Use Exposure to Add Challenge
Source: IMBA Canada
Our goal as a Trail Care Crew is to build trails that are fun and challenging while always carefully protecting the environment. To preserve the land, our most important trailbuilding goal is to prevent water erosion by routing trails across the fall line rather than down. Some mountain bikers will at first consider these trails too tame, however elements can be included in the design to enhance technical challenge while also ensuring long-term sustainability.
One effective technique is to build narrow trails with exposure. Exposure is the feeling of empty space next to and below the trail tread. Riding singletrack across a steep hillside always produces grins and a shot of adrenaline in even the most experienced rider. We've ridden benchcut trails on slopes that exceed 45%. The feeling of exposure on these trails provides an added psychological challenge beyond how steep or rough they are. A three-inch rock seems like a boulder when a 50-foot drop looms on your side!
Adding exposure can be even more effective in riding areas where it is uncommon or unexpected. You can find some type of exposure in almost all environments - steep mountains are not needed. Seek features such as rock outcroppings, small embankments or any elevation change. A trail across a slope can seem more challenging if a rock or thorny bush is located on the uphill side, forcing the rider near the trail's downhill edge.
Rocks, logs, and steep trails aren't the only elements that make a ride difficult - exposure can add challenge while retaining sustainability.