Pollard’s Complete Trail Building Guide

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————–3. Freeride Stunts———–

3.1 Drops

Basically, a drop can either be built with a landing ramp or not, with a gap or without a gap. Obviously a gap makes rolling the drop impossible, and you can’t have a gap without a landing ramp. There not too much to explain as far as building drops go, but I’ll just go through a few ways to build drops, and how to (I’m not including a north shore ladder drop, I’ll explain that later on).

Firstly, there is building a drop on a steep slope. To do this, you basically, dig out an L-shape in the side of the slope, and use the mud you dug out for the lip. You can either just use mud exclusively for the lip, or build a retaining wall for it. Using kinda the same principle as for berm retaining walls, except as a lip.

For tips on how best to stack logs and/or use ‘box lips’ see the bit below ‘3.2 Gap jumps…’ as it applies the same principle for both. And yeh, for advice on landing ramps, it the same kinda thing as a takeoff or landing ramp explained below.

As for where else to build drops, cliff faces obvious provide a great place for drop. Only building usually is clearing and smoothing out bumps so they’re quick to build and you have unlimited run-out which is good, leaves room for progression.

Finally, you could build a drop of a big natural boulder in the ground, either with the rock exposed or not, it doesn’t matter, but you simply build a strong lip using techniques described below, and a corresponding landing also using the technique below.

A few useful pointers for building drops: Steep trannies (transitions, basically the curve of the landing ramp), build strong lips (use a rock slab or a wooden structure if possible) because strong lips won’t wear down as quick over time and make the drop safer, never make do or die drops (where you can’t roll the drop, or with a gap) in the middle of a trail without big obvious signs saying so, otherwise you end up with a bunch of dead XCers at the bottom of the drop.

3.2 Booters/Gap Jumps

Firstly, I’m not talking about dirt jumps like with steep lips and pits between, I mean freeride jumps. Booters are basically gap jumps without a landing, usually into a steep slope.

When deciding upon location for the jump try and incorporate as much of the natural relief as possible, so you are only really making a slope steep, or ‘jumpafying’ a mound in the ground, basically you want to use the natural shape of the ground to your advantage, not just saving effort, but the trail ends up looking cooler.

There are 2 main ways to build take offs, the first is where you use pegs and logs to create a ‘box’, where you fill in the box with logs then dirt. This only works when you have access you good quality wood and a location that won’t get the odd person trying to destroy it (trust me, in the UK it happens more than you’d think), but this method is quick and makes a very strong, very neat and very compact takeoff and whenever possible make one these. The second, used when theres enough logs and very public land, is just to stack up logs in the right way to create a solid base, and then pack mud on the it ,either just on the front, front and sides, or all around it. It’s always best to pack mud all around it and makes it stronger and less likely for a randomer to destroy it. Also, rocks work too, better than wood as it lasts sooooo much longer, not that using good wood is ever really an issue.

The first method goes like this. First, prep the area where the lip goes, just clear it of loose topsoil and all logs and rocks, and then visualize what you’ll be building so you know what to aim for.

Then, collect all the wood you’ll be using to make the pegs. The pegs are the things that get hammered into the ground, and that the back logs lean against. You can use any thickness log within reason, but bear in mind thin ones will break and thick one need sharpening and are still a bitch to get in the ground. Hammer them in with a sledgehammer, or stump or large log, or whatever you find. Then, collect all the wood you’ll be using to make the sides and back of the box. You’ll then need to cut the wood to size. The easiest way is to get an axe, or the axe side of the mattock and just do it that way, but saws still work, just slower and neater.

Then, you need to use to jigsaw skills and piece it all together to look like the outline of a jump. Another thing to bear in mind is you can use your north shore building skills if your good at that instead of pegs, works better than pegs but it takes longer and is much more difficult. Jigsaw the box together, or tetris it together (whatever floats ya boat), then fill the box first with rocks, or logs if you don’t have rocks like us Brits. Bear in mind you’ll be putting 6 inches of dirt on top. Then simply put the dirt on (just topsoil remember).

Never ever ever ever ever get the mud from a huge great big hole next to lip because firstly, its as danger as F, secondly if you needs to abort the jump you’re stuffed, and thirdly, it’s more likely to get your trails destroyed. Stop being a lazy bones and make a hole not near the lip. But then you say you have to walk real far every scoopeful, you instead fill a rubblebag with dirt, and transport the dirt that way. It works well with 2 bags, and 2 people. 1 person digs for awhile, filling up the bags, and the other carries the bags to the lips, then swap.

Once the dirt is on the takeoff, shape it with a rake (use an experienced builder if possible), or a spade, or if your real cheap, your feet. If you can’t tell whether its a good shape or not, visualize riding it and seeing whether you ride it good or not.

Then comes the process of dirt compression, or ‘whacking in’ as its commonly known. You start off by getting the dirt wet (if not possible, don’t worry, skip this stage, then come back later in the rain and re-pack), then start out whacking it in with a spade (D-Handle flat spade if possible), then use you feet to compress the dirt. Use the spade first cause there is less pressure and won’t leave footprints in it. Once it packed enough, your feet won’t leave footprint and you can pack it nice hard.

Then, don’t ride it till it’s dry because otherwise you’ll leave huge ruts in it, which then hardens, and your takeoff officially becomes worse because you couldn’t be bothered to wait.

The second method works the same as the first, except as opposed to making a box, you stack up the log in the shape of the jump, then covering the whole thing in 6 inches of dirt. As to how to stack the logs, there a bit of an art to it, and tetris skills come in good use. Try and link in logs to line the side too, sometimes overlooked it adds strength to it.

Landing ramps work in the same way, except for the fact it needs to be considerably wider than the takeoffs.

Then, once you gap is done, don’t go home, make the run in and runout good, because a shite run in/out means shite jump that either leaves you pedaling like mad or coming short, or slamming on the brakes and making braking bumps, or slamming on the brakes and crashing.

General tips for building booter and gap jumps: Get out and build as many as possible, and ride them a lot too. You’ll soon work out what work shape works, what distances work, what widths work, etc… Also, don’t build sniper trannies! What i mean by this is don’t make the landing ramps soo short and steep you need sniper precision to nail it properly.

3.3 Stepdowns

Building a stepdown is basically a mix of other trail building techniques, such as landing ramps, take offs, general trail skills for smoothing in run, etc… So instead of repeating myself I’ll just give some general tips:

  • Make a good in run. Crap in-runs make riding the gap harder and not as fun.
  • Clear the run out fully. So often do i see stepdowns with like no run out its annoying, it just means the run out gets bumpy cause people slam on the brakes.
  • Don’t build sniper trannys, just means judging speed becomes too much of a hassle.  If the stepdown vertically drops a lot steep trannies are a must. If your incorporating a stepdown into a trail, you have to have an alternate for those non huckers out there.
  • Build with the guidance of an experience stepdown sender so your not wasting your time on something that’s unrideable.

Again, as with most things, experience really helps

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