A quote from a guy who sees it the way I see it…
The biggest game changer in our sport will be whether or not we can change the prevailing attitudes of trail advocacy and build legal trails that aren’t boring and monotonous. If current trail building trends don’t change, mountain biking will be horrible in ten years.
Apparently five years ago there was a meeting that I wasn’t invited to where all the MTB advocacy groups on the planet agreed that every new trail that gets built from now until the end of time needs to be have a ten percent average grade or less, be built by machines, paved from one side to the other with crushed gravel, pavers, or embedded rock, bench cut into sidehills, and the only acceptable form of turn is a 180 degree switchback or a massive berm. It also must built to withstand one thousand years of bike tires, rain, snow, sleet, flooding, explosions, stray plane crashes, plagues, and the zombie apocalypse, all without needing any from of maintenance whatsoever.
There was also a second meeting where they decided that anyone who didn’t agree with the trail concepts from the first meeting should be labeled as ”just a hater,” ”anti-growth,” or ”close-minded,” and to be ostracized and kept a safe distance away from any legal trail building. Any trails that didn’t fit the general precepts from the first meeting would be labeled as ”unsustainable” or ”dangerous” and must be closed down or rerouted. I’ve seen this pattern occur over and over again across the U.S., but also in Canada, the UK, and even in the Alps, and it’s resulted in two separate worlds of mountain biking: the world of legal, boring, legitimate trail building, and the world of fun, steep, fast illegal trail building. Thanks to the seemingly irreconcilable differences between both groups, these two worlds grow farther and farther apart every year.
Of course there are examples of legal trails that don’t suck. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance in Seattle, Washington, is building a pretty incredible (and totally legal) downhill trail on their flagship riding area, Tiger Mountain, just fifteen minutes from downtown Seattle. The guys at Momentum Trail Concepts in Colorado are doing a great job. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is probably the most enlightened federal land management agency in the U.S., and they’ve done an increasingly good job of offering mountain bike opportunities that aren’t horrible. It’s possible to balance land managers concerns while building a challenging trail for someone with a skill level exceeding ”Fisher Price: My First Bike Ride.” So why do these positive examples have to be the exception, not the rule?
The challenge facing mountain biking is twofold: will advanced riders speak up and define what we want our trails to look like, and will legitimate trail advocacy groups choose to listen? The answer to those two questions will do more to shape the mountain bike industry ten years from now than any product, rider, or event ever could.