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Local bike clubs do much more than just sell swag at events. Photo by Kearns Hiett.

Chances are, if you live in a city with mountain bike trails, there’s going to be a bike club. Some are independent, while others are affiliated with larger mountain bike organizations like the Southern Off-Road Mountain Bike Association, or the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Different bike clubs engage in different activities, but there are four main reasons why bike clubs exist. Bike clubs advocate for trail development, help maintain existing trails, host races and other events, and encourage people to ride.

Trail advocacy

Members of the Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association and city officials celebrate the opening of a new connector trail. Photo by Jaime Tarjeta.

If I were to walk into my local city hall and ask them to build a new mountain bike trail, I would not have much success. A single voice never carries the same weight with government as a collection of unified voices all conveying the same message. Government officials are more apt to listen and consider the desires of bike clubs with a strong membership base than individual riders. Bike clubs can often create detailed proposals for new trails thanks to the diversity of their membership. After all, there are a lot of bankers, attorneys, accountants, and entrepreneurs that love to ride. Showing government officials the economic benefits of trail building is a surefire way to get new trails built. I know that the trails I love to ride might not exist if not for our local bike club.

Trail maintenance

One of the many trail workdays TMBA hosts. Photo by Chris Hudson.

The trails here in Tallahassee are all located on public land, but the government does not do the bulk of the maintenance on them. Instead, agencies rely on our local bike club to help maintain the trails. The bike club hosts at least one workday each month on different trails.

In addition, our local club helped bring in a crew from Trail Dynamics on two occasions in the last several years to re-work some of the existing trails so that they are more enjoyable to ride, and more erosion-resistant. If our local bike club did not exist, then trail maintenance would be left up to individual riders or government employees. Needless to say, the results might not be very desirable.

Race and event hosting

Riders gather at the start of the Urban Gorilla, a 60-mile race through all the trails in Tallahassee, Florida. Photo by Dylan Muyres.

Our local bike club hosts three races each year. These races bring in riders from out-of-town, and even out-of-state. They are a boon to the local economy, providing income to local hotels, restaurants, and bike shops. In addition to hosting, our local bike club also solicits sponsors for the races, and provides volunteer labor before, during, and after the events. These races have helped legitimize Tallahassee as a mountain biking destination in Florida. Without them, I don’t believe the city would be as bike-friendly as it is now.

Encouraging people to ride

Local bike clubs are great at organizing regular group rides.  Photo by Ann Ford Tyson.

Local bike clubs encourage people to ride, and ride more often. If you are interested in mountain biking, but don’t enjoy riding solo, a local bike club can help you find a partner. Local bike clubs also organize group rides for all skill levels. In addition, they put on skills clinics for riders who want to improve their bike handling skills or gain more confidence when riding. All of these things help promote the enjoyment of mountain biking, which leads to more growth in the sport. I doubt mountain biking would be as popular as it is today without local clubs showing people how fun and rewarding the sport can be.

I can’t imagine a world without mountain bike clubs

Since the early days of the sport, riders have come together as a group. Whether it be to legitimize and defend the existence of the sport, or to advocate for continued access to trails when new developments threaten their closure, bike clubs have been an essential part of mountain biking. I encourage all riders to thank and support their local clubs.

I would like to thank the Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association (TMBA) for allowing me to use photos from their Facebook page. If you are interested in learning more about TMBA or mountain biking in Tallahassee, Florida, please visit TMBA’s website.

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