Back on Trail California Wildfire fundraiser update

$73k raised in 10 days, but still a long way to go for this great cause

Cold Springs

This used to be a trail, but the Cold Springs area has been severely impacted by mudslides.

With two California wildfires and mudslides that devastated the Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara area, Santa Cruz Bicycles rallied several local companies to create two unique bikes to raise money. In early February, they launched a month-long campaign to raffle off two unique, firefighting inspired Hightower LTs described here.

Bike Inspiration

Inspired by a red fire truck and white and red helicopter.

What followed was unprecedented fundraising results for a raffle of this type. As of February 13, campaign donations totaled $73,000 and rising. With the raffle concluding at the end of this month, optimism is high that this effort will keep its momentum and perhaps even pick up steam.

Two trail organizations have been chosen to receive equal share of the funds, REMBA of Santa Rosa and SBMTV of Santa Barbara. REMBA organized a kick-off party at the Trailhouse bike shop and now SBMTV is doing their party on February 18.


The party at Trailhouse Santa Rosa was a fun affair.

Santa Barbara Kick-off Party and Ride is this Sunday 2/18

The Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers in conjunction with the super rad Topa Topa Brewing Company will be hosting a kickoff party to build the stoke and display the bikes as they make their way to Santa Barbara this Sunday, February 18, at 3pm.

Topa Topa is housed in the Waterline, a cool industrial warehouse space shared with artisans and small boutiques within Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood. It’s an apt venue for showcasing the raffle and it should be a great time for all who attend. There will be an on-site schwag raffle for anyone in attendance who donates, and free Santa Cruz pint glasses for anyone who gives $15 or more to the raffle.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT

The red “Firetower” LT up close.

This Sunday will kick off with an SBMTV-led ride of the Camuesa Loop starting from the Lower Oso Campground at 9am. It’s a stout little ride — about 11 miles with 2100 feet of climbing — which will probably take the better part of two hours. It’s open to anyone, but be prepared for a steep, lung-and-leg-busting climb up Camuesa Canyon Road to get to the goods, the recently SBMTV-refurbished Camuesa Connector singletrack.


Santa Cruz Bicycles marketing boss Don Palermini is seen here on the right orchestrating trail affairs.

Interview with Don Palermini, Santa Cruz Bicycles Marketing Manager

Mtbr: How did this fundraiser come about? Who is involved in this project?
Don Palermini: It’s a funny bit of timing, actually. We took a wait-and-see attitude immediately after the Santa Rosa fires because while we wanted to do something to help, we were looking for something that was really meaningful to people we know who were affected. Last spring, after the floods in Houston, we made a donation to the employee recovery fund of one of our dealers. It was really fulfilling to put a face on the donation and make a difference for people we do business with every day, so while we didn’t want to do the same exact thing, we wanted to do something that connected with people.

So our CEO Joe Graney had come up with the idea of making the “Firetower” LT — a Hightower LT that looked like a red fire truck. One of our graphic designers, Campbell Steers, took the idea and ran with it. Not only did she design this awesome fire truck-inspired graphic, she gave us a second option that was modeled on a CalFire helicopter. We were torn on which one to go with when all hell broke loose in Ventura, Ojai, and above Santa Barbara with the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris slides. That kind of gave us the excuse to make both bikes and split whatever we did with the proceeds between the Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara areas.

After that, we sought out the advocacy groups (the Redwood Empire Mountain Bike Alliance in Santa Rosa and the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Volunteers) to see if it was something they were interested in. Both organizations were already beginning to mobilize on restoration efforts, so they were pretty agreeable.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT

Details of the big prize.

Mtbr: Who is involved in this project?
DP: The trail building groups, plus a bunch of companies in the bike industry — FOX, Shimano, White Industries, WTB, and Santa Cruz. A couple bike shops have also been super involved: the Trailhouse (and their sister stores NorCal Bike Sport and The Bike Peddler) in the Santa Rosa area, and VeloPro in Santa Barbara. CalFire had actually agreed to let us do a photo shoot with one of their fire engines and helicopters but the bikes were still getting painted the day before we kicked-off the campaign in Santa Rosa so we had to skip that. It was really cool to have them on board, particularly since they led the coordinated efforts to get both the fires contained. We all owe a big thanks to the thousands of firefighters and first responders who mitigated situations that could easily have been far worse.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT White

This Hightower LT will be created in any size for the lucky winner.

Mtbr: Who are the component companies involved in the project and how did they get selected?
DP: The component companies all have California roots. White Industries is in Petaluma not far from where the Santa Rosa fires burned. WTB is in Mill Valley. FOX is in Scotts Valley. Shimano is in Irvine. And we’re obviously in Santa Cruz. We just pulled up the contact list and pinged people we know at the companies and they were immediately on board. I think White Industries was first. I sent an email to Lynn Toepfer there, went to get a cup of coffee, and had a commitment by the time I got back to my desk. They are probably the smallest company on the list, but were 100-percent committed without a second thought.

Mtbr: Who gets the money and how will they use the funds?
DP: One hundred percent of the money raised will benefit trail rebuilding efforts in the affected areas. It will be evenly split between REMBA and SBMTV, and is earmarked specifically for trail restoration efforts. We are leaving it to the discretion of the organizations how to best apply the funds. There is already a fund to help with the restoration of Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, and the SBMTV is already in the early stages of repairing part of the Little Pine loop that was damaged in a fire two years ago, which is totally fair game. The idea is to get people back on trails as quickly as possible. As far as the trails above Monticeto are concerned, it’s way too early and the damage is too extensive to know what to do there yet.

Mtbr: Will the funds make a difference given some of these calamities cost millions to repair?
DP: If we can get a big chunk of change in play, we can make a difference. I think the Santa Rosa projects will probably be a little easier and less costly because the trails are still there. In Santa Barbara area, the challenges are far greater, but what’s important is that it brings the trail community together and gets them focused on rebuilding together. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but any trail I’ve ever hiked or ridden on seems like a miracle to me. Somebody (or somebodies) had the will to build it and see it through. If this project plants that seed, we’re already winning.

Mtbr: With the winners chosen on March 1, who gets what bike and what are the sizes of the bikes?
DP: So the two sample bikes that we photographed and have been showing are actually just graphic mock-ups that we had painted locally and finished with house-made decals. When we contact the winners they can pick the graphic scheme in the size of their choice and we will have the frames made at the factory with graphics under the clear coat like we do with our production frames. They will actually look much better than the samples. Funny thing is the white bike was actually an engineering sample of the Hightower LT we used for field testing before that bike came out, so we had to clean it up and repaint it white to make the sample.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT White

The red is ready to be ridden.

Mtbr: What has surprised you the most about this fundraiser?
DP: To tell you the truth it’s been the unwavering enthusiasm for the whole thing. We were actually a little apprehensive about funding trail projects in the face of people losing their homes. But after talking with our dealers and some of their customers, the general feeling after the initial shock of it all was that more than anything else people are looking for a return to normalcy. And for many people that means riding their bikes on trails. Dealing with insurance companies and waiting on contractors, all that stuff is what it is and there’s nothing anybody can do to expedite it. But if we can get people back on the trails and excited about bikes, well…that’s part of the attraction for all of us, that escape and freedom.

And while I don’t think this qualifies as a surprise, I think we need to acknowledge how many bike-related companies stepped up and did cool things in the face of these tragic events. Osmo Nutrition and Bike Monkey did a fundraising ride with Peter Sagan, Cliff Bar did a similar culinary cycling event. I know Specialized took some of their trucks and just started bringing supplies they donated and collected up to Santa Rosa. Down in Ventura, Giant donated a couple hundred bikes to people which is just super cool. It’s just a reminder that although we all may compete on the sales floor and the race tracks, there are always opportunities for us to work toward the collective good.

To help out this worthwhile cause, please donate at

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • Albert from Ventura says:

    They werent the Santa Barbara fires but since Santa Barbara is directly ascociated with your main base of target audience (money) it makes sense why you wouldnt mention the fires as the Thomas Fires and report that they began in Santa Paula California and ripped through Ventura, then trekking into Montecito which is a sub of Santa Barbara.

    • Mike says:

      Or, maybe instead of talking about Santa Barbara for the money aspect they are talking about the location of the trails that were damaged. Front range of Santa Barbara has more trail density than any other area the Thomas Fire affected and it makes perfect sense to focus on that area. Why bother leaving a negative comment about a fund raising effort for trail work?

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