Tag Archives: IMBA

FBO’s Trail Ambassador Program


Sean talks to a trail runner who is reporting evidence of a large campfire near a main trail

Today I had the opportunity to attend Trail Ambassador Training with Kip Moyer, Flagstaff Biking Organization’s Trail Ambassador Program Coordinator, and Sean Murphy, Trails and Wilderness Coordinator for the Flagstaff Ranger District.  The Trail Ambassador Program is a volunteer effort to train and support responsible trail users in promoting responsible trail use.  As a Trail Ambassador, I would put on a special volunteer jersey that identifies me as a trail ambassador, and then go out for my normal ride being friendly and available.  Trail Ambassadors help users by answering questions, assisting with basic bike maintenance, and calling for help if necessary.  They also help the Ranger District by noting any maintenance issues or potential violations and reporting those.


Trail Ambassadors out of uniform

This Trail Ambassador program is very similar to IMBA’s Mountain Bike Patrol (which has 50 patrol groups around the country), except that in the Flagstaff Ranger District it is a collaborative effort by different user types (hikers and bikers and soon trail runners).  Since all of the trails are multi-use it is great to have all trail users involved as ambassadors.   Having a visible volunteer ambassador presence will hopefully prevent user conflict and improve the response time for trail maintenance concerns.  I look forward to getting involved with this unique opportunity.

Mountain Biking Progress: I See Contours and Grade Reversals

Ever since the IMBA Trail Care Crew visited I have entered a new stage in my mountain biking  journey.  Not only are my skills improving after the chance to have some one-on-one coaching in Sedona, but now when I ride I see trail design successes and failures. In fact sometimes it’s downright distracting.  Yesterday, I started rolling down a steep loose rutted section, and I began looking at the hillside to estimate grade to guestimate whether this section was built on the fall line or just constructed at too steep a grade and without grade reversals.   Next thing I know I’m putting a foot down before I bounce off the edge into a hungry cactus.  Not quite ready for that kind of multitasking.

Yesterday I rode at Usery Mountain Regional Park on a few beginner to intermediate loops.  It was awesome.  Lately I’ve been reading, IMBA’s “Managing Mountain Biking”.  In the first chapter they discuss what mountain bikers want: connection to nature, escape, fun, challenge, exercise, variety, connections, camaraderie, a sense of belonging, and facilities.  In just a 90 minute ride I was able to experience all of these (except camaraderie) at Usery Mountain.  They got it right every step of the way, starting with a nice  welcome from a volunteer manning the entrance gate.  She provided me with an easy to read  map with recommended trails for mountain bikers.  At the trailhead there was a clean restroom and clear signage.

I started on the Blevins Trail, which is a mostly flat winding singletrack that curves around eight foot tall chain fruit Cholla and Saguaros.  It’s springtime and many of the cacti were blooming causing me yet another distraction as I would screech to a stop to ooh and ahh over the pinks, oranges, and yellows.  I had brought my camera along, so I was able to alternate photography and biking.

The Blevins and Moon Rock trails were very fast, so even with my frequent stops I was able to get to the junction with Cat Peak quickly.  The trail description didn’t list difficulties, but I assumed (correctly) that going around this mini-peak would mean moving onto intermediate level trail with some more technical sections.

Cat Peak Trail involved climbing over badly eroded water bars, a technical challenge that I am just learning to tackle.  It’s nice to learn to ride over water bars, but I really hope that the sustainable trail building practices from IMBA will gain universal acceptance and we can replace these water bars with re-routes on the contour and/or grade reversals.

All in all I had a fabulous time.  I would love to go back to Usery Mountain to explore other trails.  Did I mention that while I was riding in Phoenix it was snowing in Flagstaff?  Desert riding for the win!


Meeting the IMBA Trail Care Crew and Re-Routing Trail in Sedona

Jenny and Jake being interviewed for a local new story

This weekend we had the awesome opportunity to attend a full weekend of events in Sedona presented by the Suburu IMBA Trail Care Crew (TCC), Jake and Jenny.  The Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition brought the TCC to Sedona, where they have a passionate mountain biking community and a lot of gnarly trails.  I have just started riding in Sedona and I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet other local riders and get another perspective on the trails.

The local land manager, Jennifer, addressing the volunteers before we started our trail work

Jake and Jenny presented three workshops, Club Care, Land Manager Training, and Sustainable Trail Building.  IMBA has devoted a lot of time and resources to identifying the best practices in trail design, building for sustainability, and club development.  They train two TCCs who then travel the country spending almost every weekend passing on that knowledge to club leaders and land managers.  As many of our regular readers know, Jay and I are applying to become the next TCC.  Not only did we learn a lot this weekend about Sedona singletrack, we also had the unique opportunity to see a TCC in action.  It was busy and tiring weekend, but we definitely ended the weekend hoping more than ever that we are chosen as the next TCC.

Jenny giving instructions on how we are going to start a new section of trail

On Saturday, after a morning classroom session on designing and building sustainable trails, we actually had a chance to re-route a section of the Slim Shady Trail.  The Slim Shady Trail was built by locals and was not part of a planned system.  The Forest Service, who manages the land, has been evaluating these unauthorized user built trails and deciding where, when, and how they can be incorporated into the trail system.  In this particular case Slim Shady serves as an important connector from the Village of Oak Creek to Sedona and therefore the Forest Service decided to find a way to adopt it.  In order to incorporate this trail, some sections needed to be rerouted because they had the potential to damage cultural sites or protected wildlife.  We had the opportunity to re-route one such section.  With the help of the TCC the new trail was laid out along the contours of the hillside and was designed to have some fun natural challenges to keep it in character with the rest of the trail.

The rock armoring when it was all finished

For the actual trail work we had a large group with several experienced trail builders.  We were able to divide up into small groups and work on small sections of the new trail segment.  I got to work on a lower section where the trail transitioned from large juniper trees with a base of duff to a sandy dip.  As the trail dipped into the sandy drainage we decided to reinforce the low point with rock armoring.  I really enjoyed working on this challenge with the only other female volunteer, Jodi.  Together we found rocks that were the right size and shape, dug out a hole for them and fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  This was Jodi’s first time doing trail work and I think she appreciated the chance to see that trail building is a good mix of problem solving and playing in the dirt.

Jodi doing some finishing work

A rare picture of me (in the pink shirt) cutting a dead log to use as a check dam on the old trail segment

After classes on Thursday and Friday and trail building on Saturday, we finally got to actually ride our bikes on Sunday.  I am used to riding alone or with Jay, so this group ride was intimidating at first.  Not to mention it’s Sedona, and as Jenny and Jake pointed out, an intermediate Sedona trail is a black diamond advanced trail most other places.  Luckily, Dave, a local mountain biker and former mountain bike instructor at Whistler, was acting as the sweep and therefore as my personal support system.  Dave was not only patient and encouraging, but he was also a great teacher.  I probably learned more in a two hour ride with Dave than I learned in the past six months biking alone.  Note to self: participate in more group rides and look into classes.

Jay coming out of the last turn on Mescal Trail

Overall the weekend was a huge success.  The TCC visits serve as a catalyst for mountain bike clubs and land management agencies to gather together.  Connections were made and important conversations were started at this TCC visit that will have a lasting impact on Sedona.  We were thrilled to be a part of it.  Thanks Jake and Jenny and IMBA for this opportunity!

The Sunday group ride crew

Jake and Jenny and Jay and I in front of the decked out Suburu

Building a Pump Track with COPMOBA in Montrose

Sharon at the pump track

A pump track is a short dirt track for bicycles that is designed to teach you how to use momentum and your whole body to propel yourself forward without pedaling.  Imagine how you can pump your legs on a swing to gain speed and you have the basic concept.  The Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA) got approval from the Montrose City Council to build a pump track and skills area at Cerise Park in October and now, after only three days of volunteer labor the track is a reality, open for riding this past weekend.   The track was even featured on the front page of the Montrose Daily Press, with two photos of Jay.

Sharon with the other volunteers building pump track

The track was built that fast because of community support.  The city lent their equipment and operators.  Donny, the owner of Cascade Bicycles and a former project manager in construction, directed the crews.  Bill Harris, a COPMOBA Board Member who literally wrote the book on mountain biking around Montrose, recruited the volunteers.  Rob Brethouwer, founder of the Montrose Area Bicycle Alliance brought the crew lunch.  Each day at its peak we had a crew of a dozen volunteers all of whom cared about making Montrose a town that had a lot to offer bicyclists.  Several of the volunteers were older and they were excited about bringing kids and grandkids down to the track.  This project got everyone excited because they saw it as a fun venue for all ages, a place where young kids could get a feel for mountain biking by pedaling over rollers and experienced racers could build up speed and just fly over the rollers and into the next turn.

Jay and other volunteers building pump track

This project was particularly fun because it offered a chance to learn new things and problem solve.  When we showed up on Tuesday morning there were only three other volunteers.  We started on the first berm and realized that the dirt was so dry that it would just slough off and couldn’t be compacted.  We had water, but our only delivery method was to transfer the water from the truck into buckets and then use a bucket with holes in the bottom to sprinkle the water over the dirt.  It was a strenuous and messy process.  The project leaders quickly started brainstorming and calling around to get the right tools and pretty soon we had a hose and a pump and could spray down the track.  None of us had ever built a pump track before, but together we figured it out and learned a great deal along the way.  I hope I get an opportunity to build another track and put those new skills to use!

Got Trail? Learning from COPMOBA

Fruita desert

North Fruita desert

Five hours after we put the trail tools back in the truck we finally got back from our trail building volunteer project with COPMOBA.  When I was a volunteer manager, I would measure the success of our volunteer leadership team by how late the volunteers hung around afterwards swapping stories and brainstorming new ideas.  After fixing a new trail at 18 Road in Fruita we spent at least 1 hour hanging out in the parking lot and then headed into town to grab pizza and a free beer at the Hot Tomato Cafe (a local restaurant owned by mountain bikers).  This is a very successful club with a lot to teach us.

Bike trailer used to haul trail tools, photo by Giselle Smith

Bike trailer used to haul trail tools, photo by Giselle Smith

For one, this club knows what it is about and they walk their talk.  Sustainable singletrack.  In their mission statement they are specific, they are about building and maintaining sustainable singletrack.  When we got to the parking lot on Saturday they were loading a Bob trailer with trail tools so that we could ride out to the work site.  WOAH, I thought, these guys are hard core and resourceful.  It sent a great message, as we rode our bikes out to the work site we passed recreational riders who saw the trailer hauling tools and knew what we were about.  We got a lot of thank yous during the day and a few questions from riders about how they could get involved.  Awesome!

COPMOBA receives grant from REI for Fruita trails

COPMOBA recently received funding from REI to build an interpretive mountain bike trail in Fruita

The trail we worked on was a new trail they had built with approval from the BLM (who owns the land).  As part of the 18 Road trail system they are building trails with good flow.  IMBA refers to this style as flow country trails which are designed specifically to take mountain bikers on a “singletrack joyride”.  I love this development in trail building because the trails are not prohibitively technical for beginner riders, but are fun for all levels.  We had the opportunity to fix two of the turns which had originally been built with an increasing radius and therefore would force the rider to slow down and turn in too tightly instead of being able to flow from one turn to the next.

COPMOBA Crew working on Down Uppity Trail, Photo By Giselle Smith

COPMOBA Crew working on Down Uppity Trail, Photo By Giselle Smith

The video below shows some of the trails in the 18 Road system:

COPMOBA crew working on the Lower Uppity, photo by Giselle Smith

COPMOBA crew working on the Lower Uppity, photo by Giselle Smith

Being on the trail with COPMOBA, I was reminded of proper trail etiquette.  18 Road is a busy trail system and we encountered a lot of riders.  Depending on how much we had torn up the trail, sometimes riders would need to wait till it was all clear and other times they would need to dismount and walk their bike through the section.  The COPMOBA members instructed riders to actually pick up their bikes so that they wouldn’t leave tire tracks beside the trail.  They also talked about the importance of riders sticking to the center line and not going off trail to pass or for any other reason.  It’s about sustainable singletrack.  They are going to build a trail that can handle a lot of riders, but the environment can only afford it if you can stay on that trail.

Jacob and Jay working on Down Uppity, photo by Giselle Smith

Jacob and Jay working on Down Uppity, photo by Giselle Smith

Grand Junction and Fruita are mountain bike towns.  COPMOBA sees a lot of community support and we were thanked for our time and effort by free stuff from supportive businesses.  Free beer and clothing – what a great way to recognize and retain volunteers!  I hope we can do more with COPMOBA in the future.

Sharon sporting COPMOBA shirt and hat

showing off my new shirt and hat from COPMOBA

Prescott, Arizona – “Raising the Bar” in Trail Building

These 5.5 hours of volunteer work were made possible by Mariel Tewksbury and Nathan Norton.  Thank you for your support!  To find out about how you can help us stay on the road and give back CLICK HERE.

Sharon's bike on Peavine Trail

This past Saturday we had the opportunity to ride in Prescott, Arizona.  I have been to Prescott many times, but I had never ridden my bike there.   The day before we left I asked Jay if he thought there would be any trails suitable for me to ride.  He explained that Prescott is quickly becoming a premiere mountain bike destination and it prides itself on having a trail system that will appeal to riders at all levels.  After discovering this detailed map [PDF] from the City of Prescott, I was excited to check it out.  I ended up riding the Peavine Trail (with one failed side trail attempt) and Jay rode with his father and brother on the very technical Willow Lake trail in the Granite Dells.  I can’t wait to go back with more time to explore all of the beginner and intermediate trails.

the Dells view from Peavine Trail

the view from the Peavine Trail in an area called The Dells

After a little online research, I discovered that the local IMBA club, Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance would be hosting a trail day on the Circle Trail the following day with the Prescott National Forest.  It turns out that PMBA usually gathers a crew once a month and the City of Prescott coordinates a crew called the Over the Hill gang to work on local trails once a week.

As Chris Hosking, the trail specialist for the City of Prescott, says in this video, the trail building work he is doing with the Over the Hill gang is “raising the bar” for how trails can be built and maintained.  I love this.  I love that these older adult volunteers are raising expectations for what a volunteer crew can accomplish.  Also, I love that Chris and the City of Prescott is supporting them and rising to the challenge to build more and better trail systems.

Rob Hehlen teaching about trail building

Rob Hehlen teaching about trail building

When I joined the monthly volunteer crew on Sunday to work on the Circle Trail I was very impressed with the number of hard workers who came out and the skills they brought to the effort.  This work day was hosted by the Prescott National Forest and the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance.  It was a unique experience because the trail designer, Rob Hehlen, was there and taught us the proper technique for building trail by hand.  He also shared his process for choosing the route that the trail will take, starting with topographical maps in the office and then moving to the field, tromping through the brush to envision a 50 mile trail loop around the City of Prescott.  If you would like to see a presentation he put together about the Circle Trail, click HERE to download the powerpoint.

Sharon at Trail building in Prescott

Feeling a sense of accomplishment after a few hours of serious labor

Rossland, BC Seven summits IMBA epic

Nancy Greene summit

The start of the Seven Summits trail

One of the last places I had the pleasure of riding before heading to Spokane, Washington to catch a flight to Washington, DC, was Rossland, British Columbia. When I read the description of the IMBA Epic Seven Summits ride I knew it was for me. WOW this ride was incredible. I can’t think of a legal mountain bike ride anywhere that spends so much time in the alpine zone.  One of the only downsides of the ride, besides the fact that it eventually ends, is that it is not a loop. I was lucky enough to have Sharon drop me off at the trailhead at the start and pick me up at the end. Check out the full description from  http://www.imba.com/epics/seven-summits-trail-epic.  For a lot of riders this thing will take over seven hours from start to finish (the 3 other riders I saw that day finished in 8 hours), although a fast fit rider could probably form an even longer loop in that time rather than doing it a point to point.  I was very pleased that I knocked it out in a mere 5.5 hours. Finally my fitness is back again.

Jay starting the Seven Summits trail

a picture Sharon snapped of me starting the ride

There is a truly epic amount of up and down along this trail. It doesn’t actually go directly over most of the summits, but it traverses the face of them very high up and very close to the summit. The trail is so named because it gives easy access to 7 different peaks. The first peak, a big one with a very long climb, saw me at timber line trudging through still present snow drifts.

Part of the long climb to the highest point

After a few more sections like this I reached the highest point.

If only the clouds would lift

It was a granny gear crawl up to this point but I was quite pleased that I only ended up walking the snowy bits. The cloud cover was thick, it was cold and thunder was rumbling in the distance and I was less than 5 kilometers in. Boy my feet were cold, should have worn the winter shoes.  I was gasping for air and the first four kilometers took me close to an hour to cover. There was no turning back though and I was lucky that it did eventually warm up and the clouds did go away. Now I can say in hindsight that my fitness has really come back and it was great that I was riding up in the granny gear and not pushing my bike.

The trail surface is quite varied over its 25 kilometer length. Some parts are punctuated by rocks and have a rough feel and others are wide open and fast moving. The whole ride is just one great view after the next. While the clouds made for lousy photos they did add to the top of the world feeling the ride has.

There are quite a few fast fun downhills that traverse the mountain sides and you can carry a lot of speed despite the exposure.

This shot is a seven shot panorama showing the awesome scenery, and fast flowing trail. Its not all this flowing, they throw in some little rock gardens, talus slopes and very tight switchbacks at regular intervals. Although the first huge climb took a full hour, I rapidly picked up speed and actually had a quite fast ride on the whole. The downside was that I didn’t take very many photos. About four and three quarters of an hour in, I ran out of water. This was somewhere in the vicinity of Mount Record. Good thing it’s mostly down from here. In fact, from here down is what makes slogging over all those mountain passes worth it. The Dewdney trail starts at the official end of the Seven Summits and take you to the much more convenient end point along the highway. This section is a screaming fast fun downhill not to be missed. I think its about 5 kilometers long and it takes about 5 minutes; seriously it’s a fast section.

This was a great day on the bike for sure. I know I should have maybe stopped more to take photos, but it was not a clear morning anyway, so those who want more images should check out the various youtube videos found by searching for Seven Summits trail. A couple of them are pretty good.