The Angry Singlespeeder: The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame doesn’t deserve to be in Fairfax

Mountain biking may have been born in the hills above Fairfax, but due to a vocal and powerful group that restricts mountain bike access, that’s all it can claim.

Photo by Mtbr user kingshredd.

There could be no greater case of irony in mountain biking than the recent announcement that the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame will open inside the Marin Museum of Bicycling near the sport’s birthplace in Fairfax, Calif. this spring. For those who’ve lived in Marin County, or ever tried riding mountain bikes there, you fully understand the irony. But for those who don’t, let me explain.

Marin County has among the worst access for mountain biking in the entire United States. That’s right, the hallowed birthplace of our sport has virtually zero narrow trail access in places like Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Olompali State Historic Park and on the vast Marin Municipal Water District watershed lands. No singletrack access at all.

Of course there is the very popular China Camp, but it requires a paid pass to ride. Though Camp Tamarancho on the flanks of Mt. Tam has some really fun singletrack–as well as an awesome flow trail built with hundreds of hours of volunteer labor–it’s on private land owned by the Boy Scouts of America and requires either a $45 annual pass or a $5 day pass each time you want to ride it.

Photo by Mtbr user tburger.

The Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD) is the area’s only land manager that doesn’t outright ban mountain bikes, however they only begrudgingly allow it on a few token narrow trails. How nice of them. I mean, it’s not like mountain bikers pay the same taxes that equestrians and hikers do to fund the salaries of MCOSD employees and their draconian anti-mountain bike policies.

As this column is being written, there is the biggest revision in the district’s history happening called the Road and Trail Management Plan (RTMP). This RTMP revision will update trail access standards for decades to come, and it has already determined that mountain bikers are the second largest user group behind hikers.

Photo by Mtbr user Turd Ferguson.

So then if mountain bikers are the second largest user group according to the MCOSD, then why is it that out of 346 miles of “narrow trail” in Marin County, only 23 miles—or a pathetic 6 percent—is open to mountain bikes? Equestrians account for 0.4 percent of users, yet they have access to 91 percent of open space trails.

If that isn’t frustrating enough, the most recent development is the hotly contested case of the Scott Valley Jumps. Built on an old homeless encampment with dirt and tailings from a train tunnel dug long ago, these jumps in Mill Valley have been in existence for more than 15 years. The jumps are a secret to nobody, and actually a staple of the local bike community.

MCOSD has known about the jumps for a long time, and conveniently, just as the RTMP process is in full swing they suddenly “discover” these illegally made jumps, making patently false public claims in this totally biased Marin Independent Journal article about how mountain bikers just recently built them, creating noise, hazards and environmental damage.

It’s a perfectly planned public slap in the face to the mountain bike community right at a time when crucial decisions are being made about trail access in Marin County for the next couple of decades. But since the MCOSD is in the back pocket of a select group of hikers, equestrians and biased local media, future matters look rather bleak for mountain bikers in Marin unless a sea change of activism and involvement starts happening right now.

Adding insult to injury, an open space maintenance tax called Measure A was passed in 2012 by Marin voters. It was sold to the mountain bike community as a way to generate revenue for trail building, but is turning out to be a revenue source for the MCOSD to hire more rangers to patrol trails and issue citations for those caught riding illegal trails.

Mountain bike advocacy group Access4Bikes claims they are at an “unprecedented crossroads” for improving trail access in Marin County, and are doing everything they can to influence future plans. They’ve raised nearly $10,000 for the cause, much of which came from raffling-off a bike—a Rocky Ridge 7.6 generously donated by Marin Bikes.

Photo by Mtbr user mechagouki.

But given the pathetic condition of trail access, is this really the place where we want to put the epicenter of celebrating mountain bike culture, its history and paying homage to the sport’s pioneers? With all due respect and great appreciation to all the pioneers of our beloved sport who live in Marin County—at least in the current political state and paltry access to trails—the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame simply does not deserve to be in Fairfax.

Mountain biking may have been born on the hallowed slopes of Mount Tam, but there’s a whole lot more history that’s happened elsewhere. Due to vocal and ignorant eco-zealots, biased local media and manipulative open space district employees, it is one of the most anti-mountain bike locales in the country. It’s a shame too, because if even half the singletrack in Marin County was open to bikes, it could be one of the greatest places to ride in the country.

Until MCOSD employees, the local media and residents wake up and realize mountain bikers are a huge asset and not a liability, and unless more mountain bikers in Marin take up the fight for the access they rightfully deserve, the situation will only get worse.

Photo by Mtbr user repack_rider.

As for those who say having the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Marin will help in organizing a bigger voice for pro-bike advocacy, I call bullshit of the highest order. Most mountain bikers in Marin County don’t get involved in local advocacy, let alone even knowing a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame exists. So you’re telling me that once they discover it’s in Fairfax, they’re suddenly going to get jingoistic, rise up and fight for trail access? Please.

The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame should be in a town where the mountain bike is embraced, loved and an integral part of the town’s culture. Before its move to Fairfax, the HOF was in Crested Butte, but the town’s isolation attracted barely enough visitors to keep the lights on. It’s too bad the HOF had to leave Crested Butte, because that town captured the essence of the mountain bike and our culture perfectly. In any case, a better home would be a place like Durango, where the entire town eats, breathes and sleeps mountain bikes.

Pedal in any direction, and within a mile you’re on ribbon singletrack for as long as the heart desires. Entire families in Durango head out on mountain bike rides daily. Kindergartners, high schoolers and even students at Fort Lewis College participate in mountain bike development programs. Numerous mountain bike luminaries like Tomac, Overend and Roll call the area their home.

Durango is where the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame belongs, not in a place where people spit on mountain bikers as vandals, law-breakers and second-class citizens.

So if you live in Marin County, ride a mountain bike, or have kids who like to ride and you’ve never gotten involved in local advocacy, start today by contacting Access4Bikes and fighting to save the Scott Valley Jumps. It’s not too late to do your part in helping make Marin live up to its iconic mountain biking roots.

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.

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  • BW says:

    Thanks for reminding me to donate to Access4Bikes!

  • f says:

    mtb hall of fame… wow, so evidently there IS someone who cares. Who’d have thunk?

  • MissedThePoint says:

    Museums and halls of fame are like history. History seems to be more interesting after the subject it pertains has died or faded. The only other times history seems to be brought up is to dig up dirt on a subject, or to rewrite it to make a subject (usually who plans on taking over, or already has taken over) look good.

  • dave says:

    Ho hum, not the first “hall of fame” type museum for an activity I’m involved in that I’ll never see anyway.

  • michael ackerman says:

    Durango would love to have you….Put it here and let’s celebrate together!

  • PinkFloydLandis says:

    Everyone seems focused on where the MBHOF “should” be located in terms of trail access, origins of the sport, contemporary levels of advocacy, etc. I think we’re all forgetting a very critical, pragmatic aspect of who/where is “willing” to host it. Museums like this require a building, ongoing money, staff, etc. One of the major advantages of the Fairfax site is there is a pre-existing general Museum of Bicycling which is willing/able to integrate the MBHOF.
    Its not like ten other locations were asking to host the MBHOF and there was a conspiracy to re-direct it to Marin.
    I’m just happy that the MBHOF will be open SOMEWHERE instead of closing its doors in Crested Butte and disappearing. And from my own selfish perspective, its a hell of a lot easier for me to visit in Fairfax than in Crested Butte.

  • Gerald Houlette says:

    It’s a pivotal time in Marin County right now, we need voters and donations to Access4Bikes, check out the website and get and idea what is happening at A4B. The A$$ is living up to his name on this one, but he has some great points. A4B is a political organization and we know the only way to get these sups to play ball with us is scare them with voters. The Hikers and horse people have these guys in their pockets but we are trying to change it.

  • J Swanson says:

    Wow, I actually agree with Mr. Angry SS this time. Marin County is a sick joke when it comes to mountain bike access. When I moved from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco, I almost gave up mountain biking after the crushing dissppointment of looking for singletrack in Marin County. Fortunately there are a few good trails south of SF, but the Bay Area is very lame compared to anywhere in Colorado.

  • VII says:

    I live in Fairfax, and ASS is spot on here! Well-written piece that says it all. You should send a version to the Marin IJ.

  • Ron G. says:

    I think you mean that Fairfax doesn’t deserve the MBHOF. To say that the MBHOF doesn’t deserve Fairfax suggests it’s the HOF that’s not worthy. Although, I have to admit you got me to read the piece because the headline seemed so inflammatory–how could the HOF not be worthy, I wondered. If the headline had said Fairfax doesn’t deserve HOF, I’d have just nodded in agreement and moved on.

  • Kevin Woodward says:

    So very glad to live in Santa Cruz and sad for the good folks of Fairfax, where NIMBYism is alive and well. Don’t get sucked into the blame game and negativity, there’s plenty of room on the trails for bikers, hikers and equestrians. Totally uncool to think the trails belong to only one group or another as some would have you believe. They’re for all of us to enjoy. As for the HOF location don’t really give an ef … I’m more of the outdoor type myself.

  • Chris Harges says:

    Part of the problem in Marin is that the non-MTB population has no idea how few trails we have access to. We get little sympathy from the wider community because we’re portrayed by the crazy anti-bikers as dangerous, drug-addicted, homicidal teen terrorists.

    The museum is a good thing for biking in Marin and in all places with rabid anti-bike policies. The more mainstream the sport appears, the more access we’ll get.

  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    Ron and Brian –

    The word “deserve” can both ways. “You get what you deserve” can be a positive statement or a negative statement. Saying the “HOF doesn’t deserve to be in Fairfax” means that I think the HOF is too good for Fairfax, therefore, it doesn’t deserve to be there. Thanks for the suggestion though.


  • chris ioakimedes says:

    Since when is riding a bicycle on a dirt road on a mountain not mountain biking? I really love riding on single tracks as well as fire roads. The first mountain bike race, Repack was in Fairfax on a fire road, not a single track. When we started, riding on the mountain, before mountain bikes, we would hitch hike up Mt. Tam and ride down the mountain on our old balloon tire bikes on the fire roads. I too, would like to see more single tracks open to bikes, but, I don’t think that criticizing the new location of the HOF, is a realistic or productive way to open more trails. Nor do I see why limited single track access is a valid reason why the HOF should not be in Fairfax. I have my own criticism and skepticism about the new location of the HOF and its board of directors, but none of it has anything to do with single tracks. I began to write and express my views after what they did on Thanksgiving Day. Reading this single track rant, has renewed my interest in completing the paper which I started after Thanksgiving. This is the first time that I have heard of and read anything written by the Angry Singletracker. His paper is very singletrack minded.
    chris ioakimedes
    The Fat Tire Trading Post
    [email protected]

  • Grit and Thistle Film Co. says:

    Out here in Colorado, we’re definitely bummed that the MBHOF moved out to California. But one simple fact is that these projects take people interested in keeping them alive with their money, sweat, time and vision. Don and Kay Cook gave the MBHOF a great amount of hard work over the years and it was time to move on. The CA group creating the new museum is historically dialed into the bike scene, has the resources and I’m sure they’ll do a great job. They will certainly get mountain biking in front of more eyes out there than they will here in our beautiful but sparsely populated towns. We’d be psyched to bring our film about a missing Mountain Bike Hall of Fame cyclist to Fairfax.

  • thegazelle says:

    Totally agree w A$$ on this. I ride in Marin (generally remote areas without equestrians or pedestrians) and am so sick of dodging the mtb cops (i.e., rangers that function primarily to generate revenue via fines).

    BTW, has anyone else noticed the MCOSD’s hack job in “improving” the fireroads?? Cutting deeply into steep hillsides with earthmovers, plowing wide swaths of soil over the road edges, and widening the roads by up 100% in areas as “maintenance” for the old poorly planned fireroads? On the flip side, the massive soil berms they put up (for erosion control ?) allow some sick jumping…

  • Dan-O says:

    As both a mountain biker and a hiker I actually prefer dedicated trails for both in most cases. When hiking, I don’t really like to worry about mountain bikers speeding through, making all that racket. And when I’m mountain biking, I don’t really like hikers on the trail. But I live with both and think we should should have all three types of trails: dedicated both ways and multi-use. Furthermore, anybody who thinks that horses don’t do the most damage by far of any trail user is being self-delusional.

    The paucity of trails open to bike in Marin is just ludicrous. I applaud the locals efforts to increase that access to more equitable proportions.

    Good call by the ASS, as usual.

  • Art says:

    Just move it Vancouver BC or Squamish. If you need one in the US, try Boulder. CB was perfect, but it was out of the way.
    The HoF should not be any place in Cali, the whole state is a lame duck for MTBing. WA. and OR are both better in terms of trail access, and trail quality.

  • ependuro says:

    Open, closed, private, off-limits, no-access, under-construction. If it looks like a trail I ride it. I love it when people say I can’t ride as I’m riding it. As far as I concerned humans don’t own the mother f&^%$%$# earth. Happy trails.

  • Roger says:

    Fairfax, the same people that don’t like mt.bikers are the ones in on building the Hall of Fame there just to generate more revenue for the city. It’s all about the dollar. The Discovery museum in San Jose already has some mt. Biking historical materials, let’s build on that.

  • Pat says:

    Did I miss something? Or did theMBHOF in Crested Butte, CO close down?

  • Carl says:

    Sure Durango would love to have the MBHOF as it’d be a nice fit. That said, there’s more than enough great stuff going on here that it’s not essential. Fairfax sounds like it’s got it’s hands full clinging to this token of it’s mtb legacy – which is basically a storefront memorial.

  • tyrebyter says:

    The amazing thing is that anyone read the article. No one (less than 1percent) of enthusiasts care about a HOF whether mountain bikes or baseball. They are the ultimate self-agrandizing inside joke. Low attendance at the CB location was due to the fact that there is always something better to do …like ride.

  • Forster says:

    Can’t get too upset about the Boyscouts receiving funding (if they do) from the aforementioned trail, would like to see the Museum somewhere more bike friendly. My Vote is Laramie Wyoming. No I’m not from Wyoming.

  • Brandon says:

    Thanks John Marlowe, great responses to the article. ASS pointed out the historical significance of the area, but you apparently didn’t READ. Also I was hoping, John, that you were going to point back at the ASS that you are personally helping spearhead trail access in the area, but you didn’t, instead you named called and made up crap, cool response. Why weren’t you upset that the HOF was in Crested Butte in the first place and not Fairfax? The location in Crested Butte is closing due to limited visits; I would guess that the most likely visitor would be a MTB’r, and how many MTB riders are driving to Fairfax as a destination? You want to keep the lights on and keep the funding alive, put it in place where you will have people visit and also a community that supports it. Durango has racing legends that still live there, riders visit all the time, and I know the community would support it more than Fairfax will. THE FIRST UCI MTB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS where held in Durango. I don’t see how the HOF is going to do better in the new location.

  • russell says:

    My two cents.

    I grew up on a horse ranch and have seen first hand. Spooked horses are scary and dangerous. Horses need their own space free from bikers.

    No question that Mountain Bikers (and some douchebag kids) will certainly cause more problems for horses moving forward. The only solution I see is separating trails. IMHO the only way to do this fairly is to divide the land based on the size of the need. If only 4% of visitors are horse back riders, then guess what, you get less land. Not sure why they have access to 91% currently. I’m sure there are old relationships involved and that would account for the disparity.

    Why is this such a hard concept for the RTMP to understand? But then again, good enough for government work. I’ve never expected that much from my government and I’ve never been to impressed with their hiring policies.

    • Kevin Pedersen says:

      russell: You are off by an order of magnitude: it’s 0.4% of trail users that ride horses. We almost never see horseback riders in Marin anymore. Maybe one in 200 rides. Every time we come upon an equestrian, we get off our bikes and let them pass. I know some folks who ride several times per week, and they say that the mountain bikers they meet are always friendly and courteous. It’s the old folks who want to hike in 1955 and equestrian trolls who don’t even ride horses in Marin anymore who are monopolizing the debate (TS). Just look at the comments here to see what I mean:

    • APR says:

      I’ve spooked horses while standing still. Literally. No bicycle, just a backpack. I forgot to remove my hat and sunglasses, apparently, so I looked like an alien of some sort. When I have observed horses in the wild, they weren’t on narrow trails in forests. They are a prey species, the middle of the food chain that turns grass into meat. their only defenses are good distance vision to spot predators, and the ability to run like hell. On narrow trails they are totally out of their element, and everyone else has to make sure to make themselves known, say a few words, get off the trail, and let them pass. The only times I have observed wild horses, they are in the middle of a open plain, the vast spaces between the mountain ranges in Nevada, for example. Once I saw a classic natural group, one large stallion, a few mares, and a couple of young ones. They spotted me setting up a camera and tripod a quarter mile away. I got a few shots before they took off, me being too close for comfort. Anyway, I would never sit six feet up on a half-ton animal which possesses a brain the size of a walnut, especially on a 12″ wide trail with a 200 foot drop on one side. That kind of thrill-seeking is out of my wheelhouse.

  • JOCKO ROGERS says:

    During the 30 years I was a cop in San Francisco, I tried to keep my body and mind together by spending much of my off-duty time somewhere on Mount Tam. I was an early Mountain Bike Rider and after retirement, a serious hiker.

    The people I encountered on the Mountain seemed to mirror the mix of folks I met on the job. Lots of really decent humans and a small percentage of folks who made things tough–for everyone.

    Because of the few knuckleheads in the early days of M.B., lots of the serious hikers went after restrictions big time; probably too much, but there were a lot more hikers then there were bikers back then and they carried some clout politically.

    Demographics changed, but most of the restrictions stayed. In having spent almost every day on the Mountain after my retirement, I can fairly say that almost every biker I encountered was courteous and went out of there way to be non offensive. Even the “outlaws” on restricted single tracks would usually stop, hoist their bike off the path to let me pass and usually apologize.

    But then again, there were some idiots–and some trashed woods where outlaws would cut new downhills to avoid switchbacks.

    It’s a tough situation. Many hikers see red when they see decent folks peddling up a fire road. Those hikers worry about opening “floodgates” by allowing more bike access. Many bikers feel unjustly attacked for what they believe should be fair and appropriate access.

    I thinks some combined events–doing some trail restoration together and sharing some food and talk would be a good start.

    Mount Tam is a pretty wonderful place. It’s got some magic. Seems like there’s enough space for everyone–if folks would just be good ambassadors when they’re up there. I’ll try to put a smile on my face and hopefully a biking brother will do what they can to help.

    Things could happen so that Fairfax could be a good home to celebrate what started in Marin. We can hope

  • julien says:

    Hey Kurt, did you visit it the museum. Did your talk with Joe Breeze? I just did – I’m a MTB guide working for REI and I took clients on Repack and we went to the museum after the ride and Joe Breeze was there and lead the visit. Brilliant! I was stocked, and everyone with me was too.
    The point of the museum is that Marin and Fairfax is the birthplace of the mountain biking industry. A place where you can meet people who made the sport we do.

    There are tones of trails in Marin, it’s actually the densest trail network in the country (quoting county employees at a pointless public meeting on MTBiking in Marin). But the trails are jeep trails and fire roads. Most single tracks are off limit. This doesn’t mean riding is crap in Marin, you just have to be in the right state of mind and be able to swap the thrill of technical riding with the joy of riding in a beautiful environment.

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