Skip to main content


Dear Ryan,

I can't see any reason why a gravel calibration course can't be used for a gravel course measurement. Getting it certified could be a problem, as the end points must be marked by a nail or other permanent thing. If the calibration course should have some pavement crossings, perhaps the places where the pavement joins the bike path could be used as end points. This will result in an odd length, but this is no problem, as any straight length over 300 meters (or 1000 feet) can be used as a cal course.

On the proposed measurement I think a one-time-only cal course could be used. Lay it out with clear, small markings. Then use it to measure the course. The marks you make would presumably survive the duration of the measurement. Send the cal course measurement data to the state certifier along with the measurement data. If you did it right, the race course will get certified but the cal course will not. If you made some mistakes, the certifier will tell you how to fix things.

I saw nothing in your message that said the trail was gravel. Around Ohio most of the rail-to-trail routes are paved. The trail's web site says some of it is paved, some is not.

You can get a Jones Counter (Model JR) at The Oerth model seems to be in limbo, as communication has been nonexistent lately. I hope you will do the job yourself. Those who do it often get bitten by the measurement bug and go on to measure lots more courses. We need new measurers. That's what keeps certification going.

I am going to put this thread on the Road Course Bulletin Board It's a great place to ask questions and get answers.

Best, Pete Riegel

In a message dated 10/3/2008 6:26:36 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Ryan O'Neil:

I'm just guessing, but maybe about $250 to hire someone to measure a half-marathon all on a bike path. Very rough guess. Probably a huge range among measurers.

Actually, it might be a challenge to measure a calibration course on gravel, because you'd have to devise a way to temporarily mark the endpoints --- you couldn't put down tape the way you would on pavement. A little trial and error would be necessary, I think. A gravel calibration course if you're measuring all on the same sort of gravel makes a lot of sense, though.

----- Original Message -----
From: Ryan O'Neil
To: David Reik
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 4:28 PM
Subject: Re: Course Certification Equipment


I'm sorry to hear your counter broke.

How much does it cost to have a course certified, generally speaking?

I've read through the USATF's manual on certification and I think I understand it. It seems like something I could handle. After reading it, I thought that setting up a certification course on the same surface was the way to go. This is when I emailed Jane. Initially, she didn't think a course on a crushed-gravel surface could be certified until I pointed out a trio of marathons on crushed-gravel that are certified (Towpath, North Central Trail, and Bizz Johnson). She is now looking into how to handle it.

I don't have to have the course certified but I'd really like it to be.

In any event, thanks for your time and input. I appreciate it.


On Wed, Oct 1, 2008 at 4:00 PM, David Reik <> wrote:

Dear Ryan O'Neil:

I see that you have already done considerable research! That puts you in an elite group --- I used to be the one you sent your paperwork to for Connecticut and I encountered lots of people who were very resistant to reading anything.

I wish I had a Jones Counter to loan, but, on the last course I assisted with, it broke during the first calibration ride. It was a rare internal malfunction of the Veeder Root counter itself, not anything to do with the bicycle-specific parts.

I guess you've gone to and looked at the course measurement procedures manual, and the "tools for measurers" and seen that the new counters are over $100! It looks like you can still get one of the old ones for $80, still a lot of money if you're only looking to do one course. But maybe you could do a few courses and charge something.

Maybe you could rent or borrow a Jones Counter from one of the other local measurers listed at . Actually hiring somebody is the easiest way to get a course certified, but doing it yourself is cheaper, and you might enjoy it.

If you do a measurement on a gravel rail trail, I think it would be good (although I don't think you'll find this in the manual) to create a calibration course on the same rail trail, to be used only for rail-trail measurements. Bikes record, for the same distance, different numbers of revolutions on different surfaces. You might run this by Jane Parks, , before measuring. She's now the person you send your paperwork to.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
----- Original Message -----
From: Ryan O'Neil
Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2008 2:41 PM
Subject: Course Certification Equipment

Hi David,

This is Ryan O'Neil. I work with Judith.

I've seen that you've certified a number of courses in Connecticut. I was hoping I could possibly borrow the certification equipment. I'm trying to set up a marathon for April 4, 2009. I'd like the course to consist of a stretch of the Airline Rail Trail.

If you feel can't loan the equipment for whatever, I certainly understand.


Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Ryan, et. al.:

I measured the Salmon River 5.5-Mi Run (CT08007JHP) course that uses part of the Air Line Rail Trail. It was either hard dirt and crushed stone that was well maintained and hard enough that the bike didn't leave wheel marks. Pete Riegel is right on about a calibration course laid out on this surface. I have a spare Jones Counter and plenty of measurement experience. I'm also recently retired and have some spare time if you're looking for help, guidance or advice.

Pete Volkmar
Guido Brothers Escort Service
Has anybody else noticed HUGE differences in trail course calibration and measurement depending on whether the surface is soggy or damp or dry? My theory / observation is that moisture causes particles to adhere to the tires and effectively increase the wheel diameter. It is so bad that I question allowing certification of any course with large segments of which are not paved. Calibrate in the morning before the dew is out of the dirt and you can about count on a longer recal in the dry of the afternoon.

Another issue mentioned above: After having had difficulty finding the end markers for trail calibration courses, I have decided that you are much better off finding two distinct, no map necessary, end points and use an odd distance. To Pete's point about making a calibration course on a trail, for an anchor, I use 10" nails pounded though holes in a 2 x 12. For marking, I nail in sections of paint sticks with adhesive labels to write on.

I do think we are able to do effective and accurate measurements of courses like the ones we are talking about, and even when a lot of the trail is dirt.

Oscar's observation is an important one and invites more study. It would be hard to only work when the trail is dry.

My understanding is that for pneumatic tires, it is "safe" to calibrate on smooth pavement, then measure a rougher course-- either rough pavement, or gravel, or mixed surfaces-- as these surfaces will almost always yield a lower constant than smooth pavement. But if you can calibrate on a similar surface to the course, you can avoid making the course too long.

I'd like to see more research on all of this, including different surfaces, the wet v. dry question, and how different tires behave.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.