2015 trail wish list: Complete
Bike Vacation: Set
Time, talent, and money to contribute to the mountain bike community: Whaaa?!
You’re not done planning your cycling season until you have some karma-building ambitions in the works. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to get started, and here are 10 ways to take part in showing some love for what you love.
1. Work Party
Whether it’s building new trail, enhancing existing trails, or just picking up after old man winter, putting your shoulder to the wheel on your trail is one of the most direct ways of giving back to mountain biking… and it yields results the instant the Macleod meets mountain. Before you head out and start throwing dirt, check with your local clubs, as work parties are usually organized events or standing invites recurring on a weekly to monthly basis. That said, it’s more than acceptable to carry packable tools for quick work while riding (foldable saw).
I’ll be the first to admit, setting aside time at your choice trail and NOT biking can be a hard pill to swallow, but consider the time you spend flogging that trail against the time being asked of you to repair it. In addition, you’ll learn trail building techniques, meet cool people, and perhaps get in a session on some fresh duff.
2. Cash and Other Donations
You don’t have to ride far to find someone to take your money, making this avenue the easiest way of giving back. From donations at the trailhead to those on the web, from grassroots movements to government agencies, there are many entities involved in moving mountain biking forward, and it takes some serious scratch. I’ll spare you the just-donate-what-you-would’ve-spent-on-over-priced-lattes-for-a-month speech by saying, just donate within your means, as every little bit helps.
If you’re truly strapped for cash, get creative by donating stuff. We bikers chronically suffer from upgraditis which means we have extra stuff (to give away). Do some spring cleaning and get that stuff into the hands of someone who needs it. Post stuff on classifieds, donate tools to trail crews, or find a bike co-op (see below). Plus, once you’ve lightened your load, you’ll have more room in the garage for new stuff!
3. Become a Member
Join a club, alliance, association, chapter, foundation, or whatever local handlebar army promises you a free T-shirt for your support. In all seriousness, becoming a member of some type of group is a nice chip shot for the mountain bike community. Many of your local and regional clubs partner with larger mountain bike organizations, so your support may reach further than you know.
4. Political Action
That’s right, take office and rule with a carbon fiber fist! For the majority of us citizen riders we need to become familiar with the political process and how it effects mountain biking. Whether it’s land acquisition, trail building, or improving access, there are many other user groups wanting a piece of the land pie, and bikers need a seat at the table when those decisions are being made. It would be a mistake to think our elected officials, despite their best intentions, understand what we want and how to get it (read this if you’re still not convinced).
I recently attended an open house meeting with our county’s parks department where we discussed the future of our community space. One of the consultants was surprised to learn that between our ties with regional mountain bike organizations and volunteer bikers, we would be able to build and maintain new trail for a fraction of the price the county originally anticipated. County and other government officials also have (some) great insight and advice into problems and solutions bikers are unaware of, making you better prepared to address the biking community for further action.
5. Trail Stewardship
When rubber meets dirt, you’re not just a mountain biker, but an officer. When you strap on the helmet, you are not only out for a ride, but you preside, provide, and protect your trail. You take on these roles not solely out of respect for the environment, but as an example to others regardless of their mode of transportation on the trail. As a steward, assist other riders by giving directions, show someone new your preferred route, and help out with breakdowns (see below). Unlike most other suggestions here, trail stewardship is something you can do continuously and a trait that should become hardwired within you.
6. Youth Mentor
With so many alternative sports hitting the scene, gone are the days when you had but three to choose from. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), in an endeavor to sweep the nation by 2020 with high school MTB programs, needs volunteers, ride leaders, and coaches.
By requirement, a Boy Scout must obtain either a hiking, swimming, or cycling merit badge in order to advance. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) depends on volunteers in the community to serve as merit badge counselors to oversee, council, and attest to the youth’s efforts.
7. Bike Co-op
From loaning tools and space to the broken down and bike-less, to sending folks off on bikes refurbished, new, and anything in between, a bike cooperative is the epitome of giving back. While there are many variations on the bike co-op theme, they all share a common thread: getting anybody and everybody who wants to ride, riding. Rest assured, if you are looking to help, a bike co-op will literally put you to work. A co-op near me trades their time and expertise for a little of yours. It’s brilliant! If you can’t fix your own, they will as long as you’re willing to help someone else in a pay-it-forward fashion. Many also provide instructional seminars, training sessions, free inspections, and estimates on repairs. Do yourself a favor and get over to a bike co-op near you. Don’t have one? Start one!
8. Online Connection
Still don’t have a Facebook page? Still don’t know how to tweet? Let me welcome you to the 21st century. All kidding aside, social media may seem like a disaster zone, but it can also be another way to contribute. In my immediate area there are 5 social sites (that I know of) dedicated to specific sub-groups of mountain bikers. We post trail conditions, organize group rides, field questions from out-of-towners and newbies, post political concerns, and rally about anything conducive to a strong MTB culture. If you haven’t yet, the least you could do is snag a Singletracks.com account.
9. Support an LBS
Much has been discussed about the plight of the local bike shop, but amidst the tidal wave of online “opportunity,” I do not see the LBS going away. Why? To echo the thoughts of dgaddis: “Without a doubt the best reason to spend your money locally is because the LBS gives back to your riding scene.” Not only do they give back in the form of races, rides, fundraisers, and other events, but they give back to you in ways you could never repay. When you broke your chain, snapped your derailleur hanger, bent your egg beater, etc. the night before a race, did you for a split second think of logging on to shop the best deals and free shipping? I think you know what I’m getting at.
10. Do Unto Others…
…and you know how the rest goes. Admittedly, I’m easily upset when I encounter someone deep in the backcountry limping their rig along because they were too concerned about taking the KOM title to throw a few extra items in a backpack. Just remember the Golden Rule. The reasons folks breakdown on the trail are as numerous as the excuses they have for not preparing for such. and we should help them. “But Chris,” you say, “I’ve spent a lot of time and money becoming the surviving self-reliant rider I am today, and they should learn the hard way.” Too bad, just do it anyway. Am I telling you to give up your last master link knowing you have 22 miles ahead of you? Well… yes, I am. If you feel like the problem stems from a lack of knowledge, take the time to educate him/her about what they need and why.
Giving Back Gives Back
As if that warm, fuzzy feeling from selfless service wasn’t enough, consider that ALL of the above gives back to you. You just learned what a Macleod is, formed a new posse, chalked up some tax write-offs, gave your floor pump to a Boy Scout, started a trail slaying Facebook group, met the Mayor (or became Mayor), bought a new floor pump (from an LBS), scored some free donuts down at the co-op, and earned some serious karma. It’s been my experience that whenever you give, you get. But aside from material goods and notoriety, you find meaning, build better appreciation, and gain a sense of accomplishment sometimes greater than any epic ride you’ve conquered on your bike.
Your Turn: Is your selfish slaying being balanced with selfless service? Do you give up the shred for a shovel every now and then? What do you do to pay back the sport from which you profit so much? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!