As mountain bikers develop their skills and technology advances, more riders are seeking highly technical trails to test their abilities. Mountain bike organizations will benefit by getting freeriders involved with their efforts. Freeriders are some of the most passionate cyclists around, and they can give a chapter or club a great boost of adrenaline. Here are nine tips to help.
1. Embrace Technical Trail Projects
Freeriders want technical trails and are willing to build them to suit their needs. The recent growth of unauthorized trail construction with added stunts, drops and other technical trail features proves this. If your group builds technical trails - with land manager permission, of course - you'll attract freeriders to trailwork days and other events.
2. Work with Land Managers to Create Special-Use Technical Trail and Stunt Areas
Narrow bridges, teeter-totters, log rides and other technical trail features are becoming increasingly popular with mountain bikers. Most of the time, however, these features are constructed without authorization. For liability and other reasons, land managers have concerns with these structures on popular trails. However, many land managers are open to the idea of having special use zones or playgrounds for these types of stunts, similar to skateboard or snowboard parks. Work with freeriders and your local land manager to create these opportunities. Many land managers are also open to the idea of designing trails with a variety of options, allowing experts to take one line while offering others an alternative.
3. Open Communication between Freeriders and Land Managers
Lack of communication is typically the the root of unauthorized trail construction. Often, mountain bikers don't think land managers will listen to their requests. This is especially true with freeriders. The fact is, land managers are reasonable folks who are looking for solutions. The savvy land manager knows the benefits of finding an area for freeriders, rather than the never-ending battle of chasing poachers or closing unauthorized trails. Use your club to create an open relationship between freeriders and land managers.
4. Listen, Don't Criticize
The easiest thing to do regarding freeriding and unauthorized trail construction is to criticize and separate your club from this element of our sport. This approach will only fragment the cycling community. Freeriders are enthusiastic mountain bikers. Listen to their ideas - you'll gain their respect and learn something in the process. In turn, they'll be more willing to listen to you.
5. Include Freeriders in Chapter/Club Leadership
It's one thing to get freeriders to come to a meeting or two. It's another to give them the opportunity to have a significant voice in the club's decision-making process. Work to enlist a freerider or two in your club's leadership or board of directors.
6. Liven it Up, Brah!
Meetings need not be events that challenge C-SPAN for dynamic entertainment value. Keep meetings fun, lively and snappy. Show cycling videos, provide good food and drink and keep the agenda moving. These elements appeal to all mountain bikers - not just freeriders.
7. Shop Talk
Freeriders tend to be passionate mountain bikers, and many spend a lot of time in local bike shops. Use these shops to get freeriders involved. Put up flyers for meetings or better yet work to host club meetings or parties at a shop.
8. Use Freeriders to Increase your Group's Membership
While certainly not the rule, freeriders are often young. They may have a different perspective on what types of riding and social events will attract the public riding community. Pay attention: if a freerider suggests that your club's next fundraiser be a thumping techno dance party, perhaps they're onto something.
9. Invest in Freeriders
Not with money, but with time. Take a freerider on a ride. Let a freerider take you on a ride. Freeriders are part of the future of our sport and your club. By taking the time to work with them and sharing your knowledge and experience, you can be sure the future of mountain biking will be in good hands.
The suggestions offered in this and other IMBA trailbuilding articles do not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Trailbuilders and landowners are responsible for the safety of their own trails and facilities. Freeriding and dirt jumping are high-risk activities that can result in serious injuries. IMBA's goal is to help land managers and volunteers manage these risks by sharing information.