Erosion everywhere

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 20 September 2010

In case you haven't noticed, we're a bit passionate about trail advocacy around here. I mean, without trails to ride on, where would MTB be?

Anyhow, another thing you might have noticed is that opponents of MTB have a standard list of complaints about cyclists - most of them unfounded. One of their favorites is their claim that mountain bike riders cause erosion.

Thought I'd share this image from the office I'm at currently to show how silly this claim is. Or rather, to show that unmanaged erosion is everywhere and any piece of land can become degraded if it goes beyond it's sustainable limit.

As you can see from this image - some people at this particular location choose to walk over the grass as it's at least 1 stride shorter to the ultimate destination (bottom left of these steps) than walking along the concrete path and then cutting left after the grass. I don't think that many people would walk on the grass (ladies in high heels, people like me who don't need to save 1 stride out of their trip, etc.) but even so, look at the mess that has been made. Interestingly I saw a guy on walk over this way today... not on the already eroded dirt, but on the grass to the side of the dirt... which will ultimately widen the dirt patch and kill all the grass.

I think this speaks volumes, not only about how erosion is everywhere (not just in those places that people ride bikes), but also about how careless and incredibly lazy exploits by a few can wreck a nice bit of landscaping.

Please remember this the next time you think about cutting a corner or widening a trail by riding round an obstacle rather than over it.

obmal's picture

Must be all those exotic ZOO animals heading down for their caffeine fix..?

Flynny's picture

Would not of happened if they laid Sir Walter Buffalo in the first place

Lach's picture

also demonstrates a principle of track building. Don't build a track and expect everyone to use it if there's an obvious and easy shortcut. Either make the shortcut the track or put an obstacle in the way.

VC's picture

I agree with Lach, case in point,Red Hill. A year and a half ago there were mostly 'A' lines, and now it's alphabet lines. Just ride the 'A' line, if you cant, walk it until your skill level improves, or we'll end up with footpaths instead of MTB tracks. (motorbikes have stuffed it for us as well)

browny's picture

Isn't that another principle of trail building too though.

Either set the trail up so that it's only the advanced riders who can access it (ie using a tough trail filter or locate it in such a way that beginners will not go to the effort to use it) or build proper B lines for those who can't handle the tougher stuff.

My observation is that riders will try to find a shortcut first and only as a last resort will they get off and walk.

moggio's picture

Living in the mountains and doing a lot of bushwalking on both NPWS and council "bush walks" its amazing once you start looking just how insanely eroded they all are. There are walks that 10 years ago were quite acceptable and now are just gullies a few feet deep... no mountain bikes, not even that many walkers. Just badly built and designed trails.

I am sure council staff and NPWS are aware of this and the constant struggle to minimise it, yet the public attitute is that it really doesn't exist. Facing council over this stuff walkers are completely innocent of environmental responsibilty yet riders are environmental "vandals".

Really the whole "are mountain bikes as erosive as walkers or less" is basically a waste of time... they are near enough to be similiar. The real problem, at least an order of magnitude or more severe is erosion due to water on poorly built trails.

herzog's picture

Even with no walkers, bikes or fauna there will be erosion. Over time, water finds fall-lines and creates ruts, which become gullies, and so on.

The grand canyon is the product of erosion. So is our magnificent coastline.

While I agree that badly designed NPWS tracks can accelerate this process by not draining well, to some degree erosion is always a natural process wherever there is wind and water.

donkerr's picture

Out of how many millions of acres of National Park against the odd bit of erosion on a metre wide track. Rain is the cause of erosion - we only see it on tracks because that's where most people travel. It's everywhere. It's such a non issue when talking about MTB access. The biggest issue is other park users getting a large fright when faced with a cyclist coming around a corner fast. This ruins their serene day out. Which makes it more a generational issue as most younger park users tend to both ride and walk. We just need to re-class the definition of a bicycle at a national level as currenlty it's classed as a vehicle. That's the giant leap we need to make.

sean_c's picture

I promise to think about the ladies in high heels.

And not cut the corner.

CookPassBartridge's picture

Odd that someone has taken the time to draw the outline of the British Isles in that photo...

ADZA's picture

Rob, i know exactly where that is and i know why it's so badly eroded... because my big boots (and every other bastards from building A) walking down for lunch were walking across the grass instead of the track.

seriously i didn't realise you worked there ...(Small world mate) 8.5 years for me there (now moved along)

just made out the corner of the ME WE sign there Sticking out tongue

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