Mountain bike advocacy. It’s boring isn’t it? Loads of do gooders interfering with your riding telling you where you can and can’t go, how you should be riding and when, pushing boring campaigns and even how you should be spending your money.
Yep. Bloody bunch of interfering busy bodies the lot of ’em.
But that’s not quite the whole story. Advocacy is a boring word, true. But advocacy itself is far from it. Let’s have a look at the evidence. I’ll start locally.
You’ve ridden Greno right? Lady Cannings? Parkwood? All fantastically fun trails. Local advocacy group Ride Sheffield deserves all the plaudits they get for getting them up and running. But it all started with Ride Sheffield putting in the ground work with Sheffield City Council and the right landowners to get the permissions in place and the opinions turned around to mountain bikers being a useful partner.
And that’s Advocacy 101 – done so well by Ride Sheffield that they’ve set the standard for creating relationships and improving mountain biking.
The Peak District
It’s a whole other world of advocacy pain when you not only have landowners to consider but also the stringent rules of a national park as well. Peak District MTB spend a lot of their time navigating those particular minefields while also putting some distinctly rider friendly features into some of the Peak District’s most popular trails. Mam Tor to Greenlands? PDMTB. Whinstone Lee Tor to Cutthroat Bridge? PDMTB and Moors For The Future. Rushup Edge? Currently being fought over to prevent flattening.
You won’t know it when you’re swooping down the flowy trail from Mam Nick, but that’s only come about after a shedload of yep, you guessed it: advocacy. PDMTB and the Peak District National Park have an incredibly close relationship that’s leading to better stuff for riders.
Over the hills
Look a little further. Bike Park Wales. Advocacy. Seven Stanes. Advocacy. Crikey, even the Alps getting bikes up the ski trails came on the back of someone talking about it the right way and with the right person.
“Alright,” I hear you say. “You’ve bonged on about it long enough now. Where does New Zealand come into it then?”
A recent report on mountain biking tourism in the Whakarerewera Forest Park found that riding in their forests brings five times the revenue of timber operations. Five times the revenue.
Five times the revenue of their primary business.
Five times more. You can’t repeat it enough. Five. Times. More. Money.
Now, the places we like to ride are usually farmland. Not, perhaps in the wheat and barley sense, but think about the sheep pastures, timber forests and cattle meadows. All farmland.
Imagine now that those farmers, land owners and visitor experience managers were to realise that a thin ribbon of trail and a few supporting facilities could bring in five times their current revenue. Imagine then, that they shifted their focus from keeping mountain bikers out, to bringing them in? How good would that be?
Farmer John did it, and look at the awesome offering over there. Imagine if the big landowners; the Severn Trent Waters, United Utilities and maybe even the moor owners did the same?
One day the penny (and the thousands of pounds. For everyone) will drop.
Your boring advocacy groups are the ones plying the machine with 2ps at the top.
So how can we get there? It’s pretty simple really. Get involved with, support and back those advocacy groups.
Back their campaigns.
Be marshalls when they ask for them. Tell your friends and family what they do.
Hey, why not even email the big landowners and tell them?
Advocacy. Bloody boring. But when it comes good, it’s the best thing in the world.
KoftheP (somewhere over Croatia on a Ryanair plane)
p.s: I never got beyond the fourth level on The New Zealand Story. I was always more into Treasure Island Dizzy. Or Chuck Rock. That game was awesome.