The following list suggests some of the important tasks for keeping a bike park facility in top shape. It is essential to decide, and to document, whether this work is to be the responsibility of a municipal parks and recreation department, volunteers associated with a local mountain bike organization, or a combination of the two. There should be a distinct line of accountability so it is easy to identify who is responsible for each maintenance task.
All trails and riding features should be regularly inspected. The interval of inspection will depend on various factors, such as the volume of visitors, weather conditions, and the presence or absence of special events.
- Create a schedule, a means of recording notes on trail conditions, and protocols for arranging repairs. Establish a routine and stick to it, adjusting when needed for unusual conditions.
- Look for loose surfacing, worn areas of trail tread, degraded lips, and other problems that can be addressed through routine maintenance.
- Take note of areas that hold water and become muddy, or that dry quickly and need extra water. Coordinate maintenance with watering efforts as these tasks are closely connected.
- If engineered features are present, consider whether is it possible to include inspecting them in the normal trail inspection, or it is preferable to create a separate procedure just for these elements.
Dirt features intended for bike traffic require a dependable water source in order to maintain the optimum compaction and shape for riding. To maintain compaction and prevent erosion, all dirt features need to be watered regularly. Hand watering is the norm, but it is increasingly common for large-scale parks to use pressurized sprinkler systems. Frequency is typically several times per week, but some climates will dictate daily, perhaps even hourly, watering.
- Whether the water is delivered by an automated sprinkler or by hand, the application should be a shower or light spray. Make sure that the soil is being slowly saturated and that the water is not causing soil to erode. If you can see dirt moving, it is imperative to adjust the quantity of water or change the type of spray.
- Maintenance staff should be trained to make sure they know how to water without blasting the soil and degrading the features. They will need supervision until you’re sure they’re watering properly.
- Systems that try to water both the bike trails and the surrounding landscaping (grass, trees, etc.) simultaneously will tend to over or under water one or the other. Separate systems are recommended.
Compacting is an ongoing chore that helps hold dirt features together and it must be performed regularly. When dirt becomes loose and aerated, it is no longer enjoyable to ride.
- The goal is to identify and repair areas that have loosened or seem to be losing their structural integrity.
- Use a rake or flat shovel to reshape the dirt into its intended shape. Apply water with a light spray making sure that the soil is saturated just enough to moisten it all the way through.
- A mechanical compactor may be useful.
- Do not allow riding on the surface until it has hardened. The trail should be closed while compacting is occurring.
Jumps made from dirt require regular maintenance of their takeoff and landing surfaces. If these are not carefully shaped and maintained, the jumps will not launch the rider properly.
- A flat blade shovel and a compactor are the most commonly used tools for shaping jumps, berms, and rollers.
- Shaping helps maintain the original flow of the features and makes sure the lips on the jumps and the berms are in good riding condition. The trail must be closed while maintenance is occurring.
- Shaping should only be done by trained staff or volunteers. To ensure consistency and control, only a small crew—typically less than four people—should be authorized to move dirt and adjust features. These people should be experienced in building while also being aware of the need to maintain features for all ability levels.
- Make it very clear through signage that building and shaping riding features can only be done by authorized staff and/or volunteers. The bike park manager must understand the process and oversee any shaping or building.
If left unattended, vegetation will encroach upon trails and features. This could lead to reduced sight lines, unwanted obstruction of riding features, and other hazards.
- Trim vegetation as needed—usually at least once a month.
- Tasks include pulling weeds, mowing, trimming bushes, and removing tree limbs.
- Trail corridors should be trimmed so they are free of branches and downed logs.
- Useful tools include handsaws, mowers, loppers, and line trimmers. The trail must be closed while maintenance is being performed.
- Maintenance staff should wear protective clothing/ equipment and be well trained in the required standards.
Raking and Sweeping
Small rocks, gravel, and other debris will collect in areas such as the bottoms of berms and jumps. Rakes and brooms are effective tools for clearing these materials, creating a more predictable and enjoyable riding surface.
- These are some of the few maintenance tasks that volunteers may perform without supervision.
- Some facilities place rakes and brooms in public areas, other require checking them out from a maintenance shed or storage unit.
- Consider closing the trails temporarily to avoid collisions between riders and workers.
Special thanks go to Scott Miller for his contributions to this resource.
The suggestions offered in this and other IMBA trailbuilding articles do not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Trailbuilders and landowners are responsible for the safety of their own trails and facilities. Freeriding and dirt jumping are high-risk activities that can result in serious injuries. IMBA’s goal is to help land managers and volunteers manage these risks by sharing information.