Last month, IMBA’s trail specialists Shane Wilson and Mark McClure travelled to Porretta Terme to deliver the first ever IMBA Trail Building School in Italy. The Trail Building School was the one of the first initiatives of IMBA Italia after their installation a couple months ago.
Volunteer work by mountain bikers is highly valued and promoted by IMBA Europe. An educational program like a TBS is a simple but proven strategy to stimulate volunteer work and build partnerships with land mangers. If you want to know more about the TBS program, continue your reading with the blogpost below by Mark McClure about his latest experience in Italy.
Having acquired a more suitable vehicle, we set off South navigating the twisting roads that lead through the quaint villages of the Appenines. This mountain range runs down the spine of Italy through the regions of Emiglia Romagna and Tuscany separating the East and West of the country. It's highest peaks top out at an elevation of over 2900m / 9500ft.
On arrival in Porretta Terme the team from IMBA Italia, Beppe, Edoardo and Marco, provided a warm welcome. After a hearty lunch the remainder of the day was spent researching potential training locations for the practical sessions of the weekend Trail Building School.
Based in Turino and Porretta Terme Happy Trail are a company that works with children and young people aged 5 – 18 to teach them mountain bike skills. Their training location provided great opportunities to construct a new section of mountain bike optimised trail.
The team also researched a number of local shared use trails, finally deciding the route leading to the summit of the 487m elevation Monte Della Croce as an appropriate training location that would provide ample challenge to demonstrate maintenance techniques on an existing trail.
08:00 Saturday morning time for coffee and the TBS to begin. 50 attendees registered for the event included delegates from 4 countries, with Portugal, Albania, the Netherlands and, of course, Italy being represented.
Soon everyone took their seats in the meeting room of Hotel Santini for the morning presentation. IMBA Italia had worked hard to translate the presentation which allowed the majority of participants to study the information on screen in their native tongue.
The IMBA Trail Solutions specialists explained the rules and theories of sustainable trail design and construction to the eager audience. Demonstrations of how to use clinometers to assess grade gave attendees an informed perspective, ready for the practical sessions, which were to follow the presentation.
The crew travelled the short distance to Happy Trail where volunteers watched as Shane and Mark designed and constructed a short section of trail. This demonstration spurred on the passionate trail builders who quickly set to work to construct over 100m of flow trail in just 2 hours.
It was decide that because the trail would be predominantly used by children from the Happy trail mountain bike school that a 5% average grade would provide a fun, fast yet safe trail that minimises user and weather based erosion. The new section of trail uses a bench cut construction. Plentiful grade reversals shed water and give the rider a great experience.
The team were able to construct three inslope turns, using an elevated construction to create sweeping berms across the hillside. The session finished by riders flow testing the section, even the most advance riders were surprised that how well the trail flowed and despite a shallow 5% grade how much the trail could be ripped! A social evening consisting of great food, wine and a screening of the movie Pedal Driven followed the first days training.
The second day of the TBS started early with participants hiking around half an hour to the work site high up above the town. Mark and Shane demonstrated the techniques for rock armouring and elevated tread construction as well as walking the group through the trail to identify problems, solutions and actions for the day’s work plan.
The crew spread out along the trail working on improvements to make the surface more sustainable and to increase safety for all users of the popular route. The team made some big impacts, rock armouring a section of steep trail, creating grade reversals to aid drainage, opening lines of site and re-routing worn and unsustainable sections of trail.
The day finished with certificates of attendance being handed out to the hard working team of trail builders. Beppe finished off the proceedings with a short yet poignant speech.
“This Trail Building School been a great start for IMBA Italia. We believe that we have shared a piece of Italian mountain bike history. Time will tell, but we are very happy about the energy and passion that we all share. Thank you! Grazie!!! “
Many thanks go to the IMBA Italia team for their help in organizing a great Trail Building School, we wish them every success in the future to grow the mountain bike scene in Italy. Join IMBA Italia here www.imba-italia.org/sostienici/