Volunteers: Making Events and Trails Happen
The first post that I came across, at TMBL, was Shannon’s article about bike clubs. Something in it spoke to me. When I bought my first mountain bike in 2007 (a Kona Caldera, for the record) I took it out to my local club rides and we both were welcomed there. I was made to feel comfortable as a newbie and the club helped me to become familiar with my local trails. Now I volunteer my own time with Whitehorse’s mountain bike club because I want to pass my love of biking on to other newbies and because I believe that a thriving club helps to promote off-road cycling and to unite riders under a happy glow of wilderness trail love. Effective clubs can also educate riders, develop in them a trail stewardship mentality and influence sometimes bureaucratic decisions about trail use. In short: I’m a member and on the board of my local club because I believe in what we do.
|Photo: Jacob Moyer via flickr|
Are you a member of your local bike club? That’s the first level of volunteerism that I’d like to encourage. Not everyone has time to dedicate to her local club but at a base level, simply joining your local mountain bike club can provide them with a stronger voice in support of their goals (at a minimum, these usually promote the sport of cycling and encourage responsible riding and trail volunteerism).But above and beyond basic membership in a club, I’d like to see all mountain bikers take on some sort of volunteer work to make their community stronger. Not sure what you can do? Oh there’s a long list and both your trails and the events you enjoy will benefit from your efforts.For the more introverted or physical labour minded there is always trail work to be done. Remember that there is no such thing as a trail fairy! The trails that we all love to ride did not materialize out of thin air. Sure, some of them have been re-purposed (perhaps they started as a walking trail, stagecoach route, or abandoned road) but for the most part, mountain bike trails were built by dedicated volunteers. It’s easy to forget it takes sweat and sometimes tears to create and keep trails open for use. You can do your part by participating in trail maintenance days (generally run by bike clubs). It is a pretty cool feeling to ride a trail after you have personally had a hand in cutting a bench or packing in a berm. You can also help with trail work simply by clearing out excessive plant growth or picking up garbage when you are out riding.
|Trail maintenance in Whitehorse, YT|
|Trail maintenance in Whitehorse, YT|
If you’d prefer to help out while on your bike instead of while wielding a pulaski, then you could offer to lead group rides and share your enthusiasm for your favourite trail. Or flagging race courses for local events might appeal to you. Generally this consists of marking out the course route to alert riders to turns, hazards and to generally help them be confident that they are on course. Depending on the size of the event and the formality of the race, you will be sent out on your bike with a backpack full of supplies – flagging tape, signs, zipties, wooden stakes – to help guide riders to the finish line. Once the race is over, someone needs to repeat the process in reverse and take the course markers down.
|Members of cmbc helping to mark a race course|
To make any event happen there are a myriad of tasks that need to be taken care of before and during the action. While big events like the BC Bike Race obviously have some paid staff, there are still tons of volunteers that make the event possible. When we are dealing with smaller, local events, volunteers do pretty much everything. What’s everything? Well, for Whitehorse’s 24 Hours of Light Mountain Bike Festival that is happening this weekend, here’s our everything: registration system, race package assembly, preparation of food for and presentation at captains’ meeting, course marking, emcee, timing, parking boss, photographer, website updater, email answerer, bike repair tent mechanic, garbage collectors, city-permit-filler-outer, course sweep, general gopher for emergencies during the day, and event tear-down. And I am confident that this list is incomplete. My point is that cool bike events happen because people who love bikes make them happen.As IMBA reminds us, mountain bike clubs are only as strong as their members. And while a good club should be reaching out to its members – current and potential – sometimes that task can be forgotten among all the other running around that board members do. Nurturing a strong volunteer corps takes time, effort and skill so if you are thinking about maybe getting involved, do your local board a favour and don’t wait to be asked – contact them and offer what you can. I promise you, it will be appreciated.