Mountain Biking's Troubled Roots & the Hope in Marin County

Jun 14, 2018
by Daniel Sapp  
Kids lining up at the Ales and Trails Festival


Marin County. It's the hallowed ground where our sport first took root. It should be a renowned destination for mountain bikers, but this place has been all but forgotten by the outside world. If you do decide to visit, you can take a stroll through history at the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and check out their outstanding vintage mountain bike collection. Hop on your bike and, as long as you observe the ten miles an hour speed limit, you can descend the first official downhill race-course on Mount Tamalpais. After that, you'll want to explore the area's stunning trail network that threads through shaded sub-tropical forests and offers some of the most spectacular view-sheds in California. But you'd have to break the law to enjoy them, because almost every singletrack trail in Marin is off limits to bikes. It's been that way almost since the first mountain bikers rolled into the woods.

I made the pilgrimage to Marin to attend the annual Ales and Trails Festival and meet a hard-working bunch of volunteers and trail builders who are trying to turn that situation around. I would soon learn that, in spite of the underlying politics that the mountain bike community has to battle with, the spirit and stoke is strong as ever in the birthplace of mountain biking. The festival is staged at China Camp State Park - the same hills that spawned mountain biking - to celebrate the community's hard-won successes in their quest for more trail access in Marin County.


Marin County mountain biking trails

Given the circumstances, it's a surprise that there's much to celebrate at all. In Marin and the East Bay area the gains in trail access for mountain bikes are measured in inches, not miles. If it wasn't for the advocacy work of a core group of locals, led largely by Vernon Huffman (who some consider a saint), legal mountain biking opportunities in Marin County would likely be all but extinct, and this celebration of cycling culture would be more of a memorial of what barely was and could have been.

bigquotesPeople basically said, "What the hell is this?!" So they called the land managers and shut it all down.Vernon Huffman


A Rough Start

Mountain biking was destined for access issues before it was ever conceived. Marin County, CA, home to Mount Tamalpais and the storied spot where Marin locals started the sport of mountain biking on clunkers in the 1970s, is also on the doorstep of multiple environmental protection and activist organizations, including The Sierra Club, The Marin Conservation League, and many of their most affluent and vocal supporters.

Traditional users, most of whom walked erect, had no clue what mountain bikes were doing on their trails. According to Huffman, when riders started to show up on the mountain with retrofitted bikes, people basically said, "What the hell is this?!" Fearing the potential impacts of bikes on trails they rallied successfully to kill them with fire. Marin is populated with old money and legislative power. A few well-placed calls to the land managers was all it took to shut us out. It was Bambi Vs Godzilla

Fast forward to the 1990s. The mountain biking craze had taken hold across the globe. Manufacturers were investing heavily in it. Mountain bike specific trails were being built, and although there were often issues on the access front, the staunch anti-bike resistance had softened into a reluctant truce between user groups. Back in Marin, however, while most double tracks were open to bikes, singletrack trails were still contentiously off limits. After a decade of ineffective back-and-forth negotiations threatened to generate further restrictions, it became clear that only an all-out effort from the mountain bike community would turn the tide...

Busting up concrete like dirt is work even for the machine.
Trail workdays are an organized effort in Marin.


Creating a Community to Build Access

With the threat of losing even more access in the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area looming in the '90s, mountain bikers banded together and formed Access4Bikes. A4B was initially a political organization, with the goal of electing leaders into office that were sympathetic to access issues plaguing mountain bikers. Stronger relationships with land managers and public officials have been critical in gaining increased access for bikes in Marin in the last two decades and these relationships are only getting stronger, although they come with their own complications.

Today, most of the current policy makers in office may support bikes, at least to an extent...some even ride, but there's only so much they can do.


According to veteran trail builder Sandor Lengyel, there are still a couple dozen people who believe bicycles on dirt are the antichrist and they will do anything in their power to stop us. Officials can't just go and take a sign down and open a trail to bikes, and some will admit (off the record) that bikes get the short end of any deal when it comes to land management and access.

As if fixing trails isn't tough enough - the tracks came off of this machine costing hours of time and frustration.
A tribute to how much legal singletrack is there in Marin.

bigquotesOne small error was found, a lawsuit was filed and taken to a sympathetic judge, and the project, which was in upwards of 25 years in the making, was shut down.Vernon Huffman

To change the use designation of a trail, or even a wide greenway, is a multi-year endeavor that may or may not come to fruition and costs copious amounts of time and money. There is a rigid process full of environmental and social studies that have to be strictly followed. If not, then people and organizations get sued. At that point, everything is put on hold and it takes months or years for it to be revisited, along with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For example: a small, seemingly insignificant connector trail in the Mill Valley area that cuts out a dangerous section of road for kids and commuters was just weeks away from being opened. At the last minute, a group opposed to bikes hired someone to analyze every single bit of it and the associated paperwork. One small error was found. A lawsuit was filed, taken to a sympathetic judge, and the project (which was in upwards of 25 years in the making) was shut down. The project is estimated to cost anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 to get it moving again.

Last year, the Access4Bikes Foundation was formed as a 501c3 corporation. Tax-deductible status is expected to attract donations from new sources and from the business community. Its mission is to build relationships with land managers by providing stewardship, and to give riders an avenue for advocacy. This new chapter in A4B's story allows the organization to work in a more efficient capacity, together with the Marin County Bicycle League, Marin County Open Spaces, the state park system, and other organizations, to increase trail access for bikes, and create trail growth opportunities by hosting work days and by supplying equipment and trained volunteers.

Not the most exciting piece of trail but that's not what it's about.
Tireless work for marginal gains.

New Growth

Times are changing. NICA high school leagues are growing, there's a breath of fresh life in the air, and mountain biking is growing. Studies have shown that mountain bikers are the second largest user group in the area with up to 40% of trail users being on bikes. Huffman says that the community seeing the kids out and about on the trails and thriving from the positive benefits that mountain biking provides is even beginning to leave an impression with some of those who had formerly been adversaries of mountain biking.

It's still a challenge to create new bike legal trail in Marin, but there is a large focus towards working on what trails are already there and helping area land managers and other trail users with trail upkeep. A lot of these trails aren't the most exciting, but collaborating with other users is helpful in building stronger relationships for mountain bikers. It's showing that they're invested and are here to stay.

Huffman says that with land managers now on their side the only real hurdle is the few people left still willing to hire attorneys and attempt to sue in order to stop progress. While this does work in slowing progress and costing countless dollars, the resolve of the mountain bike community is holding fast, and for the first time ever, there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

All hands on deck. Adam, one of the area park rangers is pushing for increased bike access as much as anyone.
Post trail work BBQ served up by Fanie.


Celebrating Small Victories

As president of Access4Bikes, Vernon Huffman has worked tirelessly for decades to not only lead trail building and conservation efforts but also to promote and put on the Ales and Trails festival. This year, not that he didn't have enough going already with advocacy meetings, NICA races, and anything else imaginable, Huffman collaborated with Fanie Kok, Specialized's global trail advocacy guru to put on a trail dig day prior to the festival in order to further raise awareness for what's going on in Marin County. The trail work day brought volunteers from various organizations in the area...all with the goal of increasing trail access in whatever way possible. The trails at China Camp State Park are technically nothing to write home about. They're gentle climbs and descents, multi-use and built to IMBA specifications, but they are open to bikes and the importance of that can't be underscored in Marin County.

Vernon raising the stoke at the Ales and Trails Festival.
Handing out number plates to a number of kids eager to race around the venue.


Keeping the Stoke Alive

On the surface, the festival is not all that out of the ordinary if you just happened upon it. There are hundreds of people gathered in a meadow eating good food and drinking local beer with vendors, bike demos from various brands, group rides on the bit of legal trail around, and a rambunctious kids race around the expo area. Families, friends, bikes, and beer. There's a band, a raffle for a Stumpjumper donated by Specialized to raise money for the local trails, and Huffman giving awards out to locals who have helped with advocacy efforts to lots of cheers and applause - the standard festival fare.

There's something very different here, though. It's almost like you're on the set of a movie...the festival is unique, and it has a vibe that's on par, if not better than, events I've been to in places such as Bend, Sedona, Moab, Whistler, or wherever else there are miles of amazing singletrack open to bikes. That's the thing - you can't compare Marin to elsewhere. If you did, there would be little to celebrate. In a couple decades, there's been essentially no new trail built and one access issue after another for bikes. It should be more of a funeral, some would say, but that's not what it's about. It's about the people, the community, the birthplace of mountain biking, and the hope that eventually, someday, with the efforts of those like Vernon Huffman, a strong community, support from the industry, and progress measured in inches, there may be more.

A lot of bikes, people, and positive energy are packed into the venue.
The man who keeps pushing for access, Vernon Huffman.

Moving Forward

So what's next? If you ask riders in Marin, you'll hear they're stoked to keep pushing and making things happen, moving forward one way or another no matter what odds are or aren't in their favor in their community. South African Fanie Kok, after first visiting Marin a couple of years ago and learning of the issues there is now on a world wide mission. Brought on by Specialized Bicycles initially to do market research, he's taken it upon himself to become a champion for trail advocacy worldwide by supporting and advocating for those like Vernon Huffman and organizations such as A4B that are working tirelessly to create more riding opportunities. Fanie will tell you that he believes we all have roots in and are connected to Marin, and the energy from what's happening there has impacts around the world. He also believes the bike industry must be involved on the ground with those making things happen in local communities.

Fanie's take away from it all is that we need to realize that in Marin County, although progress is happening, mountain biking is in a very similar place to where it was when it started, while elsewhere it's become a lifestyle and worldwide industry. He sees it as imperative to realize that, to respect and support trail builders and advocates at all costs, and pay homage to the sport by recognizing and supporting the force mountain biking has become, the sacrifices people have made, and what it took for the sport to get to get where it is today.

bigquotesWhat's happened and is happening in Marin has a ripple effect around the world for mountain bikers...We need to support and respect this force.Fanie Kok

Arguably two of mountain biking's most passionate advocates, Vernon Huffman and Fanie Kok.



142 Comments

  • + 113
 "If you do decide to visit..."

No thanks, I'll spend my bike vacations (and associated $$) elsewhere. Been to Moab, Phoenix, Bend, Hood River, Nelson, Squamish, Fernie etc in the past few years, and never once did I feel unwelcome in any way. Marin has a loooooooong way to go to become a mountain biking destination.
  • + 56
 Agreed, I make a focused effort to not even spend money for gas when driving thru Marin county.
  • + 17
 Don't visit Marin as a whole, just a small town called Fairfax. You'll feel welcomed and maybe even thank me after visiting.
  • + 30
 @dezekiel: don't even come to Fairfax, I live there and it's terrible, no trails anywhere, not a single one, no place to get beer either Wink
  • - 13
flag bneall (Jun 14, 2018 at 13:18) (Below Threshold)
 @dezekiel: Fairfax, where the entire mountain biking population rides the same track over and over and over and over and over... boring. Tamarancho is pure boredom.
  • + 5
 Can someone explain what is so negative about that Marin county??..

Yep, I read article but still don't get all that "f** off Marin s" from commentators here...
  • + 8
 @ka81: there's a lot of people living un the area who hate bikes and have the ear of land managers. Unfortunate but that's the way it is
  • + 8
 @ka81: in my general expierance (I'm not a resident, so this is just me) it's got a ton of old money with a very heavy "why are you here?" "Not in my back yard!" Attitudes towards folks that are not the long time land owners.
  • + 13
 @ka81: Marin County (look up Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Sausalito, Belevedere to name a few) is full of towns and cities with endless old money rich people that have the time, and money, to stop MTBing and ensure they can hike where they want and let their horses shit where they want without us disturbing them. The demographic there with the real money is not very diverse, or open enough, to consider sharing.
  • + 4
 @bneall: better than no trail ;-)
  • + 21
 @ka81: at a basic level Marin is home to a lot of land wealthy hippies. These people that are supposed to celebrate the differences in people are the worst NIMBY's in the world. If you read the comments section of the Marin Journal online you will see these 60+ year olds asking why bikes can't just enjoy the bike lanes or fire roads and more specifically why bikes need to be on "their" trails. At their core they believe that hikers own any and every trail every created and that any other user would be disturbing their personal use and believe that they are entitled to total privacy on any trail.
  • + 12
 @ka81: California is a silly place, just like Camelot in Monty Python's Holy Grail, so silly we even have a ballot to vote on in November that would divide it into 3 separate states, yet people still want to come here for some reason.....
  • + 10
 Good call, as someone who lives in marin, it f*cking sucks. Sure, there are trails for the people who live here, but as a destination you are far better off going somewhere else.
Like salespunk said, most of marin is composed of entitled idiots who have no problem tearing up land to make new houses, or walking their dogs off leash and not picking up after them, but the second that tires are touching dirt on "their" trails, its environmental destruction. There are a few people like Davey Simon and Vernon Huffman who are fighting the good fight, but you can thank all the HOHAs and equestrians for our situation.
  • + 3
 @vonroder77: I've always noticed something strange about California Swallows.
  • + 12
 Reading about Marin makes me so happy I live in the Seattle area. New amazing mtb trails opening every year, many with signs that say no horses or hiking. Evergreen is the best.
  • + 1
 @salespunk: well said!
  • + 4
 @fpmd: Same. More places need Evergreens
  • + 4
 Well I've been to Fairfax a few times, rented a bike, one and a half laps of Tamarancho, out the back and back down Repack for beers and a hot dog at Gestalt Haus, and I like it. It's not a reason to visit, but if you're in the area you won't be disappointed.
  • + 6
 @vonroder77: Correction: California is a wonderfully beautiful place! It's the people that make it silly...
  • + 62
 I have nothing but respect for people putting in a lot of their personal time, money and effort for trails. Thank you.
  • + 4
 This.

We can all bitch about trails, or pay respect to the community with our comments.

I’ve never been to Mari , but thanks to the people keeping the stoke alive.
  • + 2
 Amen, brother.
  • + 26
 My wife and I rented bikes on a short visit to Fairfax in Marin County a month ago. In the short on-road distance between the shop and the trailhead, I had one gentleman yell at me to "slow down" from his truck, while another woman informed my wife that she was a "fat slob." Or possibly a "fat slut" - it was a bit tough to discern as she drove past.

The trail system we rode was certainly fun, and the local riders we ran into all seemed to be lovely folks. But, man, it was weird to encounter such open hostility just for riding bikes.
  • + 10
 Wow, that's some bullshit. On behalf of the rest of us, "sorry". In 2018, cyclists need to look mean, be slightly drunk, pack a weapon, and don't take any shit. Welcome to Hippie Nirvana.
  • + 6
 @endlessblockades: I told a couple riders we ran into about our less-than-friendly interactions with the locals, and they were horrified. But, you know, shit happens - lord knows that Vancouver doesn't have a spotless record when it comes to treating riders equitably.

In the end, we had a great day exploring new trails and fell in love with our rental bikes (seriously, that new Ibis Ripmo is something else), and a couple hecklers isn't going to change that.
  • + 1
 I live in fairfax and while it’s by no means great, I’ve never had someone yell at me for riding on the road. That’s not common here and I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone. I’m sorry about that.
  • + 1
 My gosh, that is unreal........!
  • + 26
 California lefties.....All peace, love and understanding as long as you agree with their point of view.
  • + 32
 Though it might be easy for you to put this in the well organized political right and left bins you love so much it's more about age, money, and localism in Marin.
  • + 14
 @Hill-Seeker: you have a point but I grew up in Marin and have traveled a lot the last few years as well, what he's saying is that theres actually a very close minded attitude in Marin specifically, but those extreme representative types simultaneously signify as open minded. My friends and I used to say "you're not open minded just because you're liberal". Its just kind of the culture in Marin, you're open minded until someone you don't agree with starts talking to you. It's a big irony but the truth is that no one likes to feel challenged or wrong.
  • + 1
 @lusenator: well said
  • + 21
 It's an absolute disgrace to combine Marin CA & mountain biking in the same sentence. I commend the folks that are fighting the good fight & trying to gain approval/acceptance in that county. There are so many other great areas with full access in our state. Marin is the birthplace of douche canoes.
  • + 22
 So much douchebaggery it's sickening- and eventually it all boils down to money and lawyers. Lame.
  • + 12
 Welcome to America..open for business and owning the corner of all douchebaggery
  • + 16
 10mph speed limit for bikers? So if I sprint pass the trail enforcement officers trail running at 12mph will I get a ticket? Or does that speed limit only apply to bikes?
  • + 10
 Yes you will get a ticket. $400 with all the fees.

South of SF, in open space lands, limit is 15mph, and rangers sit with radar guns in the bushes on bottom of wide open fire road descends.
  • + 2
 Lol I've thought the same thing when I've taken my bike on the road and pushed myself. Technically, a bike is treated the same as any other vehicle, so i could've been ticketed... but not many cars were around atm, and i doubt a cop would've bothered with me unless i was being pretty dangerous or something, but still... it was fun. 40 mph on my mtb felt like i was flying... Razz I wonder if the speed limit situation is the same on trails... I'd assume so...
  • + 26
 @Axxe: if I got a ticket for running too fast I would frame it and hang it on my wall.
  • + 1
 its only enforced one day a year... and the rangers are so easy to outrun
  • + 15
 lol, and you guys worry about ebikes
  • + 7
 @Asmodai: We do worry about E-bikes, some of the rangers have them now. Say what you will about e-bikes, but it's hard to outrun one.
  • + 2
 @Axxe: First world countries definitely have too much money and time on their hands. Jeez, speed cops for bicycles. I'd be in jail.
  • - 1
 @sosburn:
my point was that you guys have speed limits and yet you worry about ebikes going too fast or destroying trails
  • + 2
 I’ve gotten a warning for riding 13mph uphill before.
  • + 1
 @bridgermurray: no climbing KOMS allowed.
  • + 1
 @Axxe: LOL........hard to believe....wow
  • + 15
 Marin, what a joke. Birthplace of hill biking, not mountain biking. CB has that honor, especially being that it’s the most friendly bike town on earth with the oldest mountain bike association.
  • + 13
 Write your own article, Chad.
  • + 13
 My buddy and I got cited for riding a trail there in there 90s one day. We were young and super dumb and probably stoned at the time. I never paid that ticket. I'm probably a wanted felon in Cali now. I did have my first ever mountain lion sighting on that ride though. Good times, good times...
  • + 11
 Mountain biking is a fringe sport. Non mountain bikers see us as threatening there life style. So we politely explain who we are. It's a constant work in progress. And there is progress. Life is a challenge And life is good.
  • + 2
 Not any more. When billions of dollars worldwide are spent on bikes every year, it stops being fringe. If you hear mountain biking as part of an advertisement, it stops being fringe. etc.
  • + 3
 @Poulsbojohnny: ask someone who does not mountain bike what mountain biking is?
No clue!
Try comparing the sport to base ball or basket ball .
It's definitely a fringe sport
  • + 2
 @Poulsbojohnny: I wish that was true. Even in bike-crazy Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler people visualize sick edits of enduro skids when they think of biking and they think mountain-biking is about destroying nature, terrorizing other trail users.

Now this view is (slowly) changing and people are starting to realize that it's just another recreational activity for normal people who just happen to like riding bikes on trails. But it's a long, slow hard road to gain acceptance and be seen as normal.

I can't even imagine how hard it is to be a trail advocate in someplace as nutty as Marin where biking off-road seems to be viewed as something practised by Satanists.
  • + 11
 I went through Marin on a west coast bike trip last year and chose an airbnb specifically right by trails listed as legal on trailforks. Within 5 mins of riding a guy stopped me to threaten to call the sheriff for my illegal trespassing. I was polite and respectful, and showed him the trailforks info on my phone which says the trail I was on was legit...dude didn't want to hear it. He was a rude asshole about the whole thing and stuck around watching that we cut off the trail back to the street. What a joke. Never going back. Also...the trails were awful. Def the worst place I've ever ridden. Heard good things about Cali riding but Marin is not worth visiting if you want to mountain bike.
  • - 1
 "Cali Riding" is mostly a facade... trail sanitation is rampant out there.
  • + 2
 I would hate to own a bike company named after this county....
  • + 1
 Agree so much! Riding out here sucks so much! Don’t come out! Stay where you are! There’s so much riders you have to deal with trail traffic! It sucks in all areas of California! Sucks so much! We hate tourists do just stay where you are because the trails are so much better outside of California! California sucks so much!!!!!!!!
  • + 11
 Glad mountain bikers are starting to get a little money. Maybe we can catch up with the equestrian crowd that somehow gets access to national part trails that forbid mtn bikes here in NC
  • + 7
 For real. Just about quit fooling with DuPont because of the horse riders that insist on chewing you out every chance they get.
  • + 11
 @NebulousNate: dude. No doubt. Not to mention that mtn bikers tend not to leave 12lb craps in the middle of the trail everywhere they go
  • + 9
 @preach: well sometimes after a long night of partying....well ya..ill leave it there...
  • + 5
 @preach: It really brings truth to the phrase "shit eating grin" but then it quickly turns into a grimace.
  • + 5
 The horse people successfully lobbied to get many trails shut down for bikes around the Los Angeles south bay area where i lived for a long time.
Those damn horses are not even native to the united states... they are all immigrants... did anybody tell that to the republicans and trump? lol...
  • + 17
 @michibretz: "That's why we plan to build a wall. the horses are taking all our jobs, health care, and getting drivers licenses they dont deserve. They are some bad equines, and im going to make the horses pay for the wall."
  • + 4
 @cuban-b: C'mon! Horses are draft animals... they should BUILD the wall!
  • + 7
 having witnessed an equestrian wreck my local mountain bike trail from riding it on horseback at a time when the trail could not bear the weight of the horse due to recent rainfall, the equestrian simply destroyed a few berms and left massive piles of horses*** and then thought nothing of all the damage they had done to the trail.
  • + 9
 @michibretz: Get out of my country you god damn horses
  • + 4
 Support STC and that just may happen
  • + 2
 @preach: In the spirit of giving, maybe we should as well? Well, maybe 1 or 2 lbs of crap, I'd have to seriously carb load the night before.
  • + 1
 @boxxerace: Lemme just stop by the buffet...
  • + 1
 @NebulousNate: DuPont's equestrian entitlement disease is rooted in lore that an equestrian club cut those trails back in the '70s. thus, their imminent domain is firmly established because they "were here first." i've personally been yelled at once by a major citizen under naval training for causing her horse to react just by shifting my weight while politely waiting on the berm while 10 of them to came down Jim Branch. one thing i know for sure: MTBs & horses don't belong on the same trails - period.
  • + 12
 marin riders. ride as fast as you can on every illegal trail and jump every thing along the way. complete war.
  • + 0
 But then they'd run into the rebar and barbed wire, or haven't you heard? ...
  • + 11
 Really makes you appreciate the right to roam that we have here!
  • + 7
 People adopted this hostility model in Eugene OR. So many booby traps on our trails from pulling logs out of berms and features.... Jokes on them though, I only build my illegal trails with dirt and rock now, so it's permanent as fuck.
  • + 1
 Claymore mines help too.
  • + 7
 I grew up mountain biking in Marin and would like to put this in perspective. I see a lot of people speculating on things they're misinformed about or saying they came through and had a bad experience. I've ridden in 10-15 different countries the last 4 years and this has really opened up my own perspective on what a great riding location can be like. Marin is a place I absolutely love. The trouble is that the only real way you can enjoy trails in Marin is if you know where to go. A lot of riding locations I've spent time in are extremely established and labeled or even have a spiderweb of a network of great trails (ex: Rotorua or Bellingham). We are not well set up for being a destination because we don't have a good infrastructure for informing and welcoming traveling riders. We don't have shuttles, tight trail networks, or even a good resource for information.

Our best trails are spread around, not in a tight cluster and the good stuff requires a decent climb to get to. Then the trails themselves either aren't originally built for bikes, or they were built so early in mountain biking's history (tamarancho) that they come across as very "XC" where you might have some fun downhills but then you're met with tight switchbacks and a trail that might not be using the terrain as more modern trails do. Generally speaking more modern trails are built to maintain speed, not require hard braking or to have pinch climbs. We have a flow trail, and some of our newer trails absolutely pick up those cues. But because it's crazy difficult to have new trails put in Marin, most of our trails that we ride were either built for other purposes (and just happen to be really fun for a bike) or in some cases were built by cyclists a long time ago before it was so illegal to do so. But again that was before the more modern way of building trails was so popular.

Out of all the places I've been the last few years: New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Nepal, Iceland, Costa Rica, Dolomites & Finale Ligure, Scotland, France, Canada and most of the PNW, I can honestly say theres a couple of my favorite trails in Marin. I've shown friends that have traveled here and they loved it to. So the truth is we DO have great riding, bike shops older than mountain biking is and are still in business, great beer and food too. We have beautiful areas to ride so close to the coolest little welcoming town (Fairfax!). But if you don't know where to go you won't find that. And thats actually quite normal in other parts of the world, a lot of my early trips I've been on I spent so many extra days in some locations just trying to figure out where to ride by exploring and guessing. Trailforks has become a great tool to overcome that for travelers, but the only way to really be set is if you have a guide.

There's no doubt Marin has it's large amount of issues but there's so much good to it as well. I'm extremely proud to be from here and would love to answer anyone's questions about it.
  • + 1
 I'd be curious to hear what are the couple of favorite trails you're referring to.
  • + 1
 @lusenator- You pretty much nailed it. The "where and when" factor is important. There are some trails that I only ride under the cover of fog. Fabulous trails if you're ok with occasionally getting yelled at. Ride here long enough and you get the added bonus of developing thick skin.
  • + 2
 Nailed it. I lived in Marin for ~6 years and 80% of my riding was under cover of night. Amazing trail network but you need a guide. And because of trail access issues, the riding culture can be a bit insular as the last thing Marin needs is non-local riders hitting illegal trails, having confrontations with octogenarian hikers and adding fuel to the anti-mtb fire ...only locals can do that Smile

And thanks, Vernon for all that you do.
  • + 1
 I was born in and have lived in Marin most of my life, and I couldn't disagree with you more! Mountain biking is not a crime! For some reason we are treated like the scum of the earth all across the Bay Area? I'm sure your favorite trails are illegal... Do you have children? Do you teach them to follow all the rules (laws), and not just the ones you agree with? You shouldn't get yelled at and cursed at for riding a bike in the woods, but it has happened to me dozens of times, in Marin and the greater Bay Area.
  • + 6
 Caution... pessimism ahead...I've lived in Fairfax for 15 years and I'm leaving because the mountain biking here sort of sucks. It's really quite sad that the place where it all began has to be like this. I've ridden all over Park City, Bend, Moab, Sedona, etc and seen how other communities can embrace the sport and actually see their towns economy bolstered as a result. But it ain't happening here. Additionally, I suspect that the whole e-bike thing is actually going to make things much worse. I have nothing but the best of wishes for everybody who is working hard to change things here, but for me it's time to leave. And I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a mountain biking destination at this time. One day maybe... wait, one decade.
  • + 3
 I hear you. But keep in mind Park City, Bend, Moab, Sedona all need tourism/bike money. Marin does not. The old hippies found their paradise and "new" is not welcome. The Dead Kennedy's were mocking Marin 35 years ago, and not without reason.
articles.latimes.com/1989-11-09/news/mn-1431_1_road-signs
(Note that is from 1989, not much has changed)
  • + 5
 @fgiraffe: plus infinity for referencing the Dead Kennedy’s in a scholarly fashion.
  • + 2
 @fgiraffe and @loganm2977: Yes!!!! "The TRAILS are laced with sticky glop"

I was listening to DK as a 12 year old in NY and now I live in Marin. I'm 44 now and for my whole life, until I moved here, I've been mispronouncing Marin based on "Moon over Marin." One of so many great songs by a legendary Bay Area band.

Between NY and Marin, I lived in Portland for 10 years. I thought bike access sucked there. And it IS bad, but Marin truly is another world for all the reasons mentioned here, #1 being NIMBYism from a small but powerful few. With that said, I'm doing my small part to change the tide. Vernon and some of the other old schoolers have put in ridiculous amounts of time. Glad there's some recognition now and then.

I don't blame the people who've skipped town for greener pastures, but I truly believe a few years down the road, Marin will be looked at as a success story. It's always darkest before the dawn.
  • + 6
 As far as I’m concerned, and most other riders there really are no victories to celebrate! The crappy tiny sections of trail that have been legitimized pales in comparison to what we have lost (RIP Knee Cap.) There are certain groups out there that will stop at nothing to ban bikes on dirt. Most people just say F#$& It and ride where they want. There is world class riding in Marin, but you run the risk of getting a ticket. For anyone that thinks the trails here are lame and boring please PM me next time you are around!
  • + 1
 Second that. There is awesome riding here but it takes time to find and you have to know when to hit certain trails. A bunch of the best aren't marked all - as hiking trails or otherwise. The local politics around trail access are SUPER lame and frustrating. But there are tons of riders here and reasons for optimism about the future. I've got several fun, technical options a 5-10 minute spin from my front door, so I'm happy enough.
  • + 9
 Marin is sub-tropical now? Climate change is moving a lot faster than I thought.
  • + 9
 Sounds like Marin County could use a good dose of the Hells Angles.
  • + 13
 don't be so obtuse
  • + 10
 very acute observation
  • + 3
 That might (or might not) be right
  • + 6
 There you go....off on a tangent.
  • + 6
 Equilateral rights for all trail users
  • + 1
 Hells Angels on moto's methinks :-)
  • + 4
 I’m just gonna say it: f*** Marin country and Nor Cal overall. Keep your hilly geography and gay fire road trails. I have been chastised for saying this once, and i’ll say it again: CA overall is overrated! I’ve been everywhere and I hate CA riding! It blows! Now is the time for you butt hurt Brown bears to chime in but I don’t care, your down votes mean nothing. Got my ten year plan to get back to Colorado and enjoy life. Only here for my kids. Please, bring the stupid supportive CA comments. I’m just gonna laugh and finish’s my beer. This state and a lot of its inhabitants are PATHEDIC.
  • + 7
 PATHEDIC!
  • + 1
 Come crack a beer with me. You’re right. But... Look up some topo maps for hwy 70, the scenic route. The riding is here, but you have to look at the purple lines on heat maps, not at anything with a name and trail conditions available.

Personally, for industry, family, and riding I’m moving to Nevada. Especially with the vote coming up to split the state up. F all that noise.
  • + 6
 Fuck off Marin County. If that's your view on the way you manage your natural areas, then I don't want to pay you any attention or money. Sincerely, the rest of the world
  • + 7
 A handful of people in the area have more money than that of most small nations, so the truth is they could give a shit about your money because they are busy trying to figure out how to spend theirs not make more.
  • + 1
 I'm sure the locally owned bike shops, resturants, stores, breweries, hotels among others would 'give a shit about their money'
  • + 3
 I grew up in Sonoma County throughout the 80's and 90's and rode Marin County almost every weekend. It wasn't until I left NorCal around 2002 that I realized how horrible the trail access issue is around the bay area. Its amazing to have an area as beautiful with such amazing weather and so much potential as the bay area just throw it away by demonizing mountain bikers and limiting where you can ride... absolutely sad for the so called birth place of mountain biking. Fortunately, not all of California is as bad as the bay area. Where I live now (central CA, south of Yosemite), I never have to think about where I can ride or when I have to ride to avoid crowds. It's unlimited trails (literally hundreds of miles of fire road, two track and singletrack) that share access with mtn bikes, moto bikes, 4wd, horses and hikers. You can easily do 6-8 hour rides that climb to 10,000' and never see a soul. And with nearby China Peak, awesome lift accessed downhill trails all day long. All this in a county that has way more horse owners than those in the whole bay area.
  • + 3
 It's so sad to read all this cock blocking from the residents there. I feel sorry for all those riders in Marin county as I take it for granted here in Wales and the UK that pretty much any hill or mountain with shrubbery on it will have a trail or 2 and we can ride it. It pisses me off just thinking about if some rich old prick telling me I couldn't ride my local trails cos x y and z. No wonder the US has a lil bit of hate for ebikes when Europe is all for them. Yes I own one. Maybe if we the community sent emails, petitions from all over the planet it could help?
  • + 1
 If it makes you feel any better, ask me how I know they can’t catch up with a YT tues going 40 to hand out a speeding ticket.

Also, niterider lights are very popular here.

It’s still the Wild West if you know how to be careful and not be such a total yarbo they start shooting mtbers.
  • + 3
 Nothing will change. Not until the advocates change.

MCBC and A4B have made terrible strategic errors. They will not accept responsibility for these errors. They are IMO the biggest part of the problem. The issue is simple. They keep pushing for multi use trails when they should be pushing for single use (bike priority trails) to separate users and reduce conflict.

Until then it will be more of the same.
  • + 1
 Lets turn every good challenging trail into a flow trail!!!!! RIP a lot of good trails, this article should read more like a obituary then an achievement.
  • + 1
 Yup bike only trails would be a great solution. I'll share the road on the way up, and then get speedy flow w/o conflicts on the way down.
  • + 3
 To understand Marin, you have to understand history and how idiotic California is/ was and will always be. Imagine millions of people flooding your hometown, state and recreation areas. Even the nicest people becomes protective, then angry and irrational, combine that with hipocracy, addiction and self entitlement. Welcome to Marin.
  • + 2
 What’s so hypocritical about a bunch of children of the summer of love hoarding natural resources and using vast amounts of money to limit their usage to glaring strangers?

Oh, wait. Damn.

Yeah, I’m from Chico and my one riding trip to Napa was bad.

It’s all about 1000s of lumens and/or Rockville Park, which is amazing. Too small to get lost and die, just maze-y enough to feel like it’s endless, with rock rolls, rock gardens, and even a trail of nothing but rock garden.

Still love my birthplace, but also still Nevada bound ASAP.
  • + 3
 I love the concept of the corpo-"hippies" that populate the likes of Sausalito and Mill Valley.

And I'll be damned if I spend my money there; they've spent a lifetime telling the outside world they aren't interested.
  • + 2
 "For example: a small, seemingly insignificant connector trail in the Mill Valley area that cuts out a dangerous section of road for kids and commuters was just weeks away from being opened. At the last minute, a group opposed to bikes hired someone to analyze every single bit of it and the associated paperwork. One small error was found. A lawsuit was filed, taken to a sympathetic judge, and the project (which was in upwards of 25 years in the making) was shut down. The project is estimated to cost anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 to get it moving again."

Is there any more info on this or an article source?
  • + 3
 I wish the 'new school' group all the best in their efforts. However, F 90% of the smug, arrogant a-holes that have been the gestapo of Marin County.
  • + 1
 Everyone complaining about Marin, come on over to NH and VT for some awesome riding, great camping, good craft beer scene and we love Mountain Bikers. Any poo on the trail is as likely from a Deer or a bear than a horse or a dog. Remember to bring some bug spray, the Mosquito is the State Bird.
  • + 1
 There is a decent series of articles on bike that talk about this whole issue. In the end, its old money and Sierra Club ass holes who are ruining the party. Some pretty shitty shenanigans have gone on by those opposed to anyone who doesn't follow their cultist ways. Good Sunday read if it is online (not sure, read it in the mag).

I grew up in CA (San Diego). Was a good place to be in the 70s and 80s. But fuuuuck that place these days.

To you folks who live and ride in Marin county. I just don't understand why you would stay there? if mountain biking is your passion, I encourage you to take your livelihood and the dollars it brings to the county someplace else. You know, like anywhere outside of CA. There is no shortage of bike friendly towns and cities with just as much beauty. Good luck.
  • + 1
 I think what would make me feel best; get a whole bunch of riders and swarms of tourists to move to Marin, advocate for trail access and totally get up the ass of everyone in Marin, create an even more toxic stew for everyone. I’m not going there, used to ride there in the early 90s. I remember when the rangers drove way out on a favorite trail to start installing no bike signs all over these remote areas. There was no review. Rangers were nice folk and were sad to share the news, and it was the equestrians. So... birthplace of mtb! Beautiful place! Go move to fair fax and live the Dream!!
  • + 1
 I grew up in Fairfax and now live in San Diego- I ride all over the country these days. Marin is absolutely gorgeous and has tremendous potential for incredible mountain biking- it also is filled with a ridiculous amount of entitled a*sholes. The fight for access needs to continue- unfortunately it will take the old money/hippies all dying before that happens to change the mindset.

As a kid in the 80's and 90's riding my rigid Trek up and down Eldrige Grade to the East Peak of Tam was great but not enough. Got spit on (who spits on a 12 year old? A 60 something group of old ladies that who- after I said "good morning" no less, on a legal trail), sticks thrown at me and yelled at regularly. I took to poaching singletrack at night with mag lights taped to my handlebar. I can only imagine what those trails would be like now with my 6' travel 29er.

The fight continues here in San Diego- its very different and the riding is still outstanding if you know where to go- most best spots are pseudo-legal to full illegal as it goes in a place so close to a major metropolitan area. Maybe I am skewed by my past but I find SD very bike friendly. I'm involved here with SDMBA and have given money to A4B in the past. Not going to get angry- going to take action.
  • + 2
 That's easy if you're single and have a portable job.

Plus, actually (generalizations from people who don't live here aside) it's an awesome place to live. The weather is great, you can ride year round and the vibe in central Marin is way different than down closer to the city. I work from home a couple days/week and get a ripping lunch ride in on steep, techy, quasi-legal trail that is almost always totally empty. There are douchebags wherever you go - tune it out and it's actually really nice here.
  • + 1
 There's also a bit of a careful what you wish for thing going on here. The hiking trails are jammed on the weekends. Mt Tam and the headlands are big tourist destinations. If trails there get opened to bikes, people will flood them and that will cause a different set of problems. It's not much fun if you can't find your speed and have to worry about a pack of tourists around every corner. So for now, yes you risk a pricey ticket if you poach, but it also keeps the trails clear most of the time and if you're smart and pick your moments there are some awesome spots. What sucks a lot more is the restrictions on all the trails in the water district, west marin and northern marin that are far less crowded. These areas are often empty on weekdays.
  • + 3
 Marin definitely has some old money: a pair o' dimes, pair o' nickels, and a pair o' pennies. And those may cost you $400.
  • + 1
 An absolutely awful place. So much natural beauty, so many terrible people. It's also the second most racist town in America (Boston being #1).
  • + 2
 I would love to break that 10 mph limit just to get in a bike cop chase, "NO DEALS COPPAH!"
  • + 1
 I've bombed repack plenty of times. I've yet to see a ranger with a radar gun. It's really the more overcrowded areas on Mt Tam where this is an issue. Part of the problem is crowding in general. There are way too many people crammed into these trails on the weekends.
  • + 1
 www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPZDEWBzneY

It's a link to, "Snowboarders Vs. Skiers."

Same s***, different people. Watch above.
  • + 2
 Once Marin County taste some of that e-bike money, i'm sure they'll open up to the idea.
  • + 1
 Best comment on this whole thing. Marin is our ebiked future
  • + 2
 The MOB don’t care about legality. (Marin Outlaw Bikers)
  • + 2
 id ride them illegally. and if they crushed my bike id get another one!
  • + 1
 "the bike industry must be involved on the ground with those making things happen in local communities"

Hear Hear
  • + 2
 You know what will help trail access? Bikes with motors!
  • + 1
 so glad i grew up and live where I did............freedom from petty stuff pretty much in spades.
  • + 1
 Meanwhile in Arkansas a new bike park was opened up with 7 dh trails with construction lasting a total of six months
  • + 0
 Just because I’m tipsy and in a mood I’m gonna say it again: F*** Nor Cal and Marin County.
  • + 1
 Thought I saw Fanie in there. Much love, brother!
  • + 1
 Nice work, @danielsapp .
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