The weekend is coming! We see this forecast and think, “Hey, it’s only raining Friday, which means it’s clear all weekend!” With the approaching rain, we as mountain bikers need to make decisions whether the trails are in good enough condition to ride. I gathered resources from IMBA, Hilltromper Magazine, and Chris Orr (local trail builder). In IMBA’s section about the landscape, they state ‘ do not ride muddy trails because it causes rutting, widening and maintenance headaches. Ride through standing water, not around it.’
Trails need time to dry after rains and bike action on newly dampened soil is damaging to the trail. Though the trails may be soft and fun to bike on, all of our hard work on those trails quickly turns into ruts, exposed roots and soil erosion. If you are thinking about riding this weekend, we encourage you to wait and let the trails dry.
Drew Perkins, one our trail builders and a major asset to the completion of Camuesa Trail, answers questions about riding on wet trails in this article by Hilltromper. Drew’s advice is “1 day per inch of rain is a good amount to wait after a big storm.” However, Santa Barbara soil is less absorbent so we advise to wait 1 day per 1/4 inch of rain. This can be difficult for us to measure so it is a safe bet to wait at least one day for every day rain! Riding in the rain isn’t just for mountain bikers, but for horses as well as they can damage soft trails as well.
Several days after a rain, puddles may still be present on the trail. We find ourselves in that decision to either bike through it, or bike around. When riders start choosing the “go around” path, this leads to widening the trail, which may involve trampling flora, increased erosion, or entering a more sensitive section of the trail . So what do you? If the puddle is shallow, slowly bike through, otherwise, walk through the puddle with your bike. If you are curious about the amount of rainfall in Santa Barbara, check out the California Nevada River Forecast, which updates around every 24 hours . Check the conditions for rainfall before the ride and make sure it has been update since the last rain. Riding on a muddy, dirty trail can be fun, but consider the impact that your riding has on your safety as well as the trail itself.
For more information about trail etiquette, check out IMBA guidelines.