Boosting community and trails with Epic Rides
By Kurt Gensheimer
In its inaugural year, the 2016 Carson City Off-Road mountain bike event was an enormous hit, filling all 600 available spaces well in advance. Put on by Tucson, Arizona-based Epic Rides, the Carson City Off-Road was far more than just a mountain bike event. Offering three different distance options, it was a celebration of community that welcomed first-time visitors to Nevada’s state capitol and helped raise funds for local trail stewardship organizations like Muscle Powered, Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA) and Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA).
The Carson City Off-Road suddenly became the city’s Super Bowl of sorts; hotels were full, restaurants and bars were brimming with customers and local businesses were ringing cash registers thanks to mountain bikers who traveled from all over the country to take part in the inaugural event. By helping develop mountain communities focused on a recreation-based economy, Epic Rides is able to take proceeds from each event and put them back into the community through trail building, making places like Carson City more bikeable and more attractive to families looking for a city with ample outdoor recreation.
“Each of the five mountain bike events we currently promote has a fundraising element to it,” said Todd Sadow, president and co-founder of Epic Rides. “A portion of every rider registration fee goes back to funding local trail advocacy and trail building organizations to not only help keep the trails we use in prime condition, but also to help build new trail, enhancing the quality of life for the town’s citizens.”
Since Epic Rides was founded in 1996, Sadow estimated the organization has given nearly $100,000 for trail advocacy efforts. And in its first year, the Carson City Off-Road raised $6,600 for Muscle Powered, TRTA and TAMBA.
“Events are often times a missing component for mountain biking that allows it to play a key role in delivering good financial meaning for a community,” said Sadow. “Our events deliver communities international advertising value, tourism dollars, economic development opportunities and improved morale with local residents through building world-class multi-use recreational trails. And through these trails come more vibrant communities rich with outdoor recreation that appeal to a growing number of families.”
The Whiskey Off-Road, another Epic Rides event that started in Prescott, Arizona back in 2004, went from a couple hundred participants to a couple thousand within only a few years. It is now the most anticipated annual event the city has, and the only event popular enough to close the center of downtown to vehicle traffic all weekend with free live music and family friendly activities.
Additionally, the Whiskey has had an enormous positive impact on new trail construction, with Prescott now boasting some of the best mountain bike access in the West, less than two miles from the heart of downtown. One of the highlights is the recently completed Prescott Circle Trail, a 54-mile non-motorized trail that runs the outskirts of downtown through beautiful Ponderosa Pine forests. The Circle Trail is not only a favorite with locals, but its attracting mountain bikers from all over America.
“People have come to Prescott to participate in the Whiskey and love it so much they end up moving here,” said Sadow. “And our goal is exactly the same in Grand Junction, Colorado as it is in Carson City. Our events are a showcase of these iconic frontier towns, and we’re focused on giving back to help make them attractive places for families to live.”
Within the next couple years, through funds raised from the Carson City Off-Road, a new singletrack trail is in the works, connecting the iconic Tahoe Rim Trail with the award-winning Ash to King’s Trail Network. This crucial connector will help the Carson City Off-Road offer one of the most thrilling singletrack descents in the West, dropping nearly 4,500 vertical feet in elevation from Marlette Peak to downtown Carson City. And once this trail is complete, you can bet there will be new families moving to Carson just as they have in Prescott.
“The Carson City Off-Road was instrumental in legitimizing Carson City as an outdoor recreation destination,” said Joel Dunn, Executive Director, Carson City Visitors Bureau. “The event brought a resurgence in community pride, and with organizations like Muscle Powered, Carson City is developing a plan to further the expansion of our trail system, making for a more walkable and bikeable community.”
Thanks to the efforts of Epic Rides, local government, federal land management and community trailbuilders, the old quip “build it and they will come” applies just as much to trails as it does to baseball fields in Iowa corn country.
And if you’re planning on participating in the Carson City Off-Road on June 16-18, registration is already running 50 percent ahead of where it was last year at this time. Visit epicrides.com to register and get more details on all three Off-Road Series events.
It Takes a Village
By Michele Charboneau
Raising awareness of trail stewardship has long been a prime objective for Reno/Tahoe-area’s Sierra Sports Marketing, which has raised over $40,000 for local trail advocacy organizations through events like the Sierra Cup Mountain Bike Racing Series and Battle Born Enduro. Sierra Sports founder Kevin Joell – who has a full time job outside of event production to pay the bills – says, “It makes it easier for me to dedicate the time to organize the races, knowing that we’re not just connecting people to outdoor recreation through events, but utilizing that participation to provide awareness of trail advocacy issues and raise money for a cause that’s important to most riders.”
Local businesses spearhead events in their communities to benefit trails, too. Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) president Ben Fish says, “The Meyers Mountain Bike Fest started in 2013 as an idea from the owners of Divided Sky, a favorite restaurant and gathering place. It’s a perfect example of a local business partnering with our nonprofit organization to celebrate mountain biking while raising money for the trails. Last year, proceeds from the festival went into heavy rock work and repairs on Mr. Toads Wild Ride.”
Yuba Expeditions, a Downieville bike shop/shuttle service, partners with Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) to raise funds through popular cycling events such as the Downieville Classic, Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, and Grinduro. Yuba owner and SBTS Executive Director Greg Williams says, “For 14 years our top priority has been taking care of the trails, and while the health of our trails is still the primary focus, we now have one additional top priority, and that’s each other – the SBTS Tribe. This organization has grown from a chainsaw and simple mission statement, into a Tribe of amazing and caring volunteers, friends and families each with a passion for the Lost Sierra and its trails.”
Non-profit trail advocacy organizations themselves regularly produce top notch events to raise funds for their trail development, building and maintenance efforts. Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC) Trail and Business Manager Matt De Young says, “Our events are a great way for us to educate people about our advocacy efforts while raising money to support them at the same time. A lot of people may not realize the ins and outs that go into trail advocacy, so we try to incorporate education and awareness building into events such as the Old Cabin Classic, The Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, The Santa Cruz Super Enduro, and the MBoSC Super Swap.” De Young adds, “All of these events directly fund our mission, and serve as a fun introduction to the world of advocacy. Races, festivals and the like are great exercises in community building.”
California Enduro Series (CES), which promotes enduro events throughout California and just over the Nevada and Oregon borders, has plans to help maintain the trails its independently-produced races run on. CES director Steve Gemelos says, “In many riding areas, the trails we ride are built and maintained by local riders. As an organization that promotes mountain bike races on these trails built by volunteers, CES feels strongly about contributing to their efforts.”
Gemelos points out that the revenue from many of the races making up the series goes toward their local trail systems. He says, “Beyond the support we offer event organizers to put on a successful race, we also want to give back by picking up a shovel and directly help to maintain the trails.”
To that end, CES is partnering with Ashland Mountain Adventures (AMA) – an Ashland bike shop/shuttle service, and organizer of the Ashland Mountain Challenge, a popular series stop – to present a trail work weekend in February sponsored by Santa Cruz Bicycles.
AMA’s owner Bill Roussel is an active leader of trail work efforts in the Ashland area. From attending community meetings to solo trail maintenance after a storm to organizing community trail work events, Roussel looks out for the Ashland mountain biking community’s best interests. He says, “AMA has always put trail work and trail building as a number one priority in the Ashland Watershed. We love our trail system and take care of it as if it were our home. We have a way of creating a stoke with our local riders that shows at our trail work days when we have 30+ show up in the rain, sleet or snow!” Roussel’s wife and business partner Sue O’Daly shares her husband’s sentiments, adding, “Mountain biking is our life and love.”
Stay tuned for future in-depth coverage of businesses and organizations that are committed to trail stewardship.