Monday, August 12, 2013


Rain has been a show stopper around here for a while now.  A bit too long if you ask a lot of local mountain bikers.  This, of course, has sparked debate arguments on the local bike forums.  When can you ride, how long should trails be shut down for, who is ultimately responsible for trail maintenance, etc.

Friday I was out riding up at Lake Norman, trying to beat the predicted (surprise, surprise) thunder storms of the day and the skies opened up.  I finished the main portion of my ride with one rain shower that did not seem to penetrate the trees on the trails I was riding.  Trails were the same when I left as when I arrived.

As I rolled back through the parking lot the skies looked good so I headed out to hit some more trail.  This time, the trails weren't looking so hot.  Not horrible, but certainly not the conditions I had started with.  True, it was a different trail, different elevation, possibly different soil type... but you could tell there had been rain in the past here.  It wasn't sloppy, and certainly wasn't unrideable... just a noticeable difference is all I'm saying.  As I was riding this loop, the skies opened up and the trail quickly began accumulating water.  Even with water on the trail, the tread itself did not feel soft.  I finished the loop and headed for the parking lot.

I paused.  Should I take the short trail back to the trailhead, or tackle the road - and hill?  I sat thinking, the rain stopping.  No one had come through to the close the trails.  Dilemma ensues.  If the park isn't closing their trails - and they are very "good" about closing the trails when they deem necessary,  can I/should I continue my ride.

I had a goal in mind that day, and I something was urging me to push on.  I was close to hitting all the trails and getting the mileage I wanted.  The rain stopped, the rangers hadn't closed the trail... I went for it.  This time, I was not pleased.  Again, the trails weren't HORRIBLE, but they also didn't need to be ridden.  My bike let me know about it as grit and grime piled in my brakes.  The trail was a constant puddle fest - yet still seemed to remain pretty solid.  Was I killing the trail, no.  Would it hurt the trail if a train of riders came through - maybe.

And that, my friends, is why trails close.  Sure, you - the individual - might weigh your impact and decide that you alone won't hurt the trail.  And you might be right.  But if 20,30,100 of us think the same way the trails might end up looking a little different.

I cut it short.  I didn't hit everything, and headed for the lot - taking the paved hill.  As I arrived there were a couple riders getting ready to go.  One rider, who I have raced with this year in the summer series, came up to ask about the trails - seeing my shins covered in mud.  I let him know which trails were a mess and noted that earlier some of the trails were looking good.  After giving my two cents, he decided to check out the trails I had hit earlier and ignore the ones I found water logged.  As I was putting the Glow Worm up I heard another group of riders gathering, a few describing the very same trails I felt could use a break as primo.  As I said, they were still firm... but covered in water.

So the question lies here... is it up to others to close the trails for us (rangers, the club, private land owners) or should we all be responsible for our own actions?  Like the next guy, I'm not thrilled about cutting a ride short, or NOT getting to ride, but if it means the trails remain in good solid shape and around for us to ride for years to come - what's one more day of waiting?

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