[Cdt-l] Mountain bikes on the CDT

bcss at bresnan.net bcss at bresnan.net
Thu Dec 13 18:22:44 CST 2012

I've been involved with The Colorado Trail Foundation for a lengthy period,
and have completed the CT six times over a 22 year time span.  Two of those
completions were thru trips via mountain bike, the other four were on foot.
(Hiking is really a lot easier)  The CT is the first long trail I mapped,
and three of my trips included gps mapping and detailed assessment of the
condition of the trail.  Part of that assessment was detailing trail damage
for remediation by trail crews.  


The trail is impacted by all users, some more than others.  The most
severely damaged areas are those that allow motorized use, be it
motorcycles, four wheelers, or SUV's.  That is the reason why the 32 mile
reroute was proposed in the first place, to separate the non motorized from
motorized users.  Most of the CT is closed to motorized use but all of it
outside of designated wilderness has always been open to bicycles. The CT
guidebook provides information for cyclists to detour around wilderness,
making it possible to thru-bike the trail.  


In the non-motorized portions of the trail by far the most trail damage I
have seen has been caused by hoofed animals, but not so much by horses,
which are somewhat of a rarity.  Horses do cause damage in places where they
have daily rides for tourists, but even that is relatively minor compared to
the damage caused by deer, elk, and livestock.  Collectively, these animals
comprise the largest CT user group and they cause the most damage, something
we generally just have to live with.  The next biggest offender group is
hikers who cut switchbacks and cause significant erosion on steep slopes.
That is a huge problem, particularly in sensitive high alpine meadows.
Damage from bicycles occurs in places where the trail is too steep and
cyclists drag their rear tire to control speed, causing erosion and ruts.
That problem has been greatly minimized on the CT by improved trail design
to reduce grade.  Considering that there are at least ten thru-hikers for
every thru-cyclist, cyclists are one of the least damaging user groups.  


Every inch of the 486 miles long CT is maintained every year via robust and
active trail crews and adopter programs run by the CTF.  Small problems get
annual attention and don't become large issues due to regular maintenance.
The trail is excellent, and hikers should not feel threatened or
uncomfortable about sharing it.  Particularly CDT thru-hikers, who are used
to a considerably rougher and less defined path.  


BTW, the Colorado Trail Foundation is a non-profit organization that assumes
100% responsibility for care and maintenance of the CT.  It is supported by
donations and all the trail work is performed by volunteers.  It is not
supported by  "higher taxes, mandatory trail maintenance, user fees".


I, too have occasionally encountered cyclists and motorized vehicles in the
wilderness where they are not allowed.  When this happens I tell them that
they are breaking the law then get out my camera and start taking pictures.
That seems to have a very unsettling effect.  If you get a chance to share
the pictures with local authorities that is even better.   



best wishes,


Jerry Brown (bearcreek)

 <mailto:bcss at bresnan.net> mailto:bcss at bresnan.net



From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
On Behalf Of Tjamrog08
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 1:54 PM
To: JD Schaefer
Cc: cdt-l at backcountry.net
Subject: Re: [Cdt-l] Mountain bikes on the CDT


I really hope that this mountain biking thread doesn't end up like it did on
the PCT list  couple of months ago, with hikers demonizing the bikers. It
was so nasty that I quit that list.  I'm a biker and a hiker.  Let's move on
to something productive before it all slides downhill.  

Uncle Tom 


On Dec 13, 2012, at 3:48 PM, JD Schaefer wrote:


Well written.  I agree with much.  I'm glad your experiences with mountain
bikers have been positive.  Perhaps your karma is much better than mine and
that of most of the hikers with whom I've exchanged stories of less than
optimal encounters with mountain bikers.  When I tell mountain bikers that
are on trails clearly marked not for bikes that they're not supposed to be
there, not one has ever admitted knowing they were breaking the law.  They
always say "I didn't know" as they accelerate away from me.


"My own experience leads me to believe that a huge % of the user-conflict
and sustainability challenges can be solved by good land management coupled
with good trail design and construction."  I agree, in theory.  In a perfect
world where there's always enough money, those challenges will be solved.
Your statement is positive.


"I am a strong believer that any use should be sustainable over the long
haul.  Period.  "  On the surface this sounds great.  Not to nitpick, but
what does it mean?  How do we sustain?  Do we sustain with higher taxes,
mandatory trail maintenance, user fees?


Insofar as your "recreation ecologist" friend is concerned, I'd like to see
his work so I can decide for myself, not for anyone else, if his conclusions
are objective and what agenda he has.  When I hike on a trail and see tire
tracks creating a rut, when I see curves in the trail with the uphill side
of the trail eroded due to the speed mountain bikers enjoy going downhill,
when I see depressions in the trail that become huge mud holes due to the
impact of mountain bikes, I have to question if there is anything resembling
the concept of LNT in the mountain biking crowd.  In conjunction with your
recreation ecologist's papers, I'd like to see what the Forest Service has
to say about the ecological impact of mountain bikes with the understanding
that the activity is increasing in popularity.



On Thu, Dec 13, 2012 at 1:44 PM, Charlie Thorpe <charliethorpe at att.net>

Hello All -

Interesting discussion about mountain bikes on the trails we hikers like to

Some comments were made earlier in this thread about the amount of damage
done to trails by mountain bikes that don't line up with my own experience
on the subject.  I wondered if maybe I had been hiking in unusual places
with extremely eco-friendly mountain bikers, so I asked a friend of mine who
is a recreation ecologist what kind of science is out there on mountain
biking impacts.

He responded with a draft of the mountain biking chapter in a book he is
co-authoring (good overview of recent science on mountain biking impacts
with a great bibliography).  He also sent three papers on the social
conflicts involving mountain bikers and other trail users.  I will be happy
to send the chapter on mountain biking impacts and the three papers on
social impacts to anyone interested.

I am not a biker of any kind, but I have met plenty of them on the trails.
Most mountain bikers I have run into in the backcountry have sounded pretty
much as caring about the trail environment as any of us hikers.  Most have
seemed to be well-educated young to middle aged professionals who generally
understand the rules of the trail and mostly try about as hard as most of us
to go by them.  I won't vouch for their strange tastes in bike outfits, they
otherwise seem OK <g>.

I did  run into a group of Japanese mountain bikers up above treelike on the
CDT in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.  We had an interesting time
discussing the legality of mountain bikes in a Wilderness Area (I have no
Japanese, they had no English).  I think they finally got the drift of my
concerns because they turned around and went back down the trail the way
they came up.  BTW, they gave me the card of the outfitter who provided the
bikes and carried them to the trailhead.I cheerfully made a complaint report
about the outfitter to the Forest Service.

I was solo hiking sobo down through Keystone after coming off of Whaleback
and that beautiful alpine plateau country.  I hadn't seen another human for
days and was lost in thought (solving all of the world's problems) as I
hiked.  I dang near came out of my skin when I heard a soft "coming up on
your left" from a mountain biker behind me.

I was so obviously so completely spooked by him that he stopped to make sure
I was OK.  We chatted a minute while my heart rate settled down and I had to
admit that his courtesy of warning me that he was approaching probably kept
me from hurting myself by jumping off the steep side of the trail.

He said that he and his mountain biking friends made it a point to warn
backpackers that they were approaching from behind on the theory that the
backpacks might be making it harder for the hiker to hear the bikes coming.
I told him that, IMHO, it was't my backpack blocking the sound so much as it
was me sometimes getting zoned out as I hiked.

I enjoy trail work and have noticed that on many of the trail projects I
have been on it is MUCH easier to get the mountain bikers out for a day of
trail construction or maintenance than it has been to get hikers involved.
The various mountain biking clubs I have worked with have done a great job
at getting grant money to develop VERY useful and well-stocked trailers slam
full of trail tools, they take care of the tools, and they bring them when
they report for work.  BTW, outside of the Backcountry Horsemen, I have
pretty much given up on getting useful help from the hoss folks <f>.  Don't
even ask about the responses I have gotten from the motorized crowd.

I like hiking multi-use trails because I like meeting the different folks I
run into on them.  I always enjoy sharing experiences with other hikers and
mountain bikers and have personally been the recipient of some truly
significant trail magic from hoss and ATV folks.  I enjoy hiking and helping
to maintain trails in our Wilderness Areas and this provides me more than
enough hiker-solitude to scratch my elitist hiker itch.  I am willing to
share the rest of the trails I hike as long as other users are willing to do
their share to help take care of them.

IMHO, there is room for all users in the incredible trail systems we have
developed in our truly extensive public lands (1/3 of the USA is owned by
us!).  Some of our trails work best for multi-use, some for selected uses,
and some for single use only - the trick lies in finding out which truly
needs to be which.  My own experience leads me to believe that a huge % of
the user-conflict and sustainability challenges can be solved by good land
management coupled with good trail design and construction.

Private land owners generally have the legal (and some would argue the
ethical) right to designate the way trails are used on their lands.  We hire
land managers to take care of our public lands and have evolved elaborate
means for making sure that all citizens have the ability to make our wishes
known on issues like designating public trail use.  Our job is to find out
how to make our wishes known and then do what we can to help keep our trails
in the shape that we want them to be in.

I am a strong believer that any use should be sustainable over the long
haul.  Period.  This means that the monkey is on all of our backs to find
out how our own use actually impacts the trails (and the larger trail
environment that includes the wildlife and other users), to eliminate or at
least minimize those impacts we personally cause, and to go back and help
fix more than our share of all the impacts that have accumulated over time.

For me the icing on the cake is that trail work isn't just a chance to pay
our civic rent or practice good outdoor citizenship.it gets you outdoors
with a pretty good crowd and can be a lot of fun!

Happy holidays.don't forget that your REI dividend evaporates at the end of
the year!

- Charlie

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