Without Trails, Where Would You Ride?
Do you remember when you first found mountain biking? That first bike? That first trail? The first time you went swooping through the trees and scared yourself just a little bit & thought, "WOW! THAT was awesome!" Do you? I know I do.
Many of us in Central Ohio had those first few rides at the old Phase I. Not the new one that many people now know as P1 but the old one. Remember that? It was a maze of trails. I wouldn't quite call it a network... it was more like a spider web with multiple intersections. None of them were marked. People got lost. Literally. People got lost back there & couldn't find their way out. There were entire sections that were un-rideable. Mud-pits. It was horrible. And it was awesome.
I'm certainly not the COMBO historian but my understanding is that P1 started as an Eagle Scout project to formalize what was little more than foot-paths through the woods. And then a few of the guys who rode there asked themselves a question... "What if...?" For now, you'll have to accept that as the un-official history of COMBO (In the Comments below, I 'd love to hear the actual version & recollections from those who were actually there).
Fast forward to today. We've come a long way from that old beat-up mud-pit at P1. Phase II was a marked improvement & showcased the evolving skills of some of our best trail builders. Some sections highlighted an emphasis on technical features. Skinnies, log-overs, elevated bridges, banked walls all challenged riders to take their riding skills to a new level.
Certainly the addition of Chestnut Ridge marked another step forward. Again, the trail builders had an opportunity to display their evolving talents. They placed less of an emphasis on the technical features that were so prominently displayed as P2, instead focusing more on flow & sweeping turns. The increased elevation changes in the Chestnut Ridge landscape provided a natural palette to expand the riding opportunities in Central Ohio.
There are a lot of folks who think the trails are fully supported by the various park systems. The thinking usually goes something like, "I pay my taxes. Mountain bike trails are in the parks. I'm supporting mountain biking." Don't get me wrong; we have great partners in the local park systems. Without their support, none of this would be possible. But the trails were built by volunteers. The trails are maintained by volunteers. Tools are purchased by COMBO. Larger trail building equipment is rented by COMBO. It's the local non-profit that makes it happen.
Park resources are stretched pretty thin as it is. They don't really have the capacity to take on much more. Man-power, dollars, etc are all resources that government funded organization have to fight for. The one thing that they have to give and we need most is permission. We have permission to build & maintain trails.
COMBO of today is a much different organization than it was in those formative days. Just as the trails have evolved, so too has the organization & infrastructure that supports it. Almost a year ago, we voted to join IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, as a Chapter. In many ways it was a leap of faith.
Becoming an IMBA Chapter means that a big part of the membership dollars go back to the mother-ship. As they like to put it, we can worry about how we split the pie or we can work together to grow a bigger pie. COMBO voted, overwhelmingly, to join IMBA and grow a bigger pie. Simply put, it's working. We have more members than ever before. More local riders have chosen to offer their name and their financial commitment to support the organization that supports local trails.
Thank you to all of those who have been members throughout the years and those who continue to support COMBO and our mission of trail advocacy & mountain bike education. For those who haven't yet joined, and with all due respect, what the hell are you waiting for?!?! Join. More importantly, get involved. Just show up. It could be a trail day. An open, monthly board meeting. The annual meeting coming up on February 7th at 9:00am. Join the local mountain bike patrol. It doesn't have to be a huge commitment. After all, many hands make light work. Keep an eye on the EVENTS tab and just show up at a time & place that makes sense for you. It's really just that easy.
Just like the original founders of COMBO asked themselves, "What if...?" and worked their tails off to build something out of nothing, the current group of active volunteers is working to build the future of mountain biking in Central Ohio. But we need your help.
We've come a long way in adding trails throughout the years and it really feels like we're on the verge of adding many more. We'll be opening new skills parks in the very near future. If you live on the west side, be excited about some trails projects coming to life in your back yard. The infrastructure of the organization is better than ever; better communication through our Facebook page, many changes to www.combomtb.com, better communication on trail conditions, etc.
COMBO enjoys the unique contributions from volunteers. This is the real life-blood of any non-profit. We have lawyers, writers, business execs, doctors, project managers, insurance people, bankers, those who work in government affairs, photographers and people who wrench at your local bike shop. People from all walks of life come together to share a passion for mountain biking. Interestingly enough, the organization is small enough that every voice gets heard. As long as you raise it. You can have an incredible impact in shaping the future of mountain biking in Central Ohio. Please choose to be a part of it.
Sometimes, in order to think about where you're going, it helps to stop & think about where you've been. Take a minute to reflect on your own personal history of riding and how it's evolved over time. How did you first get involved in mountain biking? We'd love to hear from you in the Comments below!