As is true for many, Maxwell is my go-to-trail if I want to get a quick ride in. I'm a middle-aged biker with some recent crashes who's never going to get a KOM. Maxwell (pre-refresh) was one of the more difficult trails around. It's not my favorite, but I can get to the trailhead quickly, and though it's often crowded I just enjoy getting out.
Let's be clear: Maxwell needed help. Erosion and heavy use over the last couple of seasons had turned a hard trail into a near-impossible trail in places. I enjoy a challenging climb, but the "shelf steps" in the middle and the top switchback were rarely attainable for me. I often would feel like I had lost a boxing match after finishing a Maxwell-Shoreline ride. There were areas of loose rock and obvious sections where erosion and widening had become issues.
The "refresh" certainly addressed a lot of these issues, but rather than thoughtfully attacking the problem, the city took a scorched-earth approach. The re-route of the gully section with the large rocks, that was tricky both climbing and descending, was totally unnecessary. Sure, that was a hard bit of trail, but I bet it drained better than the re-route will, and I was under the impression that we were trying to avoid new construction to decrease environmental impact. The methodology seemed to have been "pull all the rocks and pour dirt on it," and now we're left with piles of loose soil that are already starting to erode into an off-camber mess. The bermed turns are fun and definitely add "sinuosity" (as the city's summary document states), but bikers will be able to carry much more speed on descent making for more user conflicts than we already had. As a profoundly mediocre mountain biker, I think we need more moderate trails in Fort Collins. But it's a shame that they had to take a beloved, if difficult, existing trail and turn it into a green.
Even more concerning to me is what seems to be the complete disregard of a growing population of trail users. Mountain biking is gaining popularity, and riders are generally younger, professional taxpayers who support communities that invest in trails. Moab was always going to have droves of tourists, but mountain biking has brought more visitors year-round. Better case-studies are Duluth, MN, Bentonville, AR, and Marquette, MI, where investments have been made in mountain biking trails and the communities are reaping the benefits in revenue. I understand that Maxwell is a multi-use trail. I also get that mountain bikers have a bad rap, which we sometimes (though rarely) deserve. But for the city to continue to overlook this segment of trail users in favor of folks out for an occasional walk is extremely short-sighted. I hike as well, and would much rather have the interesting trail that Maxwell was than a wide avenue of loose dirt to get calf-cramps on.
I hate to dish on the hard-working people that have put effort into Maxwell. I do think that if we (ever) get some rain and as the trail gets more use, we are going to see a lot of the soil settle and the "refresh" will change shape. As someone aptly pointed out on NoCo Trail Conditions, you can still find technical features, you just have to be creative. The "Shoreline" section of Foothills is harder than ever, given all of the use and wash-out, so I still feel battered afterward. And at least the climb is a lot easier now...