Sunday, December 12, 2010
Steamboat Springs Aside from the tale of a crazy race and an idea for a vacation that would be hard to rival, Essam Welch’s story of his trip to New Zealand to ride in the Singlespeed World Championships was valuable as an insight into mountain biking in other parts of the world.
Welch rode two races while he was in New Zealand and spent most of his first two weeks in the town of Rotorua, which, he said, might be Bike Town NZ.
“They have a very mature mountain-bike-focused trail network there,” Welch said. “It’s some of the best riding I’ve ever done. They were extremely challenging trails, but they had the idea of building in corners and bends to utilize the speed so you didn’t have to brake so much. There wasn’t so much braking, but a whole lot more flowing.”
There’s plenty that can be gleaned from the way they do things on the other side of the world. The most interesting Welch described is the method of trail-building employed.
Any interested party can get permission from the local mountain bike club, which partners with the city, to flag out a potential trail. That route then must go through an approval process, and, if the path is approved, the original trail marker is tasked with finding sponsors, funds and tools to make his own little dream a reality.
Sometimes, correctional workers are used to do some of the labor.
“Anyone in the community can go do it,” Welch said. “It was cool because sometimes all your trails start to have the same style because it’s the same people putting them in.
“They’ve made a system that’s created a trail system that’s unique and world-class.”
The Bike Town USA Initiative has done a superb job summoning advice from all corners in nearly all senses. Most major factions in Steamboat Springs have seats on the initiative’s board, representing a wide variety of local interests and views. October’s Steamboat Springs Bike Summit, meanwhile, brought together people with varied viewpoints from across the continent.
There’s no need to limit how far the group or Steamboat Springs casts its net, however.
There sometimes seems to be mountains of red tape that stand between any idea for a mountain bike trail and any mountain bike actually coasting on that trail.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It does take a little imagination to see the New Zealand approach working in Steamboat. But it’s definitely worth considering. Nearly everything is.