The guidelines for building sustainable mountain bike trails are well established by such organizations as the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland. However, if you aspire to build not just a good trail but one that will cause riders return to your destination then follow these steps.1. Start with a Vision
What experiences do you want to provide? Is it a thrilling, technically challenging gravity ride? Is it a backcountry singletrack adventure that highlights the natural beauty of any area? Or is it an urban bike park designed for kids?
Develop a conceptual plan that shows how your vision would look on the landscape. Your concept should be comprehensive, and larger destinations should develop a masterplan to realize the full value of their investment. Bold, well-developed visions inspire others to support your idea.
Find partners to help implement your vision. The tourism community, comprised of restaurants, hotels, and shops, will provide political support and feedback on how to maximize the appeal of your destination.
To create the best trails you will need the assistance of professionals, such as landscape architects and environmental specialists, but most importantly a qualified trail consultant. Ask other destinations to recommend a good designer with a history of creating quality trails in your region.3. Design with Purpose
Don’t have your trail layout resemble a plate of spaghetti just to cram more singletrack into an area. Remember your vision and maximize the experience, not the distance. Take full advantage of descending opportunities, highlight unique landscapes, and add that hidden encounter with something special, such as a babbling creek or a patch of springtime wildflowers.4. Build It Right, Build It Once
This is where most trail systems fail. Incredible effort has been expended to get to this point so don’t cut corners on construction. Good trails costs good money but reduce maintenance costs. You can use trail contractors, municipal crews, or volunteers (or some combination) but in all cases they must be trained and experienced in sustainable trail building. Don’t forget to budget for trailheads, maps, signs, and annual upkeep.5. Share Your Success
Wow, you built an amazing trail - let the world know! Make sure your trails are mapped through popular online sources (SchweizMobil, Komoot, MTB Project, Trail Forks, Trail Guide) and encourage people to broadcast their experiences on social media. Hold events, such as festivals and races, to introduce people to your great trail as they’ll definitely come back later with their friends. Lastly, get tour operators and journalists to ride your destination so they can introduce others to the trails.