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5 Things Mountain Biking Really Needs

NICA photo

These are not necessarily in any order, but please, we'd love to hear from you on this. Some of this stuff we obviously have, but could use a lot MORE of. Share your thoughts and ideas at the bottom for what you feel could benefit our sport in the long term..

#1 Mandatory (or free) neck protection at gravity parks

If things get hairy, he's covered. Leatt photo

For those of you preparing to counter with a personal freedom argument, we had a shop rider come out on the wrong side of a spinal cord injury last season and I guarantee you wouldn’t be making a case if you were her. Initially, yes, neck braces don’t feel as free as wearing nothing. Maybe we just do it for those under 18, I don’t know. I just want to see less catastrophic injury. And yes,  the Martyn Ashton video is inspiring, but I'm sure he'd rather not be in it.

Usually bike parks offer pads and helmets - let's just add neck braces.

#2 High School leagues

Girls mass start at a SoCal league race. NICA photo

I would kill to have had this when I went to High School. It baffles me why more bike companies don’t throw marketing dollars at  NICA state leagues. This is your future, people, c’mon. It’s a great team sport, boys and girls ride at the same event, you ride in a group, have fun in the pits, go for individual bests - it’s a palooza. And cycling is fantastic non-contact cardio. Did I mention it’s an Olympic sport?

Sometimes the outsider vibe of mountain biking is nice. But I have seldom seen kids having so much fun on bikes as at these HS races. Currently 13 states have organized leagues, with more on the way.

#3 Bike swaps

This one is pretty swanky and well organized, but bike swaps can happen anywhere: parking lot, farmer's market, DPW garage. Edmonton-Alberta bike swap photo

This is a great way to get your community together. Last year I put together a bike swap and wrangled a few NEMBA chapters together, it was fantastic. This year the mayor’s office and a beer sponsor want to get involved. Bike swaps are a great way to get your town, local businesses and riders together. AND, of course, get cheap stuff, sell stuff you don’t need, maybe have a bevvie or two with like-minded folks.  Subaru sponsors a good one, but I generally think these are more fun as grass-roots things.

#4 Lift access

Thunder Mountain, Charlemont, MA opening lift access 7/2/17. Thunder Mountain photo.

I’d like to see more small ski areas open in summer, or defunct ones open JUST in the summer. Build some XC and flow trails, get a few IMBA instructors and sell a lot of bbq and beer. Back in the day I worked winter breaks, weekends and spring breaks as a ski instructor at a small mountain (when a PSIA cert. could get you free tickets anywhere in the country). It was kind of awesome to see kids, high-schoolers, all-women-college-ski clubs, divorcees (but I digress) and folks just showing up for afternoon and weekend fun at the smaller local ski area. It wasn’t schlepping a family land-yacht to a condo for a crushingly expensive weekend – just a bop to the closest local place to ride. 

RELATED: 7 Tips For Better Filming Your Summer Adventures

With the new relaxation of seasonal restrictions of ski areas on national park land, you'll probably see more areas open in summer.

#5 Local business integration

NEMBA trail crew sponsored by local business. FC Nemba photo

If there’s a brewery, or um… another brewery, or a burger joint, or a local corporate headquarters, ice cream store, retail store, whatever, get them involved. Trailhead coupons, map sponsors, trail-day under-writers – nobody needs a full race-team sponsorship, just a simple, mutually beneficial partnership. Mountain bikers are active, loyal, have some disposable income and generally a socially connected demographic.  REI lays 5k out to my local NEMBA chapter each year.

I love this one Gunnar.

The high school leagues and clubs idea is a great idea.  We don’t see many kids on the trails and we need to introduce them to the sport early.  In addition, anything to keep them off the video games is great.  I think the mountain biking community needs to have a discussion of how to get more kids into the sport. 

I would love to see the local ski hill have lift access and “beginner” trails to get the kids going too. 

And thank you REI for your support.

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