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Thursday, April 12, 2001 - Sunday, April 15, 2001 -- Harrisonburg, VA
Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew Tour (iPO Event Id#: 3423)
Story and photos by Dana Harshberger

[Details] [Coverage] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2] [Pic Set 3] [Pic Set 4]
(for Harris-Roubaix photos, see Pic Set 4)

IMBA
What to do when IMBA arrives on your doorstep...
Thursday, the 12th

I happened to come home over lunch, when I saw a groovy Subaru Outback complete with topo map, and IMBA logo, pull up beside Thomas' house. Being the nosy next door neighbor that I am, I knew that there was no one home, and decided to do my journalist and neighborly duty, and run over and welcome Jen and Rich Edwards to the 'Burg. I think I might have startled them, when I walked up behind them and told them to make themselves at home, and that I lived next door. I mean, how many neighbors do that? Thus began my weekend chronicling the Trail Building Weekend.

Later that evening some 20-30 persons gathered at Shenandoah Bicycle Co. for an informal prelude to what was to come. Ideas were tossed around regarding an "Adopt a Trail" program, so that a system would be in place to know what to do when, for trail maintenance in the future. Plans were also made to go out early the next day, to walk the trail that was going to be our practice trail. Seems that walking is the way to really take your time and notice the details that cause trail degradation.

Friday, the 13th

Learning
First a little classroom time
Meeting again at Shenandoah Bicycle Co., co-owner Thomas Jenkins (my aforementioned neighbor), did a brief introduction and turned the meeting over to Jen and Rich Edwards, who are currently on tour as Subaru/IMBA's Trail Care Crew #3. They have been working with IMBA since March of 2000, and bring a wealth of experience between the two of them. Years of bike retailing, and messengering, as well as being mountain bike tour guides make them a great resource of bike and trail knowledge.

We went around the group and introduced ourselves, and also said why we were there. Funny guy, and Hanson look-alike, Josh Wimpey made mention that he likes to skid, and feels the need to know how to repair the damage he's done! But whatever the reason for being there, we were all eager acolytes wanting to learn the ways of IMBA.

On the trail
A trail that could use a little help
Jen and Rich took turns narrating a slide show, that not only showed off beautiful trails all over the U.S., but also showed some trails in various states of erosion, tread creep, and berm build-up. They talked of building sustainable and fun, natural surface trails, while taking into consideration such as the layout of the land and the user experience. "Will only mountain bikers be on the trail, or will other user groups such as hikers or equestrians also be on the trail?" "What does each group like and how do you build that into a new trail?" "Should the trail be open and flowing or tight and twisty?" These things might be determined by the lay of the land, or you can build them in. And flow is important as well when designing a trail. When a trail has no flow, and is abruptly popping users into one feature and then the next, is usually when the differing user groups experience conflict. And conflict usually means treadwear. Treadwear is bad.

Another bad thing is WATER!! Yep folks, the sustaining factor in our human lives is very detrimental to trails. When designing new trails it's important to keep the water off with the proper design. Good planning helps with sustainable and easily maintained trails down the road. A rule of thumb is that your planning should take as long as you're building. Focused water does the most damage, therefore, keep in mind how to plan for the water to be 'broad' and unfocused. This involves things like waterbars to direct the flow of the water.

Tools of the trade
Implements of trail construction
Quick!! Who can name 4 kinds of water bars? Indeed there are four basic kinds: Rubber, stone, log, and earthen. Other features, like full bench construction including blending the back-cut into the backslope, will allow water to roll off the trail properly. On existing trails that have chronic wetness problems, look up the hill or trail. Most problems start uphill. As the water gains momentum, and gathers more force, the more destructive it can be. Trying to re-direct where it begins can allow a problematic mucky trail to be much drier.

Spring is a good time to assess the water and wetness associated with a trail. It's even better to scope out the trail while its raining, so that you can see exactly how and where the water goes. Then in the fall, go back and do the work to re-direct the water. This allows the trail to settle in during the winter.

Armed with all this info, (and actually much more, see www.IMBA.com) the meeting concluded and we planned to meet the next day to implement what we'd learned!

Saturday the 14th

Trail Repair
Putting knowledge and tools to work
A sunny group of eager trail workers gathered at the base of Trimble Mountain Trail, also known as "BoyScout". We were all introduced to Pulaskis and McLeods. No, these are not people; rather kind of funny looking tools for trail building and maintenance. A Pulaski is a combination of a hoe and an axe while the McLeod is a rake-ish sort of tool. Both are very helpful to have around. We learned basic safety instructions, and were told of the "Circle of Safety" (which was actually more fun to call the circle of danger!) This imaginary circle is around you and your fellow workers. Because, you don't want to walk in front of someone as they are chopping with a Pulaski, well, unless you're looking to lose body parts.

The day before, Jen and Rich had flagged the problem areas of the trail. We hiked in and came across the first of four areas. This area was a chronically wet one, even in the dryness of summer. Seems there was a spring underground that loved wandering its way across the trail. There was also a fallen log that trapped the water, and didn't allow it to drain. After moving the log, a group started in on creating a rolling grade dip. Another group moved along and found the next area, which needed to be de-bermed. The third group worked on removing a large log. And the fourth re-benched an off-cambered section of trail.

A job well done
Now this trail is looking good
All of the groups started with raking the leaf matter away from the work site. These were saved to re-dress the trail afterwards. Depending on the nature of the work being done, rocks were gathered, moss was carefully removed and saved and dirt was collected in bags.

With the "many hands make light work" adage being true, a mere 3 hours later, all the work was completed and re-dressed, looking as if it hadn't even been touched! A definite feeling of accomplishment was evident in the group.

For a bunch of more in depth info, check the "resources" section of the IMBA web site. There you'll find a bunch of downloadable documents that pertain to such things as getting grants and funding for your new trail, land management and how it affects you, and trail building and maintenance. Not to mention how to join IMBA and it's mission to "keep trails open and in good condition for everyone" to enjoy.

All finished
Relaxing after a job well done
If you're interested in attending a Trail Building school, or having a trail care crew come to your neck of the woods, definitely give IMBA a call or email. Just as you would take care of your body and your bicycle, so should you take care to maintain the other aspect of your riding: the trails!

As for the Sunday portion of the weekend, please check in with Shenandoah Bicycle Co. and their official re-cap of the Harris-Roubaix, a celebration of the Paris-Roubaix!! If you're interested in some pictures, we have them for you right here.

Many thanks should go out to Subaru of America for their full support of the IMBA trail care crews, as well as to Jen and Rich for coming out. Kudos to Tim and Thomas at Shenandoah Bicycle for the use of their fine shop and to the Shenandoah MNT bike Club and Shenandoah Mountain Touring for arranging this trail building school experience.