20th June, 2006
2006 IMBA World MTB Conference
Early morning arrival. Where’s everyone???
The main hall where the conference was held.
The bottom-line, we, as trail users are borrowing the trails from our children and their children, and we should look and work towards sustaining these trails for the enjoyment for our children and others. Malaysia has great trails, and since there’s no voice from Malaysia at this international mountain biking conference, I wanted to make it known, at the conference, that Malaysia has great trails.
(Note: No organization-government, public, or private-funded my attendance to the conference.)
June 21st. Conference early morning covered risk management, and how to manage those risks. The presentation slides would be posted on the IMBA website within the next 2 weeks, and therefore what I’ve outlined below are elements I think would be relevant to issues experienced in Malaysia.
1. Tasks for those building trails.
2. Riders should have information of the risks on the trail should the rider chooses to encounter it (signage having the level of ride, warning).
During the lunch, I hit the bike park, and the following are some of the shots taken on the bike-lift up to Olympic station. Initially, I wanted to take photos of the trail down-hill, but why spoil the fun for those wanting to come up here.
Now I'm half way-up the mountain, and preparing
to go DH. The view of the Whistler Village when going down.
Trails connect people, places, and the land
Trail maintenance---People in the biking industry, understands that trails creates demand. Depending on the features, i.e., man-made structures, structure-derived from the surrounding area-a log, a boulder etc. drives the biking industry. Trails are to be inclusive, not exclusive. Hence a multi-use trail would be the preferred. To make it happen, relationships between different groups have to be created---users being equestrians, hikers, joggers/trail runners, motorized bikes, and of-course mountain bikes. Partnering can be, particularly with equestrians, at times difficult but necessary. Separate silos between groups of users, and without communication, would create conflicts on the trail.
Some of the suggestion for having trail maintenance:
I met a trail builder/rider from New York. He also surfs, and catches the waves on the east coast---never on the west. He builds his trails by emulating the flow of his trails as though surfing on the waves. Cool man!
Involve the community to come out and enjoy the trails by having event: Tour de something…make it fun costumes. Bring in the health and sports department, and partner with the tourism department where these folks want to promote active, healthy lifestyles. Make maps available.
June 22nd, the conference went to IMBA coverage and their partnerships with mountain bike clubs around the world, example, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, and Costa Rica. The message was to create partnerships for the sustainability of the trails.
Australia. There are over 100 clubs, and several of these trails were mentioned that were ridden by the IMBA, ex. the Tasmania Montezuma Trails (wild-side mtb race). Mexico, incorporates mtbiking ecotourism where the bottom-line is to protect Forest trails. With deforestation being rampant in Mexico, having accessibility to trails for all users by bringing trails to people, from the comforts of home learned/obtained through public media to the reality, i.e., onto the trails, brought them closer to the reality of deforestation and the constant development of land.
After the presentation above, I approached the keynote speaker---Joey Klein, IMBA Trail Specialist that had traveled the world. We spoke about Malaysia, and the trails. He has been to Malaysia, in the past, but did not mention about getting to ride on the trails. Did anyone take him???
On the topic of “Managing Trails in sensitive ecosystems.”
This discussion was about managing resource sensitive areas, which included wildlife and cultural areas. Not much needed to be said about wildlife, except there will always be a perceived impact on natural resources by the public. For instance, it was thought that having bike trails would significantly impact the local wildlife. Then, there’s the impact of fragmentation that’s thought to have impact to the local ecosystem.
For mountain bikers, they are easily controllable where they only follow existing trails, and single tracks. Hikers, on the other hand, can virtually hike through anywhere they like. In places, where there’s tree canopy, bird watchers have a more impact affecting the bird species. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, just zips through the trails. These perceived impact seen by the public can be managed through having to educate and the respect for these sensitive areas.
Invasive species are not introduced by trail creators, rather these are introduced through the clearing of canopy, developing the land etc done on a massive scale. On fragmentation, there are no scientific studies to show that fragmentation would disturb or destroy the ecosystem.
Three key-points were fairly discussed during the conference---1) environmental sustainability, 2) economic sustainability (appeal to women, kids who are economically disadvantaged, immigrants, and 3) social sustainability---making the trails and flows from that the mtbiking industry to be inclusive and not exclusive.
The diversity in the trail significantly influences the way mtbikes are built, i.e., the hard goods, and so does the soft good. For instance, the most recent 2006 Otter Classic mountain bike race, it was noted that many riders are appearing to be converting from lycra to baggies (the apparel that seen now have evolved from lycras to a more relaxed laid-back baggies). Hang up your lycras and go for baggies eh! It used to be that for DH, one need a DH bike, etc etc etc, now like the trails that one encounters on the North shore, i.e., XC, DH terrain, and FR structures, one sees the emergence of all mountain bikes to be gaining in popularity.
The night of the conference, we had Ryan Leech, trials guru, and Chris Holms the Unicycler do their tricks. It was an awesome sight and to have felt the energy emanated from the conference participants to see these two men display what fat tires can do.
To many, it’s about the ride, and it’s about the trail. But it’s about creating the partnerships through communication, and sustaining the trails. It’s about the biking industry. But more importantly, and it boils down to this---it’s about us who rides.
The presentation on “Marketing MTB for tourism” was interesting. Interesting that it came from the view of the giant---The Whistler Mountain Bike, and it came from a smaller, your local community, operation---the Bruce Peninsula MTB adventure park near Toronto, Ontario.
But, let’s face it there are benefits to this industry, i.e., the economic impact---transportation and car rentals, fuel industry (one requires gas to travel), accommodation, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and retail purchases. Other benefits, employment opportunities, and government benefited from those tax dollars. So people like retailers, local business owners, suppliers, restaurants, and hospitality industry (heads on bed) benefits.
The Whistler story.
The trail as a “product”. Initially, mtbiking is one of the many activities as a support feature, seconded by other summer activities such as golfing, fishing, rock-climbing etc.
Whistler in 2005, there were an estimated 200,000 visitors participated in mountain biking, and the 4th most popular activity (ahead of golfing activity for the first time) with an average stay of more than one day at Whistler.
Mountain biking, still, is marketed primarily as a secondary product. However, that’s to change. There’s a built-up to shift mountain biking from a secondary product to moving it to mainstream core product. Thus, Whistler in the past has grown from a regional site to be one of the main mountain biking destinations.
Whistler is in the process of spinning out mountain bike packages over the coming years, and mountain bike specific advertisement created, for example the Crankworx(http://www.crankworx.com/home/) sponsored by Kokanee (beer company). Being one of the many signature events, Crankworx promises music, culture, and the sport, and have leveraged partnership with Kokanee to promote this event, and Whistler itself, internationally.
The Bruce Peninsula story.
Their idea is to build a product with the highest standard, and therefore partnered with IMBA. This place wanted to develop a critical mass following the 4X rule, i.e., when one’s trying to encourage someone to drive 1 hour from his/her home to his/her final destination. They, then, have to be prepared to give 4 hours of activity, otherwise people won’t come. Thus, MTB operators have to create different multiple activities to keep one busy.
For a quarter of the price that one expects to pay for an accommodation in the Whistler Village, I was holed up at the International Hostel, with views like this.
Also, managed to throw in some XC rides. One of them is “a river runs thru” one of the must see, must do rides outside the Whistler bike park. I was unable to take Patawi to this trail the last time that he was here, as a result of having to eat to soon before the ride, or possibly food poisoning. The reward though, stoked after having to ride over a distance of 20 meters on a log. This is where having flats is better, just in case if I do flip into the cold rushing creek below me.