Wet MTB races bad for trails but good for local economies?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Wet MTB races bad for trails but good for local economies?

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    • #87225

      In the thread about the muddy Subaru ad, there was discussion about the fact that when it comes to scheduled MTB races, some consider it ok to ride on wet trails. Clearly a lot of time and energy goes into planning these events and it’s tough to call the whole thing off due to a little rain.

      In New Brunswick, Canada, local town officials apparently don’t agree and they’ve banned racing on area trails for a year due to damage done during a single muddy race last year. The ban would have been 2 years but mountain bikers argued that would surely be the end of the "economic party" mountain bikers bring to town.

      What do you guys think? Should MTB race organizers choose two dates for events: a primary and an alternate rain date?

    • #87226

      My local club, SORBA-CSRA, always has a rain date. It’s actually SORBA policy – but we’re the only club that follows that as far as I know. At the 2008 Baker’s Dozen (13hr race around a ~9 mile loop) we had to use the rain date, and then cut the race short after it started pouring down rain after the start. The race lasted less than 3 hours. Many people were not able to make the rain date, and were angry. We had a refund policy, clearly stated when registration opened. No one at the race was upset it was cut short, it was apparent the trail was getting destroyed.

      A small local time trial I’m helping put on is being rescheduled because of rain and bad trail conditions. The first race was supposed to be tonight, but we rescheduled it.

      That said…should all races have a rain date? I don’t think so. It depends on a few factors. First – you MUST follow the land manager’s rules. Piss them off, and you’ll never have a race there again – and possibly lose the privilege to ride there at all, ever.

      Next, it depends on who is hosting the race, and for what purpose. If a local club (such as a SORBA club) is hosting the race to raise funds to support maintaining local trails, it’s their call. If they don’t mind repairing any damage that is done, then sure, why not race in the mud.

      But if it’s a company trying to make money for personal profit, who’s going to leave a destroyed trail for others to fix – no, that’s not cool.

      It also depends on the trail itself – some can handle it better than others. I’m going to the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial this weekend, and it’s going to rain the entire day before the race, and possibly the morning of. But the trail is so rocky, it’s not really a big deal. And the race promoter is the people who maintain the trail (NWGA SORBA) – they’re willing to fix any damage if needed.

      The kind of race is important too. Are people riding the trail one time, or over and over again? Like at the Baker’s Dozen (and most 6/12/24 hour races), 150 riders going around the same 9 mile loop for 13 hours is going to have a very different effect than 150 riders riding a 9 mile trail one time.

      Planning for a rain date is a hassle. What if both dates get rained out? How do you handle refunds? These are all things the race promoter has to think about, and deal with. With a race rain or shine policy, it’s much easier. But if the trail can’t handle the abuse, and the promoter isn’t planning on fixing any damage, it shouldn’t be done.

    • #87227

      cjm

      I want to reiterate some of dgaddis’ points and give the view of someone who doesn’t race.

      First – you MUST follow the land manager’s rules.
      ====This is both short-run and long-run thinking. In the short-run, if land management says no, then stay off. Long-run, if land management says yes, it might be important to explain to them the potential costs involved in all-weather riding. Land managers not from the MTB scene may not understand the, uh, re-sculpting about to occur.

      Next, it depends on who is hosting the race, and for what purpose.
      ====This goes to the dirt jump philosophy. If you case a DJ and ruin the landing, you fix that landing. People who damage the trails should hold themselves accountable to repair those trails. A handsome donation to land management or actually providing physical labor.

      The kind of race is important too. Are people riding the trail one time, or over and over again?
      ====This points to why races can worse be on wet trails than recreational riders. If the no wet weather riding is a utilitarian ethic, then how are we judging those consequences. The stability of the trials, or the image of mountain bikers.

      But if it’s a company trying to make money for personal profit, who’s going to leave a destroyed trail for others to fix – no, that’s not cool.
      ====If the company is counting trail repairs and upgrades as input cost isn’t that exactly what we want?

      Planning for a rain date is a hassle.
      ====What about recreational riders who have traveled to a destination to ride. Should they be held to a different standard than racers?

    • #87228
      "cjm" wrote

      But if it’s a company trying to make money for personal profit, who’s going to leave a destroyed trail for others to fix – no, that’s not cool.
      ====If the company is counting trail repairs and upgrades as input cost isn’t that exactly what we want?

      Sure, if they’re going to help out I don’t have a problem with that. But I have heard stories of races being held on muddy trails, and the promoters taking the money and running, leaving the locals the task of repairing any damage, without any help from the promoters.

      "cjm" wrote

      Planning for a rain date is a hassle.
      ====What about recreational riders who have traveled to a destination to ride. Should they be held to a different standard than racers?

      Apples and oranges. Planning a weekend trip with your buddies is nothing like planning a big race. You have to get permits, there’s insurance to buy, sponsors to line up, prizes/awards, swag, volunteers to organize, facility/equipment rentals, and you’re taking people’s money with a promise they get to race.

      Theoretical – you’re planning a race on a trail that can’t handle the race in muddy/wet conditions. You plan for an alternate rain date just in case, and it original date does indeed get rained out. Then, on your alternate date, there’s more rain, and the trail isn’t going to be raceable. You cancel the race. Problem is, you’ve already paid for permits, you’ve bought insurance, prizes, you had 200 pint glasses made with the race name and year printed on them. All of that is useless now – and you spent some good cash on it. Now – how do you handle refunds for all the people who pre-registered? People don’t like paying for a race they don’t get to ride in. See this threadfrom the 2008 Baker’s Dozen.

      Our refund policy was this: if the race happens, on either date, no refunds. If the race doesn’t happen, we keep enough money to cover the costs, refund the rest (everyone gets a partial refund).

      I’m not promoting racing in any conditions all the time. I think sometime’s it’s okay, but sometime’s it’s not.

      With a rain policy, the promoter, and possibly racers, are taking a financial risk. The promoter also risks pissing people off (justified or not), and losing support for future events. Race rain or shine, and you risk destroying the trails, and ruining relationships with the land manager.

      It’s complicated.

    • #87229

      Alternate course is another alternative.

      Same date, different route.

    • #87230

      cjm

      dgaddis;

      Your idea of travel might be different than mine. A weekender with buddies is just mountain biking. Travel involves air fair, hotel reservations, and often visas. Let’s mention getting days off from work. Often times you getting people together from different parts of the country or even the world. Apples and oranges it’s not. Last I checked $400+ in upfront, non-refundable, costs is financial risk. Is that the fee for a race entry?

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