I had the good fortune to go out on a photo shoot with Mountain Cycle pro rider Olivia Harkness on the trails of eastern Massachusetts. It was a test in the theory that good photos are possible in any weather.
The shoot was aimed at creating promo photos for Olivia and for Mountain Cycle showing her riding and having a good time. As we unloaded our bikes, a misty drizzle began to fall from the flat, gray sky. A good time can be had mountain biking in any weather, but making the images look fun, rather than a cold, wet and dreary were going to be a challenge. We spent some time playing on the natural features, trying to get images with the ocean in the background. Within an hour, my lens cloth was soaked from wiping rain off the lens and my fingers had lost their sensitivity. The images, however, were working, due, in no small part, to Olivia’s riding. Her smooth confidence made the shots come alive. The muted light also brought out the vibrant greens of new spring leaves and the rain-darkened trail added contrast.
After enjoying the rock slabs and wet rock staircases of the oceanside, we hit the trails. For the record, trails in Massachusetts are excellent. She led me along trails that alternated between rocky/rooty technical sections and smooth, swoopy singletrack. We had so much fun railing bermed corners that I almost forgot to stop and shoot.
Here are some of my favorites from the shoot.
For more images from the shoot click HERE.
The dim heart of the Regency Theater swirls with energy as over one hundred mountain bikers greet each other in anticipation. The food and beer lines stretch along the back wall. Mountain bikers oogle raffle prizes including day-passes from Highland Mountain Bike Park, bike care-kits from Pedros, Two Fox suspension forks, CrossMax wheel-sets from Mavic and Back Bay Bicycles, and the Grand Prize, a Kona Tanuki mountain bike.
This is the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) Mountain Bike Film Festival and the anticipation isn’t just for the Red Bones BBQ or the beer donated by Harpoon Brewery–or even the prizes–it’s for the films. While screenings of big name films happen all over the country, this is one of the few that celebrate the making of mountain bike films at the amateur level. These are videos made by mountain bikers about their own rides and adventures.
Soon, the lights go dark and the films begin to tick off one by one. They are all short (rules require under 5 minutes, but most are under 3.) They all have limited production quality. They each shake, wobble and tilt in vertiginous ways. But what these films lack in production, they more than make up for in passion. As I watch beginner XC riders skitter through singletrack turns and freeriders send-it off dirt kickers, I realize that picking one to be the “People’s Choice” was going to be a contentious event.
Mike Feeney produced a couple of hard-charging freeride videos that not only included hucking decent-sized jumps and ripping scary ladder bridges at Highland MBP, but also rednecks jumping ATVs and starting a snowmobile on fire. “Badassalon 2008″ and “I Didn’t Pump My Tire” head up the humorous entries with pellet rifles and a remake of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Marsha MacEachern’s “A Biker’s Playground” is a surprisingly emotional romp through the woods (and a lake.) I am surprised to see an animated feature, but Bryan McFarland put one together with some chill music. There is also an iPhone entry that has some of the best composed visuals in the festival. Two high school kids put together a strong contender for the People’s Choice award filming their mountain biking class riding homemade stunts. It is “One Speed Jasper” that barely edges out the other films for People’s Choice, however. This film used the GoPro HD camera famous for helmet-cam shots in so many adventure movies. Of course, the camera ended up attached to the usual places on the bike: helmet, rider’s chest and seatpost. What really made this film shine was that the subject wasn’t just the ride, but also the faithful mountain bike companion: the “trail dog.” In the true GoPro fashion of showing things from “your point of view,” the camera was attached to Jasper the Dog for a trail-dog’s-eye-view of a run through the woods chasing a bike. THIS is what makes amateur film shine. The footage shook like “Blair Witch Project” but it focused on a valuable part of mountain biking that often gets overlooked by the large production films.
After watching Highland Mountain Bike Park’s GnarEast film winner, a good film that centered around the central “story” of the park and ride bus that shuttles riders in to Highland from surrounding towns, they announced the raffle winners. Not everyone left with a Kona mountain bike or set of Mavics, but, I think it’s fair to say, we all left with a greater appreciation for mountain biking, whether it’s the camaraderie of riders gathering in the dead of winter, the glimpse into where video will be taking us in the future or the passion for riding that made these films happen.
Here is the film from the footage I shot during the Winnick Woods trail day.
If you look at the dates of the trail day, you’ll see that it’s been a while since the work got done. I got the final shots of the completed work being ridden just a couple of days ago. Enjoy!
It’s not every day that you get to work with the preeminent experts in your field. Greater Portland NEMBAgot that opportunity when they won a grant to bring the IMBA Trail Care Crew to Falmouth to teach a trail building clinic. Thirty people showed up for the workshop that included both in-class instruction and field work at the new Falmouth open land project. Chris and Leslie Kehmeier of the IMBA Trail Care Crew (East) spent the morning teaching us about “flow” of both water off the trail and of mountain bikers gliding along singletrack. After spraying a heavy coat of bug spray on ourselves, we picked up our Pulaskis, McLeods and rakes and and began the outdoor clinic. With their help and instruction, we turned 1800 ft of nothing but little pink flags into fresh, sustainable trail. There is still plenty of work to keep us busy out there, but with their technical, hands-on teaching, we have a good start on a great trail. Thank you, Chris and Leslie, and IMBA.
Apply for a visit by the IMBA TCC here.
There’s something thrilling about riding a trail that you helped build or maintain. The trail feels smoother and faster. The descents are more fun. The climbs, more ridable. The root-sections, suddenly, less dangerous. And, as you ride over that rock-fortified, erosion-resistant section, you can feel each stone that your hands placed as your tires roll over it. The elation you feel when you ride that trail is pride. It comes from long mornings of hauling wheelbarrows full of gravel and chopping out hidden, tire-eating stumps from the edge of the trail. It comes from wiping gritty sweat out of your eyes with the back of a work glove. It’s pride of a job well done (even if it’s a work in progress.) You begin to take ownership of it. This is my trail.
I’ve been able to experience that thrill several times while riding the “Holy Cross” trail outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, after working with COPMOBA. If you’re in the Grand Junction area, go ride it. It’s the masterpiece of theTabeguache (Lunch Loop) trails system. Every time I ride it, I experience that pride. Now, I get to experience that sense of pride here in Maine.
I volunteered time working on the Winnick Woods trail system in Cape Elizabeth for Greater Portland NEMBA and had a blast. Winnick Woods, already one of the area’s best trail systems, is now better than ever. The trails will be more fun for me to ride, not just because of the improvements we made to them, but because of the effort I put in.
Some ways you can find out about trail work days going on in your area is to search for local trail organizations or look through IMBA’s trail organization database. Keep in mind, also, that a large presence of volunteers doesn’t just make the work of keeping trails up easier, it also shows land managers that mountain bikers care about the trails. Providing free labor to cash-strapped land agencies (public and private) helps ensure a good relationship when it comes time to decide what “multi-use” really means. Mountain biking, like all trail-based activities, has an impact. Make sure you give more than you take by volunteering.
Mountain biking, for me, is a solo event. So I feel some apprehension when I ride into the parking lot to see a dozen cars parked with bikes on top. Normally I blame my work schedule for my lack of riding partners, but that’s only partly true. My thirst for alone-time derails any real attempt at finding people to ride with.
Tonight, however, I’m heading out with the Rage on Portland group, a loose organization of riders who consistently meet up to ride. I do these rides once or twice a year. As I begin talking to the Ragers getting their bikes ready for the trail, I remember why. There is a subdued energy surrounding these people. They love trails. They love riding them. And they love riding them together.
We set out and I drop in mid pack. I represent the center-point in this group of twenty-five–somewhere between the hammers and the cruisers, somewhere between the twenty-ish woman on her ninth ride ever and a sixty-five-year-old man who’d been riding since before I was born.
There is a lot of chatting on the road. Then, we drop into the dense Maine woods. Sound disappears. Our tires roll over dry dirt and pine needles. The occasional rustle of dry leaves breaks the silence. The line of riders weaves like a multi-colored serpent through the forest. It’s like a dance where my personal experience gets swallowed up in the greater experience of the group. The line bunches up as we slow to say hi to a hiker with a border collie and thank her for letting us pass. once past, the line stretches until I can’t see either end.
The banter picks up when we stop at trail junctions to wait for the rest of the group. While I’ve met most of these guys before, I don’t know any of them well enough to engage in the ribbing that goes on. Instead, I take it all in, learning about the people I’m with. Brian spends a lot of time crashing. Mike is riding strong after fracturing his hip in a crash the summer before and Katrina could kick all of our asses on a bike or climbing a rock face. There are riders who just got back from Moab and riders dreaming of making the trip to Kingdom Trails a couple of hours away. Even though I know nothing of their off-the-bike lives, I feel like I know them all. And they seem to know me–the important parts, at least.
Maybe the bike is the only thing that unites us. I doubt it, but it doesn’t seem to matter. We set off again, pedaling into the woods. The only real competition amongst us is with the sun racing toward sunset. I follow the leaders, trying to memorize where the new trails are so when I come out here again, by myself, I can find them. The task is impossible in the labyrinth of trees. It doesn’t matter, I tell myself. I promise myself this is the year I put away my loner tendencies and begin riding with the group.
A precedent-setting decision by made by U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy condemns 150 miles of trail in the heart of Montana to closure and threatens over 700 more miles of singletrack throughout the state. The trail closures stem from a lawsuit filed by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society alleging that, by allowing mountain bikers to use the trails, the Gallatin National Forest Service failed to preserve the wilderness character of the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn wilderness study area (WSA). This ruling sets the stage for possible closures of trails in other WSAs around the state (and the greater US).
This loss is personal for me. The Hyalite trail system was the solas I fled to during one of the lowest points of my life. I often headed out after work. Since I was on a mountain bike, I covered the distance to overlooks in the short hours before sunset that would have taken far too long on foot. I have many fond memories of watching the slanting rays of the sun light up raw peaks and tree-carpeted valleys in crisp alpenglow. Being in the center of all that beauty gave me the strength to wake up and go through it all again the next day.
The Gallatin Forest Service office’s mountain bike-friendly policies make the trails surrounding Bozeman easily the best trails I have ever ridden. They built sustainable trails long before “sustainable trail-building” became a buzzword. Their trails consistently show less wear and less erosion than other trail systems around the US and should be a model for trail-building. Instead, it makes them an easy target for lawsuits.
The IMBA and Montana Mountain Bike Alliance have vowed to continue the fight through appeals. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Become an IMBA member.
- Make a donation to IMBA’s Legal Advocacy Fund.
- Donate to the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance.
- Be cool, and politely share the trail with other users.
Remember, this fight will soon extend into your own neighborhood trail system. Joining your local trail advocacy group is essential. The opposition is organized, we must be, too.
Here are some links to articles on the trail closures: