How Mountain Bike Trails Work

Mountain Bike Trail Maintenance

According to enthusiasts, mountain bike trails are created to be in harmony with their natural surroundings. Nature, though, likes to be in control. Trees and other plants continue to grow into the paths of riders, and weather conditions can damage or clutter the trail. Basic trail maintenance includes keeping tree limbs cut back, clearing excessive debris after storms and repairing damage to the trail such as ruts and ditches from water erosion.

Land owners and managers may provide the financial support for mountain bike trail maintenance. However, volunteers, including cyclists who use the trails, do the bulk of the maintenance. Local organizations may also volunteer for regular maintenance work. Larger organizations have volunteers who travel across the United States offering support, building and maintaining mountain bike trails. IMBA also provides trail maintenance training for those new to pitching in.

While you're using bike trails in your area, you can also do your part to help maintain the trails. One tip is to carry a foldable pruning saw with you, especially in the early spring, to cut back limbs that have grown out into your path. Also, be sure to let the land owners and managers know when you see trail damage from erosion, weather or vandals.

Trails can be designed and built to be sustainable. Sustainable trails have lower maintenance requirements and limited environmental impacts. In a 2006 presentation at the IMBA Summit/World Mountain Bike Conference, speakers outlined ways to meet these goals when building sustainable contour trails. Existing trails can be improved, too, by rerouting to a new sustainable trail and allowing vegetation to reclaim an old trailbed.