Many riders see a mountain bike trail as a place to explore, exercise, or even rid themselves of the day's stress. However, to builders, a trail can be so much more. For them, trails are an outlet of creative expression. It's an art form where they get to start with a blank canvas and carve their creativity into the dirt for others to enjoy. Trail builders, like artists, have a unique style, and many times you can tell who built a trail just by riding it. Behind every ribbon of singletrack or flowy jump line is a trail builder with a vision and hours of dedicated dig time. Meet the WTB ambassadors who are committed to creating trails that allow all of us to enjoy the sport we love so much.
Welcome to WTB's Build With Purpose.
Name of organization:
Pisgah Area SORBA (PAS)
Where do you dig and/or maintain trail?
We operate in the Pisgah Ranger District. This spans all the way from Brevard, NC to the Bent Creek Experimental Forest in Asheville, NC. We also maintain trails and a bike park at Richmond Hill Park which is owned by the City of Asheville. All of us who serve on the board and most of our volunteers have a deep personal connection to this forest and we take a lot of pride in being able to care for it.
Favorite WTB product:
I've been running WTB saddles for years. They've treated me and my bum very well!
Favorite trail snack:
Favorite trail tool:
Zip ties. So helpful in so many ways.
Lower Black Mtn. It's hard to beat for an afterwork ride.
Whats a perfect day of biking look like to you?
10-15 miles of Pisgah gnar in the morning, followed by a cheeseburger and a beer for lunch. After that, a lazy afternoon with my wife and dogs.
When did you start building trails?
I started blazing trails with my little brother when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. We terrorized our neighborhood and cut lines in backyards that definitely did not belong to us. We built some sweet (and super sketchy) driveway jumps too. I got involved with Pisgah Area SORBA close to 10 years ago by doing a little bit of trail work plus some behind the scenes stuff. These days, as a board member, I do less trail work but spend a lot of time talking to supporters and building capacity for us to accomplish all the work we do on the trails. I still build sketchy features for my backyard though.
What has been your favorite building project so far?
Working behind the scenes on the Black Mountain re-route was amazing and I learned a ton about what it takes to complete a major project like that. That project started over 5 years ago and took years of work to get to the point where we could actually break ground. It was a high profile project in these parts and we had a lot of public input. Ultimately we had a great builder, great community support, and a great finished product. I'm really proud to have been a part of it.
Favorite type of trail to build:
I'm not great at rock work but I love the end results. Rock armoring is a great way to preserve trail tread that would otherwise get washed away. We get a ton of rain here and mitigating the erosion of our trails is one of our biggest challenges. We have some great volunteers who love to do rock armoring and I always enjoy riding it when they get done.
Why is building important to you?
Building new trails is important in terms of increasing access but I feel like preserving our existing trail system, especially here in the Pisgah Ranger District, is actually more important. We have some legacy trails here that simply can't be built today. We have to maintain those and do everything we can to preserve those routes so that we don't get a call from the Forest Service one day asking us to reroute it.
If you had to pick one thing every rider and company needs to start doing today to support trail building, what would it be?
Just give back in a way that works for you. If you have time to volunteer and do some trail work, do it! If you have time to help with the behind the scenes work, reach out and see what kind of help your local trail group needs. Most groups do a lot of work to organize all the things you see in public but that planning takes time and help is always needed on that end. If you have the funds and feel like giving back monetarily you should do that too. That's a great way to ensure your local club has what it needs to purchase tools, put gas in the machines, and keep all of your favorite trails in good shape.
What does the future of mountain biking look like to you?
Exciting! There is so much positive momentum in the sport these days. It's awesome seeing people getting into mountain biking for the first time and falling in love with the trails that we love and care for.
What does the future of trail building look like to you?
Busy. I can't even believe how many new miles of trail we have seen get built in the last few years. It isn't slowing down either. That's good for mountain bikers and the other trail users who get to enjoy all the new access to the forest.
How many miles of trail has PAS built?
As volunteers, we typically do trail maintenance. Caring for our existing trails is a big part of our mission. While new trails are less common for us to build, it does happen. When we build a new trail, we like to work with our local professional trail builders. We are very fortunate to have lots of great trail builders in our area and they all love working in their backyard.
Who are the biggest inspirations for PAS?
We are always looking at other trail stewardship organizations for inspiration. Some of those groups we are inspired by include the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition. I'm also inspired by all of our trail crew leaders and other volunteers who give countless hours of their own time to care for the trails in Pisgah.
How many years have you been building trail and advocating for trails?
I've been working with Pisgah Area SORBA for close to 10 years now. The last two years I have become heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the organization moving forward so we can meet the needs of a growing mountain bike community.
What user groups are you targeting?
Anyone who loves trails. Our forest doesn't have any trails that are only for mountain bikers. Everything we work on is multi-use. We certainly have a keen eye for what makes a trail fun for mountain bikers but we love that our trails are used by hikers and equestrians as well.
Biggest project to date:
We have a project that is currently in the final phase of environmental review and it will be our biggest project to date once we break ground early next year. This project, which will re-route sections of the Butter Gap trail, will also create year-round access for mountain bikers in areas that are currently seasonal access only. Due to the project scope and location, it will take more resources than we have ever committed to a single project but we are excited for the challenge and look forward to working with some of our local builders to get it all done.
Words by Pisgah SORBA Vice President, Douglas Miller