Hydrocut Trail Condition Monitoring System
Waterloo Cycling Club


October 26, 2012

Mud Riders…

This picture reveals the pretty standard occurrence at the trailhead.  A complete disregard to the common trail etiquette, trail rules signs, the trail closure sign, and even a physical barrier.  People give them self a right to ride the too-muddy-for-riding trails anyway. We, the trail maintainers, are completely puzzled by this…

– Isn’t it obvious that these rules and signs are implemented for some (very good) reasons?

– Is it so hard to comprehend that riding in mud is harmful to the trails, otherwise why would the trail maintenance staff (which by the way are all 100% VOLUNTEERS and riders) be fighting so hard against it?

– If people come to ride these trails even in mud, then they obviously must enjoy riding them. Then why would they want to destroy something that THEY enjoy so much?

– Some of the perpetrators argue, the riding conditions are “just fine”, “not bad at all”, “good enough”, etc.  Shouldn’t the decision on what is or isn’t acceptable, be up to the ones that do the actual maintenance?

– How is this different from tearing up the turf from a soaked baseball diamond, or taking a jackhammer to an ice rink that someone worked very hard on getting into a good shape?

– Is it hard to imagine what would the trails look like if all the hundreds of daily trail visitors would ride indiscriminately like this?

– Don’t they think that we, the trail maintainers, would like to ride too?  Then what gives them the arrogance to allow themselves trail access before the trail-caretakers allow it to themselves?

We are sincerely trying to get a better understanding of this phenomenon. Please share your thoughts and ideas about possible ways to deal with this. You can do this by commenting below, or sending a private trails@waterloocyclingclub.ca.


About the Author

WCC Administrator


  1. RustyHacksaw

    This article has an interesting take on the psychology of ‘Warning’ signs, which is effectively what the trail closure sign is. http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/psychwarnings.html
    Not a long read, but worthwhile, probably summed up with this statement:

    “people who view a warning use a mental model to perform a cost-benefit analysis. The three main process components are 1) cost of compliance, 2) perception of danger level and 3) personal and social and cultural decision-making factors.”

    Those mud riders go out with a goal of a sweet ride, see the sign and weigh the perceived risks. They’ve probably ridden in mud before and are okay with that risk. There is no other enforcement of the rule by an authority higher than them, so they think it’s okay to ride.

    We could always increase the risk by installing automated tasers?? Build a bigger fence? Barbed wire?


  2. Krisztian

    These people simply doesn’t give a crap. They don’t read the forums or check trail conditions or anything like that. Heck even if someone would be standing at the trail head telling them not to ride, they would go in anyways without thinking twice about it.

    Just pure ignorance

    Maybe we should put a sign up like hunting season is in full effect, enter at your own risk. 🙂

  3. Krisztian

    Running some electricity through the fence was my other idea but not sure how legal that is. 🙂

  4. ruckus

    Put a spike strip on the first downhill section when trails are closed… 2 flats might encourage someone to turn around!

  5. lukepz

    I don’t ride the Hydrocut when it’s closed but I do wish it didn’t take so long to dry up.

    I often wonder what it would take to just make the trails more resillient to wet weather. Places like twin ponds are good to ride almost all the time. Obviously there are differences in terrain, but are there things that could be done from a trail maintenance perspective to deal with the root cause rather than the symptoms?

  6. h2merrit

    Root causes: 1. low infiltration, 2. low Evaporation, 3. low Transpiration

    1. Really all depends on your surficial geology (i.e. soil) and elevation relative to it’s surroundings, and only really varies between a frozen, impermeable state in winter, and it’s current unfrozen state. well drained surficial soils (generally sands) allow more water to infiltrate into deeper units, i.e. where we get 75% of our drinking water in KW). Overland runoff can be diverted with smart landscaping, I know very little about that though, but I’m 100% sure all the people who do trail maintenance do and they apply it in their labours.

    2. High winds, sunlight, high temperatures and low humidity contribute to evaporation. Unfortunately it’s been pretty cloudy, humid, cold and wet. Winds are limited due to the shelter of the forest, as would sunlight if there even was any to begin with.

    3. Right now, there is little in the way of transpiration going on. The trees have all “hibernated” for the winter at this point, and they’re not taking up any water throughout the day (they aren’t photosynthesizing without any leaves!). Another fun fact: Willow trees are the thirstiest.

    So really the weather we’ve had combined with the time of year really is what makes it so bad right now. And we’re only gonna get more rain. Surficial geology varies greatly throughout the region (understatement of the century -- it’s crazy how variable the whole area’s geology is). I’d wager this primarily explains why other trails seem to drain way better than others.


  7. mlynch

    Another thing to remember is that there may be days where the trails are mostly dry with just the odd puddle -- little damage if one rider ventures out, but if they were open to regular traffic those little mud holes would grow into wheel swallowing bogs. Analogous to commuting to work on your bike, big deal if one person does it, but if we all did… Be part of the solution, not the problem.

  8. rubbersidedown

    I really sympathize with the frustration of the trail maintenance volunteers. I’ve had a similar experience volunteering in another sport. The one thing that I learned from that experience is that some people simply do not care. They are not, as someone above suggested, ignorant. It’s the repeat offenders that do the majority of the damage, they know full well what they are doing. They are arrogant. They are so egocentric, they view their right to access as simply that. A right. They don’t care how hard you work, how much it costs you out of pocket, how much damage they do, or how poor an example they set for others. They simply don’t care.

    Do they consider all the work it takes to maintain the trails? Are they aware that they are messing things up for the rest of us? Are the consequences of their actions hard to comprehend? Those questions are good ones but are irrelevant because those people never get that far in their thought process. Their ride is of the highest importance, duck under the fence, carry on, end of thought.

    While most of the people who use the trails will follow the rules and respect temporary closures, there will ALWAYS be a handfull of repeat offenders who won’t. No amount of volunteers, signs or fences will ever change that. They don’t care and there is really nothing you can do. Some people, new to the sport or new to the trails genuinly may not be aware so communication is still important and they will fall to one side or the other. That’s life.

    So, channel your energy where its effective. If you can accept that there will always be some arrogant people and that you will always have to fix what they break, you’ll be much better off. Do what you can for those who appreciate it. Communicate to those who will listen and know that the info is out there for those who don’t, should they decide to change their ways. They are not worth the stress. Let karma take care of them and by that I am not referring to electrified fences or spike strips. Justified lawsuits will close it all down pretty fast.

  9. EMWilliams

    A little late to the table, but here are some thoughts. Rubbersidedown pretty much nailed it. Most of the offenders don’t care because thy view the ride as a right not a privilege and although there may be some vague promise of a permanent trail closure consequence if the rules aren’t followed, there is no individual consequence. Further these ppl don’t care of you close the trails because hey, we’ll still just ride anyway…

    We have a similar problem with unauthorized trail mods down at Turkey Point (www.tpmbc.com). Non-members, who if asked will tell you they’ve been riding the trails for 20 yrs (as a guy on the end of the rake that helped cut many of them I know better) feel it is their right to make changes. We point out that our land-usage rights with the TP provincial park and Long Point Conservation Authority don’t allow for unauthorized changes but these people don’t care. The feel like there is no consequence. And that is where they are wrong…

    Because our agreements allow access on controlled land for cycling, non members are technically trespassing. Of course as a club we want to promote use of the trails but could potentially treat a “trail vandal” the same as an equestrian rider or motorized rider and cal them in. I don’t know if you have the same option for WCC trails, but I all bit guarantee that your problem is not with dues paying members (of which I’ve been but since moving to Port Dover am now delinquent).

    Other than that I have a second thought. Believe it or not in this day and age some people just don’t think of the Internet first for information. So some of these riders could be out of towners or even just people on a tight time-frame. They show up without checking or possibly even knowing about your web site and twitter accounts and arrive at a closed trail. At that point it’s “oh well I didn’t come this far not to ride” or whatever and they hop the fence. In this case education of non-members is key. The “trail closed” sign can’t be missed, but if there was a note about the website/twitter whatever for updates then slowly people start running out of excuses for not knowing the trails are closed. Education/communication is key. And explicit: Somehow “bicycles only” doesn’t carry the same weight as “no horses”.

    I had a couple other random thoughts, but this seems long enough already…

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