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How Reviews Trails

Who reviews the trails?  Bruce Argyle reviews the bike trails all by himself. Sometimes in the past he had the company of Jackie, the biking-crazed Jack Russell terrier. Bruce began writing trail descriptions on-line in 1998, founding as a mountain biking information website in 2000.

Bruce with Jackie at Draper's Corner Canyon, around the year 2000.

How does Bruce pick trails for review?  The goal is to have information on every trail in Utah that's worth riding. First, Bruce needs to know the trail exists. Sometimes it's chatter on the internet. Or a post by a trail-building organization. Sometimes, it's a car with a bike rack parked where there wasn't a bike trail before. (So tell Bruce if you know a good trail that should be on this site!)

In 1998 on Amasa Back, overlooking the Colorado, L to R: Dominic, Bruce, Mike, Matt, Chad, Gary. Yeah, this website goes back that far!

How are the trails mapped?

Bruce rides the trails with his Garmin. For some trail systems, Bruce has to explore many forks and cow-paths to find the right ride. Sometimes it takes 30 miles of pedaling to document a 12-mile ride for the web site. Bruce takes notes on paper or digital recorder, with frequent stops to take photos.

Digital recorder in Snow Canyon in 2001.

Who pays for all this?  Bruce pays his own expenses to ride the trails, which can include gas, fluids, calories, lodging, and -- often -- replacement bike parts. Through the Lehi UtahMountainBiking bike shop, Mike provides bike fix-ups and occasional freebies. The shop pays the web-hosting and internet access fees. 

Old heavy Garmin 12XL on Bruce's hardtail Specialized in 1999, back before anybody was using GPS data.

Where does the data come from?  The track file from Bruce's Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit gets downloaded to his laptop. That big track gets chopped, tweaked, and cleaned up. The result is an area file containing multiple trails. This is used to create a small map for the trail page and a full-page map for printing. A clean GPX ride track is created for you to download as suggested ride paths.

Who does the web programming?  Bruce writes the trail pages. This includes editing photos, writing the ride description and getting-there instructions, and creating a map. Many trail pages now also have embedded videos.

Figuring out a ride of the Bonneville Shoreline back in the old days. Yeah, on paper. And there are still some old hand-drawn "I think I went that-a-way for about this far" maps on the website.

How long does all this take?  Creating a page for a new trail -- research, travel time, riding the trail, editing the photos, tweaking the GPS files, creating the maps, writing the trail description plus the by-the-mile riding instructions, and formatting the web page -- averages about 18 hours per trail. And if Bruce makes a video of the trail with his own weird music, the time spent increases to about 30 hours per trail.

Over the past 20 years, Bruce has created over 700 trail pages for this site, with many pages covering multiple trails. We estimate over 2000 individual trails total. Add the fix-it and first aid sections and...  Well, it's not a surprise that nobody else is giving this sort of information away for free.

Bruce mapping the Rocky Tops trail in 2014.

About the trail rating system...
In the regional trail menus, each photo is followed by a symbol. The symbol combines an overall trail ranking from 1 to 5, a shape that indicates tech factor, and a color that indicates how much exertion is required.
For example the symbol above indicates that the trail will have less-than-average attraction for a rider who's new to the area (rating 2 of 5), average technical requirement (square), but an easy cruise (green).

Ratings are based how much a rider WHO IS LOOKING FOR EXACTLY THAT TYPE OF TRAIL would likely enjoy the trail. So Captain Ahab could be a "5" for tech riders, yet the Provo Canyon paved parkway trail could also be a "5" for riders who are looking for super-easy family trails. And it's weighted for an individual who's coming from OUTSIDE the riding area. So your favorite local trail may be downgraded because other riders don't deliberately seek it out. And it's a bit arbitrary, yes, but Bruce will be happy to hear your appeals.