Josh Matta

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So I have been thinking more and more about why I flat out love certain trails, why I hate certain trails, and also why I can hate a trail but learn to love, and also why I can hate a trail and never learn to like it.

Thinking about this I have come to a conclusion, regardless of technical difficultly there are three types of flow you can find on basically on any local trail system.

1. Trails that just built flowly.

This does not necessary mean excavated flow trail, but it could mean it. What it means to me, that the trails is built to not ever make the ride do sudden moves or direction changes all turn usually end more open than closed , overall the average intermediate rider wont have any issue riding the trail and will most likely have fun, and if their are technical feature they will most like ride them because of how the rest of the trails makes them feel, the average advance expert rider will have a blast due to speed and the G force feeling they feel.

2. Trails where you have to find the flow.

These trails are typically more advance in nature or at least effectively ride more advance in nature. These are trails though a combination of line choice(sometimes "creative"), Pumping and well timed trail gaps, can be made to flow really well, hell in fact once you get the flow of this type of trail it is typically more rewarding than Type 1 trails. Small bits of finding the flow put into a trail where it just flows can be a great intro this type of riding.

3. Trails where no matter how much you try to find the flow, it just does not exist.

These types of trails IMO fall into two type of categories. Trails that the natural Terrain was tough to use and were not built with MTBs necessarily in mind , this IMO is entirely acceptable. The second type are trails that are built are supposedly built for mtbers, and typically have featured such a decreasing radius turns, guide stones, trees blocking apexes, steep turns and flat straights, no up and down undulation to pump. Basically this type of trail tries to sap any momentum you have and make it hard to gain more by either pedaling or pumping.

I am pretty sure you can guess which type of flow I dislike and basically think has no place ever being built on purpose. But I am curious by my criteria what kind of flow do you like? I can give real world examples eventually but I would rather hear from you what you like, with your examples especially fairly well know trails.
 

Tom K.

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Good categorization. I call your Cat 3 trails "persnickety", and love them, though I wouldn't want to ride them 100% of the time.

My local club and County have built a lot of trails over the past 10 years. All but one of the new trails are Cat 1 Pure Flow. When they first showed up, I loved them, but now I've actually grown tired of them.

It's awesome to have a hugely wide variety of what constitutes enjoyable mtb riding!
 

pchewn

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I didn't realize until part-way through that you were talking about MOUNTAIN BIKE trails..... But I think a lot said here does apply to ski trails also.
 
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Josh Matta

Josh Matta

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Good categorization. I call your Cat 3 trails "persnickety", and love them, though I wouldn't want to ride them 100% of the time.

My local club and County have built a lot of trails over the past 10 years. All but one of the new trails are Cat 1 Pure Flow. When they first showed up, I loved them, but now I've actually grown tired of them.

It's awesome to have a hugely wide variety of what constitutes enjoyable mtb riding!
thinking more and more about it.

Type 4 - in the end boring........ With that said I have now experienced some pure flow trails that I do not think I could ever be bored of. there are also just some straight flat trails that arent persnickety but just boring.

I think a better why of desribing type 3 is the flow is literally blocked off on purpose, I have never rode a more natural trail that is type three, only excavated and very manmade trails I have found can be Type 3.
 
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Josh Matta

Josh Matta

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I didn't realize until part-way through that you were talking about MOUNTAIN BIKE trails..... But I think a lot said here does apply to ski trails also.
I think there is a huge difference, I have never found a type 3 ski trail. At least one that stays at type 3 all the time. The difference between ski and bike trails is ski trails have many lines, bike trails have fewer, type 3 tend to have only a line or two and that line does nt really fell great to ride.
 
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Josh Matta

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using some local trails as examples....

Type one Flow.

BTW this trail IMO use to partially fall into the boring but since its got rebuilt its the best reason to ride Cady Hill in Stowe.


Type 2 flow

My favorite local hand built trail. I dont have POV but here are some clips.




Type 3.


Trail has steep turns decreasing radius turns to uphill and even very good riders have trouble maintain actual momentum every time you try to pedal there are "guide" stones that basically prevent you from doing so.

BTW before I get the general you suck at riding comments

https://www.strava.com/segments/772053 I am 9th out 1809 riders on strava.

I just find this type of micro management not fun, and never have found it fun. I have literally only found it on overly built trails in Vermont and great new england where natural trails tend to never have this level of micro management.
 

Tricia

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Josh, this is a great topic! :thumb:
I'll admit that I like flowy trails best for overall enjoyment and keeping my head in the game, but when I ride trails with tight switchbacks I find myself working on my skills more. Those are the trails that I "learn to like"
 
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Josh Matta

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Josh, this is a great topic! :thumb:
I'll admit that I like flowy trails best for overall enjoyment and keeping my head in the game, but when I ride trails with tight switchbacks I find myself working on my skills more. Those are the trails that I "learn to like"
Tight switch back = 2

Tight switch backs with natural rocks = 2

Tight switch back with rocks placed to bang pedals = 3

So if you watched the videos I post I am assuming your would like Florence? How would like Man Down the type 2 or Kimmer's the IMO Type 3.

We honestly dont get western switchbacks around here, our are less tight but usually have more junk in the way.
 

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Tight switch back = 2

Tight switch backs with natural rocks = 2

Tight switch back with rocks placed to bang pedals = 3

So if you watched the videos I post I am assuming your would like Florence? How would like Man Down the type 2 or Kimmer's the IMO Type 3.

We honestly dont get western switchbacks around here, our are less tight but usually have more junk in the way.
I think I'd like all of the trails in the first few videos, if not immediately, I would after a ride or two.
I think there are some trails that I need to ride 3 times to feel comfortable.
First ride -
Oh look there's a hill. Oh look there's a switchback. Oh look there's a rock....
Second ride-
I remember that hill. I remember that switchback, its easier this time around. That rock seemed tougher to roll over last time
Third ride -
Whoo hooooo!
 
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Josh Matta

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whats your describing is Type 2 flow ;)

Even Kimmer's a trail that like I said I am 9th out of 1800+ on, I have never even found type 2 flow.
 

luliski

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I'm jealous of (what looks like) packed dirt! I guess most of the trails I ride are type 3, not built specifically for mountain biking. There are trees, there are rocks, and everything is loose. They don't flow for me, but I've ridden behind people who seem to make them flow. I don't think I've been on any trails where the flow was purposely interrupted. The rocks are just there, maybe moved to the side to make room for the trail.

The only trail I've ridden that I think was built specifically for mountain bike was the Panorama Dome Trail (mountain bike section) in Mammoth Lakes. There was some good flow there, but I'd have to ride it a few more times to really experience it. My daughter and my niece were screaming too much in front of me for me to be able to relax.

I've heard that Tamarancho in Marin County, and the Flow Trail in Soquel Demo Forest area Santa Cruz) have good flow, but haven't ridden them yet.

For me, a trail has to be pretty easy to feel flowy, and it helps if the dirt is packed!
 

Erik Timmerman

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Trail has steep turns decreasing radius turns to uphill and even very good riders have trouble maintain actual momentum every time you try to pedal there are "guide" stones that basically prevent you from doing so.

BTW before I get the general you suck at riding comments

https://www.strava.com/segments/772053 I am 9th out 1809 riders on strava.

I just find this type of micro management not fun, and never have found it fun. I have literally only found it on overly built trails in Vermont and great new england where natural trails tend to never have this level of micro management.
I'm in full disagreement on this one. I kinda love riding Kimmer's. Could it be improved? Yes! I am 120th on the Strava leader board a full minute slower than you, but I'd say that I get good "type 2" flow (per your definition) better than 50% of my rides there. Oh, and really don't think Man Down is all that great. I'd choose Kimmer's over it every time. Better flow IMHO.
 
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Josh Matta

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Kimmer is masochistically fun to me, I just wish SMBC did not have a love affair with guide stones so that the trail can be corrected where the builders got it wrong. If this was the case Kimmer,Callagary would be damned near world class, as it stands now I kind of get annoyed by them even when I make them flow as best as I can.
 

surfacehoar

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Type 3 trails are fun when there is fall hazard or consequence. If you can't go fast, you might as well be exposed.

Inspiring scenery can also make me really enjoy a trail as well.
 

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Josh Matta

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yeah those dont look like the typical mountain west switchback I have seen they look more open, but again via video.

There is nothing that 'screams" fun to me about those trails, I just spent sometime trying to find some POV videos as well so I can be entirely wrong. With that said another topic I plan to bring up is this. I tend to like trails that are very directional IE you would never want to climb the DH or go down the uphill.
 

Erik Timmerman

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Ha. I enjoy climbing Kimmer's, and the new trail I am working on, I am trying really hard to make it flow and be fun in both directions. I think a lot of the trails in Craftsbury run well in both directions. Olly's Folly doesn't have a wrong way.
 

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yeah those dont look like the typical mountain west switchback I have seen they look more open, but again via video.

There is nothing that 'screams" fun to me about those trails, I just spent sometime trying to find some POV videos as well so I can be entirely wrong. With that said another topic I plan to bring up is this. I tend to like trails that are very directional IE you would never want to climb the DH or go down the uphill.
My favorite kind of riding out here are the mountain single track type rides. There are two sections along the Tahoe Pyramid trail that I really enjoy, other sections with a lot of shared road are not my cup of tea.
The nice thing about the trail system in the thread I posted is that its a good place to ride late and early in the season when things are cold in the mountains.
 

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When I began MTBing except for a few areas carved out by motorcycles there were no flow trails, in fact some of the places we rode had no trails at all :eek: !
With that said, I have truly learned to love modern flow trails even though I do not get to ride them nearly as much as I would like.
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My favorite trails have a mix of everything from tight switchbacks, rock gardens and drops, some fast banked turns and different types of jumps.
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These days too many sustained high consequence technical pitches just wear me out mentally, even though I still like the challenge of a few here & there both on the up or the down.
CE5803CB-0F4C-4ED3-B63D-B4838718AF36.jpeg


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A Great ride for me though has to include some amazing nature, like views with some flora & fauna thrown in.
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So I guess I really like a little bit of everything except I really don’t like roots, especially when they are wet ;)
:bikewheelie::yeah::bikewheelie:
 

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AmyPJ

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This is one of the trails I ride at Snowbasin at least twice per week. The rock gardens don't LOOK like much, but if you listen to him and his bike and his commentary, you get that it's ROUGH. The last hill climb on the fire road is one that we always look forward to :roflmao: It gets consistently steeper and looser and rockier as you climb.
This is as close to "flow" as we get locally, a perennial favorite downhill with a shlog of a climb (1300 feet in about 3 miles.) It's gotten so busy lately, and is not directional, that you really can't open it up going downhill anymore. This is Sardine, as we locals call it.
The switchbacks on it all fall to the outside, have huge braking bumps and ruts, and generally are very challenging. It took me 3 seasons to ride two of them.

This is a quick snippet of my perennial favorite, Brim at Powder Mountain. This has also gotten so ridiculously popular that it's not nearly as much fun to ride anymore. Note the man made rock bridge and some of the natural rock features. It's a great skill building trail with tons of flow!

I've not ridden many truly man-made "flow" trails with perfect bermed switchbacks and jumps ala Deer Valley. I guess I like some flow and some rock garden challenges and switchbacks, too.
I should look for video of the 19 tight switchbacks that were part of the race I did at Powder Mountain. They sucked!
 
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