As the rain poured down over my windshield, I stiffly rotated around looking back at my bike which lay half taken apart in the back of my Subaru. My bike stared back longingly like a dog panting in anticipation for a walk. That was the last amount of motivation I needed to get out for a wet Sunday morning ride. Before I was even pedaling out of the soggy parking lot, I was already saturated with rain and half-heartedly looking forward to the climb, if just to warm up. The network of hand-carved trails that wound down Mt. Work offered a vast array of loosely manicured lines that formed my backyard playground.
Cornering a berm at what felt like mach 5, I came across a burly crew of folks splattered with mud, hauling rocks up from the lush underground beyond the single track. Making my obligatory head nods and muddled “hello’s” I meandered around the heap of rocks that they were actively tending to.
Later while I sat on the back of my car slurping back as much water as my screaming lungs would allow. I noticed a long procession of trail builders returning to the parking lot from their rock heap. They huddled close together in a vacant parking spot underneath a pop up shelter marked by a sign that read “S.I.M.B.S. (South Island Mountain Bike Society) volunteers.” They shared raffle prizes and pizza before heading out on their own bikes to ride together. The sheer sense of community of these volunteers blew me away. Out here enjoying one another’s company and helping to build/maintain the trail network which forms the backbone of mountain biking.
Before/ after of bridge installation
I joined the S.I.M.B.S. crew as a way to not only learn and appreciate proper trail construction and maintenance, but to give back to the mountain bike community. I took for granted how much gruelling effort went into even simple features such as a berm or bridge. Having slogged through the mud with fellow volunteers to maintain the trails which my lust has deteriorated has been an eye opening experience to the “behind the scenes” of mountain biking.
My first experience with S.I.M.B.S. had me meticulously constructing a bridge over a small stream while the rain mocked my efforts. A seasoned veteran barked out orders to my fellow crew and I to collect stones, soil, and gravel while others began removing the saturated banks of the creek. Before long I was hoisting the frame of a bridge with a grunting lawyer to my left and a determined tween on my right. Other riders passed (through the stream) as we worked howling words of encouragement and utter gratitude for our work. Many vowed to be out the following event and asked where they could sign up.
Creating bridge while riders demonstrate the "long (wet) route"
S.I.M.B.S. is specific to the Southern part of Vancouver Island, however throughout the world, there are local often not-for-profit teams that build the trails that we all ride. It takes a village to create these trail networks and without these volunteer teams to build and maintain such networks there would be a fraction of the riding or community surrounding the world of mountain biking. As mountain biking expands it’s important to support (either through donation or time) proper trail sustainability and development in order for future generations to enjoy the ride as much as we have.
If you're interested in supporting your local trail network check Trailforks to see who is maintaining / creating your trails. Support the S.I.M.B.S. crew here in Victoria.