Monday, May 12, 2014


Don Amador on 2006 Pre-TMR Single-Track Motorcycle Trail 
Tour of Six Rivers National Forest

Author: Don Amador
Date: May 12, 2014
Word Count: 847

*Permission to Reprint is Hereby Granted


Having been intimately involved in post-2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule (TMR) Subpart B planning efforts in California and other Western States for the last 9 years, I am concerned about the loss of many, if not most, of our historic single-track motorcycle trails.

Designated Single Track Motorcycle Trail on Eldorado NF

In 2007, Bill Kresnick, compiled an article for the American Motorcyclist Association entitled: Vanishing Trails.  Kresnick chronicled how the rigid timeline and/or lack of agency staff for TMR resulted in most legal and well-established (many had official FS markers or were on agency maps) single-track trails being excluded from the designation process.  

Historic and Legal Pre-TMR Single-Track Motorcycle Trail
Closed by Shasta Trinity NF TMR Decision

Many Forests restricted their travel planning process to maintenance level 2 system roads that allowed use by non-street legal OHVs or maintenance level 1 roads that were managed as motorized trails.   Historic and legal motorized single-track opportunities such as enduro trails, old pack-mule/mining or pioneer trails were simply eliminated from consideration due to time constraints.

Example of Single-Track Motorcycle Trail Experience on ML 1 Road

For example, in 2010 the Six Rivers National Forest issued a Record of Decision for travel management on the Mad River and Lower Trinity Ranger Districts.  Of the 80+ miles of historic single-track trails identified by the BlueRibbon Coalition and local OHV enthusiasts during the planning process, the Forest only designated 5 miles as single-track motorcycle trails. 

Historic and Legal Single-Track Motorcycle Trail Closed in
Six Rivers NF 2010 TMR Decision

During those early planning efforts, agency representatives promised the OHV community that once these initial “foundational” route networks were established and codified that they would work with the users to either bring some of these historic single-track opportunities “back onto the system” or construct new engineered single-track system trails.

Another factor that has contributed to the significant loss of single-track motorcycle trails is the conversion of said routes by illegal ATV use.   By definition, a trail is a route 50 inches or less in width (used by ATVs, motorcycles, or narrow SxSs)  or a route over 50 inches wide that is identified and managed as a trail (36 CFR 212.1) for larger OHVs such as jeep-type vehicles and full-size SxSs. Motorcycle-only single-track trails are generally 24 inches or less in width.  ATVs are not allowed on motorcycle-only trails.

Vehicle Width Restrictor on Motorcycle Only Trail
Tahoe National Forest

Also, many of the “road-based” single-track trails which have evolved over time to provide a high-quality single-track experience are often obliterated by bulldozers during the initial attack on a wildfire or by reconstruction of the road to extract resources.  That single-track experience can be lost for several generations.

Agency commitment to post TMR project level trail planning varies greatly from Region to Region, Forest to Forest, and Ranger District to Ranger District.  It is my experience that commitment is largely based on unit culture and personnel.

Replacement of lost single track experience on a unit should be part of the discussion between agency staff and affected stakeholders. Retention of single- track dirt-bike trails is no different than keeping single-track hiking, equestrian, and mountain-bike trails.

New single-track construction vehicles such as the Single Track ST240 appear to be a cost-effective way to reconstruct existing road-based single-trail trails or to construct new trails.  In fact, some Forests are already using it on single-track trail projects.

Work-type motorcycles such as the Rokon can be used to ferry in trail supplies such as rock, tread blocks, and power tools for volunteer work parties.

Rokon Hauling Tread Block in OR State Forest

Concepts such as the construction of new “companion-trails” along existing road-based ATV and 4WD trails to separate vehicle types for safety and an enhanced trail experience should be embraced by the agency and trail groups.  I understand the Six Rivers National Forest is evaluating that very concept along Route 1.

Again, some of these ideas are already being considered and planned for on Forests with an OHV or trail-based recreation background.  The challenge will be for trail enthusiasts to engage with Forest Service staff on units where a substantive trail-based recreation program has never been established.

Designated Single-Track Motorcycle Trail
Tahoe National Forest

 The cost of the specialized trail equipment could make it hard for a Forest with a new trail program to justify purchasing a trail tractor or other piece of specialized equipment.  The Regional Office might have a role in coordinating existing trail specialists to help units enhance new trail opportunities or bolster the trail work force on other Forests so that routes can be worked during optimum soil moisture conditions.

I believe with leadership and support at the Regional and Forest level that users can partner with agency staff, other stakeholder groups, local government officials, and states with grant funding sources to plan for and implement high-quality trail programs for all vehicle types including motorcycle trails for the single-track enthusiasts.

Single-track motorcycle fans should also consider joining national trail advocacy organizations such as the BlueRibbon Coalition and their state and local clubs.  Being engaged on all fronts is the most effective strategy in the preservation of the OHV trail experience.

# # # 

Additional Resources:

AMA Vanishing Trails (pages 24-25)

Black Hills NF Gets Single Track Dozer

Single Track ST240

TV Story on ST240 and Single Track in OR

Rokon Work Motorcycle

BlueRibbon Coalition


  1. This article is right on the mark. I was involved with the Six Rivers TMR and sent in extensive comments. They closed nearly all routes of value. The Shasta T also closed pretty much everything.

    There are any schools of thought as to how to build single track. The Mountain Bike community is way ahead in this area.

    Personally I think it's easier to attempt to reopen and old single track that to build a new one, particularly a route that got analyzed during the TMR. Sometimes there was only one problem section that close the entire trail and a simple fix would make the trail viable.

    But one thing for sure, this will have to be driven by local volunteers working on the ground who have developed a strong relationship with local land managers. Volunteers will need to be fully committed, willing to help write grants and even kick in some serious funds. Otherwise our single track will be gone forever, something we can tell the grand kids about.

  2. Excellent Blog, Don. It highlights the fact that it is many times harder to get back a trail that is closed than it is to prevent it being closed in the first place. And with single-track being the most desirable of off-road motorcycle experiences (not to mention the safest) we really need riders to appreciate the importance of doing everything we can to ensure that land managers appreciate that and help us preserve the opportunities.

  3. COMMENT SENT IN VIA EMAIL - Development of single track trail opportunities is critical to the future OHV/Travel Route Mgt. designations. This is particularly critical where new "loop" riding opportunities need to be completed for managed programs. There are many existing situations where private property prohibits legal access and where easements or alternative routes on public land need to be investigated.

  4. COMMENT SENT IN VIA EMAIL FROM RETIRED TRAIL SPECIALIST - I can say that in my experience single-track trails, when properly located, designed, and constructed, have a significantly lower impact on resources and require less maintenance than the wider trails, especially when compared to the wider trails that were not designed for OHV use but started out as fire-lines or old roads or skid trails. Well-designed single-track trails can be located to be challenging to ride without steep gradients, or long and sustained gradients--both of which increase resource impacts and the need for maintenance. Also, a well-designed single-track has water control built, in which keeps the need for maintenance very low.

  5. Single track trails are an important part of any motorized or non-motorized trail network. Single track trails offer Motorcycle riders the experience and challenge they seek. If designed and located in a way that harmonizes with the environment, the topography, the vegetation, these trails often require much less maintenance than poorly designed trails or converted roads.
    One aspect to keep in mind is that the agencies need to do there best to have shared use trails. Not all public lands can be all things for all uses, and decreasing budgets and increases in fire have made trails and recreation a low priority. Many agencies can barely get the trails open after a severe winter. Far more often it is not a lack of willingness by the land management agency, but rather a lack of budget, staffing and higher priorities.
    It is becoming increasingly important for recreationists to find ways to have two way communication with agency staff and find ways to help through volunteer efforts and partnerships. The most effective work comes when advesarials come together to find solutions where there is a little win-win and less win-lose.

  6. From a results viewpoint, this is the biggest single flaw with the TMR- it leaves the stakeholders with nothing but ML2 roads. The Forest Service has been insanely slow to realize what the users want, and in fact, are still resistant to the notion of ST. On my forest (STNF) our legal footprint has been reduced to 1/1000th of what is was before. The waste of 12 million dollars from the green sticker fund is just adding insult to injury.

  7. *From federal land manager - I think what has had the most influence on single track is the evolution of technology. When single track was dominant you had either dirt bikes or 4x4 jeeps and there was not a temptation to try a single track with your 4x4 but then came the 3 wheeler and quad which could begin to negotiate the single track trails resulting in track widening. Then the 4x4 quads along with more power. In my circle, the last 6 years have gone from mostly quad riders to SxS riders. Now when we go on a group ride there are 7-8 SxS and 1-2 quads… now the trails that were traditionally quad width are getting wider as a result of what the market is promoting, more power, better suspension and wider vehicles. There is a disconnect between users, trail planners, and manufactures. There are not a lot of machines that fit the FS trail widths beyond a motorcycle. There is also a real lack of education on the part of the rider. I have talked to countless riders that buy everyone in the family a quad, bike or SxS and have no idea what the rules are, where they can ride or how to ride responsibly or tread lightly… it seems that they do what it takes to get the sell and that’s it… I don’t think the FS has the fortitude to add more trails due to lack of budget and other priorities. One Forest promised to review the tracks that didn’t get in the TM project. They even got a green sticker grant for planning to add more trails, 3 yrs went by and they didn’t get past 1st base and had to turn the $$ back - All due to lack of commitment, priorities and personnel.

  8. *Note from a Rider - This is a great commentary airing out the frustration of the few dedicated riders truly involved with Forest Riding. Another thought is that simply flagging a trail with ribbon, running 10 bikes through, and then an enduro will have a similar impact at less cost. The trick is getting the NFS to understand their equipment and funding is not necessary. Permitting a responsible club to re-blaze a lost historical trail is all that is really needed.