This is fresh machine-made trail at Raystown Lake. It doesn't look like much now, compared to what I'm used to, but riding it was a different story. I don't have the vocabulary to really convey how much fun it was riding these new trails. It was the fastest and most intense I've ridden in some time, ....almost road-riding like intensity. Every second, up or down, we were pinning and grinning it. On your toes, weighting the front wheel, trying not to wash out or blow a curve, trying not to get too much air to make that curve just after the landing. Trying to keep up with Withers and Straub was a blast.
[freshly cut, we did not ride the above two sections,....next time. pics stolen from B4's site]
I never thought I'd be a fan of machine built trails. I remember about 10 years ago when Dan Hudson got excited about the new Stephens Trail near Camp Roosevelt in the GW being built with a SWECO machine. I didn't pay that much attention, I just loved the descent off Massanutten ridge, though I used to call that trail the uphill downhill trail. It seems that having some peanut butter in your chocolate and vicy versy is the key to flowable sustainable trails. The new Raystown trails are a perfect example: every 20 yds. or so, is a grade reversal and/or a curve. This means that while you're descending, every 20 yds. you have an uphill roller or a berm to bleed speed. And when you're climbing, you get lots of breaks. It also means that water can't stay on the trail for more than 20 yds. at a time which cuts out the rutting and erosion problem.
The elevation change from the lake to the top of the trail network is about 400'. When we turned our backs to the lake and headed up, it wasn't the type of settle in and suffer climb that I'm used to in the GW and Michaux. There were plenty of rolling dips to briefly recover on. Not the kind of drops where you hate to lose any elevation on a climb, but nice rollers to rest on and get some momo back. These pro trails are built with grades not exceeding 15%, with most only in the 10% range. This means everything is middle-ringable, and very SS-friendly.
Actually, nothing at Raystown was of the settle in type of riding. You needed to be on your game at every moment. There are no obstacles like logs or rocks, there. The biggest obstacle is speed. Speed can kill you there. It's so fast, and there are so many curves, rollers, berms, and whoops that it would be so easy to wash off into the brush or wrap your helmet around a tree. If there's ever a race here, I would expect far more carnage in one day than all the Michaux races combined. It's nutzy fast.
An interesting contrast between these kind of trails and the kind I'm used to is that machine built trails are initially built wider, with a built-in bench cut, and then get narrower over time as vegetation grows in. The singletrack I've worked on in the Forests are usually built by hand, without full benching, narrow at first, but they tend to get wider over time, and slowly shift downhill beyond where the bench should be.
The Raystown Trails are also being built with other uses in mind such as xc skiing. A friend recently remarked that no trail that's good for xc skiing could possibly be good for mountain biking. Well, I now totally disagree. Yea, it's not the same as the GW, Abby, Heaven or Hell, or Iceberg, but it's absolutely as fun for me. Taxpayer Trails are good!!! I hope it succeeds.