by Vince Boothe
Long hours, empty beers, blood, sweat and tears – the development of a successful mountain bike event is a strange labour of love. I’ve been involved in grassroots mountain bike events for the past decade, some of which have grown into big events while others whittled away due to volunteer burn out, insurance challenges and trail closures. It’s a fickle process stemmed by an unbridled enthusiasm for bikes, racing and a desire to give something back to the community.
Johnny Korthius lays out a flip at the 2010 Huck 'en Berries slopestyle in Rossland. The Huck 'en Berries is completely built and organized by passionate volunteers.
As I write this, I’m in the midst of pulling together the details for the third annual Dreadhead Super D race in Rossland, B.C. The Dreadhead is part of the Rossland Rubberhead Festival
, which includes the Huck ‘en Berries slope style and the Seven Summits Poker Ride. A celebration of all things mountain biking, it’s one of the bigger series of events to hit our small mountain town all year.
Yours truly gives racers the lowdown prior to the DH portion of the Dreadhead race.
What’s involved in putting on a grassroots race? Typically it starts with a handful of people meeting on snowy winter nights to determine the goals for the next year’s event, assigning duties, action items and trying to figure out how to possibly get it all done. This includes venues, insurance, sponsors, awards, media relations, food, liquor licenses, volunteer recruitment, transportation…and the list goes on.
Hand crafted awards by Matt Titheridge add a touch of local flavour and style.
Currently, I’m in the stages of finalizing a land use permit to move the Dreadhead Super D to a newly created and buffed trail network. This involves discussion with other land use tenure holders in the area, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts (who approve trail development and use in BC), ensuring comprehensive safety plans and all the other small but indispensible details such as garbage, toilets and refreshments.
Finding an appropriate location for a race is a challenge unto itself. It’s easy to find the perfect track, but due to land use conflicts the first choice is rarely possible. Then comes the course preparation – trail work, taping, marshalling locations and access/egress – the latter being a logistical quagmire with parking and shuttling details, often on rough roads moving athletes and $5,000 bikes.
Adrenaline Adventures helps shuttle racers in style and comfort. From local shops to other bike service providers, everyone pulls together to ensure a successful event.
I’m always impressed how community members come together to pull off an event of this magnitude. It starts with a handful of dedicated organizers and as the ball starts rolling people step up to help in many, many ways – albeit often at the n’th hour. I’ve learned not to panic as the event nears as somehow things find a way of getting done, as long as you have your bikes in a row.
So, what are the ingredients for a successful mountain biking event? My first bit of advice would be to start small. Sure, it’s nice to have bands, tons of food, beer and all the other makings of a festival. However, the logistics of a race are a huge challenge unto itself and should be the focus for the first year. I’d also focus on encouraging regional participation rather than trying to lure people from all over the world. This keeps the family feel and allows time to work out kinks. It also allows you to get participant feedback on the track, format and race organization.
Registration - one of the many essential elements of a successful event. It's important to choose an organized volunteer to keep things operating smoothly.
Once you have a proven venue and the format dialed, in the following year(s) more energy can be put in to marketing, entertainment and food. This too can be incremental. While likely not this year, it is our hope to expand the Rubberhead to coincide with an indie music and micro beer festival in the future. With the wheels in motion, these possibilities tend to present themselves.
Rossland's Huck en Berries slopestyle is 100 percent volunteer built and organized.
The other key is to never forget your volunteer appreciation. In addition to T shirts, beer and other bonuses, hold post-event appreciation parties and foster the camaraderie that comes from putting on a successful event. Friendships are formed, new ideas are hatched and a pride in the community is instilled.
Events such as the kids race at the Kootenay Fat Tire festival in Nelson are a great opportunity to get everyone in on the fun.
While grassroots mountain bike events may not hit the mainstream media and lure big industry names, they are at the heart of the mountain biking culture and have an important role in pulling our shared passion together. While at times it may feel like trying to nail jello to a tree, it’s (almost) always a hell of a good time and the friendly competition, high-fives and good vibes at the end of the day are immensely satisfying.
For more information on the Rossland Rubberhead Festival, held Oct. 8 and 9, click here
Ryan Kuhn lives in Rossland, BC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Costumes encouraged - the Seven Summits Poker Ride sees upwards of 170 participants every year. It's all about fun times and fine singletrack. This year the Poker Ride goes Sept. 4, 2011.