After a few years of trail building with tools that usually broke with the first or second use Bill Hasenjaeger built his own packable McLeod for himself…
From Dirt Issue 142 – December 2013
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones.
After a few years of using various different telescopic handled trail tools (that usually broke with the first or second use) Bill Hasenjaeger built his own packable McLeod for himself. From there it grew into an all–consuming hobby and then on to be a full–blown business with the creation of the hugely popular Trail Boss tool. He’s no stranger to trail building, starting with off–road motos in the Southern California mountains and deserts in the late 1960’s and 70’s, and then on to mountain bikes in 2000, “it seems like I’ve always done trail building and maintenance.”Dirt: What drives people to trail building?
Bill: I’m not sure. Speaking for myself, there’s a definite reward to giving back to the community I relate to: mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, anyone recreating in the open woods, desert, mountains, and so on. A group trail work day is pretty fun. You’ve got a bunch of like–minded people out in the country together, with dogs, kids, whatever. Digging in the dirt, making some fun stuff that we all come back later and enjoy. There’s a certain personal satisfaction riding a section of trail I’ve personally worked on, having it flow just like I imagined it, and thinking, “hell yeah, that worked well”. I’ve met so many good people who dedicate a lot of their lives to making trails and trail access possible. As you know, it’s often a battle to get legitimate biking trails blessed and built on public lands. Without hard thankless work from a lot of folks they don’t happen. So ‘thanks’ to any of you reading this. I mostly just like rubbing shoulders, riding, and drinking beer with them. And if I can put a good tool in their hands, all the better. Careful, there’s a ‘tool’ joke in there somewhere.Bellingham’s (Washington State, USA) local scene, hand–built trails, public land managers recognizing economic benefits…
Bellingham is a pretty cool place for bike trails. Sure we have our access issues, like everywhere else. But man is there a good vibe here and some great well–routed hand made trails to ride. My own personal preference is low–impact, narrow, technical singletrack trails versus the wide, machine–built, jump and berm lines. But I do really like the current emphasis on flow, and a well placed berm or kicker on a back–country trail is pretty cool. I’m years past big jumps, drops and scary stuff with harsh consequences for failure. But I used to ride motorcycle trials, so a techy section in the mix is fun. Most all of the routes around here suite me just fine. Speaking of access issues, we recently had 8,000 acres transferred to a local public agency to manage. It’s designated for a natural park setting with multi–use (non–motorised) trails. The local trail access brigade is on it, attending public meetings and meeting with the public land managers and agencies. It sure looks like we’ll be able to add a lot more local trail miles in the next couple of years. And by local I mean I can ride to them from my driveway. And I may even have a Trail Boss in my pack when I do it!Who are Trail Insight’s customers? Europe sales?
Most of our sales have been to individuals in North America, with about a quarter of those in Canada. We’ve a few customers in Europe (Switzerland, Norway, Denmark) and a couple in England. Also some Trail Bosses in Australia, and even one in Saudi Arabia (I hope they’re not digging bunkers). It is interesting how we get a sale in one locale, and then over the coming weeks and months get a few more orders around that location. Out of curiosity I’ve asked, and quite often the follow–on sales were because they either saw a Trail Boss or tried their buddy’s tool while on a build outing. Careful how you interpret that last bit (another tool joke, ha!). We’ve also made a few sales to public agencies, mainly parks systems and non–profit organizations with trail system stewardship responsibilities. It’s nice to see the tool branch–out, outside the mountain bike community. Although my selfish interest is to sell Trail Bosses to mountain bikers, so they build some cool stuff that I can then ride. My wife likes to point out that it’s usually all about me.What about durability?
After the initial few prototypes we’ve worked our way through a few design iterations and manufacturing process changes in the past two years, either for manufacturability reasons or to increase durability. So far we’ve had a 0.75% failure rate on the handle segments, which I think is a pretty good number for a first generation anything. But especially for a lightweight tool that people are banging in the dirt. We’re also starting to see some repeat business from earlier customers, either with add–on heads or additional tools, or both. We hope both those trends indicate we’re doing something right. No one has yelled at us yet, at least not too loudly, so we’re happy about that.
We are constantly working on things, always trying to improve the product and the process. My professional background is as a manufacturing engineer, it’s in my blood and I can’t help but continue doing things to improve. Since we build the Trail Boss ourselves, and don’t plan on ever outsourcing anything, it’s pretty nice to be mostly in control of our own destiny. And as a practical matter we really want this to work well, because in the end we want more cool bike trails to ride. We hope the Trail Boss helps make it happen.