Tag: sections

My thinking about this issue of attracting more beginners to mountain biking with special ride areas/sections continues to evolve. (For background, click here and then here.)

In a nutshell, the challenge is how to provide an initial off-road cycling experience for beginners that increases the likelihood that they’ll want to continue.  Beginner level cross-country trails (IMBA’s Green level) are often constructed in a way that’s too challenging for those who’ve never ridden anything but pavement and they quit.

It’s difficult to know which types of terrain these true beginners can handle and which they’re going to struggle with or freak out over. So trail builders make a guess, aiming for whatever they think the middle ground is (‘Goldilocks design’, ie, not too hard, not too easy) and hope that a majority enjoy it.

But then a pure beginner rides it, gets 100 yards in and they freak out over a slight downhill turn and end up being miserable the rest of the way because the trail has a lot of those. Or they’re tense every time the trail goes close to trees because they’ve never had to give much thought about the width of their handlebars. Or they’re anxious because they’re worried they won’t make it up a slight incline and fall over or backwards. Or they constantly worry that they’ll run into another rider because the trail is two-way.

And they decide that mountain biking is not for them. 

Learning to ride

Riding Section 1 at LebLast week I blogged about my technical scheme to mark up sections (alternative lines) through rock gardens. I set up two sections at Lebanon Hills later in the week, another four on Sunday, and revamped one of them yesterday after some feedback from Leb Trail Steward John Lundell.

So far, using white chalk to mark the rocks and flags to mark the entrance and exits has worked to set up the sections. It’s easy to move flags and the chalk marks can be removed by rubbing dirt on them.

I’ve not yet gotten much feedback yet to know if it’s working for riders. And it’s not rained, so I’ve not had to re-chalk.

The six videos all start with photos of the sections marked with red lines to make the alternative lines visible. Then there’s a clip of me riding the section.  I recorded the videos using my smartphone mounted on a small tripod, usually placed on the ground. Most of the sections required me to capture video from two or three different vantage points. The upshot of that? You see me cleaning everything but you don’t see a non-stop video of me cleaning entire sections from start to finish. Have I cleaned every section from start to finish? Not yet.  The videos also don’t include any of my many failed attempts and crashes.

All the videos are short, varying in length from 12-39 seconds.  Attach a comment if you’ve got questions or feedback.

Section 1:

httpv://vimeo.com/72477908

Section 2:

httpv://vimeo.com/72478391

Section 3:

httpv://vimeo.com/72616040

Section 4:

httpv://vimeo.com/72619804

Section 5:

httpv://vimeo.com/72620228

Section 6:

httpv://vimeo.com/72620498

Trail work Video

I have a scheme in mind: temporarily mark alternative lines through some selected rock gardens to provide fresh challenges to riders who are bored with riding through them the same way all the time. I’m calling them ‘sections’ since that’s the term most often used in mototrials events.

Leb rock garden alternative line - start Leb rock garden alternative line - finish

I’ve marked these photos with a red line to indicate an example of a short alternative line (viewed from the start and looking backwards from the finish) through a rock garden at Lebanon Hills.

I started thinking about this when I went rocking climbing a couple weeks ago at Vertical Endeavors with one of my sons. He told me that they change some of the color-coded climbs each month in order to keep things interesting for the advanced regulars.

How to mark the lines? Ideas thus far:

  • flags
  • chalk
  • colored stones/pebbles
  • tape
  • washable paint/spray chalk

rocks marked with a chalk lineMy inclination is to experiment first using small colored flags to mark the start and finish of a section and railroad chalk to mark the approximate line through the rocks. I want to avoid doing anything that would bother land managers, make things more difficult for dirt bosses/trail workers, or make riding needlessly more dangerous (e.g. stakes or other markers that could impale a tire or body part).

The sections would be publicized with photos and/or video in the MORC forum as well as via Twitter and Facebook.  Riders would be invited to discuss the sections, brag about their successes, whine about their failures, share photos and videos, etc. And then a month or two later, the sections would be changed to something else. Others could volunteer to set them up.  If this works with rock gardens, then it might be worth trying with other technical obstacles.

To explain a section to riders who discover it while out riding the trail, we could print a photo or two showing the alternative line, laminate them and tack them up on a stake or nearby tree with a little sign that says “Try this!”  We could also put up a QR code near the entrance of a section and link it to a web page with photos and videos. Riders with smartphones could then see what it’s all about.

I ran this idea past some of the Lebanon Hills Dirt Bosses last week and they seemed to like it. So I plan to start the experiment there.

What might the pros and cons of this idea be, especially the possible unintended consequences? Want to help? Attach a comment.

Trail work