Photo Credit: Neighborhood Rider
The ‘Building My Ride’ event, held over the weekend of December 8th-9th, 2023 in Taichung, Taiwan, was a gathering that united the mountain biking trail community. We aimed to foster dialogue among land managers, trail stakeholders, government officials, non-governmental organisations, and trail users, emphasising effective collaboration and sustainable trail management in mountainous and forested areas.
The Spark of Inspiration
Educating on sustainable trail practices isn’t simple. While abundant articles, videos, and resources exist online, nothing surpasses the hands-on, in-person experience.
Inspired by Flower’s dedication to the cause in Taiwan, where sustainable mountain biking trails are a rarity, we devised a plan. Our goal was to kickstart the educational process by bringing the trail community together through a workshop, enabling everyone to delve deeper into trail insights.
The whirlwind three-month journey was a mountainous challenge for all involved. Nicole from Simple Gravity TWMBA collaborated remotely with me and Flower on various tasks, uniting resources, participants, and securing a venue.
Facing Challenges and Building Bridges
We witnessed success stories in mountain biking from unexpected corners like Hong Kong and Singapore. These Asian cities, distant from the traditional mountain biking hubs of North America and Europe, paved the way years ago, setting examples for others to follow. It’s gratifying to contribute to establishing multiple sustainable recreational mountain biking networks, setting a precedent for sustainable community growth.
In Taiwan, known as the cycling industry’s de facto capital, our challenge lies in igniting the mountain biking culture. To kickstart this, we aim to address the basics of building sustainable mountain biking trail networks: Trail Knowledge 101 and community building.
Choosing Taichung: The Logical Starting Point
Selecting Taichung as our site for the first workshop was a logical decision. As the hub of the bike industry, it hosts various bike designers, engineers, OEMs, and ODMs. Introducing sustainable mountain biking trails here would enable bike industry professionals to experience trails that align with typical recreational mountain bikers, enhancing their understanding of product requirements.
Our personal bias towards Taichung is evident. It’s Flower’s home ground, offering us better access to locations for the sustainable trail school.
Planning Seminar: A Mega Turnout
Our afternoon seminar attracted an overwhelming response—50 attendees in a room meant for 25. Industry leaders, government officials, outdoor partners, media, and NGOs graced the occasion. It was an auspicious start to our journey.
Presenting various Asian case studies in Chinese wasn’t without its challenges. Translating mountain biking trail jargon , especially the unique terminology, posed difficulties (try to translate ‘gnarl’). However, with Flower’s preparatory work and Nick‘s invaluable input, we navigated these hurdles seamlessly.
Interestingly, some terms commonly used in Hong Kong didn’t resonate here, making direct translations impractical. Despite this, our collaboration ensured a smooth flow of communication.
Nick seamlessly contributed to various sections, drawing from his insights into Hong Kong’s evolving landscape. Our synergy was such that cuing him in required no more than a glance, ensuring flawless communication and a dynamic exchange of ideas.
The engaging afternoon session sparked contemplation on collaborative initiatives for purpose-built sustainable mountain biking trails in Taiwan. The interactive Q&A session spurred diverse discussions, featuring shared local experiences and pivotal queries about the next steps. Witnessing the convergence of various stakeholders and their subsequent individual breakout sessions was both insightful and encouraging.
The evening community session, targeted at local bikers, witnessed a turnout of over 30 enthusiasts. Discussions ranged from the demand for immediate action to explaining the nuances between race tracks and sustainable mountain biking trails—a prevalent topic in Asia.
Our panel for this session comprised Flower and Nick, who contributed to the Q&A discussions, affording me a brief respite for a few sips of bubble tea. Additionally, Mickey led an insightful individual session, sharing her experiences and insights from working on both race tracks and sustainable bike trails
Outdoor Workshops: Hands-on Learning
The outdoor workshop, held at Flower’s Xinshe location, showcased sustainable mountain biking trail building. Extensive briefings were crucial as we were starting from scratch in Taiwan. We covered everything from fundamental trail concepts to safety protocols, emphasising how minor details can enhance trail experiences.
The day commenced with a memorable warm-up stretch session led by Sin-Pey. Her expert guidance left us invigorated and well-prepared to tackle the day’s challenges. All ready to move the next rock.
Participants were divided into groups, each focusing on different trail elements. Mickey oversaw the switch-berm rake down and final touch-ups, while Nick guided a group in working on back slopes and various trail tread in-sloping. I had the privilege of leading the rock section, with Flower fluidly moving between different areas due to his intimate knowledge of the area.
Adapting to Taichung’s unique geological features, particularly dealing with rounded rocks, became a key focus. Our ‘Bubble Tea’ rock section epitomised our approach—integrating local resources to craft distinctive trail features.
A highlight of the day was the trail lunch prepared on-site by a skilled crew, featuring sizzling ‘chao mien’ noodles, wholesome greens, and savoury meat dishes. Satiated stomachs further fueled participants’ enthusiasm as they infused positive energy into the trail-building process.
The day concluded with test rides on the newly constructed trails, encapsulating the essence of ‘Building My Ride.’ Hearing that everyone learned from the experience was the perfect ending to a meaningful weekend.
- Simple Gravity Video ‘Bubble Tea’ Section – Part 1
- Simple Gravity Video ‘Bubble Tea’ Section – Part 2
- Simple Gravity Video ‘Berm Build’ Section
Building a Sustainable Community
‘Building My Ride’ isn’t just about trail construction; it’s about fostering community. From users to land managers, trail professionals, and industry partners, everyone forms part of this community. Our workshop was a stepping stone towards bridging these groups and initiating conversations.
Trails: The Gateway to Nature
Trails connect us to nature, offering physical and mental health benefits. Recreational sustainable trails, unlike events and race tracks, have the potential to benefit a broader spectrum of people, building a sustainable outdoor community in the process.
Acknowledging the Effort
Behind the success of this event were dedicated individuals.
Flower (Freerider-TrailBuilder)‘s dedication and groundwork were instrumental, supported by Tom Huang, Ci Wei, and Mickey. Nick‘s unwavering support ensured no stone was left unturned in preparation. Nicole‘s relentless effort in organising sponsorships, media coverage, and participant coordination was invaluable.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to SRAM for their support in this sustainable mountain biking trail initiative.
#TWMBA #自由輪環境工作室 #SRAM #RockShox #Velocio #SRAMCyclingFund