Mammoth Trail technical obstacles: small victories, one large defeat

Mammoth_Trail_MapI began contacting a few guys individually about the Mammoth trail in Chaska over a year ago. Much of the information about it on the MORC site had been removed, as it’s not a MORC trail and some portions of it go across private property. We saw some ‘no trespassing’ signs and in a few places, tree branches had been deliberately placed across the trail. Neither the Mammoth page on MTBR nor the Mammoth page on Singletracks provide much in the way of current information.

The common refrain I’d heard: go with someone who knows the trail the first time because they aren’t marked and it can be difficult to find your way around. The map (right) was emailed to me with the caveat:

That isn’t the most updated map but it will work. Unfortunately there is not an updated map available. Skull loop has been shortened due to loss of access to some private land and Tom Thumb Loop is slightly different than shown.

Griff Wigley and Graham Wigley  Graham Wigley, Washing Machine loop, Mammoth Trail The Washing Machine loop, Mammoth Trail 
So on Wednesday, I finally went with my son Graham who’s ridden there before. And we still got turned around a few times. It was a warm, humid day, occasionally drizzling – perfect for leisurely wandering the beautiful area—so getting a bit lost wasn’t a problem. And the Original Sin loop (AKA the ‘washing machine’ loop) was every bit as fun as I’d heard. Among the many challenging technical obstacles we encountered:

Griff Wigley, Mammoth Trail1. the half log skinny (right) which, as you’ll see in the first half of the video below, rolls from side to side.  And in the middle of the log there’s a narrow ridge that runs nearly the entire length. If you ride to the right or left of the ridge, the log flips you off.  You have to ride exactly in the center, on top of the ridge.

I made it on my 4th try.

big skinny, Mammoth Trail muddy tire
2. the long downed tree skinny that slopes downhill. It’s pretty fat and has all its bark so I was confident I could ride down its complete length and maybe even up.  On my first attempt I applied both brakes to scrub off my speed after about 20 feet and my rear wheel locked up and slid off. I noticed that my tires were partially packed with damp dirt, so I mentally reasoned, Move my weight back a little further for better rear wheel traction; less rear brake and more front brake. 

You may be wondering: Why brake at all on a skinny, especially one that you can roll down?  I find it helps my balance on a skinny to keep pedaling. So on a level or downhill skinny, I apply both brakes just enough to provide resistance to the pedaling.  And this downhill tree is steep enough that you’d pick up speed quickly, making a crash a little more scary with the numerous trees around it.  Plus, the tree narrows considerably as it forks to the left around a tree at the very end. That part would seem to require a slow, delicate touch.

Alas, I never got that far. My next attempt lasted all of 3 seconds and made me glad I had on all my body armor.  More front brake was exactly NOT what was needed, as my front wheel immediately slid off, though in retrospect, I may have just applied it a little too hard when my front wheel was at a slight angle.

As the drizzle began to turn to rain, I decided it would be prudent to call it a day and make plans for a return engagement.  I’ll stay on the Original Sin loop, however, as that loop doesn’t cross any private property.

See this 90-second video clip of my four attempts of the two obstacles:


  1. Clay Haglund said:

    If you sneak over again this fall, I’d appreciate it if I could tag along.

    October 27, 2012
  2. Clay Haglund said:

    actually, I’m trying to talk a friend into going tomorrow morning.

    October 27, 2012
  3. Frank said:

    If you head out there again this year I’d be interested as well Griff. I have class Tuesday and Thursday, so I’m only available early afternoon those days.

    October 27, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Clay/Frank, I’ll gladly keep you guys in mind, especially if you’re willing to chronicle my crashes. 😉

    October 28, 2012
  5. syklystt said:

    I do the brakes sometimes to when doing skinneys..I also found that using a harder gear does alot for stability…when your in an easy gear…slight movement on the crank/pedal makes things move quick and easier to unbalance…a harder gear makes it difficult to do quick moves wheich keeps you balanced better.

    November 9, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    That’s a rationale I’ve not heard about/considered, syklystt. Makes complete sense.

    Question for you. Do you know of any how-to skinny videos or instructional articles where the instructor emphasizes the importance of leaning the bike while riding a skinny instead of steering it/turning the handlebars?

    I totally rely on leaning the bike but it’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally and it has to become automatic when riding a difficult skinny.

    And I only hear about the importance of leaning the bike when instructors are dissecting the elements of turning/cornering.

    November 10, 2012

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