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10 Tips to Build a Ladder Bridge

Source: IMBA Canada

1. Locate the ladder bridge properly
Ladder bridges can be added to trails of various difficulty level - just be sure that the challenge matches the skill of the expected riders. On beginner trails, ladder bridges should be wide and low to the ground. As skill levels increase, the structures can be higher, narrower and incorporate turns, camber changes and drop-offs.

On beginner trails, place the ladder bridge to the side for an optional, more challenging route. On advanced trails, the feature may be located in the main line. However, a clearly visible option around the ladder bridge should always be incorporated into the design.

2. Elevate the ladder bridge
The feature can be raised off the ground in various ways - but be sure to use a durable and sustainable method. Some techniques include large rocks, strong tree stumps that won't rot, well-designed wooden posts, or a log-cabin style crib. Never attach a ladder bridge to live trees and avoid using rot-prone or flimsy deadfall.

3. Armor the entrance and exit
The trail surface at the entrance and exit of a ladder bridge will require additional hardening, especially on steeper grades and landing areas. Check the IMBA website for detailed armoring techniques.

4. Vary length, height and width to add appeal and challenge
Part of the appeal of a ladder bridge is simply that it offers a different challenge and aesthetic than is found in the natural environment. A ladder bridge, by its design, is not necessarily challenging. The challenge comes from how high the bridge is off the ground, how long it is and how narrow the deck. Sometimes the mental challenge of balancing on a narrow bridge is greater than the physical risk.

5. Add turns and camber
A great way to add challenge to a ladder bridge is to incorporate turns. The amount of deck space provided for the turn should be consistent with the style of trail and technical features nearby. On beginner and intermediate trails, the turning radius and deck must be wide. On advanced bridges it can be narrower. Changing the camber of a ladder bridge is another way to add challenge. Banked turns are great ways to add flow and fun.

6. Change the incline and decline
Ladder bridges with sharp inclines that require pedaling, and declines that demand breaking can be very challenging. Again, the steepness should flow with the surrounding trail style.

7. Join ladder bridges together to create alternate lines
Ladder bridges can be quite elaborate. Consider building alternate bridge lines that offer different levels of challenge. Offshoots can be narrower than the main bridge, provide separate exits or drop offs or include more turns.

8. Incorporate drop-offs
Drop-offs from the end of the bridge to the ground or onto another bridge will add challenge. The height of the drop should match the challenge level of the trail. Make sure to consider the forces of a drop-off in the bridge and landing zone design.

9. Combine ladder bridges with other technical trail features
Ladder bridges can be linked with teeter-totters, A-frames and other technical trail features to form a flowing series of challenges. Get creative!



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