Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2016 but has been updated and remains just as relevant today.
Recently, I was invited to purchase tickets for a fund raiser dinner put on by the fine folks at the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association. Along with a little Friday evening food, drink and revelry (including a concert by the Wailers — yes, those Wailers), attendees will be brought up to speed on what the club has been up to — and what it hopes to accomplish in the months and years to come. Some goals are modest: a reroute here, some new trail armor there. Some goals are more significant: the dream of a 30-mile connector between Gunnison and Crested Butte lives!
But the No. 1 objective is raising money.
Though CBMBA is very likely the oldest mountain bike club in the world (founded in 1983), and maintains some of the best trails on earth (450 miles in a 20-mile radius around Crested Butte), it’s annual budget is always being stretched, especially now that they launched the Crested Butte Conservation Corps, a full-time trail maintenance crew.
Now, I’m sure this is not a unique story. In fact, I’d bet many (if not most) of the local mountain bike clubs across the country are scraping by on crumbs and survive only due to a dedicated volunteer base. And that got me thinking. I’d assume most of the people reading this post are paying members of their local mountain bike advocacy group and that’s awesome. A lot of you also kick some cash to IMBA, the STC, or both. Again, super cool.
I’d also bet that at some point you have loaded up the family wagon and headed to another part of the country to ride new trails. Exploring the unknown is one of the best parts of this great sport. While you were in said uncharted territory, you probably headed out for dinner and drinks or checked into a hotel. And when you were done downing adult beverages, noshing on pizza, and getting your bags to your room, you probably pulled out your wallet and tipped the bartender, waitress, valet, or bell hop. But what about the trail builders and maintainers?
Next time you check out some new trails in a new place, why not drop a couple bucks in the proverbial tip jar of the people who made it possible to ride those trails — folks such as CBMBA, Gunnison Trails, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Arizona Trail Association, or whoever it was wherever you rode. (If you need some help figuring it out, our friends at singletracks.com have a great list you can use as a starting place.)
It may not always be super easy to give a little back (some club websites are better than others), but in most cases you’ll at least find a contact page that’ll get you pointed in the right direction. And many associations (CBMBA and Gunnison Trails included) have specific donation pages.
Because, as all of you already know, downed trees just don’t magically disappear in the spring, critical trail armor doesn’t fall off the armor tree, and drainage mitigation isn’t an act of God. Sure the Forest Service, BLM, and the like help out. But in many if not most cases, it’s the local trail advocacy groups that make it possible for you to rocket down 401, zip on Zippity Do Da, sail with Captain Ahab, fly on the Demo Forest Flow Trail, brapp brapp on Butcher, and generally have a dirty good time on two wheels.
And that, my fellow fat tire friends, is definitely worth a couple bucks if not a whole lot more. So please, tip your trail builder and maintainer at home — and on the road.