We all have a bit more time to try different ways of communicating at the moment, so this week I was really pleased to join Freifahrt podcast host Sebastian Hofer for a chat about what is happening in cycling lobbying at the moment.
The longer form of the podcast allows for a more reflective tone than some of the speeches and webinars I normally make, so it was really nice to be able to talk more informally with Sebastian around some of my wider thoughts on the subject and to answer his questions about my cycling roots. My Mum and Dad should be pleased, they even get a mention!
Readers of my blog may be familiar with my unofficial ramblings, but here’s an opportunity to share it in “chat show” style. Thanks very much to Sebastian for the invitation.
Note – most of the Freifaht (Free travel) podcasts are in German and Sebastian’s intro is in German – but you have got the right link, my bit is in English!
In many countries cycling is showing signs of going from bust to boom in several short weeks as populations seemingly burst out of confinement and head for the streets.
That’s very easy to see in the urban environment because the numbers are easy to spot and many cities are responding with new cycling infrastructure captured from streets made quiet by lockdowns.
However in the countryside and especially the mountain bike sector that’s much harder to see and to imagine. Some people may be riding for health and to maintain social distancing, but the mountain bike sector has always had a much stronger affiliation with certain landscapes or trail centres than other forms of cycling. so the MTB economy depends a lot more on people travelling to hot spots, and that isn’t going to happen quite so soon as urban reopening.
That’s where the #trailsclosetohome movement comes in. There is a growing understanding in the MTB movement that riding cannot be all about travelling to ride. It’s not terribly sustainable for one thing, but perhaps more importantly its a big deterrent for people without cars, or cars with great big bike racks, such as young people and people from poorer sections of society.
So much better if there is an alternative on the doorstep. Maybe not designed like a trail centre, maybe not as adventurous as the mountains, but right there when someone thinks “that looks fun, where can I go round here?” That’s how I started mountain biking nearly 30 years ago – as an extension to cycle touring that allowed me to ride to places nearby that I couldn’t ride by road bike, and today that hasn’t changed.
And now we do need #trailsclosetohome every day, not just for the new entrants but even for ourselves. If we are to build a mountain biking recovery we need people to do what the urban riders have done – keep up the habit and introduce new people while movements are restricted, then we have a much bigger potential rider base than before the lockdown.
That’s why the board members of IMBA Europe (of which I am one) decided to to put together a little video of our own thoughts about opening up riding where we live. All credit to Thomas, Edoardo and Ray, they are the sort of riders who actually go out and maintain trails where they live as a way of sharing. My contribution is rather to praise the route makers and guides who have already created and published the routes I ride because their contribution is what enables people like me to actually find the local places to ride.
But I must admit I can think of a few of the tracks round here where there are a few branches that could do with a trim, so I am also inspired to do more!
Enjoy your riding.