First off, let me establish my cred here: I’ve been a member of the Bicycle Trails Council (there used to be an “East Bay” appended at the end but since the Bicycle Trails Council of Marin is no longer in existence, my understanding is that our East Bay group is the BTC now. Hmmm, I guess that now also makes us the oldest IMBA-affiliated mountain bike organization) for over 20 years, and I used to sit on it’s board and even led some rides when I was younger, faster and more fit. Back then, the BTC rides and events attracted fewer riders and were pretty easy to manage. The Internet existed but there was virtually no social media. People knew about a BTCEB event either by word of mouth or by visiting the website.
Fast forward to 2014 where people are hooked into Facebook, Meetup and other Internet-based forms of keeping current with various happenings. Instead of having 20 or so folks showing up on their hardtail or fully rigid mountain bikes (the olden days), there are now often 70 or more people showing up for a BTC Gala ride. The Gala rides occur on the second Saturday of each month and are usually held at various East Bay parks. I hadn’t been on a BTC ride for quite a while and some friends who regularly go had been urging me to try one out. I need to confess, that with the exception of trails that are closed for races, I’m somewhat opposed to large groups of riders (or runners or horses) on multi-use trails. My experience is that most large groups of riders are anarchy in motion – people are out there rippin’ it up and having a good time, sometimes at the consequence of making it a bad experience for other trail users. This is especially true in a heavily populated, urban area like the East Bay with access to lots of parks by lots of people. I had been curious to see how the BTC handled this (or how they didn’t handlethis), so I signed up for the September 13th Gala Ride at Anthony Chabot Park.
My son, Adam, and I got to the Marciel Gate start with enough time to spare to do a little schmoozing. I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of people representing Endless Cycles plus a few others I remember from my more active years with the BTC. I felt like I might have been at an old high school reunion except with cool bikes and fit people. Adam and I decided to hang with the “B” group (there weren’t too many in the “A” group and they looked pretty damn fast). So there we were, with at least 25 riders (Holy Cow!) in our group alone. Our initial ride leader, Brent, arranged for a few stops to see how the group was hanging together. The BTC folks with us decided not only to have a sweeper rider but a “middle sweeper” as well. From Marciel Gate, the ride course was to be Redtail Trail to Soaring Hawk Trail, then MacDonald Trail to Parkhurst St., followed by the Skyline Blvd. median singletrack (a real treat if you’ve never done it), Goldenrod Trail to Brandon, then back to Marciel via Redtail Trail. After our group finished Soaring Hawk, we reformed at the Bort Meadows parking lot on Redwood Rd. The BTC ride leaders really had their act together because they took a poll at that point to see who might want avoid the climb up MacDonald by heading back along Brandon from Bort Meadows. At that point those of us remaining for the longer ride became the “B+” riders. It was a great ride with frequent meet-ups to make sure that all riders were together. I actually enjoyed this because it gave me some opportunity to talk to other riders, get a little nutrition and to catch my breath. Hey, it’s a social ride! Back at Marciel Gate the BTC had post-ride snacks and very refreshing beverages. It was great to mingle with other riders and also to talk with the BTC cognoscente about this and other events. I was impressed with the way the BTC managed the rides and the riders; everyone seemed to have a good time and the ride leaders clearly kept speed, safety and fun as their primary concerns.
In summary, the BTC have the Gala rides really dialed in. They have a ride-and-party formula that works and I sincerely hope these events will lead to more riders joining the BTC. The rides and trails are fun, but the message is that without groups like the BTC working to ensure trail access to mountain biking, the sport wouldn’t be what it is today and shops like Endless Cycles might be selling a hell of a lot fewer bikes than they do. I’m glad that Endless is a member of this particular advocacy group.
(photos in this post are courtesy of the BTCEB website & are of various past Gala Rides)