The Illusion of Rideability

I’ve had several people ask me to explain what I refer to as the illusion of rideability, which is one of my favorite trail-building techniques.

I know you guys have incredible skill. The only thing that sometimes holds you back is a lack of confidence. We all know what happens to our riding abilities when doubt creeps in.

Some people – Dave and Lipton in particular – do not believe the illusion of rideability is a benefit. Clearly, they are mistaken.

In its simplest form, the illusion of rideability creates confidence in the rider, allowing him or her to rail corners, drops, and features that might have previously seemed impossible. The one slight downside is that the confidence it creates is based on a false premise. Sort of like an opinion based on fake news.

I stumbled upon the illusion of rideability while building a berm at the bottom of a steep drop on the old Big Wow. If you survived the initial descent, there was an off-camber, right-to-left corner at the bottom. Many people, myself included, ate shit there so I decided to do something about it. Since I was working by myself, the something I decided to do was not especially labor-intensive.

I piled a few dead limbs on the outside of the corner and tossed some dirt on top. This created height and – as you crested the hill and decided whether to commit or not – gave the appearance that there was a berm there that could catch you. As long as you stayed inside and didn’t attempt to actually use the berm, it worked perfectly.

There are a number of features on JLS. Almost all of them have a run-up to help you elevate your front wheel. Some of them have a backside; some of them do not. My intent here was to make you a better rider. If you approach the feature with confidence, there’s always a chance you might get lucky and ride it out. Conversely, if you know in advance that there’s nothing on the backside to save you, you might opt to get off your bike.

I will confess that Dave and Lipton’s constant abuse has caused me to dial back my use of the illusion of rideability strategy.

Last week, I was nailing the shingles down on the TFB bridge. My first instinct was pure IOR: allow the longer shingles to hang beyond the edges of the decking, thus making it seem like the bridge is wider than it actually is and ramping up your confidence level. I wanted to do the right thing. Then I realized that Dave and Lipton would be on my ass and decided it wasn’t worth the pain. As a result, that bridge will now seem sketchier than it should.

Who knows when I might decide to help you again? Just trust me, and we’ll all be fine.




5 thoughts on “The Illusion of Rideability”

  1. Overhanging shingles is a truly rotten trick. Just tell me WTF is TFB and I will go there and clean off the overhanging shingles as soon as my hangover clears up. I happily do this on a volunteer basis. I do subscribe to IOR tho!! >>>Great essay!

    I was the one who cleared the hangover on the bridges on the Hog. Have never ridden that third bridge tho due to lack of IOR in my ever so small brain and NADs.

  2. Who put the skinny up to a stump with a four foot backside drop as you cross the road from the Jeep trail to the creek side up? I used the IOR theory and it worked! Who would have thought!

  3. Now that is exactly what I’m talking about, Bob. I built that feature with you in mind. I knew it wouldn’t be long before you found it. Typical IOR: the slab wobbles and the edges are rotten (but you have the ILLUSION that it can be done).

  4. You’re the man. Did it on the TDG. Should have filmed it and for sure there would be carnage. Braden and I put in a log ride at SL that has an up like this but a 40 ft log 4 ft off the ground with a 2 ft drop at the end. Thrilling. I’ll send pictures. Or come ride and see.

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