The Mountain Bike Invasion of Wilderness Areas

#16
I have the same anecdotes. When in the backcountry and remote areas, I don't see any MTB riders.

But on trails within 10 miles of an urban area, I cannot count all the MTB riders. They are everywhere.

So they clearly outnumber the 4x4 crowd and have better advocacy groups, funding, demographics, etc....

I belong to the MTB, OHV and 4x4 user groups. And based on my experience, the MTB advocacy groups walk circles around the others.

All that said, I do not know whether or not I support MTB access in designated wilderness areas.
R
Maybe the majority of MTB riders are restricted to the many walking/bike trails in and around urban areas. I would not be surprised.

As to MTB access in designated Wilderness - As I see it, there are two types of Wilderness: (1) that conforming to the original intent of the Act, and (2) all the rest since Wilderness (in all its incarnations) mission creep set in. Keep the original Wilderness areas bipedal transport only. I'd be pleased if all the rest were returned to plain old FS and BLM status.

Hard for me to look at a piece of ground and think wilderness when it obviously has been; mined, logged, homesteaded, fenced, railroaded and is crisscrossed with roads.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
#17
I suspect some of whats in play is increasing the use by another group. MTB folks also in most cases are very small foot print ie impact on natural resources and have proven to contribute extensively to trail building projects. I ride, grew up with horses too. Live stock impact on trails is pretty severe in many cases, vs the many miles of single track Ive rode via bike are far better managed. The MTB crowd also travel great distances to do great rides. This generates income for local business too. I like 4x4 trips too but lets face it the 100's of youtube videos of 4x4 drivers tearing up critical head water shed streams in the Sierras shows either we the 4x4 folk need to crack down on those tearing up our upen back country or pay the price when the GOV locks it up to prevent damage to precious water sheds.

I think increasing MTB access to our GOV land will increase the users and future supporters of GOV land managent practices.

I use to do 50+ miles a week on my MTB. 1993 model bike. I just upgraded it this summer to front suspension, hydrolic disc brake hard tail 29er which is awesome fun on the trail. The old bike having been rebuilt twice now sports front panniers and a kids seat on the back and does the farmers market run.

Some of the best trails I've been on in recent years were built by Cub Scout Troups and MTB clubs working with local gov and Land owners.
 
#18
Maybe the majority of MTB riders are restricted to the many walking/bike trails in and around urban areas. I would not be surprised.

As to MTB access in designated Wilderness - As I see it, there are two types of Wilderness: (1) that conforming to the original intent of the Act, and (2) all the rest since Wilderness (in all its incarnations) mission creep set in. Keep the original Wilderness areas bipedal transport only. I'd be pleased if all the rest were returned to plain old FS and BLM status.

Hard for me to look at a piece of ground and think wilderness when it obviously has been; mined, logged, homesteaded, fenced, railroaded and is crisscrossed with roads.
Seems like a good compromise. I am certainly not a fan of the mass expansion of wilderness areas in recent decades.

R
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#19
Maybe the majority of MTB riders are restricted to the many walking/bike trails in and around urban areas. I would not be surprised.
The only place where mountain bikers are excluded, are these wilderness trails we're talking about. The density of riders around population centers is simply a reflection of the mountain bike lifestyle. Because many riders hit the trails almost daily, they usually ride close to home, and most trail systems are close to most population centers. That's where the users are.

What we've been seeing as of late in the MTB community is a greater scrutiny of which designated Wilderness areas deserve that protection. Some wilderness areas seem to have earned their designation somewhat randomly, or at the least the boundaries seem randomly drawn.

As others have said, the biggest advantage the MTB community has in their advocacy arsenal is the low impact nature of the activity. Second to that is the willingness of the community to assemble in mass to grab shovels and repair or build their own trails. I also see within our own regional advocacy groups, a good bit of compromise. The MTB groups here are very strategic, willing to give up a trail here, to gain a better one there.

Not to keep hammering on the 4x4 advocacy groups, but they really just don't get it, at least not as a whole. They pick battles they can't win, war over turf they really shouldn't defend, and most importantly, don't realize that they are a minority advocacy group and made even smaller by divisiveness.

There's the kicker. It's not entirely about the size of the user group, but the size of the advocacy voice within that group.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#20
I do not dispute your data. It simply does not agree with my (non scientific) observations when I'm off the beaten path.

As to 25% of households having a mtn bike, I reckon 50% of households have a stationary exercise bike and 80% of those bikes will never have more than 5 miles on them.
The Outdoor Industry Foundation numbers mountain bikers typically at about 40 million, which is half the number of self identified hikers and road cyclists. But of those 40 million our main advocacy group in the U.S., IMBA, hovers around 35,000 members. There are highly critical supporters such as Subaru, Giant, Specialized and such, but it's really a subset compared to other groups. The Sierra Club has about 2 million members, for example. We're talking about 2 orders of magnitude more active participation in an access group. And Sierra Club isn't the only major shaker-and-mover on the Wilderness front. You could say the Blue Ribbon Coalition advocates for bicycles, but not primarily. Groups like Bikes Belong are more about gaining access to commuter routes and byways so tangentially help MTB.

There are a lot of people who own mountain bikes but I don't think there is but a fraction of them who are primarily or highly dedicated. You can see that in the industry itself, the number of high end bikes sold relative to the whole market is fairly small. The same is true of, say, skiing. Lots of skiers jumbled into ski areas but the number of backcountry (and not sidecountry skiers who hike from area gates, but true backcountry trail users) is fairly small. Most people are going to be happy with a few 10-mile multiple user trails managed by their county park authority and never notice that hundreds of miles of singletrack are gated.

My point in this is that the default position is that everything is open to hikers and horses while bikes are excluded by default. The truth is hikers are no different in the propensity to cluster around trailheads. Very few hikers do through hikes or longer distance backpacking. So why should bikes, who even on day rides can access much farther and disperse wear and tear not be allowed? Anyone who witnesses trade routes knows that despite hikers being lower impact individually, a hundred of them walking all over even in Wilderness can make a mess. So we should be working collectively to open more trails and spread users out. This has seemed to me to be something logical we could leverage, using the advantage that a bike can easily get 5 miles away from a trail head quickly. Put a couple of nice loops out there and the hikers and bikers never see each other beyond being passed on the way out and back. Not to mention why are skis and snowshoes allowed in Wilderness but not bikes? Are they not a mechanical advantage? Their use is often even encouraged to avoid post holing the snow. While we're at it, aren't horseshoes and saddles offering mechanical advantage?
 
Last edited:

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#22
Yup.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Those who advocate for ever more wilderness fit your description.
This may seem like a counter intuitive statement, but even as an avid overlander and passionate mountain biker, I'm typically all for more wilderness areas as long as those boundaries and designations are applied with some logic.

Here again, this is often where the 4x4 groups differ from many other user groups. The 4x4 audience typically wages all or nothing battles. They consider ANY closure an egregious offense. This makes them a hard group to bring to the negotiating table...usually.
 
#23
This may seem like a counter intuitive statement, but even as an avid overlander and passionate mountain biker, I'm typically all for more wilderness areas as long as those boundaries and designations are applied with some logic.
My question for Wilderness advocates is: How much Wilderness (and all other classifications which prevent travel via mechanical advantage) is enough?

When I look at the roads and tracks I traveled 30 years ago which are now gated or bulldozed closed, and look at the Wilderness wish lists of the advocacy groups, I see a disturbing trend. This trend leads me to believe that the appetite is unlimited. For me and I suspect others, this is the root cause of "...consider ANY closure an egregious offense."

As to negotiations and compromise on something which is wrong, I agree with Ayn Rand who stated “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

Given the facts that: (1) less than 2% of the time (RVDs) spent by folks on federal ground is in Wilderness and wilderness-lite areas, and (2) much of the land being so designated for the last 20 years is anything but "...untrammeled by man..." as the 1965 Act specified, there is too much Wilderness now.
 
#24
Given the facts that: (1) less than 2% of the time (RVDs) spent by folks on federal ground is in Wilderness and wilderness-lite areas, and (2) much of the land being so designated for the last 20 years is anything but "...untrammeled by man..." as the 1965 Act specified, there is too much Wilderness now.
The primary purpose of a wilderness is not to create areas for people to recreate in, though it is one of the benefits. It is for the protection of landscapes/environments and the the resulting benefits of that...habitat, water quality, vegetative cover, etc. So, arguing based upon RVDs is kind of pointless, though it can be used as justification to allow access where wilderness is near recreational need.

Here is something interesting about mountain bikes from IMBA:
On average, IMBA members own four bikes and spend about $1500 on mountain biking annually

That is for a highly active sub-segment of the mountain biking population. I suspect your average mountain biker owns far fewer bikes and spends far less.

Here are some assertions that need to be backfilled with statistical evidence.
Motorized recreation is a huge economic driver. Everything costs more, even at the entry level. The average motorized trail user spends more per recreational experience than any other trail user group. Now, if you figure out how many motorized trail users there are, and how much they spend on average, and couple that with a high level of organization like IMBA has... perhaps motorized trail users would get the recognition of law makers. Sadly, our national advocacy is not good at that or sustaining local efforts on trail building nationally. Till that changes, expect the same.

Why is IMBA successful? I believe it is the combination of national and local focus. You have IMBA swinging in both arenas. IMBA has boots on the ground building trails and takes on national policy. IMBA has an organization based upon representatives from states and localities. IMBA has industry support. BRC primarily focuses on national. As a result, local groups in areas unsupported by BRC see no value in supporting BRC. If motorized recreation has an advocate that was deep in national/local issues and developed a business model similar to IMBA, I think there would be more support and influence.
 

Mr. Leary

Glamping Excursionaire
#25
The primary purpose of a wilderness is not to create areas for people to recreate in, though it is one of the benefits. It is for the protection of landscapes/environments and the the resulting benefits of that...habitat, water quality, vegetative cover, etc. So, arguing based upon RVDs is kind of pointless, though it can be used as justification to allow access where wilderness is near recreational need.

Here is something interesting about mountain bikes from IMBA:
On average, IMBA members own four bikes and spend about $1500 on mountain biking annually

That is for a highly active sub-segment of the mountain biking population. I suspect your average mountain biker owns far fewer bikes and spends far less.

Here are some assertions that need to be backfilled with statistical evidence.
Motorized recreation is a huge economic driver. Everything costs more, even at the entry level. The average motorized trail user spends more per recreational experience than any other trail user group. Now, if you figure out how many motorized trail users there are, and how much they spend on average, and couple that with a high level of organization like IMBA has... perhaps motorized trail users would get the recognition of law makers. Sadly, our national advocacy is not good at that or sustaining local efforts on trail building nationally. Till that changes, expect the same.

Why is IMBA successful? I believe it is the combination of national and local focus. You have IMBA swinging in both arenas. IMBA has boots on the ground building trails and takes on national policy. IMBA has an organization based upon representatives from states and localities. IMBA has industry support. BRC primarily focuses on national. As a result, local groups in areas unsupported by BRC see no value in supporting BRC. If motorized recreation has an advocate that was deep in national/local issues and developed a business model similar to IMBA, I think there would be more support and influence.
Second. Well said.
 

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
#26
Why is IMBA successful? I believe it is the combination of national and local focus. You have IMBA swinging in both arenas. IMBA has boots on the ground building trails and takes on national policy. IMBA has an organization based upon representatives from states and localities. IMBA has industry support. BRC primarily focuses on national. As a result, local groups in areas unsupported by BRC see no value in supporting BRC. If motorized recreation has an advocate that was deep in national/local issues and developed a business model similar to IMBA, I think there would be more support and influence.
I've been an IMBA member for longer than I can remember and have worked very closely with them on a number of larger projects. First off, I've never been convinced their surveys are very effective and that 4 bike, $1500 number seems whacky to me. Given that tires cost $120 a set, bike races often $100, and a simple cassette and chain pushes $150, I think that $1500 digit is way low. Anyway...

The first time I attended a meeting at IMBA HQ, I was blown away to discover it was little more than a few people in a tiny office and not some power dome of get-doners. It is really just a small, humble, well organized group a just a few, but they have superb communication and marketing skills. They know how to draft a message and sell it. It's impressive, largely because sometimes they form the perception they get more done than they really do, but that helps them actually...get more done. It's a strange duplicity.

You did nail one thing perfectly. They know how to come in at the local level and drum up passion, unity, and a very clear message. That grows into a national message, and in the process helps swell their numbers for the next campaign.

As for the BRC, I dropped my membership long ago because their administrative voices tended to sound like a bad mix of angry and victimized. The BRC has a very "us vs. them" ethos that sucks.
 

Finlay

Sconnie Lad
#27
Having worked for the forest service and repairing trails in the past, I have some insight.

First - the damage that a dozen MTBers can do to an area is really nothing compared to what one moron in a Fordrolet CoalRoller 6000 SUX can accomplish during a 12er of natty light. Not to mention, I have yet to see a MTBer bring a house full of appliances out to a trail, practice some second amendment on it, and then leave it there as an Art Installation of Freedom.

So, just from a cost perspective, MTB trails make way more sense than 4x4 trails. Add in the fact that MTBers are more willing to self police, volunteer for trail days, and offer funds to improve things, well....

It's not hard to see why 4x4 trails get closed and MTB trails get some love. No conspiracy needed - I know which demographic I'd be more willing to host on my land. I say this, and I love 4wheeling and offroading, but it is chockablock with morons, hicks, and dweebs who have no respect for shared public areas and lack common decency.
 
#28
I've been an IMBA member for longer than I can remember and have worked very closely with them on a number of larger projects. First off, I've never been convinced their surveys are very effective and that 4 bike, $1500 number seems whacky to me. Given that tires cost $120 a set, bike races often $100, and a simple cassette and chain pushes $150, I think that $1500 digit is way low. Anyway...

The first time I attended a meeting at IMBA HQ, I was blown away to discover it was little more than a few people in a tiny office and not some power dome of get-doners. It is really just a small, humble, well organized group a just a few, but they have superb communication and marketing skills.
They published the information I quoted on their website and the research was done by an outside consultant. The fact is, IMBA has over 35,000 members, I wonder how many buy $120 pairs of tires regularly. The membership is broad, so their numbers represent the average member, not a handful of competitive racers.

IMBA has 50 full time staff members throughout the US. It's not the small groups of buddies working out of a den anymore.

Anyhow, IMBA is great and the motorized community could learn a thing or two from their successes. I applaud them for getting access to the wilderness area that started this thread. I hope they get more since I like biking too. The motorized community should see this as a win for us as well because it begins to set precedence for questioning boiler plate rules that may have a negative impact on access and economy.

In Arizona, according to a 2003 economic impact study, OHVs contribute $4.25 billion to the Arizona economy. Of that, $842.3 million is directly related to trip expenditures. In 2008, an AZ survey determined that 1,027,191 people participate in OHV recreation. Half of those identify as OHV recreation as their primary mode of outdoor recreation.

Seems pretty huge right?

Now, visit our AZ horse riding friends... http://arizonahorsecouncil.org/in-action.html
There are 177,000 Horses in 60,000 Arizona Households
The Arizona Horse Industry is a $1.6 Billion Dollar Industry
One can conclude from this information that OHV users outnumber and out spend the horse riding folks by a significant figure. Why is it the horses yield such power? It is more than the romantic notions of cowboys riding the range.

Last year, the Tonto National Forest sought to change the Huston Mesa Horse Camp to an OHV staging area to cope with the excessive demand and lack of trail resources for OHVs in the area. Visit Huston Mesa on a holiday weekend, you won't see many horses. When they caught wind of the possible change, the horse reared up and took action, even getting representative Gosar involved. And then the horses got their way.

This will continue until motorized recreationalists get organized and communicate effectively with their representatives. The current AZ advocates need to be replaced with people who know how to get the job done. The same can be said for many areas across the west.

Nationally...
National statistics find that there are the following numbers of trail users in America: 73.3 million hikers, 43.1 million single track mountain bikers, and 4.3 million horse back riders (sources: Outdoor Industry Association 2003 Participation Study and the American Horseman's Council).
Arizona is a big place with plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. The key is to be a steward of the lands you enjoy and then be an effective advocate. If you love motorized recreation, ask yourself and your friends "What can I do to improve my access rights locally" and then take action. Trash cleanups don't factor much, but taking your elected local and state officials out on a trail ride, partnering with businesses, and spinning some positive press can do amazing things.
 
Last edited:
#30
The primary purpose of a wilderness is not to create areas for people to recreate in, though it is one of the benefits. It is for the protection of landscapes/environments and the the resulting benefits of that...habitat, water quality, vegetative cover, etc. So, arguing based upon RVDs is kind of pointless, though it can be used as justification to allow access where wilderness is near recreational need.
By that standard, 100% of government ground should be declared Wilderness.

So how much is enough? Seems the lower end is defined by the original Wilderness Act guideline and the upper end by the Rewilding Institute (Dave Foreman) vision of "...continental-scale conservation..." http://rewilding.org/rewildit/ more specific info here: http://www.twp.org/wildways

Here is an excerpt from a report titled "Heart of the West Conservation Plan". It originated from the "Wild Utah Project" which is part of the "Wildlands Network", a spin off from "Rewilding America":

2.2.3 The Precautionary Principle
This exercise in conservation planning is
conducted under the auspices of the
Precautionary Principle. This principle
suggests that it is more favorable to err on
the side of protecting too much habitat
than too little. We invoke this principle
against a backdrop of uncertainty and
incomplete data. The Precautionary Prin-
ciple leads us to act in a manner that
accounts for uncertainty by trying to avoid
results that preclude future options. Basi-
cally, the less we know, the more cautious
we need to be. As scientists who acknowl-
edge the inherently stochastic nature of the
communities and systems we are studying,
we underscore that conservation planners
and managers need to make every effort to
err on the side of caution, and incorporate
wide margins of safety to guard against
loss of healthy ecosystems or ecological processes.

To be driven by the "Precautionary Principle" to err on the side of caution implies the appetite for Wilderness and wilderness-lite is unlimited.
 
Last edited: