Just Say "No" to Mud
This spring is crazy -- thick snow one week, super warm the next. This makes enjoying the trails difficult.
With rising temps and melting snow, we're tempted to leap on in with both feet and both pedals. Please -- think before you hop on the bike, lace up those hiking shoes or mount your trusty steed. Please -- stay off of muddy trails!
Stay off the trails if they're soft and muddy!
It all comes down to this: frozen
is good, hardpack is good ... but mud is bad.
This is the month when warm days and
freezing nights wreak havoc on the trail. It's
the time when mother nature is in its most delicate
state. Please use your head and stay off the trails
until the thaw is out of the ground and the trails
have dried and hardened. One of the worse things
you can do is ride --or walk-- on trails before
are dynamic and change with the seasons and weather
conditions. While during most of the
season, the mineral soils that make up a good,
hardened trails are fairly stable, spring is the
most sensitive time, making the trails vulnerable
to erosion and long term damage.
Frost (those pesky
ice crystals that form in the upper soil cap)
cause the soil to move and shift. Even the most
hardened of trails loses density as frozen water
molecules push and prod the mineral soils. Trails
are very susceptible to damage during the freeze/thaw
process. As the frost thaws and releases
water, the dirt resettles and realigns in a nice
muddy mix and the organic matter for last fall's
leaf litter blends in with the mineral soil to
begin to create a a new generation of trail dirt.
This muddy mix eventually re-hardens and makes
for a primo path through the woods, but it's critical
to let this process happen on its own.
we ride, hike or horse around on the trails before
this process is complete, the damage to the trail
could be permanent. The mineral soils
will be churned up, and rain and gravity will
wash these soils away, leaving a mess of exposed
roots and rocks. If the trail is really soft,
our wheels leave sunken tracks which could channel
into ruts and carry the soils away. If we hike,
our heels and boots will dig deep into the trails
and help push the soils downhill. Either way,
it's the trail that loses, so please show some
respect and patience.
because you "can" ride, doesn't mean that you
"should." Sometimes, if you really love
riding, you should stay off the trail and seek
other ways to make the new season the best it
Here are some
- Use your lawn as a trail barometer.
Before you think of hitting the trails, take
a ride on your lawn. If you can see your tracks
sinking in, stay off the trails. They're not
- Use mud season to build fitness by
putting in some serious "base miles" on the
road. If you don't have a road bike, put some
slicks on your mountain bike and you'll feel
super-charged. Most serious racers train on
the road for good reason, and the fitness you'll
develop will make your trail riding that much
- Do some urban or suburban assault rides.
This is a great time if you're into technical
riding to explore the neighborhood for ramps,
steps and other challenges that can hone your
- Ride on rail trails or other hardened
bike paths. You'll be away from traffic,
get some needed fitness, and feel good about
yourself since you're doing the right thing
by staying off the trails.
- Use local knowledge to find areas that
are free from mud and frost. Internet Forums
are a great resource to find great riding. Check
the "Trail Conditions" section of NEMBA's Forum
for your state to see where the good riding
is… and where it isn't.
As the ground begins to thaw, think about the trails
you ride and help to preserve them. A trail is
a terrible thing to waste!
Check here for the latest trail conditions.
......... Philip Keyes