Improving traction on wet wood?

Hi Lee,

Here’s a question for you or other readers out there. What do you recomend to make wooden surfaces less slick in a damp environment? I’ve seen chicken wire but I worry about sharp edges puncturing tires and people, especially after some rusting.


Metal mesh, Whistler style. The riders seem to damage the mesh more than vice versa. Rider: Doctor Brandon Sloan.

Hey Tjaard,

Chicken wire or metal mesh seem to be the standards. If you fall off an elevated bridge, I think you have more to worry about than the wire.

I’ve also seen people cut hash marks into the wood or add little slats for texture.

I suppose, too, that good construction will minimize the need for traction. As long as the surface is leaning with the tires, traction is optional (sort of).

Avoiding bridges since 2004 …

— Lee

12 replies
  1. leelikesbikes says:

    I spent a month in Whistler/BC. The bridges there are so well built and integrated into the trail, riding them makes sense.

    Most bridges elsewhere seem silly to me.

    I am not dissing elevated riding. It just isn’t my favorite.

  2. Mike Estes says:

    Lee- Another one to toss in the hat. The only suggestion I offer is to criss-cross cut the riding surface of the skinny we are talking about with a chainsaw. If its a wet ladder, then you have ride it wet, be ultra careful, knowing that if you lock the brakes your zinging out dam fast. Ladders work when properly protecting sensitive areas. I hope to deter the use of metal, or aluminum as there are reports of huge lacerations from riders who fail to navigate the stunts properly.

  3. Knacker says:

    Lee In the North of England we get a lot of wet weather so on the trails that I work on we have used all sorts of techniques to improve traction chicken wire, expanded ally ( neither of which we are now permitted to use on H&S grounds) rough cut wood, split logs, latts and cross cuts etc all of which have there pro and cons but all get very slippy at some point!
    So for log rides we came up with something different inspired by something I saw in Scotland but taken to the next level (well we think so). It’s quite work intensive but we have managed to ride up and down steep sections even when covering the log in mud, we have even managed to do endos/stoppies when the surface was wet.
    You have to make cuts into the log every 2-3 inches at 90deg to its length and then break/chisel the surface away creating random edges. The cut edges provide grip for breaking and power while the grain edges stop you sliding sideways. Our test log ( ) we cut by hand but if you use a chainsaw the cuts (which are deeper than the surface) allow water and dirt to be flushed from the riding surface.

  4. Sean says:


    Sticky compound tires and using the proper types of wood are what matter. Cedar works best. But you’d better have lots of native deadfall cedar to use.

    I’m with Lee on the propriety of wooden stunts and bridges. If they are to traverse boggy sections then they’re good. But to build them just to imitate the North Shore, that’s silly. Build natural trails with natural features.

    I spent 1999-2004 riding lots of wooden man-made stuff. The keys are using the proper wood, split to give natural wood grain exposure for traction, and using sticky compound tires run at lower pressures.

  5. Dave says:

    I’d make sure drainage was a factor in building your structure. Ensure there is a slight “crown” or slant to your surfaces will help the water shed faster, inhibiting growth of anything. Another idea is to us either copper or nickel. Copper and nickel is used in roofs to keep the growth of stuff in control. Just a couple extra ideas for you. Using copper and nickel may not be practicle, but, designing your structure to incorporate some type of drainage may help.

  6. Jeff Kendall-Weed says:

    Years ago in Bike mag, there were a bunch of photos of Northshore bridges with old tires tacked onto them. That’s right, old mountain bike tires cut into short strips. These were laid diagonally across the log rides, and tacked in place with nails. It looked a little tacky, but it might work great. If anything, it’ll definitely add some character to yer stunts.

  7. Stefan says:

    We have a cottage where the ramp to the floating dock (dock falls 5 feet + over the sommer) made of composite lumber (Trex). It seems to get more traction when wet. If you could find a dock/deck builder and get his off cuts, you could make a grippy stunt. I have not hade mud on it before so I don’t know how it would be.
    Just an observation, I realize it would not be practical in some situations.

  8. Greg says:

    One of the trail down hear in S FL ( Markham Park) Has quite a bit of wood strutures. Most of them are nessasary for keeping the trail together and keeping the flow. Anyways, the trail care crew have nailed down roofing shingles on the the bridges and ladders that are sketchy and at critical turns on the wooden structures. It saved my butt a couple times when I was going too fast in dry conditions. They deffinatley kept me from fly off in to the bush.

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