Monday, July 27, 2009

Does trail sustainabiltie equal easy trails?

Disclaimer: This post is not meant as a dig at anyone or claiming anyone isn't doing a good job at trail building. I whole heartily respect and I am at awe at what our trail builders accomplish. The spend countless thankless hours building and maintaining trails. This post is solely my opinion to provide my viewpoint. So please no one take offense and hopefully a good clean discussion can be had from this...

Last summer I ventured into mountain biking for the first time. I started out on a Walmart Mongoose bike and through searching on the found Quails Hollow state park. The first time out I remembered how difficult it was. The hill climbs seemed huge and difficult, the rock gardens seemed to be 100 feet long and scared the crap out of me. It probably took me an hour to finish the 3 1/2 mile loop, and I was beat after it. For some reason I was drawn back, even after the pain and difficulty I still went back out the next day to suffer, and I enjoyed it. Soon I was up to two laps and finally three and by the end of summer I was lapping at around 20 minutes a lap with ease.

I soon ventured to Reagan park in Medina. This was an eye opener. This trail was much more difficult. It seemed every time I would go there I would end up falling down a ravine somehow. The other thing that drew me to this trail was two difficult climbs, they were steep and took a lot to clear. A lot of riders couldn't make it up them. I was, however, determined to make those climbs. It was my goal to clear those climbs by the end of summer. A couple group rides later and I completed the entire trail without a dab and making it up those "impossible" hills.

Next is West Branch, truthfully, I'm growing to enjoy this trail more and more. The south side of the trails are where things get difficult. There is of course the rock gardens and then the climb out of the rock gorge. I couldn't make this climb last year, I tried my hardest every time, and could never quite get it. And then the rock gardens, Last year I could only clear the final one on the rock gorge trail, and even that was a moment for me. This year after some hesitation I returned and made it my goal to clear more and more sections of the south side of West Branch. This year I'm proud to say I've made it up the rock gorge climb and I've cleared all but one of the rock gardens on the same trail. Now my goal is to clear a new section each time out. It's hard to put into words the feeling you get after accomplishing something that you've tried so many times but couldn't. That's what draws me to this sport, the little hurdles and getting over those. I could easily get the fitness from riding my bike down the towpath, but I chose mountain biking because it's difficult, because it's has something to strive for.

So what is this post about? This year I've noticed a lot of trails getting easier, and not because of my skill level. Those climbs that I strived so hard to clear at Reagan Park, both are now no longer there, one has been rerouted around to a more gradual route, the other, which was on a trail that you rode in both directions is now only a downhill. The first one I'm sad to see go, and I understand the latter, as the downhill had a poor line of sight that could lead to an accident. An uphill rooted section at West Branch has recently been rerouted around, albeit because of a washout, but now is a gradual smooth uphill. Most of these were done because of sustainability issues, but recently a cinder block land bridge was taken out, the reasoning boiled down to it will be easier to ride.

Now I understand that some reroutes are inevitable because of either sustainability or because of saftery reasons. It just appears that the reroutes are taking easier lines. I understand some places need to be made easier because of being classified as easier trails so beginning mountain bikers need a place to learn, i.e. Quails Hollow and the Huffman side of the Medina system. I just hope that some new techincal features can be included to challenge us once again, or just simply keeping more of the technical features in the trails that already have them. I just don't want to turn the trails into "bike and hike trails through the woods." I guess I'll always have Vultures Knob.

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