Meet the Maker: How Our Trails Superintendent Builds and Tests Cotoni-Coast Dairies Trails

October 13, 2022
Our Marketing Coordinator, Jack Haight, caught up with SCMTS Trails Superintendent, Jacob "Cob" Hyde, to discuss building trails in Santa Cruz and taking the new 5010 for a test ride.

JH: So what’s your name and where are you from?

Cob: My name is Jacob Hyde (my friends call me Cob) for short. I grew up in Santa Cruz/ Scotts Valley.

JH: What’s your role at SCMTS, and how long have you been at the org.?

Cob: I’m currently the Trails Superintendent. I manage trail construction projects, the Trail Crew personnel, and day-to-day operations in the field. In a typical day, I do anything from managing emails to raking to operating machinery. I’ve been with SCMTS since January 2018 (about 5 years!).

JH: What does the day-to-day trail construction process look like? How does the team take designs and turn them into singletrack?

Cob: The daily trail construction process is more complicated than some might assume. We cater every project to land managers’ needs and the geology of the terrain. For example: if a land manager wants a specific type of trail like a narrow corridor hiking trail, we will cater our design and construction process to fit their needs by doing things like minimizing the use of heavy machinery onsite.

Once the trail corridor size and intended user groups for a project (hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians) are defined, we can begin rough flagging the desired grades along our ideal route. We look for unique aspects of the land to integrate into the trail design ex: rock outcroppings, old-growth trees, viewpoints, flowing water, and then marry these with ideal characteristics for the user experience while considering things like flow of the trail and technical features we may want to implement.

Once all that is decided, we brush the corridor with chainsaws and hedgers. After the trail corridor is cleared, we have better visibility and can pin-flag the exact trail alignment and begin digging!

Machine-built and hand-built trails are really different, although the same basic construction workflow applies regardless. This is the standard “scientific method” of trail building that we follow: 1) remove organics, 2) cut tread, 3) cut roots, 4) rake/shape to the desired finish, 5) test ride/hike, 6) consult co-workers and discuss things internally, 7) makes changes as necessary, 8) finish trail segment and re-naturalize (cover with duff and organics along the trail tread) and then repeat! That’s the basic concept.

JH: How does the team test the trails? What aspects of the trail usually change after a test ride?

Cob: We always make sure to test the trails throughout construction. Usually, we will rough cut the tread and get it rideable, then test ride individually. We’ll chat about our experiences as a team, and then make any additional changes that are needed to maximize fun and flow. Usually, the more our team rides and uses a trail, the more improvements we end up making. It’s a never-ending process, but we’ve gotten pretty good at identifying when it’s time to call it and leave a trail be (at least… leave it be for a season or so!).

JH: Any other fun stories/challenges from the trail building side?

Cob: The biggest challenge for myself is remembering that a trail doesn’t need to be perfect from the get-go. I like things to be perfect as soon as they open, but trails will evolve as they’re used, and I often have to stop and consider how a trail or jump line might change after it’s been ridden hundreds of times. Once the tread is compacted and has a good groove, your speed can easily double on a bike. With jump trails, I actually aim to build so that you case (or maybe just come up a little short on) a jump the first time it’s ridden. That means that the line will be perfect as it gets compressed over time and a rider’s speed increases.

JH: (SC is known as a bit of a mecca) What makes riding in Santa Cruz special to you / separates it from other places?

Cob: Santa Cruz riding is unique because of the geographical location and types of terrain available. The redwood forests and coastal bluffs make for great flowy trails with beautiful ocean views. We can ride year round with moderate temperatures and cool coastal fog to keep things damp.

JH: What’s your favorite trail in Santa Cruz County?

Cob: My favorite trail in Santa Cruz is Braille trail in Soquel Demonstration state forest. Fast/flowy/steep and not a terrible climb back out :).

JH: Why do you think it’s important to support trail stewardship?

Cob: It’s important to support local trail stewardship because a good healthy relationship between trail users, land management groups, and municipalities helps open new public trail systems. There are hundreds of benefits to stewardship, that is just one example. Who doesn’t love more trails?

JH: What’s your personal bike you’re on these days?

I’m currently riding a 2022 Bronson X01 and a 2022 Heckler e-bike. I love both of them! I mostly use the e-bike for work. It’s a must-have tool! Big thanks to the team at Santa Cruz Bicycles for letting our Trail Crew use them as we build trails!

JH: Mixed wheels or no?

Cob: I’m a big fan of mixed wheels. Coming from a motocross background, I think it makes perfect sense to take over to mountain bike design.

JH: So, what’s your review of the new 5010?

Cob: It’s great! Super lively and responsive. Everything you’d expect from a short travel trail bike. I don’t nerd out too hard when it comes to bikes, but I can definitely say I want one!

What’s your go-to taqueria in SC? Your standard order?

Cob: Ooof… you hit me with a loaded question. The list is long. If I have to pick one, I’d choose taqueria De La Hacienda and get the super carnitas quesadilla with no rice and a Mexican cola. If it’s a rainy day though… gotta go with carne en su jugo from Taqueria Santa Cruz Midtown.


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