ORV Trail Grading

GLDS has been an active trail grader on the Geels ORV Trail system since 2016. This is an 50″ ORV Trail. In Michigan, anything wider than 50″ is considered a Route, not a Trail, for the ORV Program.

We run 2 Yamaha ATVs, one to pull the grader and one to pull a roller.

The grader is a custom built unit from The Shoppe Industrial that we’ve repaired and modified over the years. It is based on a typical snowmobile-trail drag with multiple cutters designed to pull in and mix the material and level it at the rear of the drag. Far from perfect, the unit does a nice job keeping the trail fun and rideable.

The roller is also a custom built unit from Grahl Manufacturing. We run it loaded with liquid which puts it in the 1500 pound range.

We do not make the trail “sidewalk flat” but level out the whoops and maintain the corners, keeping the berms at an angle and height that is conducive to managing traffic flow. The less sharp corners and fewer start/stop or acceleration points, the better the trail will stand up to traffic. We also try to cut the sides to bring material back into the trail and also eliminate sharp trail edges that are good for catching ATV front tires.

“Whoops” or corrugation are caused by traction loss and exacerbated by acceleration. As the machine powers forward, any slip will cause the surface to be dug, moved and deposited and each machine afterwards adds a bit to it until you get into the big roller whoop-de-doos. That action compacts the soil, so that when a grader is run over it, moving the top of the whoop into the bowl, the resulting trail may be level but the now-filled bowl is soft and relatively easy to “blow out”. To properly remove the entire whoop means cutting below the bowl and that means moving much more material than is available on an 50″ trail, unless you want 3 foot deep “slots through the woods” for trails. Our 2 machine setup brings a roller to help compact the freshly moved material and keep it flatter longer. Compacting that material in the bowl as well as other areas, keeps the trail in better shape for longer. Timing it to have a good rain afterwards helps even more.

Techniques we use:

  1. Two passes, (there and back). This helps to catch things from either direction and our equipment is really just not heavy enough to accomplish this with a single pass.
  2. Shape corner berms. Remove the “quad ruts” (2 tire tracks) an cut the top of the berm down, pulling the material back into the corner. We still want a berm to keep a good flow and prevent braking/exit bumps.
  3. Shape the sides. Cut the sharp side edge of the trail to eliminate catching a wheel. This also helps to bring material back into the trail and keep from making a “big slot in the ground”.
  4. Put curves in long straight whooped sections. Whether through grading or other techniques, any good flowing curves will help to eliminate whoops on long straight sections of trail. Even if this means to “grade in a curve”, that form of traffic management can help keep trails in better shape and more fun for longer.
ATV Trail Grading Rig

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