Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The responsibility of preserving our sport....
Every once in a while I'll take some time to cruise through a few forums online and see what's shakin in the community. I've got my usual haunts, mostly frame building or cycling related, that I drop in on. I recently ran across a thread on the Ohio Mountain Bike Association board that bothered me a bit. The thread was announcing the first Groovy Series race at Vulture's Knob and two individuals were questioning the cost to race and the perceived benefits. Their assertion basically boiled down to the fact that they felt the cost, 35 bucks, was too high and that the promoters were walking away with pockets full of cash. Typical of the internet, too little info is a garden for rumors and skewed opinions to flourish.
I felt compelled to add to the conversation, not to set the record straight, but to offer a little background to help those reading to form a more complete personal perspective. Here's what I had to say...
Hey guys, I thought I'd chime in with a little background information to help answer some of your questions and provide you with the tools to make your best informed opinions.
I've been involved in the development of Vulture's Knob for 16 years now and have had the opportunity to watch the sport of mountain biking and the Ohio race scene ebb and flow. Much of that time, many of you have had the opportunity to ride and race at the Knob and experience what I feel is a special place. Why is it special, well let me share a bit of history with you.
Vulture's knob has existed as one of the few privately owned, legal mountain bike trails in the country that allows full access for mountain biking, trail running, outdoor use/camping without any structured fees or permits...simply show up, have fun, and leave with a smile. This has been possible due to the sacrifice, both fiscally and of sweat equity, of a very small group of enthusiasts who's desire is to share the outdoor experience with others. Before our tax dollars and advocacy opened up many of the government owned parks we are blessed to construct trails and ride in, the knob introduced the freedom of mountain biking many of us. This comes with a price, however.
For the first twelve years, we have benefited from the kindness of two independent owners, who despite financial difficulties, kept the vision alive. Four years ago, a make or break decision had to be made; the property had to pay for it's self or close. It was at this time that Kevin, Mike, Dusty, and Jason of 331 stepped up and assumed the responsibility of not only resurrecting the Knob, but caring for it and keeping it alive.
Unlike many of the race venues visited by the OMBC and NEO series that are publicly owned and cared for by volunteers, the Knob series MUST be self sustaining. Simply put, your race entries pay to keep the property open for mountain biking the other 360 days a year races are not being held. Out of your entry money, we pay the monthly mortgage, property taxes, property insurance, maintenance costs for the property, utilities, diesel and maintenance for the tractor, trail building costs, race insurance, and associated race costs (porta potty, branded prizes, race software updates, paper, etc...). The race is run by volunteers who are there for nothing more than the love of the sport and the trails we ride on. To put it into perspective, let me give you an analogy...Much like your home, we have many of the same monthly costs. Imagine the costs involved in keeping your home up and running and then throw into the mix that anyone who wants can come on in, hang out, and do what they like. That's what we've got going on at Vulture's Knob.
Your race entries buy advocacy and good will as well. Little known is the fact that when the venue changes, a portion of the proceeds are donated back to the host entity or the club that cares for it by 331...not a common practice with some of the other race promoters out there right now.
We've been extremely fortunate to have an alliance of sponsors who also see the value in supporting our efforts, with monetary donations going 100% back into the property and in kind donations of equipment/food directly back to the racers.
One of the nice characteristics of the 331 races is that the guys are willing to listen to your comments and make changes. Computerized timing gets you prelim results every 5 minutes and final results that night, tabulated series results are updated post race that night for the whole season and are available online, a strong web presence announces races, trail days, and good news, Chipotle burritos and all the Monster/Beer you can consume, and funky tunes pushed out by DJ Madnote alongside the bonfire...all requests from racers like you that have come to fruition. Would you like to see a greater split in sport classes for starting, simply drop Kevin an email and be heard, it's that easy.
It's important to note that without the participation of the riders and the sponsors, the Knob would certainly be forced to close it's gates.
35 dollars to race... personally, I feel that's a lot of bang for your buck. Believe me, there is no "pure profit" left at the end of the season. It is all returned to you, the racer, in the form of trails to enjoy for both you and your children's lifetime as long as we as a united community of mountain bikers hold the reigns. Just a bit to chew on.
The end result for me was the affirmation that we each have a role to fill in supporting the continued longevity of our sport. Whether you race, help out with trail maintenance, introduce a new friend to the sport, drop a few bucks in the can when you ride, or just come out and cheer on your spouse, you are fortifying the continued existense of what you love...is that too much to ask?
I personally feel blessed to have such a enthusiastic mountian bike community immersed in our effort, thanks to all.
The first race was a blast, with 113 registered racers, perfect weather, and lots of folks who were smiling and enjoying life.
Jason Shaffer was on scene and took some great shots of the sunset and award ceremony, I feel that his work really captured the emotion and value of the effort as reflected in the racers faces, check it out...