Forest Service Denies Permit to Race Organizer Based on Skidding, Aggressive Riding, and Possibly a YouTube Video

Buffalo Creek, Colorado. photo: Jeff Barber

The South Platte Ranger District, a branch of the US Forest Service (USFS) that manages the Buffalo Creek mountain bike trail network near Pine, Colorado has denied Revolution Enduro a permit to hold the second annual race in May 2019, citing potential resource damage.

Revolution Enduro was granted a trial permit in 2018 by the USFS. Afterward, the enduro raised over $900 for trail funding and remediated any trail damage that was associated with the race with a crew of trail workers. However, after review, the USFS sent a letter to David Scully, the race director for the series, denying the 2019 permit.

In the written statement they cited safety concerns for trail users because of high racing speeds, and the popularity of the Buffalo Creek trail network to the public and the inability to actually close the trails during a race.

Lastly, the USFS cites potential trail and resource damage from skidding, alternate line creation, and erosion.

What isn’t highlighted in the USFS letter is that a YouTube video may have played a part in their decision.

A preview for the 2018 race filmed by Yeti Cycles rider Nate Hills, where he and another rider are skidding, drifting, and riding alternate or off-trail lines in the video, is also said to have influenced the USFS decision. The video was published on Hills’ YouTube channel and has been viewed over 20,000 times. Hills promoted the new race series over the summer on his YouTube channel and social media, and filmed previews of the race series, the rest of which took place mostly in bike parks.

The USFS decision calls for speculation though, because the Bailey Hundo, a 50- and 100-mile cross country race, is held on the same trail network every year. The enduro’s athlete field was capped at 200, whereas the Bailey Hundo has 500 total athletes.

“Reading between the lines, there’s a bigger problem that they don’t like certain bike riding styles,” said Scully in an interview with Singletracks. He notes that the riding in the race preview video isn’t representative of the riding that happens at Buffalo Creek, even during the race.

A letter from the USFS to Revolution Enduro.

“Those guys are having fun and being playful with features they find on the trail. In a race, you’re a little bit more hyper-focused on trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible.”

The difference between the enduro and the Bailey Hundo however, is that the Hundo has always been a non-profit fundraising event as much as it has been a race. In fact, the registration for the Bailey Hundo costs $50, but requires a commitment of raising another $200 that is ultimately donated to charities. On the front page of the Bailey Hundo website, it boasts that over $75,000 was donated to the race’s partner charities.

The USFS is said to have spoken with Gary Moore, the director of Colorado Mountain Bike Alliance (COMBA) about the YouTube video. The two organizations work closely together as COMBA maintains and builds trail in the Buffalo Creek network.

Screen grab from the video in question.

“In the video, you see a lot of things that land managers aren’t going to like,” says Moore. “It’s pretty aggressive riding, it’s the kind of fantastic promotional videos, that, to be honest, I think really hurt our whole effort. Everybody wants to make mountain biking frenetic and exciting and fast and that’s why they’re promoting the sport, but unfortunately that doesn’t work for us with land managers.”

He also noted that riding off trail around corners is sometimes a signal that the corner needs to be re-routed.

“Creating a bigger radius on a corner doesn’t hurt the land and makes a lot less maintenance,” said Moore in an interview.

Moore thought the video was pretty run-of-the-mill as far as promotional race videos go, although the difference is that it was a first year race on public trails. Moore says the USFS has had a tough time keeping pace with the usage in Buffalo Creek.

“Some of this is just a need for them to reduce the overall activity on their trail systems. They want less events across the board and are struggling with the popularity of the system and their declining budgets and ability to keep the trails and facilities in good shape,” he says.

Singletracks had been waiting to speak with someone from the Forest Service to confirm if the video did play a part in their decision, but with a three-week government shutdown and no end in sight, no one at the agency has been available.

Revolution Enduro shared the news with their social media followers on Jan 10.

“The USFS staff did review the 2018 Followcamfriday, pre-race promotional video and chose the enduro race as the event to eliminate in 2019 to mitigate perceived racer vs. public risk, trail damage, and lessen the event load in Buffalo Creek,” said Revolution Enduro in a Facebook post.

The post also stated that they will continue conversations with COMBA about coordinating trail work and fundraising similarly to the Bailey Hundo, to see if that may make a difference in future Forest Service decisions.

Hills was saddened to hear the news and possible relation between the video and the permit denial.

“I certainly hope that I don’t have anything to do with that decision, the notion saddens me greatly,” he told Singletracks in an email. “My videos are all about having fun and I certainly am not trying to stress any trail politics or anger anyone, in any way. The goal of Follow Cam Friday is to get people motivated to ride.”

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