Crested Butte Chronicles: Time to tip your trail builder

The world's oldest mountain bike club (and lots of others) need your help

Opinion
Save a little extra tip money for the people who made days like this possible. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Save a little extra tip money for the people who made days like this possible. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Editor’s Note: Last September, Mtbr features editor Jason Sumner fled Colorado’s crowded Front Range and moved his family to Crested Butte, one of the world’s premier mountain biking destinations. Crested Butte Chronicles is Sumner’s on-again, off-again column about living and riding high in the Colorado Rockies.

Last weekend, I got invited to a fund raiser dinner put on by the fine folks at the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association. Along with a little Sunday afternoon revelry (bike ride first, beer drinking and BBQ after), attendees were brought up to speed on what the club has been up to — and what it hopes to accomplish in the months and years to come. Some goals are modest: a reroute here, some new trail armor there. Some goals are more significant: the dream of a 30-mile connector between Gunnison and Crested Butte lives!

But the No. 1 objective was clear: Raise money.

It's the work of the local trail organization that makes places such as Crested Butte such a great place to ride.

It’s the work of the local trail organization that makes places such as Crested Butte such a great place to ride.

Turns out that though CBMBA is very likely the oldest mountain bike club in the world (founded in 1983), and maintains some of the best trails on earth (450 miles in a 20-mile radius around Crested Butte), it has a paltry $20,000 annual budget, only one full-time employee, no full-time trail crew, and no vehicles of its own. Doug Bradbury’s truck (yes, that Doug Bradbury) is the primary work vehicle.

Those trail-blocking trees don't cut themselves. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Those trail-blocking trees don’t cut themselves. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Now, I’m sure this is not a unique story. In fact, I’d bet many (if not most) of the local mountain bike clubs across the country are scraping by on crumbs and survive only due to a dedicated volunteer base. And that got me thinking. I’d assume most of the people reading this post are paying members of their local mountain bike advocacy group and that’s awesome. A lot of you also kick some cash to IMBA, the STC, or both. Again, super cool.

I’d also bet that at some point you have loaded up the family wagon and headed to another part of the country to ride new trails. Exploring the unknown is one of the best parts of this great sport. While you were in said uncharted territory, you probably headed out for dinner and drinks, checked into a hotel, and/or hired a mountain bike guide. And when you were done downing adult beverages, noshing on pizza, getting your bags to your room, and/or exploring new terrain with an experienced helping hand, you probably pulled out your wallet and tipped the bartender, waitress, valet, bell hop, or guide.

Gunnison's Hartman Rocks, brought to you by a whole lot of local sweat equity. Photo courtesy Dave Kozlowski

Gunnison’s Hartman Rocks, brought to you by a whole lot of local sweat equity. Photo courtesy Dave Kozlowski

And that brings me to the crux of this column: Next time you check out some new trails in a new place, why not drop a couple bucks in the proverbial tip jar of the people who made it possible to ride those trails — folks such as CBMBA, Gunnison Trails, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Arizona Trail Association, or whoever it was wherever you rode. (If you need some help figuring it out, our friends at singletracks.com have a great list you can use as a starting place.)

It may not always be super easy to give a little back (some club websites are better than others), but in most cases you’ll at least find a contact page that’ll get you pointed in the right direction. And many associations (CBMBA and Gunnison Trails included) have specific donation pages.

Gunnison Trails executive director Dave Wiens has helped make the Hartman Rocks trail network an amazing place to ride.

Gunnison Trails executive director Dave Wiens has helped make the Hartman Rocks trail network an amazing place to ride.

Because, as all of you already know, downed trees just don’t magically disappear in the spring, critical trail armor doesn’t fall off the armor tree, and drainage mitigation isn’t an act of God. Sure the Forest Service, BLM, and the like help out. But in many if not most cases, it’s the local trail advocacy groups that make it possible for you to rocket down 401, zip on Zippity Do Da, sail with Captain Ahab, fly on the Demo Forest Flow Trail, brapp brapp on Butcher, and generally have a dirty good time on two wheels.

And that, my fellow fat tire friends, is definitely worth a couple bucks if not a whole lot more. So please, tip your trail builder and maintainer at home — and on the road.

Trails dont just take care of themselves. We should all pitch in. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Trails don’t just take care of themselves. We should all pitch in. Photo courtesy CBMBA

Crested Butte by the Numbers

The folks at local travel and tourism association passed these stats on and I thought they were worth sharing. I’ve certainly never lived in a place where the bicycle is such an integral part of the community. Come visit sometime and be sure to look me up.

  • Number of people: 2,500
  • Number of bikes (est): 3,500
  • Number of bike shops: 7
  • Number of bikes stolen annually: 1 (usually returned)
  • Number of volunteers that show up for a trail day: typically 225 or more
  • Number of volunteer hours annually: 2,500
  • Percentage of bikers whose mountain bikes are worth more than their car or truck: 25%
  • Number of new trail miles put in each year: 3-5
  • Miles of singletrack in the greater Gunnison valley: 750 and growing
Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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  • jared says:

    I agree. Also, for those that live in the great state of Colorado, or plant o visit, you can help build or maintain many of those trails by signing up with VOC, often getting meals or free campsites in exchange. Add in a tip to the trails can happen in all sorts of ways.

  • DrDon says:

    I just returned from Crested Butte and Gunnison. I was only able to briefly ride Hartman Rocks and I didn’t do Doctor Park. Teo and 401 were great as well as Monarch Crest. Great job guys and gals! Dang, your mountains are big.

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