When I was cutting my teeth mountain biking, we had a small group of friends that enjoyed trying to figure out how to ride over sections of technical trails and technical features through trial-and-error. We would spend our rides “sessioning” features working on lines and skills, advising (and teasing) each other and celebrating victories together.
As our skills improved, we found ourselves riding faster, and in many cases riding faster means finding the smoother line by making line choices that avoid technical obstacles to either stay in front or catch up to the faster guys. And it wasn't just us. Larger group rides started becoming more popular in our area and as I mingled with other riders, I discovered they wouldn't even recognize many trail features as technical features so had never taken the time to practice and develop the skills to ride them.
I was inspired enough to start special group rides called “Technical Support Sessions” where the focus was slowing down the pace of a typical ride and stopping to session, or practice, the technical trail features we have on the trails we ride most often. We have great technical trails in locally, and many riders would have certain sections that would hang them up but could not find the time to practice them on a fast-paced ride. The great thing about slowing the pace is all levels of riders can ride together in a group, and enjoy each other's company, riding together and learning from each other. Newer or novice riders could watch more advanced or experienced riders do their thing (or crash trying). Either way, we had fun in the woods together on bikes, and the format of "Techy Rides" were a hit.
Eventually that led to the Techy Riders Social Club, an awesome group of friends or soon-to-be-friends on Facebook where we can goof off and talk techy when we are not out riding our bikes, and a great way to organize and announce our future outings.
We all know that this sport has inherent risk, and crashes do happen, but we do our best to make that aspect “fun” by awarding a “Spilly Award” to the best crash during a techy ride. To qualify you must get hurt, not injured. Not only do riders get bragging rights and a good story to tell, they also get a hospital Fall Risk bracelet to place on their handlebars. It is a badge of honor among techies.
I would like to see Techy Rider Social Clubs pop up across the country. Imagine travelling and having the opportunity to ride with other techies and making new friends. It is simply a fun way to ride and develop a sense of community with other mountain bikers, and I would like more biking communities to experience it.
I hope that we keep technical features, and those that enjoy riding them, in a positive light and progressive in nature. I love being a part of riders developing new skills that make riding more fun. I believe a fun and social atmosphere will inspire more riders to want to give back to our mountain bike community with their time, talents, and treasures...whether that means helping their local trail crew and volunteers with digging and maintaining trail, their local advocacy group with enhancing the mountain biking experience in their local area, or just being an awesome example and mentors to new riders coming into the fold. It all starts with a great ride, however you like to do it.