Copyright Natural Habitats 2016

Remarkable Riding

Remarkable Riding

remarkableriding_jackspointNatural Habitats Central Otago Manager (and mountain bike aficionado) Mark Aston discusses the construction of sustainable cycle ways and his teams work on the Queenstown Trail.

The initial focus of ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail has been on developing a series of 18 Great Rides. The Queenstown Trail is one of these. The proposed trail will be a spectacular 90km mountain biking ride, which will take riders alongside pristine rivers and lakes and beneath mountain ranges.

Several sections of trail around Queenstown are ready to ride, and the construction of Arrowtown to Whitechapel Road trail is currently being undertaken by Natural Habitats Central Otago.

Decades of mountain biking experience combined a keen interest in off road cycling and track formation means our Central Otago team has been actively pursuing (and riding) each section of the trail as it is completed.

To date Natural Habitats has been involved in the formation of the Gibbston Valley Cycleway, and Upper Arrow River Trail, as well as community work on trails and re-vegetation planting on areas of the Skyline Mountain Bike Trail system (known as Queenstown Bike Park).

Building tracks of this nature include a variety of different work such as scrub and tree clearance, initial track formation, watertable and culvert installation, and building retaining walls and timber boardwalk bridges.

Whilst these projects have been incredible we have been dissatisfied with the roading contractor approach that is often adopted for the construction of many walking and biking trails.

This approach uses outdated construction techniques which are far from best practice and less than ideal from a sustainability point of view. For the essential elements in creating sustainable trails lie with forming rolling contours.

Key to this are:

  • The ‘Half Rule’ which means the trail’s grade shouldn’t exceed half the grade of the hillside, or sideslope, that the hill traverses. If it does then water will flow down it rather than run across it, ruining the trail, even on gently sloping areas.
  • The ‘Ten Percent Average Guideline’ whereby trail grades of 10 percent or less are most sustainable. This helps minimise erosion by users because steeper grades increase the amount of soil loosened by cyclists having to work harder to travel up or down the slope, and allows design flexibility in case there is an obstacle in the path.
  • ‘Grade Reversals which is where there is a point at which the climbing trail levels out and then changes direction, dropping subtly for 3-15 metres before rising again. A grade reversal forces water to drain off the trail, helping them to endure, even with minimal maintenance.
  • The ‘tilt’ on the outer edge of the trail as it contours across a hillside, otherwise known as ‘outslope’. This tilt encourages water to sheet across, and off the trail, instead of funnelling down its centre. An outsloped trail allows water to drain in a gentle, non-erosive manner.

These are just a few internationally recognised construction methods we employ to minimise ongoing maintenance and improve watershedding when undertaking trail construction. Such methods create sustainable trails; generate flow and ultimately a better end user experience, ensuring remarkable riding.