The VMBA Central Vermont Mountain Bike Map is a 36" x 38" printed map available at no charge from VMBA. The map provides assessments for class 4, 5, 6, and 7 roads. Class 4 roads are town roads that are maintained for summer use only. Class 5 roads are state forest highways. Class 6 roads are national forest highways. Class 7 roads are legal town trails not maintained for automobile use. We treat all these classes as one class. Whenever we say "primitive road" in the rest of this discourse, we mean classes 4, 5, 6, and 7.
The primitive roads vary from completely impassable to smooth gravel. Towns are responsible for maintaining class 4 roads for summer travel. Many roads, however, are not maintained at all, and are washed out, overgrown, flooded, or blocked by deadfall. Many resemble trails more than roads and are therefore desirable as mountain bike routes. Roads in state and national forests may not be open to mountain bikes. Some roads are incorrectly classified by the town or state, and are actually private, discontinued, or have been upgraded. Other roads have simply disappeared. Because of these problems, most maps have significant drawbacks when used for mountain biking. VMBA produced this map to overcome these drawbacks.
For the purpose of this map, primitive roads have been broken into segments. A segment is defined as a section of primitive road terminated by an intersection, a dead end, or a change in class. Segment end-points will be, in most cases, possible to find when riding. Segments are not terminated by political divisions such as town, county, or forest boundaries. While riding, you will find intersections that are not on the map, and therefore do not terminate a segment. These can be private roads, driveways, logging roads, snowmobile trails, hiking trails or new roads. Refer to the navigation section below for tips on identifying road segments.
The first group includes segments that are suitable for mountain biking. The color bands on these segments are wide. The colors green, yellow, and red are used to indicate fair, good, and superb overall ratings respectively. You should be able to remember this traffic signal color sequence. Just don't think that red means "STOP". Please also remember that ratings are very subjective, and that conditions may have changed since the road was assessed.
The second group includes road segments that are of little interest to mountain bikers. The color bands on these segments are narrow. The segments are those that were not assessed (because they go nowhere; grey band), segments that are unridable for some reason (bikes not allowed, road no longer exists, road is private, or road is physically unridable; purple band), and segments that are simply poor riding (excessively eroded, flooded, overgrown, blocked, or overused; blue band).
The overall rating is meant to be a measure of the level of enjoyment a mountain biker will experience, assuming he or she has the appropriate skills, when riding a particular segment. The overall rating should not be confused with the difficulty rating described below. A superb trail may have a gentle slope easy to ride in both directions, with a gravel surface and excellent views. A superb trail may also have a difficult, but fun, technical descent that is almost impossible to ride in the up-hill direction. A novice mountain biker may agree that the first class 4 road is superb but should avoid the second. Read the entire assessment to determine whether or not a segment is suitable for you.
The map shows the difficulty rating using ski trail symbols. The circle, square, or diamond symbol at the midpoint of a segment indicates easy, moderate, or hard respectively. The rating here is the greater of the technical and aerobic from the full assessment, and the diamond is used for both hard and brutal ratings. These symbols appear only on segments longer than 200 meters.
Road segment that are ridable in one direction only have this direction indicated by an arrow on the map. Segments are rated unrideable in a particular direction if they are simply too hard to ride, the entrance cannot be found, or the route cannot be followed.
The full assessments of segments longer than 200 meters are printed on the flip side of the map. Each such segment is numbered on the map. These numbers were assigned for the sole purpose of this project and do not relate to a town highway number or route number designation. The assessments on the flip side are in ascending numerical order (there are gaps in the numbering). The full assessments contain the following items.
Use the length as a rough guide only for the following reasons. The segment length is calculated by the mapping software, not measured by a rider. Short segments that are under 200 meters may appear to be part of the segment of interest since they have no numbers on the map, and hence no assessments; however, the length does not include the lengths of these short segments. Bike cyclometers can be inaccurate, especially when travelling at very low speeds.
The latitude/longitude allows you to find a segment on the map if you happen to see one of interest in the list of assessments. For example, segment 511 has "44°20'N 72°41'W" (44 degrees 20 minutes north latitude by 72 degrees 41 minutes west longitude). Simply find the intersection of the horizontal graticle line labelled 44°20' with the vertical graticle line labelled 72°41'. Segment 511 is nearby. Normally you will start from the map and find the assessment in the list by number. If you want to go the other way, the latitude/longitude allows you to do so.
The overall rating has already been described. The ratings are:
The technical difficulty is determined primarily by road surface, which can range from smooth graded gravel to muddy boulders. A secondary consideration is the steepness. A steep section of wet cobbles is harder technically than a level section. The rating is for the harder direction. The ratings are:
The aerobic difficulty is determined primarily by the road's grade but may also be affected by surface. For example, a steep, technically difficult road is aerobically more difficult that a steep smooth road. The rating is for the harder direction. The ratings are:
Most segments are double track. A few are single track. Some are wide enough to allow cars to pass. The values are:
The values are:
If a road is hard to find, check the landmarks section to see if there are any tips. The values are:
If a road is hard to follow, check the landmarks section to see if there are any tips. The values are:
Many primitive roads should be avoided in spring and in particularly wet weather. The values are:
A segment is rated as one-way only if it is next to impossible to ride, find, or follow going the other way. The riding direction is also indicated with an arrow on the map. The values are:
This rates whether low use particularly adds to the enjoyment or heavy use particularly detracts from the enjoyment of the ride.
The surface is rated in approximate percentages. The types are:
The presence of various good or bad attributes is noted. The attributes are:
Landmarks to help find or follow the segment are included if the rider recorded any. Note that segments shorter than 200 meters have no number on the map and hence no assessment here, even though they may have been ridden and assessed. If the rider recorded any landmarks for a short segment that leads to a long segment, the landmarks are also included in the assessment for the long segment. VMBA has other more detailed maps that do show the short segment numbers. To allow references to these maps, the assessments may mention these numbers.
The rider's comment, if any.
A primary consideration for both mountain and road biking is whether a road is paved or gravel. All public paved roads on the map are shown using some kind of double line symbol. All other roads use some kind of a single line. You should be able to distinguish very easily between paved and gravel. Of course, the surface may have changed since the data was obtained from the state.
State and federal routes are identified by appropriate numbers and shields. Town highway names are provided for roads that are cumulatively longer than 1.25 miles. The names are those provided to the state by the various towns as part of the Enhanced 911 emergency system (E911). Be aware, however, that such names were in flux at the time the map was produced. Therefore, the road names on the map may not match the signposts you see while driving or riding. However, this map should be considerably better than any map produced prior to the implementation of E911.
The contours are shown at 100 foot intervals and are labeled every 500 feet. Contours are included to help determine how steep a hill is and which direction is up. The assessments therefore do not mention which riding direction is uphill.
Approximate locations for parking are shown on the map. These parking spots were identified by volunteers conducting assessments. In addition, state fishing access areas are marked and may have parking. The map does not convey permission to park at the marked spots.
The location of roads shown on this map is based on data provided by the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI). In some cases, this data is wrong about the road locations. In order to maintain consistency with other maps published, no attempt has been made to correct such errors on this map. Rather, the comments in the assessments indicate when a road diverges greatly from the location given in the VCGI data. Read the assessment before riding.
The map has other features that have proven to be useful to navigation. These are cemeteries, major powerlines, very detailed streams, and a latitude/longitude graticle.
Finding a primitive road can be difficult. These roads often are illegally gated, appear to be driveways or stream beds, are obscured by logging, or are overgrown. Even if you find the entrance, following a primitive road can also be difficult. Logging roads, private roads, and snowmobile trails are often more visible than the primitive road itself. Only some of the intersections with private roads are shown on this map. None of the intersections with logging roads are mapped. The full assessment may provide some landmarks to help find or follow a road. However, natural events and human activity help locate a road, but logging activity can completely obliterate the landmarks.
As of this printing, there are no VMBA signs to help you find or follow any of these roads.
To navigate unfamiliar roads, you should use a compass and a cyclometer. The map latitude/longitude grid is at true north. The magnetic declination in the area is approximately 16 degrees west. When you think that you are at a particular intersection on the map, check the compass bearings of the roads at the intersection. This can often quickly prove that you are not at the desired intersection. It cannot so easily prove that you are at the desired intersection, since there may be similar intersections nearby.
To determine a compass bearing from the map, use a compass with a rotating transparent base plate and a built-in declination adjustment. Adjust the declination to 16 degrees west. Place the compass on the map and allign the base plate with the road so that the arrow on the base plate heads in the direction you want to ride. Hold the base plate in place and rotate the compass bezel so that the true north arrow is parallel to a longitude line and heads north on the map. The compass should now indicate the desired bearing on its bezel. Remove the compass from the map. To follow this bearing, hold the compass so that the magnetic needle is over the magnetic north arrow. The base plate will point in the direction you want to go.
The scale of the map is one inch to the mile. Use the scale bar with dividers, a ruler, or a map wheel to measure distance. To find the start of a road, estimate the distance from a known intersection, and drive or ride that distance. At any nearby intersections, check the compass bearings of the roads as described above. Also look for old stone walls that are usually found along old roads. If several intersections are nearby, and cannot be eliminated by checking compass bearings, you may have to ride a short distance from each intersection to see if the road matches the map. Also, from a single intersection you may have to ride a short distance on each of several roads when unmapped roads and trails also enter the intersection.
To verify that a road matches the map as you ride, monitor the compass bearing and the distance. Also check the slope against the map contours. If the map shows nearby streams, cemeteries or powerlines, watch for them.
The ultimate tool for navigation is a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. The map graticle makes using a GPS very simple. Set your GPS to use the WGS84 (World Geodetic Survey 1984) datum. Set it to display position in degrees, minutes, and tenths of minutes. The tic marks on the graticle are tenths of minutes. Primitive roads are often in steep sided valleys where satellites are blocked by hills, so take opportunities to obtain fixes when you can. You may not get a fix when you become lost. If you cannot get a fix, simply ride a bit father until you have a clearer view of the horizon. Also, in difficult situations, ride to a clearing rather than trying to get a fix under tree cover.
Even if the GPS tells you exactly where you are, it may not resolve confusion caused by unmapped roads and trails entering an intersection. You may still need to ride short distances on several roads from an intersection before you find the road you want. This process is still easier with a GPS. Simply ride a short distance and get another GPS fix. If the fix places you on the desired road, continue riding, otherwise return to the intersection and try another road.
A GPS cannot fix faulty state road data. Some of the primitive roads are not accurately mapped in the data. In particularly bad cases, the assessment may give you some hints.
The base data was obtained from the State of Vermont through the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI). VCGI makes no warrantee of any kind about the accuracy of the data or its suitability for any purpose. Therefore, VMBA makes no such warrantee. The assessments were done by volunteers during the summer and fall of 1999. The assessment process is very subjective. Conditions change dramatically with weather. Conditions may have changed substantially since the assessments. In just the last two years the region has been subjected to floods, ice storms, wind storms, and droughts. Therefore, VMBA makes no warrantee of any kind about the accuracy of the assessments.