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Trail Topics

   Trail Bikes and Stereotypes

    Monday, September 12, 2011

Author: Valerie Pretzel

I had an awesome ride on the weekend with West Coast Trail Bike Safaris, probably my eighth ride with them over the last 4 years or so. Now as much as I’d love to be up to the harder rides, I have great rides at the Introduction level and the “Girls and Partners” rides. These rides still challenge me and importantly bring me home with a smile on my face and plans for my next ride.

There were 14 people on the ride on Saturday – 3 women and guys ranging from late twenties through to…well let’s just say, somewhere on the other side of fifty. They came from all different backgrounds and careers – some had been riding off road for a while and for some it was their second time on the dirt after riding road bikes. By the end of the ride those guys were planning which bike was soon going to have a home in the garage as they caught the trail bike bug.

This isn’t the usual picture the public have of trail bike riders – there wasn’t a 17 year old Crusty Demon wannabe in sight – some were old and Crusty but that was the closest it came ☺.

When lobbying the government for more and better trails, and a better image for trail bike riders – the first thing we have to do is break down the stereotypes. I can see the surprise in their eyes when they find out I ride. I started riding when I was on the wrong side of forty, I am five foot one and most describe me as “petite” – not the usual picture of a trail bike rider. I started riding because my other half had got back into it after a decade off the bike and my daughter declared she wanted to give up riding horses to ride a trail bike (much to her dad’s joy!) – so I figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em….and I haven’t looked back!

When Sport & Recreation people dismiss trail bike riding as not having any exercise value, I am able to confidently tell them that my upper body and legs certainly get a workout and my heart rate gets to the same level as when I do a Spin class. We get quality family time, some amazing adventures with our friends and we get to see parts of beautiful WA that I would never otherwise see.

There are still plenty of negative stereotypes to break down but we can see how far we have come in the last 4 years. We’d love to hear your stories, and remember, when you are out on the trails, do your bit to change those old negative stereotypes.

   The Pleasure and the Pain

    Monday, September 05, 2011

Author: George Lowry

Last week the bloody bike threw me off (yes blame the tools, not the tool riding it). As I sailed through the air, I started to ponder (as you do) how much landing was going to hurt. The problem was that my shoulder was lining up to take the full impact of landing and my recollection of the body armour I was wearing was that there wasn't too much of it around the shoulder area! Duh... note to self... get some more shoulder armour and a neck brace!

Bang! Crack! I hit the ground and immediately a sharp pain shot through the shoulder into the neck and down the back. Faaaaarrrrrge! I lay there wondering if I should move... as usual the audience soon arrives and provides great motivation to stand up, be brave and pick the bike up and continue onwards, if only to get to the next stop to ring for help!

Back in Perth, a lot of x-rays and CT scans later, I've been wondering some more as I swallow a lot of pills and limp about... why do we do this to ourselves!!! The answer I believe is pretty simple. Trail bike riding is the simply the most awesome recreational sport going round!! Out on the trails during the day communing with nature, sitting round fires at night telling epic stories of bravery, heroism and 'how good am I' (the last one obviously not me!).

As good as the sport is, I believe there are ever-present dangers which if left unchecked will destroy it. The first is called "selfishness". I'm guilty of it. Why should I get involved.. I know where I like to ride, when I ride and with who. Why should I give a toss about other riders much less help them. Selfishness leads to the next danger. Apathy. That's the sit on your fat ass and let others do the work.

So why do I give time and money to the RTRA? Because trail riding is the best sport. Because people are out there lobbying state and local government to not only protect the activity but invest significant resources in developing it. Because public servants are working at state and local government levels trying to do the right thing by our sport... and they need our support and encouragement. But mainly because I don't want to be another rider who is too selfish to get off his fat ass and give something back to the sport.

No pain, no gain!!

   A September Challlenge

    Monday, August 29, 2011

Author:  Simon Mykolajenko

Wow, I’ve just spent three days riding in my favourite area in the Southwest. It was brilliant, but it got me thinking, will this enjoyment be available to our kids as they grow up, or their kids? There are a lot of groups that would like to see us banned from the bush altogether and to stop us enjoying the sport we love.

Luckily the RTRA is here to try and ensure our riding rights are preserved. But not only that, the RTRA is working towards better access for all off road riders. We are heavily involved in lobbying government for more access to better riding areas and have found sympathetic ears in areas of government that may surprise you. We have sourced funding for trail development and evaluation in some areas and the progress with this has been fantastic. Some of you may have ridden the pilot trails set up in Pinjar. We are on the verge of starting a major project in the metro Road area which will be a mammoth leap forward for dirt bike riders in Perth. This is just the tip of the iceberg and ideally we would like a trail system similar to the Munda Biddi Trail, or the Bibbulmun Track stretching through the Southwest of the state with loops out from towns along the way.

We are trying to develop trails for licensed riders, but also areas for unlicensed bikes and riders as well. We want mum, dad, and the kids to have access to pleasant riding areas where they can go on a Sunday morning for a ride and a picnic lunch.

The crunch with all of this is that, as with all politics, it’s a numbers game. The more numbers you have, the more the politicians listen. The response to our proposals so far has been very good, but with double the membership it would be even better. So here’s my challenge:

If you are reading this you are probably already a member of the RTRA. If not, please consider joining. It’s a small cost for a large investment in your riding future. If you are already a member I appeal to you to go out and make it your goal for September to get one more person to join the RTRA. If we all achieve this, we’ll double our membership so that we can go to government with greater numbers, and a louder voice, to fight the fight on your behalf.

RTRA is a non profit association. All of the committee members are volunteers who put in their time and effort to protect and grow the future of all dirt bike riders, I want my kids to be able to ride dirt bikes in 20 years time and enjoy weekends like I just have.

So go on, phone a mate who rides and get him to join RTRA. You will be making more difference than you think and helping secure dirt riding for the future. Let me know on this blog when you have signed up a new member.

See you on the trail,


   The Ideal Ride

    Monday, August 22, 2011

Author: Brett Grandin

Ladies and gents I pose a question: “WHAT IS THE IDEAL RIDE?”

I have wondered what is the ideal riding conditions and riding scenario for people of the trail riding community. We all have different wants and desires.

Is it the fast flowing gravel roads of the south west, fire trails that link the road networks together, single overgrown little used trails that once held purpose for loggers, or riding on a friend or relative's property with a mix of MX track and trail loop.

Do you find that you get lost in the joy of being in the great outdoors admiring the scenery as you explore this great land?

Are you challenged by hills and obstacles and when you get over the top you have been fulfilled?

Do you practice the long dusty road of a desert racer and dream of one day joining the safari? Is trail time part of your fitness programme?

Do you belt around on a dirt bike with your mates or with your family?  Do you watch as your kids develop skills on a trail as you follow with joy at watching the next Toby Price or Jay Marmont?

Is the trail riding experience a full day or a few hours?

Do you travel to a favourite spot ?

My personal story is a mix of all of the above.   Getting out is a way to unwind and enjoy the company of like-minded people. To challenge myself to a full day of riding, enjoying the country side and obstacles that arise.  I look forward to watching my grandchildren learning to ride with me and allowing them to enjoy a great sport and past time.

I have noticed that there is no age limit to the trail rider!

   How's my riding? Dial 1-800-YES-YOU

    Monday, August 15, 2011

Author:  Tadhg MacCarthy

If you're reading this - you're likely a member or prospective member of the RTRA. You want to see a future for the sport of trail riding - so we don't end up like the Jetski community who ignored the warning signs and are now limited to a 4m square area under a bridge to jet & ski.

You also likely know or come across a number of other riders who don't see the issues or think that their action or inaction can make a significant difference?

What do to do when faced with these riders who need to be educated about the issues?

A recent discussion on a local WA site is a good example of this.

As a background, the Crusty Quinns is a Perth based non-club of riders who get out riding most weekends. They are different in that other riders are welcome to join - but they must be licenced and on registered bikes. This is a stance that does make a significant difference in showing government agencies and others that trail riders are willing to be licenced and registered to access the legal trail network.

Recently a visitor to the site posted up a lengthy tome of his experience of getting pinged by a ranger for being in an illegal area - with some potential dodgy accounting practices for the receipt for the fine.

The feedback fell into two distinct areas:

  1. Thanks for the feedback - bad luck on the experience
  2. WTF? What are you doing riding a registered bike in a highly illegal suburban area. Get real!

This where I tell you that I was one of the people who's feedback was of the robust 2). variety and you should do the same.

Unfortunately not - I wimped out with a feeble variety 1) feedback.   I've had a good talk with myself and hopefully I'll do better next time...

   Meetings vs Media: The Two Sides of the RTRA

    Monday, August 08, 2011

Author:  Steve Pretzel

I was looking back over some of the publicity we've generated over the past couple of years and it occurred to me that most of it is focussed on the public Off Road Vehicle Areas.

From the outside it looks like this is the RTRA's sole focus - which it isn't - so I figured we'd better put this in some perspective and at the same time give our members an understanding of how the public face of the RTRA and the behind-the-scenes work all meshes.

So let's start by stating the two main groups of riders we support.

  1. Keeping forest trails open for riders with licences and registered bike.
  2. Creating more and better legal options for unregistered bikes and riders and attractive places for families to ride together

The average rider can enjoy 50 years or more of registered / licenced riding.  Licence at 17, still riding in late 60s and beyond. That's a lot of riding to protect!

And those of us who have kids know what a great family activity trail bike riding is.  We want to take our kids exploring, to teach them how to ride off-road safely and to spend quality time together in the outdoors.

Now there may always be opportunities to ride on private land (if it's large enough and remote enough) and there will probably be more commercial ride parks in the future.  These places will always serve a purpose ... but if we lose our rights to ride on forest trails then our riding will be confined to these 'designated' areas - only.   That is not a prospect that I look forward to and I'm sure you don't either.

So the RTRA is committed to maintaining access to the thousands of kilometres of suitable trails - mainly old logging or management tracks - throughout Western Australia.  What we are trying to do is convince the land managers (principally DEC) that they should not close and rehabilitate all of them but leave as many as possible open for trail bike use.

This is not something we need publicity for.  In fact we would rather not widely publicise our work in this area for fear of triggering an outcry from the greenies who would rather see all trail bikes banned.  Instead we are working through a program of engaging with land managers, building trust, demonstrating a willingness to pitch in and resolve the many issues that threaten the future of our activity.  It's more meetings than media.  Intensive effort, but the growing recognition of trail bike riding  as a legitimate part of the trails community - and our growing relationship with DEC -  is evidence of our success.

One of the things we have to do, if we want more of these trails legally available for registered bikes, is to reduce the amount of illegal riding that occurs on them.  One way of doing this is to make more of the riding that already occurs legal (more  of this in a future blog).  The more expected approach is to encourage people not to ride where they shouldn't.  But we can't expect to do that if there are not adequate places for juniors and riders of non-road registered bikes and quads to go.

This is where the Off Road Vehicle Areas come in, along with commercial ride park operators. 

If we can create more and better legal Off Road Vehicle areas for people who can't ride legally on public trails it will help us reduce the incidence of illegal riding on those public trails - and make it easier for us to keep them open for legal riding.  These Off Road Vehicle areas also provide the legal opportunity for family-oriented riding - or at least they would if they were safer and more satisfying.

The RTRA has a vision for Off Road Vehicle Areas that is vastly different to the current uncared for, ride anywhere areas that are the legacy of expedient legislation from 1978.  That vision is for scaled down versions of 'real' trail riding; networks of trails that are purpose designed and built to deliver a satisfying, sustainable and legal trail riding experience.

The main obstacle to improving the Off Road Vehicle Areas is funding.  The redevelopment of these areas requires substantial investment, and the government needs a business case to justify the funding.  That's where the publicity comes in.  A coordinated call for more and better areas to ride that will serve as an attractant to unlicenced riders and non-road-registered bikes and quads.

We need the support of local residents, of other trails users and of course the riders themselves.  This type of opinion mobilisation responds well to media coverage, which is why so much of the publicity we've been generating has been about getting the government funding to redevelop these areas and create new ones.

So when you read stories like last weekend's West Australian that contains mis-quotes like: "a lack of decent public tracks encouraged off-road enthusiasts to ride on dangerous bush trails" don't be too alarmed. 

First of all I didn't actually say that (journalists are notorious for mis-quoting) and secondly the Off Road Vehicle Areas may be a necessary part of the strategy, but the RTRA is equally focussed on the protection of our rights as licensed riders on registered bikes to ride 'those dangerous bush trails' - now and into the future.