Mountain biking combines speed, technique, risk, gear, and outdoor exploration into a cocktail of adventure that’s hooked many an outdoor enthusiast over the years. Those of us who’ve tasted this sweet nectar start to feel our “ride-y senses” tingling every year around May, when the melting snow reveals the trails we’ll be shredding all summer. Unfortunately these trails come out of hibernation looking a lot like that bear video we’ve all seen on Instagram i.e. a little haggard. They’re covered in downed trees and matted brush, and washed out where the snowmelt was heaviest. Enter: trail maintenance and the heroes who do it.
Trail maintenance is the process of maintaining the usability and sustainability of our trail systems through a whole slew of activities including removing downed trees and reinforcing eroded sections of trail. For mountain bike trails this can include fixing worn down jumps or elevated wooden bridges, too. Trail maintenance is done mostly by volunteers and can be done by anyone. We highly encourage you to join a local trail maintenance organization if you haven’t already (just Google “trail maintenance volunteer group” and the region you live in). Repairing and protecting trails provides benefits to both bikers and the environment—it’s about our trails’ usability and sustainability, remember. But sawing logs and building berms requires a specialized set of tools. In this blog, we will explore seven essential tools for mountain biking trail maintenance, according to a professional mountain biker.
Even if you don’t perform trail maintenance regularly, these seven tools are worth keeping in your truck bed or trunk, just in case you go riding and come across a trail hazard that needs to be taken care of.
Meet Jameson: The Professional Mountain Biker
Jameson (@jamesonflorence) is a former carpenter turned stay at home father, and a friend of ACLIM8! He is an ardent mountain biker who has been mountain biking since the age of five and finds solace in the rugged terrain and the thrill of conquering challenging trails. He is not just a passionate rider, he also takes on the responsibility of trail maintenance with great enthusiasm. For Jameson, maintaining the trails means giving back to the mountain biking community that has given him so much joy and fulfillment.
Jameson: “A clear trail is the most
fun to ride which will bring riders
back again and again.”
We totally agree!
We will be hearing from Jameson below regarding these essential tools, including his favorite tools, and his insights on the nuances of trail maintenance.
So let’s get to it. Here are seven essential tools that can help you maintain your favorite mountain biking trails:
The Mcleod tool is arguably one of the most versatile and widely used tools for trail maintenance. This ingenious combination of a rake and a hoe allows trail builders to clear debris, cut overgrown vegetation, and shape the trail surface. Its flat side effectively levels the ground, while the rake-like tines on the other side help remove rocks, leaves, and loose soil. The Mcleod tool is an item you'll absolutely find in Jameson’s trail maintenance tool kit! This is an essential part of any trail maintenance kit due to its simplicity, durability, and ability to tackle a wide range of trail maintenance tasks.
2. Hand Saw
When it comes to trail maintenance, a reliable hand saw is indispensable. It's the go-to tool for cutting through fallen branches, small trees, and overgrown vegetation that obstructs the path.
Hand saws are lightweight, easy to use, and their compact size allows trail builders to navigate tight spots while they fine tune the trail's natural flow. A good hand saw is a must-have for any trail maintenance crew to swiftly address smaller obstacles that may hinder the mountain biking experience.
For larger obstructions such as fallen trees or thick vegetation, a chainsaw becomes the trail builder's best friend. While chainsaws are more potent tools that require careful handling and safety precautions, they are essential for tackling heavy-duty tasks.
Chainsaws are essential for swamping—a common trail maintenance tasks, that includes moving the logs out of the way, cleaning up after treadwork and brushing tasks have been completed.
Jameson: “Swampers are
the real heroes.”
The use of chainsaws makes quick work of clearing major blockages, allowing the trail to remain open and accessible to mountain bikers. However, it is crucial to have trained and experienced personnel handling chainsaws to ensure the safety of the crew and the environment.
This essential tool can be found as apart of the Mcleod but having a rake of its own in your tool kit is essential if you do not own a Mcleod. Rakes are ideal for smoothing out the trail surface, removing rocks, and filling in holes and ruts. They are especially handy after using the Mcleod tool to ensure the trail is level and clear of loose debris. A well-groomed trail provides a smoother and safer ride for mountain bikers, and the humble rake is instrumental in achieving that.
Jameson: “A trail will hardly ever be perfect but with regular maintenance it can at least be kept fairly well clean of fallen sticks, trees, too much brush, etc.”
While a chainsaw is excellent for larger obstructions, a hatchet serves as a more precise cutting tool. Trail builders use hatchets to trim branches and clear away smaller obstacles. They also use hatchets for starting larger cuts that are finished with a chainsaw. This tool is also essential for shaping natural features like log jumps and wooden features, enhancing the overall mountain biking experience. Hatchets are typically compact and easy to carry, like the COMBAR FoldaXe, making them a valuable addition to a trail maintenance toolkit.
A hammer might seem like an unconventional tool for trail maintenance, but it plays a crucial role in fixing trail markers, signposts, and other structures along the route. Trail maintenance isn't just about cutting and clearing; it's also about building and maintaining structures that improve the trail. A hammer is crucial for constructing and repairing wooden features like bridges, ramps, and steps. It allows trail builders to secure nails and fasteners, ensuring these structures remain safe and stable for riders. The hammer's versatility in trail construction and repair makes it an essential tool in the hands of dedicated trail maintenance crews.
Jameson: “Riders who have fun will generally remember the experience. But leave a tree there or a brushy spot and that can be enough to sour the experience for a lot of people even if a majority of the trail is clear.”
6. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Above all else, safety should be the top priority during trail maintenance. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital for protecting the trail builders from potential hazards. PPE includes helmets, gloves, safety glasses, sturdy footwear, and ear protection. Chainsaw operators should also wear protective chaps and helmets with face shields. Properly equipped with PPE, trail maintenance crews can work confidently and efficiently while minimizing the risk of injuries.
Conclusion: It Takes a Village (and the Right Tools)
Jameson, a full send athlete, knows the significance of trail maintenance in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for riders like himself. With these seven essential tools—shovel, hand saw, chainsaw, rake, hatchet, hammer, and PPE—he takes on the responsibility of maintaining the trails with dedication and enthusiasm. By following his lead and investing in these essential tools, every mountain biker can contribute to the preservation and sustainability of their favorite trails. Let's come together as a community and share these tips to keep the mountain biking adventure alive and thriving for generations to come.
If you're an avid mountain biker like Jameson, take the initiative to invest in these essential trail maintenance tools. And if you’re trying to save space, check out the COMBAR, it combines quite a few of the essentials above and can be a great tool to keep in your pack. By sharing this blog with your fellow riders, you can inspire others to join the cause of preserving and improving our mountain biking trails. Together, we can create a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone who loves the great outdoors and the thrill of mountain biking. Happy riding and happy trail maintenance!
Did we leave out your favorite tool? Let us hear it on social media: @aclim8gear. And make sure to sign up for our email newsletter (sign up below) so you never miss a pro tip or trip report.
Looking for more information about the COMBAR Titanium vs the Foldaxe? Check out COMBAR Titanium vs. COMBAR FoldaXe: Which Multitool Is Right For You?
Ready to plan your next mountain biking trip? Start by consulting this: US Wildfire Frequency by Region and Month: A Guide for Smart Trip Planning
Want to know how to mount your COMBAR onto your bike? Check out The Ultimate Guide: How to Securely Attach and Store Your Multitool on a Bikepacking Bike
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