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Old 10-19-06, 10:05 PM   #1
no tengo coche
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mtb and environmentalism

In hopes to get schooled before I get my own mtb and develop my own opinions and habits, I want to ask what the deal is with mountain biking and the terrain being ridden on. Ive come across some posts discussing trail maintenance, erosion, etc. Is this really such a big issue, that if we just ride as we want, we're gonna do "irreversible" damage?

No need for condescending comments, I'm just looking for peoples thoughts and opinions on this aspect of cycling.

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Old 10-19-06, 10:16 PM   #2
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Under normal conditions, mountain bikes don't erode trails or landscapes any more than hikers do. Equestrians normally do more damage than bikes, and even that is negligable. When I say normal conditions, it is assumed that the bikers keep traction (no skidding, sliding, etc.), they stay on the trail only, and that they don't ride on mud or soggy ground. Riding on mud or soggy dirt causes ruts to be developed, which f's up the trail. Following these guidelines, a bike leaves practically no trace.
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Old 10-20-06, 12:05 AM   #3
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Cycling in nature is enjoying what has been created for us to enjoy.
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Old 10-20-06, 12:08 AM   #4
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Cycling in nature is enjoying what has been created for us to enjoy.
well i don't know that i would go so far as to say it was created for us to enjoy...
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Old 10-20-06, 12:21 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by DevilsGT2
Under normal conditions, mountain bikes don't erode trails or landscapes any more than hikers do. Equestrians normally do more damage than bikes, and even that is negligable.
I just wanted to add a couple of other points here for the OP. The reason that, in addition to proper trail etiquette, MTBing can have a minimal impact on the environment is due to trail maintenance. Without such dedicated trail building, any kind of activity be it MTBing, hiking, equestrians, etc... would create a much greater environmental impact since erosion won't be as directed and controlled through an "optimal" path. So yes, I think as a group, MTBers are concerned about the environment and with good reason since we do realise that there is potential for damage.
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Old 10-20-06, 12:21 AM   #6
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well i don't know that i would go so far as to say it was created for us to enjoy...
I was trying to be all "poetic" and such.
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Old 10-20-06, 12:49 AM   #7
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Thanks for the insights. Let me put out a hypothetical question: would the damage really be -that- bad, even if mtbers did destructive riding, such as skidding, trail blazing, and riding thru overly muddy conditions?
Seems like the trail's quality would deteriorate, less people would ride it, and then over time, with less riding, it would recover, developing into a somewhat different trail, and more people would begin riding it again.

Maybe my notion of mtbing is off...what exactly is mountain biking? Cuz I always thought part of the sport was inheritly destructive. Just seems like the process of riding thru Nature and enjoying the scenery is going to do some damage to the Environment, just as it soothes and provides happiness to the soul.
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Old 10-20-06, 01:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by no tengo coche
Thanks for the insights. Let me put out a hypothetical question: would the damage really be -that- bad, even if mtbers did destructive riding, such as skidding, trail blazing, and riding thru overly muddy conditions?
Seems like the trail's quality would deteriorate, less people would ride it, and then over time, with less riding, it would recover, developing into a somewhat different trail, and more people would begin riding it again.
I'm not an ecology/environmental expert but I imagine there are some things which nature can heal herself but there are others that she cannot. I for one am not willing to find out so I think the safe and prudent course would be to act as responsibly as we can.


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Originally Posted by no tengo coche
Maybe my notion of mtbing is off...what exactly is mountain biking? Cuz I always thought part of the sport was inheritly destructive. Just seems like the process of riding thru Nature and enjoying the scenery is going to do some damage to the Environment, just as it soothes and provides happiness to the soul.
There are many things we do which are inherently destructive to nature. Some of it can be controlled. Others can't. As the dominant race on this planet we do far greater damage to our natural surroundings just by existing. Does that mean we should all go commit mass-suicide? Riding (even responsibly) through natural surroundings can and will cause some amount of destruction but this is on par with walking/hiking. If that land is too sensitive to support outdoor sports then it will be cordoned off. If however there is a way for us humans to enjoy those natural surroundings without bringing about major destruction then I personally see no reason not to allow such activities. Acting responsibly means taking measures to keep the level of impact low enough such that nature can support our being there. Things like responsible riding and trail maintenance/cleanup help preserve the environment and repair any damage that we may have done.
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Old 10-20-06, 04:48 AM   #9
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What really damages a trail IMO is over use. And use when conditions are not conducive to minimal impact(ie, Spring, after hard long rains, etc). In my neck of the woods, our local trails are underused and seem to always heal themselves over the course of a season. 20 miles away at Mt A, it is a different story. That area draws riders from 3 states and on any Sunday, the parking lots are full. The trails get pounded hard. This type of area needs a good use policy and dedicated people to maintain and fix the trails on a regular basis. This is where I think mtn bikers need to focus their efforts. Saving the trails we already have more than creating new ones.
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Old 10-20-06, 08:25 AM   #10
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In a local park on BLM land, we have miles and miles of trails, some single track, some main trails that are wide enough to drive a truck through. Some of the wider trails, in the low spots get quite muddy during the rainy season. Just in the last month the BLM came in a got rid of a bunch of trails, and built some bridges over low areas. They also widened one really great singletrack area and now its wide open dirt ready to be washed away this winter.

Bikes and horses definitely cause erosion, but maintaining trails correctly helps a lot. The single track around here looks the same year after year, while all the heavily managed trails get worse and worse.
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Old 10-20-06, 08:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khuon
I'm not an ecology/environmental expert but I imagine there are some things which nature can heal herself but there are others that she cannot. I for one am not willing to find out so I think the safe and prudent course would be to act as responsibly as we can.

Nothing a reasonable number of non littering bikers do on anything but the worst designed trails is going to cause serious enviormental damage. The trails may deteriorate to the point at which they become unridable and practically unrepairable but in overarching enviormental terms it's not going to permanently destroy anything.
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Old 10-20-06, 08:53 AM   #12
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My daughter is a manager and warden at several of our provincial parks and is always evaluating the trail damage and resulting erosion caused by hikers and MTB'ers in her parks that have sandy trails. She is considering curtailling trail use in some of the more sensative areas.

She tells me that bikers damage the trails on the climbs, hikers on the descents. Both loosen the hardpack sand and expose the trails to rain erosion. Because this happens on the hilly trails...the sand gets washed down the hills...eventually small ruts grow and become problems.
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Old 10-20-06, 09:10 AM   #13
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I think it is important for MTBers to be involved with the maintenance of the trails they use; in our local park, we probably put about 200 hours of work into the trails each year - sometimes more, sometimes less - but the trails are always clear & ready to ride. Most of the people who use the trails also work on them, or will contact some who does work on them if they find a problem. Except for racing, riders stay off the trails when it's muddy - let's face it - less repair required on both bike & trail!

If you are just getting into MTBing, you should take the time to find the local organizations which maintain the trails - not only to volunteer, but to educate yourself on proper trail building & maintenance techniques. Keeping trails open is usually a big part of any MTB group.
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Old 10-20-06, 10:15 AM   #14
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In my area, the terrain is so sketchy (sandy, rockfilled, steep) that trails can be washed out after serious downpours. The trails are very susceptible to erosion.
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Old 10-20-06, 10:23 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DevilsGT2
Under normal conditions, mountain bikes don't erode trails or landscapes any more than hikers do. Equestrians normally do more damage than bikes, and even that is negligable. When I say normal conditions, it is assumed that the bikers keep traction (no skidding, sliding, etc.), they stay on the trail only, and that they don't ride on mud or soggy ground. Riding on mud or soggy dirt causes ruts to be developed, which f's up the trail. Following these guidelines, a bike leaves practically no trace.
This is a little bit of misinformation. If all of us followed those rules a lot of us would have 3 months a year to ride. Well built wet trails erode as much as well built dry trails. Well maintained trails last even longer. You have to base your riding on the area and the quality of trails. Whistler and the north shore (pemberton, squamish etc) spend a lot of time and money on keeping the trails maintained. Trails that fall behind are closed until the trail crews can hit them up. Trails that are old and eroded get closed down and re-routed using better anti-erosion techniques.

Otherwise I agree with this post. Although there are trails build for high speed riding, usually on lift assisted mountains. Where skidding, while still damaging, is taken care of and trails usually (unless really old) don't run along water bars.
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Old 10-20-06, 11:49 AM   #16
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the most amount of physical impact, what some may see to be damage, to the land occurs with the least amount of use. impact can happen fairly rapidly, but once it occurs each extra visitor does relatively little damage. that being said, the most harm mountain bikes do to an area is the trail itself, assuming that people do not ride off trail. Someone already pointed out that riding a bike on a trail has an impact just about equal to a hiker, and that equestrains have a larger impact than the two. That being said, the amount of impact also depends a lot on the vegetation, climate, and types of use in recreation areas ie cross country riding vs downhill where skidding and heavier breaking are more common handling methods. ladders, bridges, carved burms, and other man made features are all human impacts and maybe viewed by some to be destructive to the natural environment. Even though many of these features may be created using resources from the area and seem to be natural enough, they are products of man. People who do not bike, hikers bird wathers equestrians and other nature appreciators, may find these features to distract from the natural setting and the intrinsic beauty of the area. It is a very grey area and almost deals entirely with user groups interests. What one person believes to be an improvement to an area may infact completely ruin another users view of the area as being wildlands. Afterall, wildlands are defined as a place where the works of nature are the main attraction rather than the works of man. With all that being said, those are the main reasons bicycles are not allowed into wilderness zones. this is an awesome thread. Stay cool and happy trails!
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Old 10-20-06, 12:31 PM   #17
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Fact of the matter is the trail, in its existance, has already 'damaged' the environment. The trail wasn't created by nature, it was created by man. And by the nature of the trail itself, it may alter the errosion characteristics of the land on which it was built. Many people kind of overlook this point, but its important.

Now, however, a properly built trail CAN be made to have as little impact to the natural errosion happening naturally. You need to remember that errosion is happening naturally all the time on any type of slope. Some terrain errodes so fast that you can hardly maintain a trail on it anyways. Most concerns that are valid about trail use, and errosion, is that travel on a trail, by probably any means, can be detrimental to the either the trail as a whole, or to its ability to reduce excessive errosion.

People who blame bikes are almost always those not riding them. They think for whatever reasons that they shouldn't see bike tire marks on trails, and get their panties in a bunch when they see a rut in mud, or whatever. Just like the people who complain about horses aren't those riding them. The park people complain about overuse because they actually have to maintain the trails usability, for everyone, and actually somewhat monitor whatever environmental impact they feel is important. Bikers just want a mostly level trail free of obstacles that make them get off the bike.

When it all comes down to it errosion happens anyways. Maybe trails can accellerate it, or reduce it, and over use can positively or negatively affect either characteristic. Any other concern is usually based around greed or ignorance.
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Old 10-21-06, 07:54 PM   #18
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I've got a Ph D. in Murphy's Law, and I can definitely tell
you all that horses make one helluva bigger mess and
alot more damage to the trails than any biker can...

I also just love how they defecate right in the damn trail...
It all "depends" on your point-of-view I suppose.
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Old 10-21-06, 07:57 PM   #19
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That reminds me... I really need to join IMBA, and maybe try to pitch in when they local group has a trail maintainence day.
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Old 10-21-06, 08:10 PM   #20
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That reminds me... I really need to join IMBA, and maybe try to pitch in when they local group has a trail maintainence day.
I would sooner join the local chapters or clubs before joing IMBA.
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Old 10-21-06, 08:48 PM   #21
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I say it really depends on the trail. For instance, we have a trail here that 1 or 2 days after a storm you can ride it no problem. Others it takes a week to be able to ride it. If you have good draining and run-offs damage is minimal after rain.
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Old 10-21-06, 09:20 PM   #22
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It's kind of funny how a little trail erosion is seen as a big problem while the infrastructure that supports the manufacture of mountain bikes is the real problem. Think about the mines, the dams that power the aluminum smelters, the roads you use to drive to the trailhead, the cars you use to drive to the trailhead, the bombs that are dropped to support the petroleum powered economy... The list goes on and on.

Hey, I love mountain biking. But let's put things in perspective here. Trail erosion is something to deal with, but it isn't very high on the list of environmental problems.
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Old 10-21-06, 09:27 PM   #23
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Trail erosion is something to deal with, but it isn't very high on the list of environmental problems.
You're correct but let's not just cast away concern either. Trail erosion is something that we as MTBers can directly control. And relatively speaking, we can make a huge difference on at least that sector of environmental problems.
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Old 10-21-06, 11:28 PM   #24
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From what I have noticed I dont think that mountain biking causes anymore trail erosion than any of the other trails users. In fact I think it often causes less.
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Old 10-22-06, 01:54 AM   #25
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Erosion is a natural occurance a true environmentalist wouldn't want to stop it.
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