It is that time of year. We are getting some warmer weather. As the weather warms, mountain bikers are itching to hit some of the trails that were hidden by snow all winter. They have either been active in another outdoor activity like cross-country skiing or hitting the roads to satisfy the urge to ride. While others retire to the indoors and wait for the warmer weather. Now they are ready to hit the trails. However, stop a minute before you do.
This was the reminder from LHORBA (Laurel Highlands On and Off Road Biking Association) on their Facebook page this weekend. They remind their members that springtime in the Laurel Highlands and mountain biking are not totally compatible. Many of the trails in the Johnstown area can become saturated during the late winter and early. This occurs because springtime generally tends to be wet in the Johnstown area. In addition, the winter snows are melting, especially in the higher elevations. This also allows natural springs to run and bubble up in some places.
By riding on saturated trails, you can cause severe damage to the trails. This could lead to a lot of work later in the year to repair the trails. So check it out before you go and follow these tips that will help protect the trails for years to come.
One tip that LHORBA has put out is to hold off on riding on the trails until you are sure that they are ready. Even though the surface may appear to be dry, the trail may be saturated just beneath the surface. Repeated use under these conditions can lead to major rutting on the trail that will lead to major repairs later.
If you absolutely feel the need to hit the trail, try choosing trails that are ready. Look for trails that have a large rock base or that are constructed with materials that are more durable. According to the suggestions, some of the first trails to dry out are at Blue Knob State Park. Most of the trails have a lot of rock and the drainage is good. Even here, though you will need to pick your trail carefully. For example, portions of Chappells Field Trail have low spots that can get pretty wet especially around the Chappells Field area.
Try some of the local rail trails. While they may lack the technical challenge of mountain biking, it will allow you to get out and ride. Most of the local rail trails have a crushed stone surface that is more durable than dirt. These trails tend to have little elevation change, but generally are longer trails.
If you have a favorite trail, you could still get out on the trail. Just leave the bike behind. LHORBA suggests picking up a backpack equipped with a pack saw and put on the hiking boots. Hiking is less stressful on the trail and it will help you scout the trail for changes over the winter. While hiking, remove branches that have fallen on the trail over the winter months. If you notice a major problem, make a note and report it for trail maintenance. Contact the trail managing unit whether it is a local club or a park or forestry office.
One other option is to looks for organized rides. These will generally be scheduled for trails and times when there is less chance of doing damage to the trail. Consider joining one of the local biking groups. Not only will you make connections for riding partners, you will also be able to take an active part in trail maintenance and upkeep. For information on LHORBA memberships, check out their website.
Don’t worry Johnstown, it won’t be long before the trails will be ready. Keep on riding and remember to protect that head.