The Ten Laws Of Loam

How to Keep Secret Trails Secret

Words by Loam Ranger.
December 29th, 2014

1. You are a bad person. You ride secret trails? How dare you!

Hang on a sec. This isn’t a morality play. You are big boys and girls and hopefully you are intelligent and informed enough to make wise decisions. Do I advocate riding secret trails? Nope. But I’m a realist so let’s deal with the world the way it is shall we?

Wherever there are trails for hiking, horses, skiing, mountain biking, motos or any other activity, there are going to be secrets. In some places trails are secret because some Dear Leader has bent over to one user group and stiffed the others. In other zones secrets relieve an itch that isn’t being scratched. Many of these trails can’t take much traffic because of the terrain, because they’ll be closed or because of the way they were built. The fact is secret trails exist and will until there is no more wilderness. You can find them in Utah, Tuscany, Alberta, Hong Kong, on Maui and in B.C. – and everywhere in between.

Some of you are going to ride those trails. Right or wrong it happens. It’s a renegade world with few apparent rules, but even renegades have a code of conduct. Even if you want to go rogue like Sarah Palin you probably want to keep those sweet secret lines available and in good shape.

That wasn’t really rule 1. The Loam Ranger just knows you won’t read the intro unless you are tricked into it.


So for the love of Jebus, don’t be a dick. Here are some guidelines to shield you from that phallic moniker.

1. (for real this time) Turn off your god damned Strava. Your ego can rest for a day if you are riding a trail that is best kept under wraps. If you must record how awesome you are then make that ride private. You can still brag to your friends later. I’m sure they could use a reminder about how incredible you are. And for those making Strava segments on secret trails. Seriously. What the hell are you thinking?

2. Don’t uncover entrances like a dick. Maybe Joe Shredder doesn’t understand the situation, maybe he feels entitled to roll into every trail he finds. He’s a bid deal after all. Joe’s as wrong as Dubya declaring victory in Iraq. The best way to conceal a downhill trail is with an uphill entrance. Don’t cut your own line because you are too lazy to climb.

3. Get off your effing bike! If an entrance is hidden don’t lock up your minions and skid in just because you are too lazy to dismount. If someone has taken the time to cover an entrance there is a reason. Lift up your steed and put it down once you are safely past the concealed entrance. If carrying your bike for 30 seconds is too much effort for you it’s time to buy a razor scooter. You don’t deserve to ride a bike.

4. Don’t hang out near trail entrances or exits. Putting on pads or making some adjustments to your bike? You want to sit down and munch a Clif bar? Do it before you get to the walk-in, or out of sight down the trail.

5. Noise. Don’t make any if you can help it. This includes abundant hooting and hollering and squeaky brakes. Obviously you want to share the orgasmic two-wheeled zen you are achieving, but don’t do it at the expense of drawing too much attention to yourself or the trail.

6. Pick your days. If the monsoon is here skip the fall line loamer and ride something that can take a punch. Plush natural trails become ugly trenches if you are locking it up following Noah down the line.

7. Don’t cut corners or change existing lines. This point obviously goes for sanctioned trails as well. Nothing trashes a trail faster than Stravatards and their ilk cutting their own lines to save a few milliseconds or to beat their buddies to the bottom. Some poor builder spent days and days building a line and by creating a braid, you are taking a dump on that work. Have some respect. If the line needs modification to suit your needs then ride somewhere else.

8. Be part of the solution. There are many ways to do this. Somebody has uncovered the entrance to your favourite secret? Don’t high 5 buddy and roll in. Stash your bike and spend 5 minutes replacing the camouflage. If you are in the forest, grab some big branches as a first line and then spread some smaller leaf litter around to make it look natural. If someone is jawing off about a secret or posting on the web call them out. If your riding partner suggests riding some buttery line when the weather is nasty steer him or her in another direction.

9. Be careful about exits. Exits are often what gets stealth lines destroyed, overused or covered over. If you come maching out like you’ve just roped your first calf somebody just might notice. Stop before the end of the trail and have a listen to see if anyone is around. And just like trailheads, cover up those exits if that makes sense.

10. DON’T GIVE DIRECTIONS. Not in person, not on the web. Don’t draw a map or give GPS coordinates. Again, don’t make new segments on Strava and keep your rides private. Those who hate mountain bikers (hi there!) read mountain bike forums and web sites to get ammo to use against us. Don’t fuel their fire. If you have a worthy riding buddy, who can keep a secret, bring them along. If you don’t want to ride with them why would you want to let them in on your secret?

You think you are hardcore because you know a secret? Hardcore means you can keep a secret. One of the worst things you can do is show off by telling people the name of the trail. Smart ninja builders don’t advertise or even name their trails. Don’t mess it up to satisfy your ego.

Bring on the hate. The Loam Ranger uses it as fuel.

Note – this was originally published on June 17th, 2014.

We may not always agree with the the Ranger, but sometimes we do. Do you?

  • Wfo922

    Nailed it

  • Carson

    Wait, are you saying my razor scooter isn’t cool?

  • yup… too bad some people can’t keep their mouths shut or their Strava off.

  • trailfairy

    and don’t ride it in the wet.

    • Cam McRae

      6. Pick your days. If the monsoon is here skip the fall line loamer and ride something that can take a punch. Plush natural trails become ugly trenches if you are locking it up following Noah down the line.

  • nathanjessup

    words of wisdom, if only common sense were more common we wouldn’t need articles like this.

  • giddyupPG

    Loam is a relatively equal mixture of sand, silt, and clay (see the “soil triangle”), is great for gardening or building IMBA-like bench-cut trails, and is not at all what mountain bikers call loam. I would refer to yourself as the “duff ranger” to be at all correct. I find it rather hilarious when mountain bikers talk about how much they love “loam”, when in fact if your fall line trail were loamy, it would be heinously greasy/dusty/loose.

    • Then get used to laughing a lot, because I think the Loam Ranger isn’t quite as literal a fellow as you are.

      • giddyupPG

        He certainly seems rather serious in his article, though.

    • boomforeal

      it’s true: what mountain bikers call loam isn’t technically loam, but rather duff. Now, you can live with this, or be the smug guy laughing to himself about how dumb everyone else is, and have no friends (trust me, not as fun as it sounds).

      • giddyupPG

        I don’t think anyone is dumb, only misguided/uninformed. When someone pens an article as serious and contentious as this, I feel it necessary to point out the glaring error, particularly as it’s right in the article title. I’m only on a mission to inform, not to patronize.

      • Cam McRae

        I love you even more now.

    • Not to stir debate, because I have absolutely no knowledge about this topic whatsoever … but, Dr. Wiki says the following:

      “Loam is soil composed mostly of sand and silt, and a smaller amount of clay (about 40%-40%-20% concentration respectively).[1] These proportions can vary to a degree however, and result in different types of loam soils: sandy loam, silty loam, clay loam, sandy clay loam, silty clay loam, and loam.[1] In the USDA textural classification triangle, the only soil that is not predominantly sand, silt nor clay is called “loam”. Loam soils generally contain more nutrients, moisture, and humus than sandy soils, have better drainage and infiltration of water and air than silty soils, and are easier to till than clay soils. The different types of loam soils each have slightly different characteristics, with some draining liquids more efficiently than others.”

      • giddyupPG

        That’s all true, and points to why pine needles, organics, moss, and duff are not loam. Also why it’s so good for gardening!

    • dfiler

      While perhaps the wrong term when originally adopted, this is how all new and secondary definitions come into being. Eventually oxford and webster will acknowledge the usage and we can finally feel validated.

      Technically, we aren’t “stoked” to “shred” either.

      • Nat Brown

        Oxford, not Webster. If @giddyupPG is discriminating enough to make this comment he can’t reasonably be satisfied with Webster. It’s the dictionary for fools; people who discriminate by way of prejudice, not in language. It’s Trump’s dictionary.

      • Yes, Nat. Yes. Except that Trump has no dictionary, follows no rules. I heard he might be working on his own. He claims it’ll be yuuuge but his vocab is as small as those hands…

  • Andy Robinson

    If you don’t want people to ride your trail, don’t build it on public land or easily accessible land. There is a guy who has built a trail on Blackcomb Mountain right near the entrance to Hey Budd, and is now getting all upset that people are riding. Drive 20km out of town and build.

    • Anderson

      Get your facts straight. First thing is first rule 2,3 and most important rule 10!!
      We are stoked people are riding the trail, thats why we built it. We are trying to keep it off Strava so it’s enjoyed by locals and not every person that visits with a smartphone. Don’t mistake wanting people to respect the trail for getting upset about people riding it.

      • Andy Robinson

        Fair comment Anderson, I wasn’t disagreeing with the article or the rules.

    • Guest

      you sound like the kind of guy who has to ride it half a dozen times a week, take half a dozen friends each time, tell half a dozen people every day about a rad new trail, and then bitch when it gets blown out and tell the builders they need to do maintenance. MEMO: If you find something soft and fresh and awesome, STFU about it and it will probably stay that way a lot longer.

      • Andy Robinson

        And you’re the guy who writes a hash comment as a guest. Man up and put your name down.

      • t.odd

        not sure why it says guest, I stand by my comment….frig, you couldn’t even resist giving directions in your comment, nice move.

      • Andy Robinson

        I saw my folly with directions and fixed it.

      • Andy Robinson

        As much as you get for putting your name.

    • Another Guest

      wow. don’t you have any common sense!!

    • giddyupPG

      You’re certainly not wrong. I know nothing about the situation in the sea-to-sky corridor, but builders need to realize that, if they are building without permission on either crown or private land, they have absolutely no claim to the trail or land that it traverses. They decide to take on the risk associated with building illegally, and if people start finding the trail (inevitable), there is no reason for them to be upset. Sure, they’ve put in the hours, and can ask people to respect their work, but the trails are, purely and simply, illegal. If building on their own property, then of course they can expect others to stay off of it. I’m certain that this is not what the article author is talking about, though.

      I generally adhere to the “guidelines” in the article, but try to advocate the idea of “trails for all” and not “trails for only locals with the right connections”.

      • youreonyourown

        You’re also not wrong. But builders of secret trails (like me) are gonna quit building trails (like I have) and will close the existing ones (like I have) if people are putting the info online. So, no, riders don’t need to respect these simple guidelines but they might lose the trails they like the most. And for what? A meaningless KOM?

      • giddyupPG

        I completely agree. I’m certainly not suggesting everyone and their dog throw up directions online and strava every trail they can put tires to, but only that illegal trailbuilders should know the risks. I work on illegal trails relatively often, and am usually stoked when people come rolling down while I’m there, or provide positive feedback after-the-fact. I also think we don’t have nearly the land use and heavy trail traffic pressures up north like the southerners.

    • M_Irwin

      That’s logical, but not really practical.

    • Chainsaw Fairy

      Maybe 200km out of town?

  • stravillain

    First rule should be don’t post articles about secret trails.

    Also, if you PRIVATELY strava a trail and some douche does make a segment you have the option to flag it as hazardous/illegal which will shut down the leaderboard as well as comment/message anyone showing up on said leaderboard.

    It sucks when the nugs get found by the masses but I have to laugh at the builders who put lines in within a stones throw of high traffic legit trails and then whine about them being found or showing up on Strava.

  • [email protected]

    Flashbacks of the great chainsaw massacre run through my mind when I see senseless articles like this. As trails get pushed further and further out of the city by urban sprawl does it really matter what trail is secret. We are here to ride together, not hoard a single trail. Most of these people build these fall line duffers and never maintain them or any other trail on the mountain anyway, the more that know the more help they get.

  • Dan Carman

    I have no problem with people riding stuff I build. What I have a problem with, is people changing it to accommodate their lower skill level. If you don’t have the skill to ride it, don’t F with it. Build your skills then come back and shred it. Or build your own.

  • mark

    Build it and they will ride it so build it to last. I’ve built and help build many trails over the years and don’t believe any should be secret. Also to me loam is what you get rid of first when building a trail and something you never ride. Mineral soil is what you want.

    • loam will disappear to mineral soil eventually. People seem to prefer loamy.

  • kush

    Thank you for writing this.
    The SDC and secret trail builders

  • Grant MacDonald

    I love riding hard to reach / under the radar trails as much as anyone, but I’ll never play the localism / elitist douchebag card in the name of patch protection. I’ll show anyone & everyone a sick trail regardless of who they are / where they’re from.

    Theres nothing more embarrassing to the sport of MTB than the righteous & bitchy attitudes that pirate trail builders & some local riders hold towards ‘other’ riders.

    Wooow !!! “You know of a secret loamy trial, tell me again how cool & hardcore you are, Can I please be your friend so I can have the honor of riding it”

    If you build an illegal, pirate trail on public land, you have absolutely zero rights in terms of what happens to that trail or how it is used.
    You accept the risk of it getting found / ridden / changed / strava-ed when you build it.

    If you want to keep your localism / elitist douchebag bubble intact, go build on your private land where you can actually control access.

    Please dont let us become like surfers,

    • Trailsforall

      Totally. The elitism is alienating a fair amount of riders these days.

    • Earl Allen

      WELL PUT.

    • Dylan v

      Go build a sick sailboat in a glass wine bottle put 100 hours into making it just how you want it and let me pass it around a party, let everyone play with it when you get it back you’ll know how we feel when we put 100 hours into a trail that you passed around and distroyed. If you didnt make it you have no right to tell others about it. People like you should really put themselves in the builders shoes for once.

      • Sarah Palin

        100% on point. Grant is a squid.

      • Jimbo


      • Grant MacDonald

        “If you didn’t make it you have no right to tell others about it”
        FFS, If its on public land, there are no ‘rights’ anyone & everyone can tell whoever the like, The keyword here being ‘PUBLIC’
        The so called ‘trail builders code’ is just ego stroking bullshit

        P.S. I’ve got plenty of my own shoes that I’ve built my own trails in, no need to put myself in someone elses.

      • Kiera Elizabeth Dowling

        Let’s face it, you probably ride an orange five and drive an audi a6

      • Kiera Elizabeth Dowling

        you are a wanker

      • focus503


      • itstrue-grantmacdonaldsucks

        You suck Grant, here’s hoping you get plenty of flats, crashes, and stolen bikes in 2015. Eat a dick.

      • vaguelyannoyedwithurcrap

        you make me sick.
        mountainbiking is great but elitests with their heads so far up their asses that they can see daylight again are ruining the sport.

    • grantrobinsonsucks

      typical attitude from someone who’s never built a trail. Dylan’s got it right. No one is saying you have to stay off unauthorized trails, just that you should show a little respect if you want them to stick around.

      • Grant MacDonald

        “Never built a trail”
        Oh how wrong you are, I’ve built plenty of both legit & unauthorised trails over the years, & the most satisfying part is seeing random riders from all over the globe riding it & getting stoked.
        Newsflash for ya buddy: Not all trail builders are righteous, elitist douchebags who pull the “you’re not worthy” localism card to stroke their fragile, self inflated egos.
        Some of us just build trails (properly & sustainably to handle the traffic) for anyone & everyone to enjoy & get stoked.
        Be friendly & share the love

      • Shawn Strom

        excessively conceited or absorbed in oneself; self-centered.
        “he’s selfish, egotistical, and arrogant”
        synonyms: self-centered, selfish, egocentric, egomaniacal, self-interested, self-seeking, self-absorbed, narcissistic, vain, conceited, self-important; boastful
        “Archie’s egotistic lifestyle has alienated many people over the years”
        Translate egotistical to
        Use over time for: egotistical

    • Bryan

      Grant, you are so right-everyone has a right to ride a trail on public land as much as anyone else does. The most responsible thing you can do is report those secret trails to the land managers and perhaps volunteer to help decommission the trail. But wait- you seem to enjoy riding those trails, so maybe you don’t mind them being there, eh? You’ve obviously done your fair share of trail work, so you understand how much work goes into building and maintaining trails.

      If I’m correct in the previous two sentences, then I assume you want to protect the trails from being decommissioned by land managers, or perhaps in some cases, getting torn up by livestock or motorcycles . Granted, in some areas, land managers turn a blind eye to undocumented trails, but it is a touchy matter and one must be in tune with the local situation. Even where land managers may seem to let undocumented trails exist, I think it is still irresponsible to advertise and flaunt the trails.

      Perhaps in your area, no one has a problem with the building or existence of non-system trails, so perhaps my post is irrelevant to you. If that’s the case, you are certainly the exception and you can’t expect the technique of “Showing anyone and everyone the trail, no matter who they are” to be an effective way to preserve undocumented trails in most areas. If one does not exercise at least some caution in who they show the trails to, then there is a good chance the trail could eventually be closed down. I think if you are sensitive and respectful of the local ethics, then it is much more likely the locals will, “Show you the goods”.

      Yes , I’m sure there are those that build their own “private” trails and don’t want anyone but a few close friends to ride them. Often these bootlegs are poorly designed, so the builders are likely to blame others when their trail ruts up. Best to stay off those trails anyway. But mostly, it’s not about being elitist, it’s just common sense. If a trail is undocumented, and you want to preserve it, it probably needs to be kept low key and under the radar, and the only way to logically control that is by hiding the entrances and screening the users. If that’s not your thing, then be happy riding all the accepted, legal trails and stay away from the others.

      Even if the trail builders are elitist, bitchy assholes, you still want to ride their trail and preserve it, don’t you? If not, go back and read the second sentence.

    • Grant Ingram Jr.

      This is great to hear. There are a few people here in Colorado who need to read these comments. The Elitist Douchebag Bubble is so intact here it’s disgusting. It is exactly as you stated, it’s an Ego Stroking deal. They are allowed to show a trail to others, but even if I worked on it, I was not allowed to show anyone. Such a bunch of crap. I can’t wait to get back to Oregon where people share trails, and ride together without this Ego Loaded BS.

    • doowaroda

      I read the guidelines as more of a how to protect the trails from authorities or parties who may be opposed to it. Not so much as creating castes between mountain bikers. I get it that it’s realistically harder to share a trail with others when you don’t post it online, unless you know those who ride, but I don’t really get a tone of snobbery out of this

    • this guy, here

      • evil_bumpkin

        Well said Grant.

    • Chris


  • Trail Slayer

    By the way, on Strava it’s not just about named segments. If it’s on, the Heat Map knows. There is a network of bootleg trails here that are visible on that site. Turn that shit off. “Stravatards”! Classic!

    • GD

      True! So many “secret” trails are highly visible on Strava Lab’s heat map. By default, any time you upload a ride on Strava, your route becomes public data that goes into the heat map. You can make rides private though.

    • KWL

      Uh, you can opt out of the heat map if you want to.

  • Barry McLane

    I can’t imagine ever building a trail and being upset that people are riding it. So weird.

    • giddyupPG

      No kidding. If people are riding it, it’s an affirmation that it’s a good trail. Why bother building if the aim isn’t to have the trail ridden?

  • Ker

    Dont make pirate trails… It only fuels the hate for those against MTB.

    If you want a Epic trail, join the local trailbuilders and help them.

  • *Pepe*

    my mates and i only ride park.

  • loam33

    i like retaining duff and loam as much as possible. it is fun to ride and it is an entirely different riding animal when compared to established trails that are more on the all mineral side.. keeping the volume of riders low is definitely a benefit, thanks for the good read.

  • turtleface

    “dont make any noice”


  • M_Irwin

    “Don’t cut corners or change existing lines”

    Amen brother.

  • Alain

    We have some retards over here who find it normal to signpost secret/hidden trails. Else they won’t find their way…

  • Dirt Diggler

    If it is your backyard and you own the land go ahead and build whatever you want, if you are not the landowner what right do you have to build whatever you want, wherever you want? The sanctioned trails on the North Shore are tolerated by the landowners. Secret, pirate, unsanctioned trail building runs the risk of all mountain bikers being banned from the Shore! Think before you dig, put your energy into improving, fixing or rehabilitating the existing trails. DD.

  • Richard Would

    Interestingly, not a word anywhere in here about avoiding disturbance of endangered species, destruction of habitat etc. Presumably because it’s not hip and “rad”. No wonder half the fucking world hates MTB…. If we end up with a total ban, we asked for it.

    • Nat Brown

      It’s not about building trails.

    • Wacek Keepshack

      Richard – absolute bullshit. You are afraid that authorities will close trails because we disturb endangered species. Oh well, these authorities and land owners can order clear cutting a forest off a whole fkng mountain. One month and it’s gone. Like that. And nobody will say anything about legislation. So chill out. MTBers ruining nature is just a stupid excuse for some people to channel frustration of fucklessness.

  • litespeed74

    To me there is nothing more mtb than being one of those awesome guys/gals that will invite an out of towner to enjoy one of the local fav’s. To me this represents everything good about humanity, mountain biking and the love of getting out and doing stuff outdoors.

    • Cam McRae

      This article does not say anything about not inviting out of towners to enjoy local favs. It actually says take them there. The suggestion is to not blab about it on the web or in public.

  • Article of the century!

    • You’re must be in a good mood because the Oilers are playing so well.