Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Technical Single Track in Fairbanks?

Even among cyclists, there is often discord. Roadies don’t get along with the dirt guys, dirt guys don’t like the BMX kids, BMX kids for the life of them can’t understand what is impressive about a middle aged hipster on a fixed gear road bike with no brakes riding off a curb, etc, etc. I think in areas with larger populations, it is not so much of a problem. Everyone has plenty of like minded people to hang out with and if there is not much mixing between groups, it is ok. In smaller towns (like Fairbanks) this does not work as well. You might only have a few guys that ride any particular style, and we all thrown together because we ride bikes. While larger places may have the Western Metropolis Area Freeride Association as one of the six large thriving bicycle groups in their area, we have Fairbanks Cycle Club, and that’s pretty much it.

FCC puts on both road and cross country races throughout the summer and is responsible for consistently organizing the bigger rides every year that bring out people who don’t normally ride bikes. They do a great job considering the circumstances. The problem is that as you can imagine, the leadership is small and they cater toward their own preferred type of rides. Again, I can’t blame them for this. If I had the energy to get off my duff and organize something, I’d make dang sure it was an event I wanted to participate in. The rub in this case is that most of the riding the FCC crew does is aimed at endurance riders. I went to one of their meetings a few years back and they were lamenting that they were having a hard time attracting younger riders. I understood the problem as most of the younger folks I know who ride don’t do it to sweat, they do it to shred a sweet line or pull a hot trick. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large road and cross country seem to be riding styles that are a flavor acquired with a bit of age (once you realize that broken bones are starting to take longer to mend).

All of this explains why I was pretty excited when FCC brought IMBA up here to do a presentation and a trail building clinic. I could not attend (I had to work) but since the meet and greet presentation was at my shop job, I got to witness the start of the trip. The slide show included plenty of dirt jump parks, technical singletrack, and actual downhill trails. As I watched the presentation I became slightly depressed since it was unlikely that anything of the sort will be built anytime soon. However, according to one of my FCC inside sources, it appears that attitudes inside the FCC may have already changed. I may have just missed it since I was not around. The new trail construction that began during the weekend clinic was aimed at building a sustainable (IMBA’s key buzzword) intermediate level technical trail. It’s slow going of course, apparently there are only a few people who actually understand the concepts of building a sustainable trail (me completely not included), everyone else was there to take direction and dig. However, since the proper permitting and relationships have been started, if the trail gets built right, it will be there for decades instead of years.

Hopefully I’ll be heading out to the site this week some time and check out what’s been laid down so far and what they have planned. If it’s all it’s cracked up to be, maybe I won’t be riding as much as I thought this year. And the fact that I did not buy a new all mountain machine won’t be depressing me nearly as bad.

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