Thursday, 27 August 2009

Strange Inclinations

Soon after Andrew and myself arrived at Birches Valley tonight we were approached by a mtb'er asking 'are you trail builders?' Had we suddenly starting publicly advertising our Thursday night planning sessions and someone had come to join us? No, it was just an interested rider asking about 'Phase 2'. It is nice when people come and talk to us so if you ever see us out and about come say hello. I wonder what made him think we were trail builders...

Anyway back to the task at hand, tonight we were trail planning again. Once you have explored an area of ground, found control points and joined them up on a map to form some kind of route you need to get your gradients sorted (you don't want to build a downhill trail and then find it actually goes slightly uphill!). To some extent you can do this by reading the contours on a map but you can get far more actuate and detailed results by surveying the ground with an inclinometer.

Using an inclinometer requires a bit of eye coordination – it’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly. With one eye you look at a distance object (usually a marker tape tied around a tree at eye height) and with the other eye you look through the eyepiece of the inclinometer and line the pointer up with that object. The gradient between you and the tree is read from the scale in the eyepiece. Sounds complicated but with a bit of practice it’s simple. Armed with this knowledge you can tweak your route to ensure your trail flows just the way you want it.

The nights are closing in pretty quickly now so we soon lost the light as we walked back to Birches. It was dark when we got back and we were wearing gloves and carrying a lump hammer so I hope they don't have CCTV. Although I doubt many thieves or vandals would wear high viz jackets...


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