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Appendix A: Trail Characteristics

A subset of the larger family of rolling contour trails, flow trails share the following basic characteristics:

  • Synergy with the landscape: Making the most of what the natural terrain provides by using the trail to explore the topography and features present (rocks, trees, waterways). Some describe a trail with good flow as one that has been revealed, not so much as constructed.
  • Opposition to user forces: Flow trails maximize the efficiencies afforded by using a bicycle, and are designed to counteract forces that direct a user off the trail. Bermed turns and cambered tread surfaces, for example, promote traction, safety, sustainability, and enjoyment.
  • Conservation of momentum: The ideal trail avoids 'flow killers' such as sharp turns, incongruent features, and disjointed climbs and descents. Instead, it utilizes undulations and cambered turns to reward smooth, deliberate riding and maximize forward motion. A flow trail encourages a better understanding of the bicyclist/bicycle interface, allowing riders to reach that unique sensation of floating through the landscape.
  • Leading the user forward: A sense of discovery, combined with a design that maximizes a rider’s forward momentum, helps to draw the user forward. The trail is never repetitive or predictable, nor is it 'awkward', with variety and innovation combining to create an intuitive feel.

The Flow Country Trail concept refines this definition by adding additional guidelines:

  • Frontcountry: Accessible by the widest range of mountain bicycle enthusiasts. May be located in a backcountry setting as well but within the context of a similarly aerobic & technically accessible loop.
  • Forgiving: Never extreme, dangerous, or steep; challenge is provided by rewarding progressive skills development and incorporating features that can always be rolled but may be jumped. While a Flow Country Trail is singletrack, the tread surface itself should be wider in areas where it is that anticipated less-experienced visitors may need a larger margin for error. More challenging features may be included if well-marked rollable alternate lines are provided.
  • Consistent: Preferably a Flow Country Trail is its own segment. When part of a longer trail or system, the entire trail should generally adhere to Flow Country principles of accessibility and progression.