I was reading an article in this month’s Dirt Rag titled “Pedaling Democracy” and the author had this to say:
Mountain bikers need to rally around a Ride to the Ride movement, and support transportation cyclists in their advocacy for Complete the Streets and Safe Routes to School, and try whenever possible to lobby for safe routes to trails.
Admittedly I had never heard of the idea of riding to the ride. Heck, even before I was old enough to drive a car I had my parents shuttle me to the mountain bike trailhead for a ride. To me mountain biking and driving have always gone hand in hand kinda like climbing and downhill. How could you have one without the other?
Of course riders have found ways to get downhill without climbing (ski lifts, vehicle shuttles, etc.) so why isn’t it possible to ride without driving? It certainly helps if you live near a trailhead but for most of us this is a luxury we’ll never know.
My experiences riding to the ride have been mostly negative, perhaps because of the reasons the Dirt Rag article brings up. When I lived in Colorado Springs we were about 3-4 miles from Palmer Park but the roads getting there (Austin Bluffs, Academy) were super busy. We eventually found a way to connect neighborhood bike paths to get to the trail but this turned into a 7 mile (one way) roller coaster ride up and down some pretty nasty hills. By the time we got to the ride we were usually pretty spent and had little energy left to ride the singletrack.
Here in Atlanta I’ve ridden to check out some neighborhood trails but honestly the tracks aren’t built for mountain biking or long enough to ride on a regular basis. The closest “official” mountain bike trail, Morningside, is a loop less than 1 mile long and it’s at least 5 miles away on the road. The next closest real trail to me, Yellow River, is at least 15 miles away. A 30 mile round trip is a solid distance for me on the road bike – I can’t imagine doing it on knobby tires just to get to the trail!
So what are mountain bikers to do? In theory “riding to the ride” is a great way to get in shape, save gas, and save the earth but we need more than just safe routes to get there – we need more in-town trail systems! NYC found a way to do it and there are plenty of examples of great urban trail systems around the US. Consider how you can “ride to the ride” next time and see what needs to be done in your community to make this a reality for more riders!