Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Build 'em hard, but build 'em for everybody

First, watch this.  If you've already watched it, it's worth another go through.  The two people interviewed are founding members of NSMBA, the organization that supports some of the best trails I have ever ridden.

Lee Lau + Sharon Bader - Hey Neighbour from nsmb.com on Vimeo.

   Lee - "I remember one of the first things that we insisted on…was keeping the trails challenging." Yes please. There is another level of excellence going on around Fromme mt., and it is his kind of progressive attitude that keeps setting the bar high.Why ride boring trails when you can build fun, scary ones? Mountain bikers demand a level of progression inherently high in a sport that has a long, slow, learning curve. There is so much to learn about riding a bike. Difficult trails aid the learning process. Without challenge, there would be no progression. In Olympia, much of that challenge is missing. Capitol Forest has so many restrictions on it that progressive trail building is almost completely prohibited.  In this kind of environment, there is no incentive for progressive trailbuilders to stick around.

   On the other side of the coin is the beginner-level argument.  If the point of trail building is to make the hardest thing possible, how is anyone ever going to get involved in the sport?  Lee recognizes this, saying that initially “there was a certain sense of elitism and maybe even snobbery in what we had, that everything had to be super hard.”  In certain places, having a high standard for the level of riding to be done helps keep a riding spot small and sustainable.  However, there is no place for snobbery in mountain biking.  Elitism is just a form of insecurity in self-worth where a person elevates themselves above others based on the characteristics by which they see themselves as better people.  Rather than push people away, we need to encourage people to get started and help beginning riders ride better.

    Lee's solution to this problem is to "open all lines up to trails that wouldn‘t always be causing you to be white knuckled."  In other words, build trails hard, but make them accessible, too.  On Galbraith Mt in Bellingham, the rule is to always have a go-around when you build a technical trail feature.  For years, I rode past drops and jumps without having to get off the bike and walk because I couldn't hit the stunt. There are two drops on a trail called Evolution that haunted me for years.  I didn't have the courage to hit them, but I rode past them on every other ride.  Finally, I set out by myself one day with my full face  on and tunes plugged in.  I rode up to the drops, scoped them out, and learned both of them in one afternoon.  Riding around the drops had influenced me to do something I had never even tried before, an example of progression through accessible trail design.

   The outlook for progressive trails in Capitol Forest isn't bright.  I have seen that the perception of what can and can't be built in the forest is greatly influenced by land managers who have repeatedly worked against the slightest hint of trail difficulty.  It falls on us, riders who want to see our trails evolve, to work around the restrictions.  I am grateful for the work that is already being done in this vein. Thanks to all the people working towards a better future for Oly trails!

Check out:
Olympia Bike Parks
LLMT Rehab


  1. thanks finn, soo much inspiration comes from your words. All points taken well and in a heartfelt need for our community and progression for riders at large. When i went down to the yacolt burn forest, which ironically is on dnr land, it seemed as if the cold creek mtn bikers had transcended all of the qualms that we have at the cap’ - BIG & GNARLY, fast and steep, are some adjectives to describe their thrillium trail, yet certainly built with alternatively roll-able “outy” lines that keep the less skilled wanting more! I was enamored and stoked to see something so great. I guess we are just at “baby-steps” right now... Thanks to focf for all of the pre-amble work that was laid with legislation and actual solidification for at least the llmtn trail, which will become better and better as the years un-fold. Hopefully we will continue to raise the bar, so that our kids can see the light of radness, and eventually get to the point where they will enjoy the day that they have conquered some harder feature that we build today...

  2. Cold Creek sounds like great inspiration! Having met the DNR recreation employee who works with the riders, I can totally understand. She's a great person who is stoked on the biking and fun going on down there. Just like Father says - we gotta take accountability! We are the riders, we are responsible for our own experience.

  3. yes sir! if i had a charitable donation to make between the names jessica or phil, i think i would pick jessica, btw do you have her #? hahahaa...