Most riders know to avoid riding trails and bike parks after heavy precipitation. The rule of thumb is simple: if your tires leave a trough, it’s too wet to ride.
But what do you do when it rains non-stop for three months straight? Unfortunately that is often a reality of living in the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, a number of Portland area trails have received tread hardening that makes them durable enough to be used year round. Adding crushed rock and gravel to the tread hardens the surface of the trail and with the addition of drains, aid in the control of water.
Examples of Portland area trails that have winterized tread include the Sandy Ridge Trail, the Wilson River Trail and the new (but short) single track trail segments at the Gateway Green Bike Park. Our area also has seemingly unlimited amounts of gravel logging roads (admittedly not my first choice either) that are also good for exploring when conditions are wet.
Another option: look for less popular trails covered in a layer of organic matter. Pine needles, leaves and other bits will protect trail tread from being channelized. Trails with a lot of sand or gravel content also are good to explore.
Although the tread surfaces have been made more durable, riding them when they’re wet still contributes to erosion, so consider joining local trail work parties to offset the impact of your trail use.
Riding Bike Parks When Wet: Just Don’t
Unlike single track trail, bike parks and bike park features are a totally different scenario. Rock and gravel is undesirable in rollers, jumps and berms as it effects the riding experience. Unlike single track trail tread, park features require regular maintenance.
If you’re riding and leaving ruts at your local bike park, be aware this is a major faux pas and not only will you be called out, if someone takes your photo you could be subject to being singled out on social media.
Outside of pay to play bike parks, the bike park you ride at is maintained via the efforts of riders to donate their time. Like trail work, your local bike club will likely post and schedule regular maintenance work parties.
With all the rain on its way, how can you determine when it’s good to ride?
Dirt is sticking to your shoe and tires gumming things up is one thing to look out for. Most importantly though, riders want to avoid displacing soil and causing ruts. Causing a rut creates a channel that will attract water and accentuate the effects of water flow and erosion on the trail, creating damage that will need to be repaired later. It also will have a profound effect on the riding experience of the trail once the soil dries.
We have a number of Facebook groups locally where riders share trail conditions and advice when it comes to planning your day. Taking advantage of these as well as other social media outlets can make it easier to plan your day.
If you’re leaving tire marks at the local bike park, it should be obvious you’re causing damage (as well as resentment) that someone else will have to repair, one shovel slap at a time.
Avoid dirt bike parks when they’re wet and consider riding concrete parks, hardened trails or find other options.