Spreading the good word of trails and this amazingly fulfilling sport with more awesome humans is a goal for a lot of mountain bikers, and at Pride Rides Vermont inclusivity is the first step. The non-profit organization has been hosting monthly mountain bike rides since May of 2019 to entice more LGBTQIA+ folks to check out the trails.
Pride Rides VT has seen a great deal of support from local communities and bike shops, both during their brief summer shreds and extensive fat bike season. According to founder Kris Hunt, “The first Pride Ride took place […] at Sunny Hollow, a trail in the Fellowship of the Wheel network, in Chittenden County, Vermont. It began as an idea to create more inclusive rides in VT and through chats with a friend from the Fellowship of the Wheel (FOTW) board, we got the ball (or wheels) rolling.”
Pride Rides is not only exploring their local tracks but touring the state to share a taste of each unique region and trail system. Hunt is invigorated by the growth and stoke of the group and the support they have received from local trail communities. “We go ride a new trail every month. Sunny Hollow, Millstone trails (my home town trails), Saxon Hill, Catamount trails, Cady Hill in Stowe, Litter River in Waterbury. Every chapter I reached out to ride at was happy to host and helpful in and coordinating for the rides. I incorporated Pride Rides in March 2020 after almost a year of successful MTB and fat bike rides.”
We chatted with Hunt recently to learn more about how Pride Rides developed and what the future holds.
What initially enticed you to ride trails?
Fun! As a kid I spent many many hours on two wheels and living in a more rural area, I had access to off-road type trails early on. They weren’t necessarily the singletrack we ride today, but more doubletrack like ATV/snowmachine trails and old quarry rail cart trails. In my 20’s, a friend of mine showed me some world cup DH and that convinced me to get my first MTB as an adult. I didn’t even ride DH until last year, but riding through the woods on some of the technical stuff that Vermont has to offer is pretty thrilling and certainly a ton of fun.
Why did you decide to make Pride Rides VT a non-profit?
I decided to make Pride Rides a non-profit because it fit with the way my goals for the group were developing. My original idea was just to create a space for queer folks to come together, ride mountain bikes, and build community within the broader MTB community. A place where we could feel seen and safe and comfortable being ourselves. As it went on and support came in from local trail chapters and shops, I realized that Pride Rides could provide access beyond just the ride itself.
My friends over at Vermont Bicycle Shop offered up their fatbike rental fleet, free of charge, for pride riders to ride at each event. That gave folks who didn’t have a mountain bike or fat bike for our winter rides, a bike to ride without the barrier of cost. There was a ton of interest in the bikes and most rides saw the bikes borrowed at capacity. One of the rides we had double the people than there were bikes and we had to do the ride in two loops to give everyone a chance to ride!
Another friend of mine was happy to support the cause and donated money toward rentals from a trail system for one of the winter rides. When people started offering monetary donations I realized I would have to make it official to coordinate funds and services. There seemed to be obvious potential to grow Pride Rides into something that could provide both inclusion and access to queer people looking to get into or be a part of the MTB community.
Are you all working on other trail-related activities, like maintenance and building?
My hopes with this spring and summer were to organize a Pride Rides trail work day. For me becoming a part of a trail crew was how I met some of my friends that I ride and adventure with. It’s a really great opportunity to give back to the trails we love and also deepen your connection with other riders. We had also started planning to have a couple of skills clinics in May and June. With Covid-19 and the uncertainty and danger of group activities anytime in the near future, everything is on hold.
What are some of the shops that are supporting Pride Rides VT?
Vermont Bicycle Shop has been our number one supporter for sure, with consistent bike demos, helping out during and after the rides, making hot chocolate for all the winter rides and heckin delicious waffles, plus they created our logo and built our website. The owners Darren and Ginger are good friends of mine and have supported all of my queer endeavors from the get go. Beyond just LGBTQ matters, when I think of what an inclusive bike shop looks like, Vermont Bicycle Shop is a great example of what that should look like in action.
Outdoor Gear Exchange brought us their trail bike demo fleet for a ride event and we have communicated a bit on doing more of that for this summer. They have a group cleverly named Outdoor Queer Exchange and a few of the members of that have been involved a bunch with Pride Rides, including one of our board members.
Ranch Camp which is a shop and restaurant that hosted us when we went to ride Cady Hill in Stowe, with after ride refreshments and a place to hang.
What other organizations or companies do you collaborate with?
We have been collaborating with VMBA (Vermont Mountain Bike Association) both with the rides and being involved in their diversity and inclusion efforts. VMBA is made up of several localized chapters and we’ve collaborated with each of the chapters that are in charge of the trails that we’ve ridden at. FOTW (Fellowship of the Wheel), STP (Stowe Trails Partnership), WATA (Waterbury Area Trails Association), and my home chapter MTA (Millstone Trails Association).
Our friends over at SDR clothing company designed and made a Pride Rides t-shirt and held a fundraising campaign through the sale of the shirts. Colin who owns SDR is a big supporter of diversity in MTB and also a good friend of mine. He puts a lot of energy into his efforts to raise money for different social causes and is very outspoken about his values. He is also offering some sponsorship for LGBTQ+ DH or Enduro racers, that’s not directly connected to Pride Rides, but I’m stoked that companies are specifically searching to support underrepresented racers.
We collaborate a bit with The Pride Center of Vermont, which is our local LGBTQIA+ support non-profit. They’ve created some cool partnerships with other orgs in outdoor recreation too, connecting queer folks to these outdoor spaces. Queer representation in not just bikes, but the whole outdoor community of Vermont is really growing and I’m stoked on that.
The Venture Out Project has also collabed with us a bit on promoting the rides and having some of their volunteers come to events.
What are your future hopes for Pride Rides VT?
I hope to collaborate with more trail chapters and ride more of Vermont’s trails, bringing Pride Rides across the State and to LGBTQ folks in those places. I want to continue to raise money to build a Pride Rides bike fleet so that there are always bikes available for anyone who wants to join a ride. I hope to continue to expand the events and opportunities to get together as a club. We’re looking at gravel rides, bikepacking events, etc. I hope to provide access and support into the sport by breaking down any social or financial barriers to getting involved. I hope that Pride Rides can be a community within the broader MTB community in Vermont and can give representation to some of the diversity that exists in that space.
Do you feel that there are other locations where a similar organization would be appreciated?
There are queer and outdoorsy folks everywhere, so I think this sort of organization would be appreciated in every city and state and in some they already do! I got a lot of inspiration from groups like WTF Bike Explorers and from the work of other groups focused on racial diversity (Pedal to the People), size inclusion (UnlikelyBikers), adaptive cycling (Vermont Adaptive), sober spaces (The Phoenix), etc. I think these focused groups and dedicated spaces are great in offering support and community while also increasing representation and awareness of the diversity that exists in the broader bike community and the outdoors.
Thanks to Kris Hunt for working to make Pride Rides VT possible, and for sharing the story with our readers.