Your Own Mountain Biking Trail


After having helped construct a few trails, I thought of putting up an online guide to advise others how to help other mountain bikers do similar projects this with the benefit of my experience. If you are in a suburban area, this isn’t going to be easy. But if you’re in the country and live on a few acres, then you’re mostly set.

Keep in mind though that you can’t anything like this until the owner of the lot has given you permissions for working it. And also, it’s not lawful to create anything permanent on public lands without permits. It’s why mountain bikers have not been allowed into a lot of nice country because of worries about trail builders coming in. So remember, always ask first. Once you’ve got permission, here's how to start.

Locate and Identify


First off, you have to locate a lot with the features you want, and decide what which bikers will be experiencing it with you. You have to ask if the main loop will be smoother or technically trickier, or be easier for the youngest bikers. Would you like steeper or gentler slopes? Packed ground throughout or some loose dirt here and there? Once you’ve decided, it’s time to make a plan of the terrain.

Start off by walking around and noting the ground and features fit to your needs, and then map each on paper. Include notes stuff you’d like to include like ledges, slanted logs, drops, meadows and so on. Also note things to avoid like big rocks, cliffs, dense shrubbery, marshes, etc. Identify obstacle which have to be removed, like a rocks or stumps or low-hanging branches. The surface of the track should be wider than two feet in most parts. But make sure there’s at least two-and-a-half feet of cleared space on either side of the track for you and your bike to pass through. On fast straightaways you’ll have to clear wider passages.

Map and Plan

Once you’ve roughly gone over the route, start outlining the trail as you see it. You might then do another walkthrough, taping the route as go if you need to. On the longer segments of the track, lengths of tape marking the path will help you to take it all in. You need to figure out how to get through thing, as what may seem good to pass on foot may not be as easy on two wheels. Like if you can get up one part with your bike, or see if the curve of a turn is too tight, or if the drop from a ledge is too high. Keep in mind that if you can’t bike some feature on the loop, you can always re-route around it.

Cut and Haul


When you’re ready to deal with dirt and debris, have digging and cutting tools ready.You’ll need a shovel and bucket to dig ground, clippers and a scythe to clear bushes, and a handheld saw to cut any low-hanging branches. With friends or family to help out with different clearing and cutting jobs, things should go faster. One tip is that it’s best to clear the bigger bushes and branches along the loop before powering a weed cutter on the grass. Even if you don’t mow everything green down to the dirt, any remaining grass will get packed beneath when it’s ridden over.

Level and Shore

Once you’ve cleared the route of shrubbery and grass, you’ll need to work on those areas which will get eroded too quickly, like any parts of the trail where the ground slopes deeply to the sides. When bikes go over those sections, they will slide roughly and further roughen the ground. To fix this, you should start by digging out the highest part of that section first. If the dug-out dirt packs nicely you can move it to the lower side, essentially building up the lower sides with dirt you’ve removed out from the high ones.

At sharp corners you should dig small ditches around the curve in which emplace small logs. These will shore up the shoulders and also help bikers scan how the track curves before they hit the turn. Have a wheelbarrow around to store extra dirt which will come in handy later for constructing extra features like ramps or berms.

Features and Maintenance


With the basic groundwork done, you can put in special features like jump ramps, berms, bridges, etc. If there are hilly parts on the route, try cutting berms out of their sides then packing them down. The extra dirt you’ve stored from the diggings will be good for bulking these up. It will take more effort, but you could also build a berm from scratch with the dirt you’ve gathered plus some stacked logs on which to pile it on. You can put in bridges and log ramps for fun challenges. Start with crates or concrete blocks for the basic structure, then attach some planks to fill in the sides were needed. You’ll need to keep these features low on the ground so that the youngest bikers can get over them without stopping or stumbling.

You will need to repair any damage quickly before erosion sets in or wood snaps. After any heavy rain, go out and look for washed-out sections and large puddles, and dig them out to get the water to run off. Go check any built-up jump or bridge to see if their structure is still whole and stable. Anywhere there’s a safety problem put in a barrier, and tell visitors to avoid it. For those parts you’ve decided are of no longer of use just let them lie fallow and the grass will grow back eventually.

You should prepare a Torque Wrench for the bicycle. It will help you a lot.

The Best Part

It’s going to be rough and full of bumps at first. But you need not worry as mountain bikes frequently going over the route will condition the ground. It will take a while for the dirt to get packed and smoothed as tires repeatedly go over them. So invite friends for trials over early on, but urge them not to go really fast until hard-packed ground occupies most sections of the loop. Everything will smoothen over time, so have a blast and don’t worry too much as the trail will shape up over time.

About the author


Hey there, I'm Lisa, founder and editor in chief here at Recreation Space. We found fitness through recreational activities. And we want to share it with you. We believe in empowering people with knowledge to make smarter, healthier choices in their lives.

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