There are few sensations that beat blasting down singletrack in complete control (or perhaps on the ragged edge). The trees that take so long to pass on the way up blur into benign gates as I consume all that hard earned elevation at a rapid clip. The annoying drivetrain creaking and clicking of the derailleur ceases as I crouch low over my ride, perched on the pedals with only the sound of air rushing by my helmet. All concerns of work and traffic are erased as my mind rushes to process that narrow window of information contained within the twenty feet in front of my tires as it charges at me. If only I could capture that visceral feel and replay it at will….
Second only to that rush of air through my helmet is recounting the ride at the brewery afterwards with my riding buddies. The mountain biking community is one of the very best. After living in Santa Cruz for over twenty years and investing heavily in the recreational lifestyle I recently gained a whole new cadre of friends in just the last few years because of my involvement with the local mountain biking club. My beach buddies go back decades but there is a tighter bond forged when I stand in the trenches shoulder to shoulder engaged not in sport or warfare, but in working for the environment.
Sustainable trailbuilding is a marvel that must be experienced. Devoting a weekend day to digging side by side with a new acquaintance yields deeper conversations than are possible at the beach or at the bar. Sharing tools and tasks creates a bond more durable than any trailbed. And the reward, oh to roll out on a fresh piece of single track, cradled in a perfectly compacted berm that you yourself helped create is second to none. That epic feeling gets replayed each time you ride that slice of trail.
Yet trailbuilding isn’t the only way mountain biking builds community. I have a couple of friends with whom my relationship runs a bit deeper. I remember seeing them at the council meetings, standing in front of the microphone describing how a bit more access will benefit them and their family. How the county will benefit from more cycling visitors and businesses will flourish as a result of another bit of trail. Sometimes I don’t recognize them on the trail in their riding kit, but beneath that helmet lies the vision that is the foundation of an even healthier Santa Cruz.
But not everyone can break away for a few hours of trailbuilding or a mid-day council meeting. The tireless silicon valley commuters that must drive “the hill” are critical players as well. Those who can’t find time in their schedule for developing the infrastructure are an important component of the Santa Cruz riding movement with their monetary contributions. Personally I worry that I fail to recognize their efforts sufficiently, because of them we can afford the tools, the permits, and the professional trailbuilding staff to develop the trails that we all love. I hope as the trees blur and the wind whistles past their ears they too feel that they’ve “earned those turns” since they have been paid for in full. I hope that if you’ve not seized the opportunity to join our mountain biking community that you will soon – dig, donate, or advocate for a better Santa Cruz.