The launch of Open MTB is another step forward for trail advocacy in the UK. For too long now the mountain biking community has needed a national body to bring together the people and groups who have the time, energy and skills to make a real lasting difference for mountain biking.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic groups – Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield – who have had a great impact on behalf of mountain biking locally. But now knowing that there are many, many more likeminded people up and down the country who are standing up and taking action to promote and develop the sport is hugely encouraging and provides a very positive outlook.
These are people who volunteer their time on top of family life, work, spare time – even biking – to push for better trail access, to develop greater dialogue between bikers and the powers that be, to put the brakes on actions which will be to the detriment of the sport. They spend their time hacking through arcane council-ese, meeting on lovely summer evenings to debate ‘strategy’, beating the phones to make sure bikers look good when we do make it into the papers.
It’s all deeply exciting stuff I’m sure you’ll agree – but it is all vitally important if we’re to be seen as a valid and responsible voice when it comes to planning things like access in the future.
The name ‘Keeper of the Peak’ came about on the back of a forum discussion where I suggested that riding Cut Gate after heavy rain perhaps wasn’t the best choice. “Who made you self-appointed keeper of the peak?” came the not-unreasonable challenge.
I’ve seen a few similar comments about Open MTB too. I daresay Ride Sheffield and Peak District MTB -as well as other groups up and down the country – have had the same challenge levelled at them in the early days; ‘who put you in charge?’
But look at it this way: if they don’t stand up for mountain bikers, who will? If that merry band of volunteers doesn’t ‘self-appoint’, will anyone speak up?
Mountain biking lags behind in the ‘share of voice’ stakes compared to the likes of the walkers, climbers or ramblers, but as more and more volunteers do stand up, as more and more groups form and start flexing their muscles, as more and more evidence comes in that we are an important and reponsible group, that will change.
And the only way to be part of it? Get involved. Volunteer. Stand up. Be it a dig day, membership or even a follow, it is easy to do your bit.
So welcome Open MTB. Here’s to a long and successful future.
Where do I sign up?