Even in the U.P, spring is here. For many mountain bikers in Michigan, May brings some mixed emotions. On one hand, we’re all missing the spring races and rides that bring our community together. Many of those races, like the Yankee Springs Time Trial, have been a sign of spring for years and, in that race’s case, serve as a vital fundraiser for its local trail association.
But there’s a brighter side, too. Sun, warm weather, and long days mean the new month also brings opportunities to enjoy the trails more than many of us have in a long while. If April was any sign, there are going to be a lot of individuals and families joining us in the woods. We’ve got just one thing to say to them: welcome.
Trails are for everyone. To build, maintain, and protect trails anywhere, it takes more than a rake and an afternoon to shift some dirt around. Ask any trail association and they’ll tell you that it takes people to make the trails work. It takes informed, involved, and passionate people to put trail associations in a position to do what they do.
We’re in a position now to welcome more people to our woods, our trails, our hobbies, our way of life. It’s not the time to worry about ‘our’ piece of the pie; instead, we need to bring in these new trail users to make more pie! More traffic means more donations, more volunteers, more voices and, in the long room, more and better trails to ride, run, hike, and explore.
As a seasoned mountain biker, you are in a unique position to serve as both a welcome committee and an educator. Each of us can set the tone in the first experiences of these new trail users, and it’s on us that it’s both positive and productive.
We’ve put together a few things we can all do to stay safe, be inclusive, and build our community.
Lead By Example. We can all use a refresher on proper mountain bike trail etiquette. Even if you’ve ridden for years, take a moment to see if there’s anything new you can do to be a good ambassador on behalf of all mountain bikers.
Ask Questions. Instead of shouting at new trail users, ask questions. Where are they from? Is it their first time at this particular trail? Do they know who maintains the trails? You’ll be able to get a whole new perspective on the experience of being a new trail user. As NMMBA Trail Director Tom White is quick to say, he is tremendously jealous and excited when he meets new trail users, especially mountain bikers. All of the experiences we’ve had over the years are still ahead of them; getting lost, learning the trails, finding their favorite loops, making new riding buddies, having a mechanical, helping someone with a mechanical...in short, the whole life cycle of a mountain biker is still ahead of them!
Leave Space. As experienced trail users, it’s on us to go the extra mile right now. As we’ve mentioned, we have the knowledge, fitness, and experience to do more to practice social distancing by avoiding crowded trailheads, riding early or late in the day, ride safely and, yes, possibly sacrificing our ‘normal’ ride if the woods are too crowded on some sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Every mountain biker was new at some point. All of us. If you don’t remember your first trail experiences with anything but fondness, you have a chance to make the first ride, run, or hike of someone else positive. Let’s all make the most of that opportunity!
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