The Mountain Bike Life

In my last post I explained why I love living and riding in Santa Cruz. Today I decided to showcase a few people who make this place so special. The first of which being Mark Davidson, the president of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.

Who are you/what do you do/when and how did you start mountain biking?

My name is Mark Davidson and I’m the President of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC) a local volunteer non-profit mountain bike advocacy group dedicated to the promotion and expansion of mountain biking in Santa Cruz County.My role in MBoSC is a volunteer position so my day job is a senior software engineer for a multi-national Silicon Valley based technology company.

I started mountain biking in 1986 while I was a University student in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and had been riding bikes from a young age. I got into road biking as a teenager and friends and I did some long rides. When I was about 15 my road bike was stolen and was not replaced. Years later, a friend introduced me to mountain biking and the experience really resonated. Suddenly the natural world opened up for me and I was hooked.

Explain your involvement with Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.

I got involved with MBoSC as the webmaster in 2001. A couple of years after I joined, the organization imploded, the President quit, the Vice-President moved away and the Treasurer and Secretary became disengaged but still stayed on. I volunteered to step up as President since no one else wanted the job.

In 2007, my career as a software engineer was really burning me out and I took the summer off to ride my bike everyday. I got to know local land managers, politicians and other bike advocates in Northern California. The summer of 2007 was when MBoSC started to take off. Since then I have visited Washington DC twice as part of the Bike League/IMBA summit and went to Sacramento and have represented the interests of Santa Cruz county cyclists to our elected representatives.  

Explain some of the organization’s major achievements.

One of our biggest recent achievements has been the advocacy and implementation of the Emma McCrary Trail in the Pogonip. This 2 mile trail connects downtown Santa Cruz with the upper UCSC campus. MBoSC led the advocacy, fundraising and trail building efforts. MBoSC Trails Officer Drew Perkins was hired by the city to lead the design and construction and over 300 people volunteered about 3,500 hours of their time to build the trail.

MBoSC has also presented the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival (SCMBF) since 2010. This festival is a mixture of an expo and competitive events and we feature local food and drink, companies and riders. It’s a celebration of the mountain bike culture in Santa Cruz County.The buzz from the festival keeps getting larger. We had about approximately 2,000 attendees in 2011, 6,000 attendees in 2012 and about 9,000 attendees in 2013.

We are also proud of the Santa Cruz Super Enduro (SCSE) that we have presented for the past couple of years in the Soquel Demonstration State Forest (aka Demo forest). The 2012 SCSE was the first sanctioned competitive event in the history of the Demo forest and we had about 50 pro and elite riders compete in the event – which was part of the SCMBF. For 2013, we held the event in the fall, opened the field to 200 riders and provided a camping weekend around the event.

Mark’s Ibis Ripley at the Emma McCrary Trail Head.

What are some of the organization’s future goals?

One of our biggest projects will be the new 4 mile flow trail that we will be building in the Demo forest. This trail will be more mountain bike focused than the Emma McCrary trail and will be about 4 miles long with lots of berms and rollers. It will be easy enough for kids and beginners but will still provide advanced riders something to challenge themselves.

For 2014 we will be doing the SCMBF and the SCSE again. The SCMBF may be a challenge since the status of the Aptos venue is unknown right now.

We have other projects and partnerships with local land managers that we will continue to monitor and develop. Our objective is to open up 2-4 miles of new bike legal single track per year over the next 10 years.

How long have you lived in the Santa Cruz area?

After I graduated from University, my passion for exploring the natural world took me across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia in the 90’s. I was still a casual rider but I used to ride the North Shore and Whistler before they became world renowned mountain bike destinations and this increased my skill level. Eventually, I got a job in Silicon Valley and I looked at it as an opportunity to ride my bike all year round. We settled in Santa Cruz in 2000 since we determined that it had the best mountain biking in Northern California while still close to jobs in the technology industry.

Breathtaking view of Mark’s RV at Yosemite National Park.

What is your favorite place to ride in the Santa Cruz area?

I love to ride all the “secret” spots like any other Santa Cruz mountain biker but I love to ride the Emma McCrary trail to upper campus. This is a great opportunity to ride with my family. I also like to ride from my house in Scotts Valley through Henry Cowell, Pogonip, upper campus, Wilder and back. For a road trip, I love the Demo forest. Long climbs and long technical descents with all sorts of interesting trail features along the way.

What do you think is the best thing about riding in Santa Cruz?

This is a tough question but there are so many great things about riding in Santa Cruz. The trails, the weather, the gorgeous redwood trees and the easy going vibe of my fellow riders.

Some may disagree but I really believe that there is a very healthy respect that all trail users have towards each other in Santa Cruz county. Equestrians, riders and hikers can all co-exist on the trails together. Granted they self sort based on the types of trail experiences that they want but all my encounters with equestrians and hikers have been positive.

What is the best part about living “the mountain bike life”?

To me, the mountain biking experience engages just about everything that’s great about life. It’s physical, spiritual and places me in a calm state of mind since I’m enjoying the natural environment while I do it. I’m never bored while riding since the trail experience continually changes: the seasons, weather, the trails.

The bicycle is the most incredible invention that humans have ever developed and I’m proud that our local mountain bike industry is pushing the state of the art in bicycle technology. I love building and maintaining bikes and trails.

Discovering mountain biking was the best thing that ever happened to me and it will be a lifetime activity.

Unfinished Business
Riding In Upstate New York

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