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Is it ok to ride wet trails?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I've always thought there was a sort of general philosphy that you don't ride when the trails are wet because it causes more damage and trail deterioration. I'm not talking about a trail that's mostly dry with some puddle crossings...but trails that are wet with lots of recent or current precipitation.

I was out for a hike with my wife Friday and the trails we walked are also bike trails. They were quite soft and muddy in most places, icy in some, snow covered in some...yet there were fresh tire tracks. Not only that, someone was gearing up at the parking area w hen we finished. He obviously knew the trails would be wet and slippery, as he was putting on downhill pads to ride xc (pretty technical trails where falls can be down steep banks into ravines).

So, what's the current body of thought out there on whether it's cool to ride wet trails or not?
post #2 of 23
It is totally not cool to ride a bike, horses or even hike on a trail that is wet or muddy enough to sink in even a 1/4 of an inch. Some of it has to do with what kind of soil is in the area & how much long term damage will be created. Some areas are less fragile & can handle more abuse than others. Any damage that will cause puddling or obscure water from running off the trail is bad juju.
JF
post #3 of 23
i always thought that for biking that the proper thing to do was ride in the same tracks and through the mud not around it as to not make a new trail. I guess i could be wrong
post #4 of 23
It depends on the trail and the area. What is the trail surface? Will riding really hurt it? Who maintains it? Does it get maintained at all? Who else rides it? Some trails are definitely more all-weather than others.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
It depends on the trail and the area. What is the trail surface? Will riding really hurt it? Who maintains it? Does it get maintained at all? Who else rides it? Some trails are definitely more all-weather than others.
The trails I"m talking about are a mix of long existing trails in an otherwise undeveloped "town park", and MTB dedicated trails built in the last few years by a small group of bikers with permission from the town. The trails are mix of hard packed dirt and stone near the creek, to softer loamy type stuff on the trails up away from the creek...but very few places I'd really call muddy at the time...I mean we weren't wallowing in mud when we were hiking. Far from it...but it was damp and snowy/icy.

Regarding riding straight throgh wet places...I agree -- but that's talking about muddy spots on otherwise dry trails. A few of our trails here have muddy spots that almost never dry out...and the riders have done good to not widen the trail.
post #6 of 23
I would rather not ride in wet conditions if it will deteriorate the trail, but it is fun to get muddy from time to time.

Dennis
post #7 of 23
It's a total judgement call. Out west it's a much bigger problem.
Here in the MW, it's so wet, if you didn't ride muddy trails, you wouldn't ride at all!
post #8 of 23
Ya we have some at pickney were i ride where it is always damp. and whats more fun than riding in the rain and getting home and scrapping the mud out
post #9 of 23
While so many people are against riding on wet trails we had several races this summer in very wet and muddy conditions.
post #10 of 23
Yeah, racing was the last excuse I used to ride muddy trails and that was a long time ago. How much difference would one more racer make? Since I last raced, I think I heard about race promoters canceling events due to wet weather. I guess most are still run rain or shine?

Before I realized the impact, I enjoyed some muddy rides, but now I adhere to the "leave no trace" ethic. I would encourage others to stick to paved surfaces when the trails are wet.
post #11 of 23
Typically around here the normal courtesy is to wait 24 hours before riding after a heavy rain. Since most rainfall turns into runoff, things dry pretty quick, but often the washes are wet for several days, so I'll dismount and walk across as necessary.
post #12 of 23
telerod15: I guess most are still run rain or shine?

Correct. Cancelling races due to rain is difficult to do. Think of all the organization efforts and money spent. I personally hate rainy, muddy conditions. Unfortunately this summer 4 of the 10 races I did were in wet, rainy, muddy conditions.

But if it was not for those races, you won't find me on wet trails too often. I simply hate a muddy mess.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
I've always thought there was a sort of general philosphy that you don't ride when the trails are wet because it causes more damage and trail deterioration. I'm not talking about a trail that's mostly dry with some puddle crossings...but trails that are wet with lots of recent or current precipitation.

I was out for a hike with my wife Friday and the trails we walked are also bike trails. They were quite soft and muddy in most places, icy in some, snow covered in some...yet there were fresh tire tracks. Not only that, someone was gearing up at the parking area w hen we finished. He obviously knew the trails would be wet and slippery, as he was putting on downhill pads to ride xc (pretty technical trails where falls can be down steep banks into ravines).

So, what's the current body of thought out there on whether it's cool to ride wet trails or not?
your in upstate new york. The soil will repair it self. go head and ride.

JF wetter climates like the east and pacfic northwest are usually totally rideable in the rain. even if you rut the trail its always seems to be gone the next ride. This has been my observation around pittsburgh. everyone here rides regardless of the weather. we had group of 50 riding on thanksgiving. the trails looked damn nasty afterwards but it will all be fine in a couple days. Riding in the wet around still leaves no trace.

By you second post it seems that the trails are well worn as well, meaning another good reason not to worry.

some things that help in the rain are lots of rocks, hills that drain the trail, and pine needles/pine trees.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post

JF wetter climates like the east and pacfic northwest are usually totally rideable in the rain.
I would think that if you live in the PNW you would never be able to ride if you had to wait for the trails to dry .

Around my house, there is a lot of clay in the soil which makes it impossible to ride if it's very wet. The stuff sticks so bad to everything that your bike won't even function after about 100' of the stuff. It drys quickly though & gets very hard, like concrete. It is a great surface when it is smooth, but really sucks when it is rutted or full of post holes from horse hooves. It takes a whole season to repair itself or a lot of labor. The other problem is the ruts & holes won't allow the water to run off naturally.
Again it depends on the soil in the region.
JF
post #15 of 23
In UT riding in the rain is a big no no. In the midatlantic its pretty much ok. But some trails still get worked in the rain. Just make sure you are on a trail that drains well and has rocky or sandy soil. Clay tends to set up and harden once it starts to dry out so any ruts you make will be lasting.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post
In UT riding in the rain is a big no no. In the midatlantic its pretty much ok.
NIMBY?
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post
Just make sure you are on a trail that drains well and has rocky or sandy soil. Clay tends to set up and harden once it starts to dry out so any ruts you make will be lasting.
+1 for pay attention to the soil composition. I just moved to Seattle, and I'm finding that a lot of the all-weather trails here have hardened surfaces and bridges over really boggy bits, so it's okay to ride wet trails because they won't be damaged anyway. Wet clay is another story, though. It sets up into some crazy ruts.

Also, disc brakes rock. Fewer than a dozen races and the original brake pads from my cx bike are gone and the new ones don't have a lot left on them.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15 View Post
NIMBY?
Heh,

The in the midatlantic trails like like fredrick watershed and little bennet are rocky, super resilient, drain like crazy and seem totally bober for riding in the rain. Also western PA and mountains in VA seem to be very rocky and rain rideable. Others closer in to DC would probabbly get hosed in the rain, so should be avoided.

UT trails are totally different ball game, lots of clay that sets up rock hard leaving ruts that will rattle your filling 2 months later. They really should not be ridden when wetter than tacky.
post #19 of 23
Seems to me the loamy soil of an Eastern hardwood forest would be more easily damaged than clay type soils in a semi-arid ecosystem. I don't really know.

They only put bridges and boardwalks over sections of trail in wet, forested areas. Does that tell us anything?
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15 View Post
Seems to me the loamy soil of an Eastern hardwood forest would be more easily damaged than clay type soils in a semi-arid ecosystem. I don't really know.
Unless it's one of those rocky cnnniggetts like Elizabeth's Furnace

post #21 of 23
I got no problem riding sandy trails when they are wet...
post #22 of 23
as you can read from above, people have different views on the subject. i'm in the camp of generally staying away from trails that get muddy both to preserve the trails as well as to preserve myself. it's just a bit trickier and less safe to ride really wet trails. so in the winter i'm on my road bike quite a bit, and it hardly gets used once things dry in the spring. we have varying soil conditions in the bay area and that makes a big difference on how rideable things are. i'll stick to more sandy/rocky trails rather than clay during the wet months.
post #23 of 23
If you're leaving tire marks deeper than the tread on your tire, it's too wet to ride.

generally for New England and Mid-Atlantic riding, a good rule of thumb in the summer is 24hrs per inch of rain. It obviously changes some - if it's really hot out, and it hasn't been very wet recently, make it 12 hours. If it's been super wet out recently, probably more like 36-48.

Or you could ride elizabeth furnace or the 'shed, but those shed rocks get super slippery! (for our DC area friends)
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