Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bored on singletrack?!?

Something very disconcerting happened to Sarah and I on Sunday - we did a big ~17 mile ride, 90% on singletrack, with great weather, no mechanicals, and no crashes, and we had a terrible time.

How is this possible? Well, Jeffco opened up a new trail called Centennial Cone about 6 months ago. It's a beautiful location, high above Clear Creek canyon, with cool views all around. Feels really remote, too - there are plenty of places where you really can't see any sign of civilization. There's a 2.3 mile singletrack spur leading to a 12 mile loop, 9 of which are singletrack. What could possibly suck about that?

Well, the trail design, that's what. It's relatively flat, with no steep grades anywhere. Ok, no problem there, really, but combine that with a decided lack of twistiness, lots of annoying switchbacks with logs inexplicably placed in the worst possible spot, and such a smooth surface that I often spent 10 minutes without needing or wanting to unweight (let alone lift) my front wheel.

This is symptomatic of a problem I've seen here in Boulder when the county crews build new trails - they think the trails purpose is to get from A to B, when in actuality, the people using the trail generally aren't trying to go anywhere at all. Straight trails suck, first because they're not fun to ride, but more importantly because they're dangerous. Multiuse/multidirectional trails need to have features that keep riders from going too fast, and they need to avoid having too many blind corners (especially if they're mixed in with fast/straight terrain).

Centennial Cone, as it stands, is a disaster waiting to happen, because it's easy to get going 20+ mph on the dead straight, dead smooth downhill sections, and then slam into someone coming the other way around one of the blind turns. It also encourages riders to haul ass like crazy into the (often nigh-unrideable) switchbacks, then slam on the stoppers and skid.

Let me be clear - I have no problem with the fact that the trail isn't technical or (for me) particularly fun. It'll attract lots of beginner riders who are looking for a long singletrack loop that isn't too challenging. But the trail could have catered to those riders AND been much safer and funner with just a few extra twists and turns, and the occasional small rock. Reasonable technical features make a trail SAFER for everyone (hikers, riders, horsie folks) - I wish the folks building trails around here understood that.


Cellarrat said...

I *think* with a few winters and some snow that the trail well get quite a bit more narrow and a bit more tech... Maybe slow things down a bit

I love how fast you can get going on that trail....

I never seem to run into that many people up there ether

Feldy said...



I've paid attention and that trail has virtually no corners that aren't a natural contour or a tight switchback. I agree that some tech will come with time; I imagine in a few years portions will resemble Chimney Gulch.

I don't really see the merits of a trail on which it's easy to go fast on. There are plenty of "trails" like that. They're called roads. I probably don't mean that to be *as* combative as it might sound.

It is my understanding that Jeffco wanted to try to get this completed relatively quickly. That involved using their mechanized trailbuilding tool that cuts a 3' wide, very smooth trail. That explains part

rgsauve said...

The trail will get rockier in a few years once all the dirts gone i think it may get as rocky as White Ranch.
Your right about the switchbacks, many are totally nonnegotiable because of the logs.

Thanks for the fast shipping on the XT crank too!

Ed said...

I've ridden CC a few times and I had a blast each time, it's a beautiful ride. There are miles and miles and miles of official and unofficial trails that are more technical along the Front Range. Ride 'em.

It is the rider's responsibility to be safe and aware of the park conditions including the possibility of blind turns, other users, etc; ride slower.

Sorry Walt, I'm not going to jump on a bandwagon that criticizes new (relatively) trails that are open to bikes (most of the time). Adjust your expectations and be grateful that they exist and are relieving user congestion in other areas.

And finally I agree, the CC trails will slowly evolve into something slightly more technical... eventually :-)


Walt said...

Ed -

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad it's there. I just think that it's built in such a way that conflicts are going to be inevitable. I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I would have liked to see this trail built better, even if it took longer to get it open.

And I stand by my comments about the switchbacks. They are just dumb, and the logs placed at the apex only serve to make things annoying - as far as I can tell, they won't do squat to prevent erosion.

Ed said...

Heh, speaking of logs and water bars, have you ridden White Ranch lately? Sheesh! Someone must have been paid based on how many water bars they could install, ridiculous. Personally I think logs and water bars CREATE erosion problems. I just don't remember CC having an excess.

If the CC trails were rushed into creation, not fully thought out and poorly designed (conjecture at this point from what I can tell) I really didn't notice. Switchbacks and logs are all a part of the experience and present their own challenges. Don't switchbacks help check people's speed? I'm confused.

However, I'm not an expert on how trails should be built in high use areas. Perhaps you're right and things could have been done differently at CC. I just know that if I start at the bottom of Mayhem and do a full loop I can get a really nice pre- or post-work ride in.

We can debate CC trails over a beer and wings at the Southern Sun one of these days.