-14-17, 06:49 AM   #9
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Thanks for the replies.

Just curious because I know there are MTBers in some places who have favorite secret/hidden trails. It's a balance of course.

I'm just curious (for the obvious reason of looking for fun places to ride) but also because a few weeks ago, I saw a Diamondback video shot along some really amazing trails that looked like logging trails. Didn't look public. Closest I can find near me like that are those access roads that run along/under power lines. Wasn't sure if 1. those were off-limits, and 2. gravel riders were in the habit of riding them anyway (I've never seen anyone out there around here--then again, it's almost all roadies here--and the MTBers seem content with state park trails).
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Old 04-14-17, 07:43 AM   #10
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like the medium is the message, the discovery is the journey. meaning part of the fun of this is finding your own special places. where in MA are you? do you need to ride from your home or can you throw your bike(s) on a car & willing to drive an hour or so? this fall & winter I got into exploring unpaved rail trails but also hit a powerline trail popular w motorized dirt bikes

one place to start is here. sign up and explore

https://www.traillink.com/viewnationalmap/

and there's also this tool

Gravel Road Maps and Biking Routes - Gravelmap

zoom out and slide it over to MA

Gravel Road Maps and Biking Routes - Gravelmap

if you see a squiggly yellow line that interests you, zoom in & click on it. discovery begins ... ;-)
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Old 04-14-17, 10:45 AM   #11
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Southern suburbs. For daily rides, usually just out the front door. I've checked out gravelmap before. It's a good resource, but the better/longer rides are a bit further than I can realistically swing (even driving) on account of family responsibilities and all that.
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Old 04-14-17, 11:11 AM   #12
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gotcha, well perfect time of year to begin your quest!
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Old 04-14-17, 11:20 AM   #13
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You live in Mass. It's different out west. We have hundreds of thousands of miles of dirt roads. Not getting lost on them is more of a problem than finding a good place to ride.

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Old 04-14-17, 11:26 AM   #14
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Yeah, I cant say I have ever ridden on private property...at least not knowingly. Its private- it isnt for my use. Pretty easy distinction there.
Buck Mountain is one of the signature MTB rides in the Methow Valley. You park on private property. There's a sign saying these spaces are reserved for the owner, the rest are open for people doing the ride. A lot of the ski trails there cross private property. Established, groomed trails. Most of the rock climbing in the Icicle Canyon is on private land, there are signs at the boundaries saying you may freely use the land for recreation, but at your own risk.

It might be a regional thing. My state passed a law a few years ago granting land owners pretty broad immunity from lawsuits for allowing public access to private property for recreational purposes.

Here's a public/private land boundary on the Patterson Mountain trail. Barbed wire fence for the livestock, steps for the hikers. That's a heavy bike, by the way.

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Old 04-14-17, 01:08 PM   #15
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You live in Mass. It's different out west. We have hundreds of thousands of miles of dirt roads. Not getting lost on them is more of a problem than finding a good place to ride.
Envious, to say the least.

I guess I'll have to make do with the local offerings for now. I have to work on the engine anyhow.
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Old 04-14-17, 01:33 PM   #16
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Take a trip out west!
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Old 04-14-17, 02:17 PM   #17
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go check out your power lines. you anywhere near Carver / Plymouth?

Myles Standish State Forest, Carver MA
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Old 04-14-17, 07:13 PM   #18
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That's a bit of a trek (adventure). But maybe if I can trick the wife into taking the kids to visit her parents for a week.
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Old 04-15-17, 03:58 AM   #19
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that's what in-laws are for! :-)
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Old 04-17-17, 03:44 PM   #20
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Power line trails here vary quite a bit in multiple ways. Some have signs and gates to "try" and keep people away, many times there will be a small path/trail near the gated area that people access. There are others where you will see several vehicles parked on the side of the roads unloading motorized recreational vehicles to ride the trails. Another problem I've ran into is using Google Earth thinking a power line trail looked good enough to ride on a bike, many aren't. I've also went to access a common "trail" that is technically private property and cops were there escorting a guy who had driven part of the trail to fish a pond, they explained to me that the land owners, U.S. Steel, didn't want motorized vehicles on it and I could come back after they left...
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Old 04-18-17, 06:02 AM   #21
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Most miles of powerlines are across private property. The power company has an easement for accessing the lines for maintenance/replacement. That easement does NOT extend to members of the public. Only the power company and/or their contractors.
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Old 04-18-17, 07:32 AM   #22
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Whereabouts in Massachusetts are you? There are many dirt and gravel roads in the state. They just happen to mostly be out in central and especially western Mass. There's a lot less dirt in the east, but there's some good stuff if you know where to look.
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Old 04-18-17, 09:09 AM   #23
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Gravel Road Maps and Biking Routes - Gravelmap
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Old 04-18-17, 09:10 AM   #24
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Power line trails here vary quite a bit in multiple ways. Some have signs and gates to "try" and keep people away, many times there will be a small path/trail near the gated area that people access. There are others where you will see several vehicles parked on the side of the roads unloading motorized recreational vehicles to ride the trails. Another problem I've ran into is using Google Earth thinking a power line trail looked good enough to ride on a bike, many aren't. I've also went to access a common "trail" that is technically private property and cops were there escorting a guy who had driven part of the trail to fish a pond, they explained to me that the land owners, U.S. Steel, didn't want motorized vehicles on it and I could come back after they left...
I know of a couple places where, despite posted "No Trespassing", I'll see people wandering out from the access road (people out jogging or walking their dogs).

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Most miles of powerlines are across private property. The power company has an easement for accessing the lines for maintenance/replacement. That easement does NOT extend to members of the public. Only the power company and/or their contractors.
Yes, aware of the legality. But that's kinda what I'm asking about whether gravel riders do what some MTBers do--i.e., trespass.

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Whereabouts in Massachusetts are you? There are many dirt and gravel roads in the state. They just happen to mostly be out in central and especially western Mass. There's a lot less dirt in the east, but there's some good stuff if you know where to look.
I would venture to western Mass., but that's not in life plans/schedule just yet. (With young kids/fam., it's tough getting in a couple hours to ride--so forget driving an hour out and back.)

I'm east and south. Near Foxboro. I've tried F. Gilbert, but some of those paths are softball sized rocks (a bit too big to count as gravel), and the single-track is a bit above my skill level. I've also tried Borderland State Park, but those paths are congested with walkers and the MTB trail is (again) a bit above my skill level--lots of rock gardens.
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Old 04-21-17, 07:18 AM   #25
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That's a great resource, thanks! I, too, am interested in finding nice, woodsy, flat-graded but not necessarily level unpaved trails kind of like here:

Down and Dirty in Santa Cruz ? Ryan Wilson and Sean Talkington | The Radavist
Down and Dirty in Santa Cruz ? Ryan Wilson and Sean Talkington | The Radavist

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I would venture to western Mass., but that's not in life plans/schedule just yet. (With young kids/fam., it's tough getting in a couple hours to ride--so forget driving an hour out and back.)
Hey, I'm in the same position as you (toddler) and get the feeling - sometimes you genuinely need to help out, but often it's just feeling guilty about not helping your spouse or not spending time with the kid... I found that you just have to make a plan and go out and ride and they will really be OK without you for a couple of hours. I try to get up early (like, plan to leave by 6:30am or even 6 if you can), get my fix in, then back around 9-9:30 to continue doing whatever it is we have planned with the family. Sometimes, if I'm unable to do it on the weekend, I go out Monday mornings and just get to work a half-hour or so later (I have that luxury). Driving will surely cut into your riding time, but if you find that epic route, it's totally worth it... but yeah, I'd keep the driving time under 30-40 mins.
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