pine needles- slippery!

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pine needles- slippery!

Postby mack_turtle » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:09 pm

some of my favorite trails are mostly covered in 2 inches of slippery, often damp, pine needles. it slows me down a lot because there is no way to corner in this stuff. it's like riding on discarded banana peels. what might be the consequences of clearing some of this stuff off the trail? i don't intend to constantly rake the trail down to bare dirt, but clearing up the accumulated mounts of slippery stuff would be nice.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby dirtywill » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:41 pm

That's a tricky question, or at least one open for debate. Some clubs blow off their trails religiously, while others believe that leaving organic material on the trail protects it. From my experience, I lean toward blowing off heavily used (and better maintained) trails so that they dry quicker but leave lesser used trails alone. The organic material could theoretically protect the trail tread but I don't think clearing out the accumulation to get better traction will hurt anything.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby kpvsr » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:30 pm

the consequence would be far superior cornering traction ultimately resulting in a more enjoyable ride

Go ahead, rake it down to bare dirt and get rid of the organic layer.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby Mark D. » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:22 pm

mack_turtle wrote:some of my favorite trails are mostly covered in 2 inches of slippery, often damp, pine needles. it slows me down a lot because there is no way to corner in this stuff. it's like riding on discarded banana peels. what might be the consequences of clearing some of this stuff off the trail? i don't intend to constantly rake the trail down to bare dirt, but clearing up the accumulated mounts of slippery stuff would be nice.


Really?? "No way"?? I say pave it, then you can go REALLY,REALLY fast :beerbang:
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby mcombs77 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:54 pm

mack_turtle wrote:some of my favorite trails are mostly covered in 2 inches of slippery, often damp, pine needles. it slows me down a lot because there is no way to corner in this stuff. it's like riding on discarded banana peels. what might be the consequences of clearing some of this stuff off the trail? i don't intend to constantly rake the trail down to bare dirt, but clearing up the accumulated mounts of slippery stuff would be nice.



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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby davidmuse » Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:05 am

The organic layer does provide some protection. In fact, on a random hillside, in the winter, when the canopy is bare, the buildup of organic material provides almost all of that hillside's protection against erosion. However, the more traffic an area gets, the more scrubbed away the organic layer gets too. Most organic material gets scrubbed off with VERY little traffic, even foot traffic. Pine needles are a bit of an exception though, they seem to persist, doggedly, especially if there's clay or loess under them.

At design time, there's no good way to know whether a trail will get enough traffic to remove the organic layer or not so a really well designed and built trail shouldn't rely on the organic cover at all. In the case of a known-to-be-well-designed-and-built trail, there should be no consequence, to the trail at least, if the organic cover is removed and whether to remove it or not is up to the trail maintaners and their vision for the trail.


If a trail isn't necessarily well designed or constructed, that's when things get really interesting. The trail might be relying heavily on a buildup of organic material for protection and removing it could be disastrous. For example, on a trail running down a fall line, the organic layer is really all there is protecting the soil from erosion and if you want to remove it, you have to solve the following word problem first:

* If duff builds up at rate X and is compacted by traffic at rate Y and scrubbed by traffic at rate Z and I remove it with a leaf blower at rate M, and as the popularity of the trail increases at rate N, causing the duff to now be compacted at rate M' and scrubbed at rate N', blah, blah, math, math, etc., etc., how many years before that section of trail suddenly becomes rutted?

And for extra credit:
* At what rate will anti-mountain-biking activists then attack? (Express your answer in terms of "tens of pages of appeals-to-fear, appeals-to-necessity and is-ought-problems that land managers are legally obligated to respond to" per week.)
* How many SORBA forum posts will it generate about trails being sanitized when someone goes back in to fix it?

There's probably some semi-scientific way to determine that first bit, but I haven't run across it yet. Generally you just have to guess or go on experience.

Almost all of trail science seems to be focused on building and maintaining sustainable trails and how to identify and fix bad ones. There doesn't yet appear to be a lot of science geared toward determining exactly how close to the edge a known-badly-placed trail is it is or how to hold it there in perpetuity. Maybe in the coming years there will be, but there are bigger fish to fry right now.

On top of it all, pine needles appear to be really, really good armor. I've recently ridden trails in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana that I hadn't been on in 10 years or more and, knowing their placement and the concentration of traffic on them, I expected to be trashed and trenched out. Surprisingly, they were all in really good shape and the perpetual innundation of pine needles seemed to have had a lot to do with it. On one trail, I dug into the ground a bit and there were needles that either got smashed into the soil or covered up by new deposition down to about 1cm below the surface. So, it appeared that the trail relied pretty heavily on them for its preservation, or at least did until that layer of natural kevlar got built up.

Yeah, trails built in pine forests seem to be able to break all kinds of rules and get away with it, and seem to do it pretty regularly. As such, in that situation, trail maintainers are generally wary about removing the build up unless they're sure from experience that it'll be ok.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby tenbsmith » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:36 am

so... not all organic material is created equal. One other advantage of pine needles is that they don't hold moisture like leaves.

One other note, if/when removing organic material from the trail, do it in a way that allows water to get off the trail; don't create a damn on the downhill side of an off-camber trail that will hold water on the trail.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby mack_turtle » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:49 am

this is a trail that does not receive a ton of traffic. I will ask the locals who ride there more often what they think of this. it's a large public park that has some unofficial mountain bike trails. the needles are so thick in some places that it's not just a problem for cornering at speed, you basically have to tiptoe your why through most of the trails.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby dirtywill » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:59 am

mack_turtle wrote:this is a trail that does not receive a ton of traffic. I will ask the locals who ride there more often what they think of this. it's a large public park that has some unofficial mountain bike trails. the needles are so thick in some places that it's not just a problem for cornering at speed, you basically have to tiptoe your why through most of the trails.


More than likely it will be fine to at least remove enough of the pine straw in the corners to make for safe and enjoyable riding. Like tenb said though, make sure you don't cause more of a problem by creating a drainage impediment with the discarded material.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby chet » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:10 am

Be careful about what work you do on trails in a park without authorization from the park. By removing the pine needles on a unofficial mountain bike trail you may end up with the trail closed to mountain bikes. I am not saying to not do it but be careful.
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby peterjm76 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:38 pm

Get rid of the rocks and roots while your at it, oh and cut down all the trees too :lol:
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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby iride » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:48 pm

if this is where i'm thinking it is, there's plenty technical to get into w/o all the leaves.
clearly it's entirely too technical...

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Re: pine needles- slippery!

Postby kpvsr » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:03 pm

ultimately whatever you end up doing someone else's idea is going to be far superior......
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