Working with Communities of Mountain Bikers

On Saturday, March 17, I spoke at the CT Land Conservation Conference.  I shared the story of the evolution of Rockland and its successes in land conservation, community engagement, problem-solving, and mountain biking. The presentation had its intended effect on getting some folks who have been hesitant to work with MTBers in the past to reconsider.   Some land managers invited conversations to start new trails, others encouraged to revitalize old partnerships.

29386461_10155041459652282_2664713412562386944_oIt was an honor to speak with land management and for NEMBA and Rockland Preserved to be welcomed at this outstanding event.  I encourage more conversations, and if the presentation: Working with Communities of Mountain Bikers: The Rockland Presrve Case Study helps, please share it on!

 Thank you to Joe, Spencer, Kim, Jon, Paula, and the great standing room audience at the event~


No e-bikes or other motorized vehicles

Rockland Preserve management has a clear and consistent stance on e-bikes. They share the opinion of NEMBA which states:

“The recreational use of electric and power-assisted bicycles, ORVs or ATVs on natural surface trails should be managed using the same guidelines and policies as other motorized vehicles.”

At Rockland, there is zero tolerance for motorized transport.  At some points this has even been policed by helicopter surveillance and confiscation of unauthorized equipment.  The emergence of e-bikes blurs the line between motorized vehicles and bikes and presents a potentially destructive mechanism that could harm relations with all wheeled users of Rockland Preserve.

The rules are clear, e-bikes of all classifications are not allowed at Rockland Preserve.

Trail conditions. When not to ride and why.

Rockland Preserve, like many other riding spots that are open to the public are built and maintained by volunteers.  These public spaces welcome mountain bikers and expect them to know the basics about when NOT to ride.  This is about when and why to stay away from riding trails.  Appreciation for these guidelines help us maintain access and sustain the best trails to ride.

Conditions least favorable to riding:

  1. Thaw days.  Mud released from thawed earth sits on the surface with hard ice beneath and leaves the top layer like pudding that is unsafe and unsound to ride.  Leaf blown trails exacerbate the problem.  Ruts develop quick that might freeze and turn to cement in hours and stay for weeks.  Below 32 degrees is great riding.  Above the 32 degree mark is bad news.
  2.  Rainy/Muddy Trails.  Riding in mud is tempting but bad for trails.  All that mud on your bike and in your teeth at the end of a ride is the dirt that makes great riding so fun.  Wet trails take less time to dry in the Summer with vegetation around than in Winter.
  3. Trails through marshy areas.  Proper trail planning should eliminate the need to cross wetlands, but those wet areas are sensitive ecosystems and should absolutely be avoided by foot and wheel when wet.
  4. Fresh dirt in poor conditions.  Packing in soft dirt makes riding better, but in poor conditions it ruts fast, pushes dirt off the trail, and ruins features.
  5. Night.  Rockland management insists on not allowing night riding because they cite that it is less safe to ride, harder to make rescues, disturbing to neighbors, and lights disturb sensitive wildlife.  Different management has different policies.  Respecting their wishes is essential to maintaining relations.

How to handle poor conditions:

  1. Avoid the trails.  If you know conditions are bad, keep the big wheels on the rack and grab the road bike.
  2. Choose fire roads.  You’re at the lot and ready to ride and you know you made a bad choice.  Mud everywhere.  If you’re going to ride, stick to the fire roads.  Stay off those sensitive singletracks.
  3. Don’t spread the mess.  If a puddle is right in front of you, don’t widen it by riding around.  Head straight through the center.

Trail erosion

Stripped soil–> rock exposure and channeling–> rutting –> nasty, not fun riding

Well-designed trails

Avoid the fall line, control drainage, avoid wetlands…. Still need time to dry!

Thank you!

To all the riders that respect trail closures, plan according to conditions, and help educate other riders.   Enjoy many great riding days!


About Singletracks of Rockland

Singletracks of Rockland are the bike trails that navigate the 650 acre Rockland Preserve in North Madison, CT.  I began building trails at Rockland with a small crew of volunteers in 2012.

Thanks to the help from a growing army of volunteers and the effort of trail legend Jon Petersen, Rockland is now a destination for cycling in CT.  It has has evolved from a short segment into 20 miles of connected loops with features that keep riders coming back.

These trails have changed me.  They have given me an appreciation for Rockland, and the way I look at land and my connection to it.  I have listened and learned from mentors, friends, critics, and strangers about how Rockland has changed.  I constantly reflect on the impact of these impressions on the ecology of the place.

I love riding Rockland, learning about Rockland, and sharing its richness.  I visit with my children to walk the trails, I stop by the lot just to meet visitors, I run camps with children to teach them to love cycling and adventure, and I encourage people to participate in stewardship of the preserve.

This blog will share my experiences at Rockland and the lessons I’ve learned along the ride.