Words: Brice Shirbach
Underexposed is a self-shot and produced series by Pivot Cycles athlete Brice Shirbach dedicated to showcasing trail advocacy and stewardship while exploring a variety of trails in unfamiliar places. Join Brice as he explores the personal motivations behind the effort that goes into mountain bike advocacy while sampling the trails they work so hard for.
We spend a lot of time praising professional mountain bike athletes and trailbuilders for what they do, and for the record I'm all for it. While advocacy and volunteerism might lack the sex appeal of other dynamics in mountain biking, the reality is that our sport's unsung heroes are the ones attending board meetings, and filling out 501c3 forms, and are often the ones answering to the questions and demands of various other trail user groups.
A peek behind the curtain of a prolific mountain bike association reveals responsibilities and duties that, quite frankly, kind of suck, especially when considering that it's done on a volunteer basis. Advocacy and stewardship is very hard work but it's not without its rewards, and in Tucson, AZ there are two separate but equally tenacious trail associations looking to reap as many rewards for local mountain bikers as possible.SDMB
(Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists) and TORCA
(Tucson Off Road Cycling Activists) have taken a divide and conquer approach to the several hundreds of miles of trail that surrounds the Sonoran Desert oasis that is Tucson, Arizona. The city is the 2nd largest in the state behind Phoenix, with a metro population of over 1,000,000 and growing. It’s 50 miles north of the Mexico border and is surrounded on all sides by 5 minor mountain ranges, including the Rincons to the east, the Santa Ritas to the south, the Tucson Mountains along the western border, and both the Santa Catalinas and the Tortolita Mountains north of the city. Spread out amongst all of that as well as within the city itself is over 350 miles of trail available for mountain bikers, so much so that both trail associations have their hands full managing their respective pieces of the pie.
SDMB deals largely with the city itself, as well as Pima County Parks and Recreation and the US Forest Service specifically for projects on Mount Graham, located about 2 hours east of town. Their “territory” includes trail networks such as Tucson Mountain Park, Fantasy Island, Sweetwater Preserve, Rincon Valley and more.
TORCA has a more singular, but equally sizable focus: Mount Lemmon. The massive eminence northeast of Tucson reaches an elevation of just under 9,200 feet above sea level. The trails on Lemmon are managed by the United States Forest Service, and TORCA has become the 501c3 partner organization with the USFS, effectively functioning as their trail maintenance arm.
Despite having enormous responsibilities and workloads, both TORCA and SDMB carve out time throughout the year to partner up on trail work days and initiatives as well. The scale of Tucson and the surrounding landscape is stunning and massive, and the efforts from both outstanding trail associations are no less so. There aren't many places with the collection of cultural resources available that also offer up a true desert and mountain backcountry experience in the way that Tucson can. It has found such a special place in my own heart over the years I've been visiting since my first trip in 2018, and that's in no small part due to the efforts from the amazing people behind organizations like TORCA and SDMB, both of whom are setting the new standard for how trail associations should function. The Sonoran Desert is among the most beautiful corners of the country and there's certainly no shortage of inspiration between the desert, the mountains, and everything in between. I'm just stoked that the future of mountain biking in such a remarkable place has so many capable and devoted people to look after it.
The 2 groups in this article are a joke. They spend more time organizing drinking events than trail work. Everything they do is sponsored or revolves around beer. SDMB spends more time on the trails 2 hours away than in Tucson. On mt lemmon. Both of the groups came to prominence when the scene was less people. TORCA is nothing more than a way to leverage their shuttle business into a profit.
They also spend more time at fantasy island than on mt lemmon. Where ebikes are allowed.
Look at how super worked up they get if you even ask questions! They are super unprofessional.
They definitely maintain the trails. But thats it. They aren't advocates because they are not willing to ruffle any feathers because it would compromise their gravy train of using trail advocacy as a way to get deals on things. They are sponsored by beer companies so they can get free beers to pound and call each other bro.
Tucson locals have a way different opinion of TORCA than this article or they have of themselves. They mistakenly believe, as they indicated that they are the god of trails on mt lemmon. Every single trail they maintain was already there. Compare that to Hawes in Mesa on USFS land where they have built 40 miles of trails from scratch.
I will acknowledge that without TORCA green mountain would have never been rideable again. I thank them for that.
If you are talking about Tana, and Juan, that's the absolutely most ridiculous thing I've ever heard you say and you have said some ridiculous stuff. I have never even met Juan. He certainly hasn't "scooped" any of my girls, which led to me having an issue with TORCA. I have had the same girlfriend since before you blocked me! A definite upgrade over Tana. Why would I be mad that I had sex with TORCA members girl and she told him he had to move out so I could move in. How could that lead to me being mad at TORCA? And who is this mystery woman that Juan "scooped" from me. Becuase I have only had 1 girlfriend from Tucson.
Now as far as your wife getting naked and doing coke in the hot tub. We won't get into all that though right? All the SDMB swinger parties. I mean trail advocate meetings. Ya we won't talk about how every TORCA is at a bar. Or you drink during trail work, or go to bar and drink for hours after then drive home.
You need to sober up and check your receipts. I dated Tana for 4 months in 2021. I was banned BEFORE that. So your fantasy is just that. A fantasy. Created by alcohol rotting your brain cells.
You lie at every corner. Cocaine jacuzzi's and fire pit jumping?? Every board member that was ever at a Pachanga, was dead asleep at 10pm from having worked 15 hour days in the lead up to the weekend of the event. Jumping fire pits? Again, a lie as it relates to TORCA. Maybe some attendees but like I said, we were all tucked in snug as a bug away from childish antics. On the other hand, I have no problem believing you were a part of that. You pick fights everywhere. With TORCA, SDMB, some E-biker in Michigan, Michigan Parks And Rec and others. Now Sooter? Let's pick that one apart shall we.
All you need to know about Lane is that he picked an internet fight at the onset of the comment section accusing a guy (that would mop the floor with 99% of riders) of sanitizing the trail to help his strava times. Anyone who knows Sooter knows that A. He is a great guy. B. Is a Machine on the bike & C. Would be the one to put obstacles back on the trail to shut down bad etiquette of moving obstacles, not the opposite, as Lane has so passionately asserted. You are a child looking for validation anywhere you can. A dog pissing everywhere to mark your territory. But the real Lane is Persona Nongrata. No one on any forum likes you. even your burnout friends probably don't like you. You got kicked off of forums all by yourself buddy. You didn't need my help.
And let's get something straight, I haven't been a part of TORCA in a while now. So when I speak, it's MY opinion from 15 years of doing the dirty work. You wanna talk about me, cool. Again, I don't care what people like you and Sir Dabalots have to say about me. I did more in a day for our trails than the three of you guys could do in a lifetime. You just regurgitate the same recycled headlines from your burnout crew that undermines good people's selfless efforts. You're a top tier a*shole. But best of luck in your advocacy endeavors. I have a feeling you're gonna need it. Remember though, I got $10k with your name on it. Picture of you, a skiddy punching out new trails on Mt. Lemmon and the money is yours. But you're gonna have to shut your laptop to do that. Hop to it boy!! We're all counting on you.
There are route concepts, in the draft plan, for new trail mileage on the Mt Lemmon Hwy corridor. Many of those miles are challenging to build given terrain and endangered species season limitations. That said the USFS does recognize that mountain bikers need more places to ride on Mt Lemmon than existing Lemmon Drop route segments. There's no disagreement there. It's a question where on the priority list will it land. TORCA has been and will continue to push where it lands on the priority list with the USFS.
Where the Tucson MTB community on Lemmon, is at now, is the culmination of TORCA working with the Catalina District for more than a decade. They literally left SDMB and formed for that purpose. People can say progress to date not good enough or soon enough, but it's not for lack of trying or engagement. I'd challenge your position which seems to be t that you won't do trail work or support the board until you see new trail mileage specifically where you want to ride on Mt Lemmon. The fact that you ride those trails today and cause degradation as well as have strong criticisms of the the group that is fighting for what you want on the mtn suggests you should get on board sooner.
As far as posting progress, TORCA's been reporting on dig days out on Bugs this winter and spring. They had 25 people doing rock work on Lower Bugs in April! They've been working on Red Ridge and want to get people up there to show off the work. What's wrong with that? Give these guys a break. They are unpaid volunteers trying to create some stoke on the mileage we've got for now.
I have been at parties with you and your wife! With someone who was doing coke, naked, in the jacuzz with her! The person I was dating took me to several parties with TORCA and SDMB board members getting drunk and doing coke. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about cause we can take this way off the trails. You wouldn't even know who I was if I was standing right next to you. I first met you and TORCA in 2017, when you were a board member. I witnessed all the drunken antics. And started being critical of TORCA around February of 2018.
Randy started his own problems when he put my name in his mouth. He had no reason to tag me in his post. He could have said anything he wanted without including me. Get off his nuts. Hes a great rider but handled that like a small child. He obviously has been watching how you behave. I've been told he moves trail features and I may or may not have observed him moving rocks in the gauntlet. But since it doesn't matter, since its an illegal trail anyways, it's not worth dealing with. Whether he does or doesn't is irrelevant to me, I am not in charge of the trails. Yet.
At the end of the day you spend more time drinking beer than riding your bike. Which is why you "stepped away". When in reality its because there's a conflict of interest with your business.
Here's the most important thing you need to remember. I dont care if other people like me. I dont need to be validated. I dont need to be told how good of job I'm doing on the trails. I don't need free equipment. I dont need the fastest strava time. I dont need the hottest girlfriend. I dont need anything. Because I have me. I may not be someone you personally agree with but thats okay because I think you're a drunk idiot, just like you mistakenly think I smoke dabs and use that same lame ass line every time. No dabs. No beers. No vans. No buses. I drive the same car as your wife, and live near the bottom of Millie. Maybe you should stop believing everything you hear. And half of what you see.
Public land stewards should not be advertising poisonous toxic substances that the CDC recommends 0 alcohol use. The bottom line is every meeting is a at a bar. And every trail day involves drinking. Thats a huge contradiction. Outdoor recreation is for healthy purposes. Not just another place to drink beer. I have been consistent since my first comment. They need to separate drinking from trail advocacy. I just get called a dab in a van. Despite not dabbing or a van.
2.) I recently (in the last 24 hours) learned about how extensive the maintenance restrictions were on Bigelow related to the Mexican spotted owl mating period -that's an obscene amount of time smack dab in the middle of the riding season where no one is allowed to go to work up there. I have no idea how to work around that considering one would make progress for a month's worth of riding, then winter will just undo it. When it comes to this kind of red tape, I definitely feel for you. Do you think that more voices at a meeting with the FS would help to pare these restrictions back? It seems like some of the biologists they bring in are all but fabricating data on certain animals in order to combat the mtb user group.
I'd suggest reading through the 2022 Trails Plan: www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd1071605.pdf
Particularly pages 44-65. This will give you an idea of what's planned and what the nearer term priorities are. I'd point out that the most new trail mileage in this plan is MTB focused with Bug Jr. and Tucson Vista. That's a huge win relative to the overall plan. Bug Jr is probably the most exciting for those that ride Lemmon Drop segments today. That said Bug Jr. is not highlighted as a "near term" priority. 50 year Realignment and Tucson Vista however are. That would suggest those projects will happen sooner. This is a personal opinion..not one of the USFS, TORCA or SDMB: my guess is that Bug Jr. initial planning will begin in 2024 and construction in 2025. I wish it were sooner, but the fact that a new 5.5 mile advanced descending trail is part of the plan is huge. It would not be on this plan without years of hard work and receptiveness from the Coronado Recreation leadership which has dramatically improved since 2020.