Written by Chloe Hammond-Bradley
The Trail Sustainability Institute (TSI) held their first benching clinic this last Saturday. This clinic focused on how to cut in as well as re-establish a bench on a trail. When building and maintaining a trail, you focus on four areas; your line, flow, bench cuts and drainage. Bench cuts, or benching is critical to building and maintaining the line and flow of any trail that runs along a hillside, and as trails age it is important to check on benching and drainage to ensure that the trail continues to be accessible to riders.
TSI Instructors Nancy, Paul, Bob and Addison led a small crew out to Rocky Point on Saturday to do some trail maintenance on Wind Up, a trail built in 2021. As Wind Up continues to break in, and be ridden more often with nearly 6,000 members and growing, it was the perfect opportunity for the TSI leaders to teach volunteers the importance and the techniques behind benching.
Paul and Addison talked about the three tools that are critical when benching; hoe, McLeod, and rake. The rake clears away all organics from the work area, the hoe is used to pull back soil from the hillside to the desired tread and the McLeod assists with compacting the soil.
Nancy and Bob helped educate NWTA volunteers on how to cut into the slope of the hill to create a bench-like section on the trail to create a line and allow for flow. Both of them spent a portion of time explaining the anatomy of the back slope and fore slope to build out the tread or bench of the trail. The key takeaway that was shared with attendees was, if you are not able to keep the back slope of the hill round and slightly angled for drainage, your tread or bench will narrow or erode away. The tread or bench is the portion of the trail where your tire hits the dirt, and vegetation no longer grows.
This benching clinic crew successfully worked on three sections of Wind Up, and received positive feedback from riders on the trail throughout the day as they progressed through the trail maintenance. If you are interested in learning proper techniques for trail building, this TSI clinic is a great opportunity to learn and build your skills with hands-on experience, and real examples – while helping to maintain the trails we love to ride in the PNW.