Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Recreational & Family
Reload this Page >

What is Ballast?

Notices
Recreational & Family Ride just to ride? Have a family and want to get them into cycling? Drop in here to discuss recreational and family cycling issues.

What is Ballast?

Old 01-29-10, 10:45 AM
  #1  
john_steed_uk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
john_steed_uk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: North Central Illinois
Posts: 80

Bikes: 2003 Specialized Sirrus Elite 2001 Specialized Crossroads 1999 Specialized Hardrock 2007 Specialized Allez

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
What is Ballast?

What is ‘ballast’? I ask this relationship to trails that have “a ballast surface”.
Or “a surface made of ballast’.

Such a trail is the Blue Ox Trail in MN. I have seen many other trails listed as
having ballast as a surface.

So, what is it? Gravel? Wood chips?

Forgive me if this has been discussed before; I searched, but found nothing
on this topic…
john_steed_uk is offline  
Old 01-29-10, 11:24 AM
  #2  
rumrunn6
Senior Member
 
rumrunn6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: 25 miles northwest of Boston
Posts: 24,863

Bikes: Bottecchia Sprint, GT Timberline 29r

Mentioned: 103 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3721 Post(s)
Liked 843 Times in 587 Posts
Train track ballast is the small stones that makeup the rail bed under the tracks.

If the bike trail is called "ballast" then I'm not sure ... it might not be rideable!

I think it's like crushed stone dust with chunks of crushed stone but it's all been packed down by a steam roller. basically it's not a paved road surface. I did a quick image search and came up with a few. if I see any links or pics that are helpful, I'll edit this reply and include them

https://blog.delawareandlehigh.org/20...rs-completion/

this page show a picture that may be ballast that was driven over by cars and trucks and so there are 2 smooth tracks in the ballast that look pretty rideable but not with a fast road bike

https://www.transplan.com.au/casestudies.html

this is stone dust:
https://bobmcmullen.info/waterf100.jpg

the above came from this link:
https://bobmcmullen.info/BrantfordtoPortDover.htm

Last edited by rumrunn6; 01-29-10 at 11:34 AM.
rumrunn6 is offline  
Old 01-29-10, 02:16 PM
  #3  
HandsomeRyan
Pants are for suckaz
 
HandsomeRyan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Mt. Airy, MD
Posts: 2,578

Bikes: Hardtail MTB, Fixed gear, and Commuter bike

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
rr6 is correct, ballast is a compacted crushed stone surface. Generally it is ridable for 'fat tired' bikes like mountain bikes, hybrids, and beach cruisers. If you ride a skinny-tired road bike that isn't to say you can't ride over it but you'll have more difficulty and a much harsher ride.

Below I've listed some fairly famous trails that use this surface. A google image search should turn up thousands of additional images of either of these trails if you want a better look.

The C & O Canal Towpath that runs from D.C. to PA.

-And-

The Virginia Creeper Trail that runs from Abingdon, VA to Damascus, VA-

I hope this helps.
HandsomeRyan is offline  
Old 01-29-10, 02:50 PM
  #4  
Whiteknight
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 466
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by john_steed_uk View Post
What is ‘ballast’? I ask this relationship to trails that have “a ballast surface”.
Or “a surface made of ballast’.

Such a trail is the Blue Ox Trail in MN. I have seen many other trails listed as
having ballast as a surface.

So, what is it? Gravel? Wood chips?

Forgive me if this has been discussed before; I searched, but found nothing
on this topic…

Here in the U.S. the conversion of old abandoned railroads into "Rail Trails", or MUPS, sometimes goes in stages.
A contractor will be hired to remove the rails and wooden cross-ties. If the cross-ties are not in too bad of a shape they may be reused. If they are old and starting to rot they generally just heave them off to the side. Sometimes the contractor will salvage the coarse rock that had been used as ballast stone under the cross-ties. Sometimes they simply go in with a grader and push it off to either side of the mup. They will scrape it down close to the dirt base. Then go in with a heavy roller and roll it.

When I see in a trail description that it is a ballast surface I generally avoid that trail. These ballast stones are not little gravel. These ballast stones are fairly large, angular and sharp edged.


"Stone dust" is usually limestone crushed to a fairly small size with a good bit of limestone dust. Applied originally up to about 2 inches in thickness. Initially a stone dust trail is fairly soft and gives a good bit of rolling resistance to a bicycle tire. Rain will wash the dust down in between the larger bits of stone. So the combination of rain and use will cause it to compact into a fairly hard mass. Generally about 1 to 2 years of rain and use will give a rather hard trail surface that is fairly easy to pedal on.
With some of these stone dust surfaced trails they will use thick beds of wood chips along one side of the trail for use with horses. Horses can really mess up a good stone dust paved trail. Over in York County the horse folks refused to stay off the stone dust trail in certain sections so the county simply banned horses from certain sections of the trail.

We have a number of rail trails (mups) around here that are paved with asphalt. The problem with some of these is that after a few years of use the surface becomes ridged or corrugated. When the trail was an active rail road you have heavy trains. Tracks resting on wooden cross-ties. The cross-ties then compacting the ground under them due to the great pressure. The ground under the ballast between these cross-ties was not compacted nearly as much.
So with Winter freeze and thaw cycles the overly compacted ground starts to spring back and raise ridges in the asphalt paving. On our Schuylkill River Trail some sections are getting to be most annoying in regards to this.
Whiteknight is offline  
Old 01-29-10, 03:08 PM
  #5  
HardyWeinberg
GATC
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: south Puget Sound
Posts: 8,726
Mentioned: 29 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 463 Post(s)
Liked 36 Times in 22 Posts
One of the MUPs I commute on was until recently bare railroad gravel, about 2" rocks, it was unrideable with less than 2" tires. They just finished clearing that out and paving it. I liked having it as an added justification for fat-tire commuting but I'm sure it'll get more (or any) use now.
HardyWeinberg is offline  
Old 01-30-10, 11:14 AM
  #6  
john_steed_uk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
john_steed_uk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: North Central Illinois
Posts: 80

Bikes: 2003 Specialized Sirrus Elite 2001 Specialized Crossroads 1999 Specialized Hardrock 2007 Specialized Allez

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Great, thanks for all the replies. I hope that the Blue Ox trail ballast is not those 2" jagged rocks--I hope to ride it this summer.

I'll ultimately post a ride/trail report either here or on the Great Lakes sub-forum...


thanks!

js
john_steed_uk is offline  
Old 01-30-10, 08:47 PM
  #7  
StephenH
Uber Goober
 
StephenH's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Dallas area, Texas
Posts: 11,739
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 184 Post(s)
Liked 25 Times in 22 Posts
It might work better to figure out the trail(s) of interest, and then just inquire whether they're rideable with a road bike, a mountain bike, or what. Even if you know the surface material, the smoothness of it could vary, too.

Here locally, all the trails I've been on are either paved, or fine limestone gravel (fat tires work best) or mountain bike trails. On the fine limestone gravel trails, they've mostly been pretty smooth and well-compacted, so you COULD ride them with a road bike, it just wouldn't be the best choice.
__________________
"be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."
StephenH is offline  
Old 01-30-10, 11:09 PM
  #8  
benjcook
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Portland, OR (actually Oregon City)
Posts: 6

Bikes: My first: Diamondback Response Hardtail. Almost nothing stock anymore ;)

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Ballast really just means whatever was on the railroad under everything that got ripped up. My experience on these trails has been that they are all usually easier to ride than your average (very 'soupy' gravel road). But there are never any guarantees as to how much the ballast has decomposed and broken down. Really, really fresh stuff would be almost impossible to ride on without expending tremendous energy with very fat offroad tires.

The wife's hybrid tires usually do well on most all of these surfaces.
benjcook is offline  
Old 02-02-10, 06:00 PM
  #9  
njkayaker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 11,773
Mentioned: 23 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2262 Post(s)
Liked 253 Times in 178 Posts
Originally Posted by HandsomeRyan View Post
rr6 is correct, ballast is a compacted crushed stone surface. Generally it is ridable for 'fat tired' bikes like mountain bikes, hybrids, and beach cruisers. If you ride a skinny-tired road bike that isn't to say you can't ride over it but you'll have more difficulty and a much harsher ride.

Below I've listed some fairly famous trails that use this surface. A google image search should turn up thousands of additional images of either of these trails if you want a better look.

The C & O Canal Towpath that runs from D.C. to PA.

-And-

The Virginia Creeper Trail that runs from Abingdon, VA to Damascus, VA-

I hope this helps.
The GAP has a very-good crushed-gravel surface. The C&O is often packed dirt/mud and a bit more lumpy. The VA Creeper trail looks like the GAP.

People have done the GAP and C&O with road bikes with narrow tires. 32mm or 35mm cyclocross tires work fine.


The Blue Ox Trail appears much rougher than these other ones.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ohv/trail_detail.html?id=5
njkayaker is online now  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
rumrunn6
Northeast
40
10-24-18 04:27 PM
Bulette
Touring
11
03-22-17 07:09 PM
Papa Tom
Northeast
1
10-12-15 06:22 PM
Eagle1
Great Lakes
8
01-08-13 09:46 AM
spohn
Mountain Biking
1
04-03-12 05:44 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.